crème caramel

Raymond Blanc

This must be the French national dessert, enjoyed in every home, every brasserie and even many Michelin-starred restaurants.

serves 4 people

for the caramel
120g caster sugar

for the custard mixture
500ml full-fat milk
½ vanilla pod, split open lengthways and seeds removed (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
2 medium organic or free-range eggs
3 medium organic or free-range egg yolks
100g caster sugar

01 Heat the oven to 160C (180 non-fan). Put 2 tbsp water in a small, heavy-based saucepan and scatter the sugar over it in an even layer. Let the sugar absorb the water, then place the pan on a medium heat and leave, without stirring, until the sugar dissolves and forms a syrup.

02 Simmer until the syrup turns into a rich brown caramel (there should be a light haze and it should smell wonderful). Wrap a cloth around your hand and remove the pan from the heat. Pour the caramel into four ramekins, about 7.5cm in diameter and 5cm deep. Tilt each ramekin slightly so the caramel coats the base evenly. Transfer the ramekins to a baking tin and set aside.

03 To make the custard, put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod and seeds and bring to simmering point for 3-4 minutes to allow the milk to become infused with the vanilla. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolks with the sugar. Slowly pour in the hot milk, whisking all the time.

04 Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into the caramel-lined ramekins. Place the baking tin containing the ramekins in the oven and carefully pour enough boiling water into the tin to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the moulds.

05 Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the crème caramels are just set (press gently with your finger to check). Any dip in the centre means they are undercooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then chill for 2 hours (or overnight, if more convenient). To release each crème caramel from the dish, take a thin, sharp knife and slide it around the inside edge of the ramekin, then turn it upside down onto a serving plate.