In his Bouchon cookbook, Thomas Keller calls this outstanding custard, covered with sweet caramel, the pinnacle of all bistro desserts. To ensure that the creamy crème caramel bakes slowly and evenly in the oven, Keller sets the custards in a hot water bath and cooks them at 300°, covered with a double layer of plastic wrap.
More Recipes from Thomas Keller
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 quart whole milk
1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
How to Make It
Arrange eight 1-cup ramekins in a large roasting pan. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup and water to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring lightly to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until a rich, amber caramel forms, about 25 minutes. Wash down any sugar crystals from the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Pour an equal amount of hot caramel into each ramekin; if the caramel gets too hard, gently reheat it.
Preheat the oven to 300°. In a large saucepan, bring the milk and sugar just to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes. Let cool until warm. In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk the eggs with the yolks. Slowly whisk in the warm milk mixture and then the vanilla.
Strain the custard and pour it into the prepared ramekins. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with 2 layers of plastic wrap. Bake the custards for about 1 hour, or until they are set but still slightly jiggly in the center.
Remove the hot custards from the water bath and let them cool on a rack to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate the custards overnight.
To serve, pour 2 inches of very hot water into a small bowl. Dip a ramekin in the hot water for about 10 seconds, then run a thin knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the custard. Invert the crème caramel onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining crème caramels and serve.
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