Crème Caramel with a Caramel Cage (GF)

 "How lovely is the smooth and tender beauty of a caramel custard, carefully baked, unmolded, and standing high. A flavored liquid bound with eggs and heated just enough for the eggs either to hold the mixture softly in shape or to thicken it into a cream, the custard idea is among the oldest of the dessert techniques."
- Julia Child, The Way to Cook

Yesterday, I experienced a number of "firsts". I not only made my first crème caramel, but I also took my first bite of the sticky, sweet dessert. I am now a crème caramel convert. All you crème caramel skeptics out there have not tried Julia's version of the dessert.  Unlike many heavy, gelatinous custards and puddings out there, Julia Child's caramel custard is delicate, light, with just the right amount of sweetness. The caramel flavor is noticeable, but not overpowering. It is absolutely perfect. 
So if you have milk and eggs in your refrigerator, and sugar in your pantry, I highly recommend that you leave your computer screens right now and go make some custards of your own. You will not regret it.

Crème Caramel with a Caramel Cage (GF)
From Julia Child's The Way to Cook
Julia says that this recipe will make custard for 8 individual ramekins, each 3 1/2 inches across and 2 3/4 inches deep, holding 2/3 cup. I used ramekins of the same proportions but made 6 instead. I thought mine were the perfect size. I think that splitting the custard among 8 might yield some rather thin custards. I would recommend making six, unless you need 8 for a dinner party or would prefer smaller portions.
   Caramel - Lining the Baking Dish
     3/4 cup sugar
     3 tbsp water
     2 1/2 cups milk
     1/2 cup sugar
     3 large eggs
     3 egg yolks
     1 tsp vanilla extract
   Caramel Cages
     3/4 cup sugar
     3 tbsp water

     6-cup stainless steel saucepan with tight-fitting lid
     6-8 ceramic oven-proof ramekins
     Small sieve/tea strainer
     A large casserole dish in which all of the ramekins will fit

   Caramel - Lining the Baking Dish
In your stainless steel saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a simmer. Stir with a wooden spoon or heat-proof silicone spatula to make sure that all the sugar is dissolved. 
Cover the pan tightly and boil the sugar syrup over moderately high heat for a couple minutes. Check on it frequently to make sure that the caramel does not burn. Once the bubbles are thick, uncover the pan and swirl it by its handle as the sugar syrup continues to boil. The syrup will turn a light amber color. Boil and swirl for a few more seconds. When the sugar reaches a light caramel brown color, remove from the heat and continue to swirl, as it will continue to darken. 
Immediately line the base of each ramekin with caramel and reverse over a silicon mat to let the caramel drip down the sides a bit. If your caramel hardens too quickly, set the pan back over the stove with a couple tablespoons of water to soften up any remaining caramel in the pan and finish lining the ramekins. 
Pour 1/3 cup water in the cooking pan (it should still have some caramel stuck to the bottom and around the sides) and simmer 2 to three minutes. The caramel residue should dissolve. Set this syrup aside until you are ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
In a medium saucepan, heat your milk until hot but not boiling. Make sure there is no skin on the top.
In a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the eggs, yolks, and sugar. Do not beat them and create foam. 
Slowly pour your hot milk into the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. If you do not stir constantly, bits of egg will cook and form lumps.
Add the vanilla and salt. Divide the custard among your ramekins, pouring it into each through a sieve or tea strainer to remove any lumps or granules. Skim off any bubbles that float to the top of the custard with a silicone spatula.
Arrange your ramekins in the large baking dish. Set the large dish in the lower third of the oven, and pour in boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the ramekins. In about ten minutes, check the water and make sure it is not boiling, as this will yield a grainy custard.
The custard is done when a toothpick inserted into the custard an inch from the edge comes out clean. The center will "tremble slightly". Julia says that the miniature custards will take about 20-25 minutes to bake, but mine took closer to 40. Just make sure that you are checking the custards every five minutes or so.
When the custards are done, remove them from the water and let them sit for at least thirty minutes. Do not unmold them until you are ready to serve them. To unmold them, run a thin knife (I found a thin butter knife worked well) between the custard and the dish. Turn a plate (with a bit of a lip) upside down over the mold and reverse the two. The custard may slip out right away. If it does not, lift the ramekin up slightly at a 45˚ angle. If it does not slip out, give it a little shake or some gentle help with your butter knife. Pour the extra caramel syrup around. 
   Caramel Cages
If you want to make caramel cages to garnish your custards, lay out a large silicon mat or sheet of parchment on your counter. Grease the outside of a large rounded soup ladle. Make you caramel using the same technique described above. When the caramel is ready, hold the ladle upside down so that the dome faces upwards. Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel over the ladle in a criss cross pattern. Be very careful not to burn yourself. I held the ladle with a rubber glove just to be safe. Once you have finished drizzling, store the ladle in the fridge for 10 minutes or so. 
When the ladle is cool, carefully peel off the caramel cage and refrigerate. Heat up your caramel until it is liquid again. You may need to add some water/sugar. Repeat the drizzling/refrigerating process until you have made as many caramel cages as you want. 
If the cage making process is too complicated, you can also just drizzle the caramel in patterns on a silicon mat. This is much simpler and less dangerous and will also yield elegant decorations for your custards.


  1. It gave me great quinces, and the recipe that I am not happy, I am very grabs! thank you in advance
    I board a good recipe already dealt a site like this

  2. I'm grabs to say this recipe gave me no quinces. Great board, Kate!