Steven Wagner's friend Alessandro Lunardi, a wine professional, is also a great cook. His mother taught him how to make this crème caramel; it's easier and more unusual than individual custards.Plus: More Dessert Recipes and Tips
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a medium skillet, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the water and cook over high heat until deep amber, about 4 minutes; swirl the pan occasionally. Immediately pour the caramel into an 8-by-4 1/2-by-3-inch metal loaf pan, turning to evenly coat the bottom. Let the caramel harden.
In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the milk, cream, eggs and egg yolks. Pour the custard into the prepared pan, set in a small baking dish and add enough water to the dish to reach halfway up the side of the pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until set around the edges but still slightly soft in the center. Remove the pan from the water bath and let cool to room temperature; refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
Run a thin knife around the edge of the custard. Invert a rectangular plate or platter over the pan and flip, tapping to loosen and unmold the custard. Spoon any remaining caramel from the pan on top. Cut into slices and serve.
The crème caramel can be refrigerated overnight before unmolding.
A late-harvest dessert wine will echo the sweet caramel. Consider a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.