Posted by: njbrown | July 17, 2011

Crème Caramel – Too Dark, Too Light, Just About Right – and Sugar Corkscrews

Crème Caramel

After making the lemon lavender crème brûlée , my husband said he liked crème caramel better.  I have never liked crème caramel – to me it is like baby food – soft and almost flavorless.  In spite of telling him the ingredients were virtually the same, he persisted in saying it was much better.  So, never one to resist a culinary challenge, I made some using Julia’s recipe.  The first attempt at the caramel resulted in burned caramel.  There is little that tastes worse!  (It took me back to home ec. in seventh grade when we were given the assignment of making peanut brittle.  In spite of being warned not to burn it, a novice cook doesn’t have a clue what the burning point is, and so mine tasted terrible.)  However, various recipes had me making the syrup “nut-brown” and “dark honey-colored” – instructions that resulted in the burning.  Sugar syrup can go from fine to burned in the blink of an eye.  As well, the instructions to stop the syrup’s cooking by placing the pot in cold water just made the syrup go rock hard.  To make matters even worse, while attempting to “tilt the ramekins to coat the bottom and sides,” some of the boiling hot syrup got on two of my fingers.  I’ve heard a hot sugar burn is about the worst you can get – it’s been termed “baker’s napalm.”  Fortunately, I was able to run cold water over the burns and pull the hardened sugar off without removing skin.  Only a minor blister on one finger remains a day later.  George tasted the custard without dipping into the burned caramel and pronounced it “too eggy.”  Since I’d risked life and limb – well, fingers – for him, I wasn’t too pleased.

You know you’re obsessive when you persist in something in spite of pain.  I put on antibiotic ointment and band aids and made another batch of syrup.  Erring on the side of caution, this syrup was too light, but certainly not burned.  Addressing the “too eggy” evaluation, I looked at more recipes, and found one by Ricardo that contained significantly fewer eggs.  He also just said to pour the syrup (without trying to cool it) into the bottom of the ramekins – much less hazardous.  This attempt was more successful in every way.  Ricardo has you wash down the sides of the pot while making the syrup, but Julia said to put a lid on at the beginning of the cooking and the steam does it for you, so I used her approach.  Judging how dark “golden” is (Ricardo’s criterion) was easier when I tilted the pot, since I was able to see a greater volume of syrup.  While perfection might be a slightly darker syrup, George was happy with this try, and I incurred no further injuries.  I still like crème brûlée better, and it is far less dangerous.

Sugar Corkscrews

The day after making the crème caramel, I got thinking about sugar corkscrews.  I’d seen them used as a garnish on Iron Chef America, and thought they were cute.  I found a site that showed how to make them (, and decided they would be just the thing to perk up a boring crème  caramel.  Since the cremes had been eaten, I couldn’t show one properly garnished, so I leave it to your imagination.  In reality, I found them harder to make than I thought from the video.  The correct temperature is in a very, very narrow range, and if you have to reheat, you can make the sugar too soft very quickly and that throws you back into the waiting to cool process.

When I make the next dessert, it will be chocolate.

Ricardo Larrivée’s Crème Caramel



  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup sugar


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar



  1. In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
  2. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Cook until the mixture turns golden.
  3. Pour into six 125-ml (1/2-cup) ramekins. Let cool.


  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F).
  2. In a saucepan, warm the milk and vanilla.
  3. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Pour into the ramekins.
  4. Prepare a bain-marie: Place a tea towel or Silpat-type baking mat on the bottom of a large baking dish. Place the ramekins in the dish and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins.
  5. Bake until the custard is barely set (trembles like gelatin), about 35 minutes.
  6. Remove the ramekins from the bain-marie and let cool for about 30 minutes.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  8. Before serving, run the tip of a knife around the inside of each ramekin, unmold on to plates and serve cold.


  1. Your Crème Caramel is the best I have ever tasted; including at some expensive French restaurants!


  2. Looks fantastic! Sugar is difficult to work with. I can tell you this though…after talking with George about it, he shared that he feels quite fortunate to be your guinea pig!

    • Hi Rebecca –

      Unfortunately, he has the figure to prove how much he enjoys eating what I’ve made!

      Best wishes,


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