Crème caramel

Prep Time: 0:30
Cook Time: 0:40
Serves: 4

Ingredients / Shopping List

500ml whole milk
I vanilla pod
50g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
4 eggs 
For the caramel:
100g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water with drop of lemon juice


Prep to Cook: 1 non-stick saucepan, 1 stainless steel saucepan,  pan stand, oven glove, large measuring jug, wooden spoon, basin, teaspoon,  mixing bowl, sieve, ramekin dishes or similar.
Oven: 140°C or Gas Mark 1   Water bath roasting tin.



Pre- heat the oven and prepare a water bath by one third filling a roasting tin with water.

Prepare the caramel: take care doing this. Have a pan stand and an oven glove to use.

Use a stainless steel pan (NOT non-stick) 

Put half the granulated sugar into a saucepan and gently heat the pan until the sugar starts to dissolve.  

Add the remaining sugar and swish the pan, but do NOT stir, until the syrup starts to brown.  

When it is rich golden brown quickly remove the pan from the heat, plunge the base of the pan in cold water to prevent further cooking.

Carefully add the tablespoon of water with lemon juice and allow it to slacken the syrup. 

Pour the hot syrup into each of the ramekin dishes.

Set the pan aside to cool on a pan stand.  

To clean the pan: when the mixture is cold fill the pan with water to half full and gently bring to the boil.  Stir to dissolve any remaining caramel. Rinse hot pan.

Making the creams:

Put the milk into the non-stick saucepan.  

Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and with a teaspoon scrape the seeds from the pod and then put the pod and the seeds into the milk.  

Gently bring the milk to the boil and remove the vanilla pod.

Combine the whole eggs, the caster sugar and cornflour in a mixing bowl using a balloon whisk.  Carefully sieve the hot vanilla milk into the egg mixture and keep stirring with the balloon whisk. Now sieve all this into a pouring measuring jug.
Pour this mixture into the ramekin dishes and place them in the water bath.

Cook for 30 – 40 minutes until the custard creams are showing signs of setting round the edge and yet are wobbly in the middle.  

Leave to cool and then chill in the refrigerator.

To serve:

Stand the custards in a dish of boiling water for 30 seconds and invert into a serving dish.  Alternately eat them straight from the ramekins.

Check it out!

Crème caramel  is an integrated pudding of caramel sauce with a set vanilla custard. It is all about flavour and smooth texture from coagulation of eggs.

Recipe Science

Cooks Know How:  Simple ingredients are used for the preparation of this dessert.  It is not, however, as easy as it seems to prepare the perfect crème caramel.  Firstly there is the caramel sauce.  If you stir this the sugars will crystallise.  If you burn it, the resulting caramel will be very bitter and black.

So prepare the caramel first and concentrate whilst it becomes firstly a pale syrup and secondly a darkening caramel.  Take care this caramel is sticky and also very hot.  For this reason I suggest using an oven glove to hold the pan handle and having a pan stand ready to put the pan on once the desired colour of caramel is achieved. Cool the base of the pan in cold water before adding the extra water to dilute the caramel. Take care as this may splutter.

Now for the egg custards.  Firstly flavour the milk by infusing the vanilla pod and seeds.   You could use good quality vanilla bean paste if you have it in the store cupboard but working with vanilla pods is a very tactile and sensory experience and is probably worth it in terms of end flavour.   

The eggs and sugar with a little help from cornflour form the mixture that is the setting agent for the custards.  Proteins in the egg white in particular will coagulate on heating and hold the milk in a set.  The control of temperature is essential for the ‘perfect set’ – too high an oven, or no water bath and the egg custards will cook too quickly and ‘over-coagulate’.  This will leave watery holes in the custards usually round the sides of the custard. The custard will be tough and dense.   Slow, even and gently heat penetration, using a water bath should allow the egg proteins to coagulate lightly and to hold in a ‘wobble’ all the vanilla milk.  Chilling will aid the set, helping the perfect texture of custard to be achieved.

The aim is for the caramel sauce to cover the custard when it is tipped out of the cooking dish. The syrup will be more viscous after chilling and the gelation of the custard should permit a delicate, set custard that holds its shape under the caramel.