My grandmother’s crème caramel

I was invited to write this crème caramel recipe for Joanna Goddard’s ‘A cup of Jo‘ blog. It’s a wonderful recipe series called ‘The best … ever’, featuring many of my favourite food bloggers like Deb from Smitten Kitchen (I love making her egg sandwich recipe). It really is the best ever!

My French grandmother loved making this dessert. I always remember how the lovely caramel perfumed her kitchen; it’s the kind of sweet smell any child would dream about. Watching her make caramel was a treat; it looked like magic, seeing the white sugar turn into a golden brown caramel. This is why crème caramel is my favorite dessert—it’s the ultimate family food that warms my heart. She added a little lemon rind to make the taste extra special. This grand classic is very easy to make — you just need to be careful and patient with the caramel.

For the caramel:
100 g/ 1/2 cup caster sugar (or superfine sugar)
1 tsp. fresh lemon rind
4 tbsp water

For the rest of the recipe:
500 ml/2 cups whole milk
50 g/ 1/4 cup regular sugar
½ tsp. lemon rind
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
4 eggs

You’ll also need a ramekin mold, charlotte mold or dariole mold.

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to 300F/150° celsius.

To make the caramel: On low heat, melt the caster sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan. Let the mixture melt. It’s very important not to stir until the color starts to turn golden. At this point, shake the pan, until the color slowly turns to caramel golden brown. Take away from heat, and pour immediately into the mold. Be careful not to burn yourself as caramel temperature is burning hot. Swirl your mold in a circular motion so the edges get covered in the caramel.

Heat milk in a saucepan. When it starts to boil, lower the heat, and add sugar, lemon rind, vanilla and salt. Stir, leave for one minute and set aside.

Whisk four eggs in a large bowl, and pour in the warm vanilla milk. Make sure to whisk continuously while you are doing this so the eggs don’t coagulate. Pour the egg mixture into the caramel-lined mold.

Place your mold in a large roasting tin, pour hot water so it comes up to nearly two-thirds of the mold. This process is called ‘bain-marie.’ Bake for 55 minutes—if your knife comes out clean then it’s ready. It should feel springy and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Once cool, leave in the fridge for a least an hour so it chills.

When you are ready to serve, gently loosen the sides with a palette knife. Place a serving dish on top and turn upside down. You can tap the top with a spoon to facilitate the un-molding. Be patient. You should have a lovely crème caramel, with a pool of golden caramel on the sides.

19 thoughts on “My grandmother’s crème caramel

  1. Oh….thank you from the bottom of my heart (and stomach). My absolute favorite dessert….and now a recipe from someone who makes incredible food so I can make it at home!!!!! THANK YOU!

  2. Mimi, did you perhaps mean lemon rind instead of lemon juice in your ingredient list? Your mind was wrapped around the thoughts of the smell and taste of that caramel wasn’t it. :o)

    My mom would add the grated zest of an orange instead of lemon to her flan. While the flan cooked, she would supreme the left over orange into sections, and after turning it out onto it’s pretty serving platter, would add the saved orange sections around the base. Between the smell of the warm caramel, the sweet oranges and the smooth flan I too was in heaven!

    Anyone making this MUST remember to keep small children out of the kitchen while working with the very, very hot caramel.

    1. I am so lucky to have a reader like you! Thank you! Yes, my mind must have been in a trance with the caramel, or perhaps I am needing glasses? Merci! Lemon rind it is. And I love the orange zest alternative! I so agree with you regarding the no kids policy when making caramel. I once burned my finger it was so hot! Kids get so enthusiastic when they see anything caramel. Mimi

  3. My mom used to make this, one of my absolute favorites growing up. The rind is something new to me, must try that. Lovely photos, and blog 🙂

  4. Thank you for the recipe. I need to work on the caramel (I think it got a bit burnt), but the custard was perfect. So easy and yummy.

  5. dear mimi,
    it seems to me that i know you very well, although you dont know me at all. we share the same love for food. fresh season fruits, smells and all of this as a cure for the soul. i made this crème caramel as a dessert and as the end of a wonderful meal. it tasted amazing and the kitchen smelled beautifully as you described. thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. you really gave people something beautiful!

  6. Hello, I’m a late comer to your blog and I was reading this recipe. What is the name of the mold (and size) you used when making the creme caramel? Was it a brioche mold?

  7. Not only am I in love with this recipe, I’m also in love with the dinnerware featured in the photograph. Is this part of a personal collection? Any tips on where to find these beautiful cups, saucers and plates? Thanks!

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