1 Suzie the Foodie: Food Network Cooking Club Challenge: Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Food Network Cooking Club Challenge: Laura Calder's Creme Caramel



Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

This month's Food Network Cooking Club challenge is Laura Calder's Creme Caramel. There is lots of time to participate so please join us if you dare!

Creme Caramel, you are so misunderstood. Looking at your recipe, you come across as so simple to make. So, dare I say, easy? Sugar, whole milk, vanilla bean, eggs, sugar and a pinch of nutmeg and that is all there is to it.

Hardly!

Deceptively simplistic in its components, complex in its method, this recipe kicked my butt. Please, learn from my mistakes and laugh if you must! I would not blame you for one second.

Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

After boiling water in your tea kettle for the bain-marie (waterbath), you dissolve sugar in some water and boil and boil away. I wish Laura had mentioned brushing the sides with a pastry brush and water. I figured that would be good technique to prevent the build up of sugar crystals and should have just done it anyway but I wanted to follow the recipe as written. Sigh, there ended up being a build up, big time.

Now I have made caramel before and know that once it gets to this golden colour I need to remove it from the heat and remove it fast. I completely disagree with Laura's instructions here. She says to boil it until it turns dark and fragrant. Well I didn't and guess what happened?

Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

It still went dark and fragrant. Imagine if I had left it on the stove! Even after moving it from the heat it continued to darken and I mean DARKEN! Not only that, the recipe said to pour the caramel into a cake tin but it did not specify size. I put it first in my traditional 7" tin and it was obviously too small, the caramel filled it up halfway. I got out my 8" tin and poured the caramel into it while it still continued to darken. Crazy!

Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

On Foodtv.ca's forums, I had to ask about "whole milk". I could not find such a thing. I did find homogenized milk and asked if it was the same or could it be used as a replacement? Turns out they are basically the same thing so yes, I could use it. I used a real vanilla bean and scraped out all the seeds and put them and the pod into the same saucepan I used for the caramel. I heated up the milk, covered it and let it steep.

Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

I beat six eggs together with 1/2 cup of sugar and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Then I tempered in the milk and vanilla seeds. I sieved the custard on top of the caramel. In order to find a vessel that this cake pan would fit in I had to get out my big KitchenAid roasting pan. I filled it with hot water from my kettle and baked at 325F for an hour, 45 minutes was not long enough. Then I used a knife around the sides to loosen it and let it come to room temperature. I chilled the creme caramel overnight.


I had one opportunity to videotape me flipping the creme caramel live. Sadly it was a typical dark and dreary day in Nova Scotia so I apologize for how dark the video is. Please, don't laugh too hard. I was hesitant to put this video up but last night watching Julie & Julia, I decided to rely on the strength of my convictions and go for it. Thank you Julia Child.

Laura Calder's Creme Caramel

I do not think that I burned the caramel but it sure was a close call. The extreme darkness did make it more of a bitter than sweet dessert. My husband did not like this dessert at all. In fact, he will only try it again if I add a chocolate sauce to it. I am sure slathering it with chocolate will be a big culinary sin to French food. Oh well!

Overall, I believe this recipe is poorly and irresponsibly written. When you work with boiling sugar, you should not be second guessing yourself and running around your kitchen trying to find appropriate pans. I like the idea that this is a simple recipe so the instructions should be kept simple but the truth is, this is not a simple recipe. It is only simple if you have made it before and I have and still had issues with it.

I adore Laura and wanted so much to say I loved every second of this recipe but the lack of instruction stressed me out. I felt abandoned in my kitchen. I will not be making this one again. I give this recipe two out of five wooden spoons. What a shame!

10 comments:

Laura Downs said...

Wow, your pictures look wonderful!

Mine didn't quite turn out that pretty. I agree with your commentary. I ended up burning the caramel a little bit because I let it go too dark, eek!

I had a little bit of a Julie and Julia type meltdown when I saw the final result, lol. But it ended up tasting alright, so that's all the matters right?

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Ok now you have stressed me out!!! I am looking forward to making this but I do have memories of my mum making this and that it's not easy. I am making mini ones so there is not the stress of turning it out so much! I will also be reading up The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cooks Illustrated to get some tips because, yes, the recipe is a little bit directionless for this Taurus who likes lots of instructions!!! Thanks for being honest!

AvaDJ said...

It really is picture perfect! I already told you I wouldn't be attempting this, as we have no creme caramel fans here, but now I am glad I won't have to. What an ordeal, but again, the photo is marvelous!

Al said...

Hi Suzie,

Wtg, looks great.
"You Mixed,You Baked,You Conquered"

Alley_bee

Suzie Ridler said...

Thank you all for your support and comments! I think if you read my post ahead of time you will have better luck that I did. Use a large cake pan and I learned from a friend on TFN's site to rest the cake pan on top of ice to help cool it down. Genius idea! I hope you still try it but please be safe.

rossana said...

This looks like flan....sounds very similar recipe wise....the dessert itself is super easy to prepare....but this it should cool overnight forr best results.

First...u take a blender, 2 can of evaporated milk, 4 jumbo eggs, some vanilla extract (a dab of cinnamon or nutmeg is optional) (sometimes I add half of a cream cheese 4oz for extra creaminess)

Then that is set and u r prepared to make the caramel in a separate tin.

I add 2 cups of sugar and half of a cup of water....mix it all up and keep stirring til the sugar is completely dissolved and a light caramel color....if u wait til its the exact color u want it to be...it will get darker and taste bitter. This is dangerous because it is molten hot. Take an oven safe pan/or glassware (big enough to hold the mixture) and spred it at the bottom and all around the edges by moving the pan around While its still liquid. Gently add the mixture over it. Cover with aluminum foil.

Do a baine marie....which means....put the pan in a bigger pan. Fill the bigger pan half way with water. Put it all in the oven at 350 degrees for 1hr and 45 minutes. When all done...take the pan with the foil and put it in the fridge for 8 hrs.

After it has set for at leassty 8 hours...remove from the fridge...and using a butter knife go around all the edges in the pan. Move the pan around to makle sure the flan/creme is not attached to the bottom. Take a decorative cake dish, hold it to the top of the pan, and swiftly turn the flan/creme over onto it. U may want to take a spoon and scrape some of the excess caramel and pour it over the flan.

Tthis is a truly delicious dish

rossana said...

Oh gosh....1 can of condensed milk is also necessary in the mix!!!

mom on the move said...

Sorry I have to disagree. This recipie has always turned out perfectly for me since the first time I tried it after watching Laura make it on her show. ( it also happened to be my first attempt at ever making Creme Caramel). The taste and texture of the custard is perfect and the slightly dark caramel does balance the sweetness beautifully! Have ALWAYS received compliments on this dish.

mom on the move said...

Sorry I have to disagree. This recipie has always turned out perfectly for me since the first time I tried it after watching Laura make it on her show. ( it also happened to be my first attempt at ever making Creme Caramel). The taste and texture of the custard is perfect and the slightly dark caramel does balance the sweetness beautifully! Have ALWAYS received compliments on this dish.

Suzie Ridler said...

I am glad to hear it MotM. I just wanted to warn people that the caramel can get too dark too fast and I personally don't like the bitterness when that happens.