filling the empty nest with food
A friend and loyal reader of my blog asked me recently if I would write about an Escoffier dish she could actually make. That made me laugh, as after the 3-day ordeal of making Sauce Espagnole (a sauce base, not even a sauce in its own right), I’ve been questioning the sanity of spending days in the kitchen cooking something that doesn’t even get you an edible dish on your dinner plate! Even Julia Child skips Sauce Espagnole and doesn’t include a recipe in her cookbook. If Julia Child isn’t willing to make it, the rest of us (I mean, me) should think twice!
So, here is something relatively simple from Escoffier. Did I really just say “simple” and “Escoffier” in the same sentence?
It can be made in less than an hour and tastes best if you let it cool in the fridge overnight. While the recipe is simple, there are a few key steps necessary for success. In the end, you want a nice auburn caramel and a smooth custard.
Simple here doesn’t mean you can slack off or be careless. It mostly means you can make an elegant dessert and still have a life.
As you already know, Escoffier is stingy with his instructions. So, I used his ingredients and proportions but someone else’s directions. The 350 Degree Oven blog has great instructions and very helpful photos. Including how to make a perfect caramel, how to ensure your eggs don’t scramble, and how to avoid bubbles in your custard (which toughens the custard).
Escoffier does have a recipe for crème caramel, but he calls it crème moulée au Caramel (molded crème caramel), which he categorizes in a section on poached creams.
Crème Moulée au Caramel (1/2 recipe from Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire)
1/2 liter boiled milk, infused (or not) with vanilla or zests
100 grams sugar
2 eggs and 4 egg yolks
Mix lightly in a bowl the eggs and egg yolks. With a whisk, add the sugared milk little by little. Strain the mixture. Let is rest a few seconds; remove entirely the foam that forms on the surface and pour the mixture into buttered molds.
Poach in a bain-marie, in an oven at moderate heat (I used 325 degrees F) keeping the pans covered. The bain-marie should never boil, for if the air in the crème is raised to too hot a temperature, it will expand and form an infinity of little buttles which, after cooling, leaves the crème riddled with small holes–resulting in a disgraceful appearance. To summarize–the crème has to poach, that is, to coagulate by the heat of the bain-marie water which is maintained at a constant 96-degree temperature (Celsius).
After the crème is poached, remove it from the bain-marie and let it cool. (Although Escoffier doesn’t say, the crème caramel is typically put in the fridge for several hours or overnight.) Turn the mold upside down gently on its serving plate and remove the mold a few minutes later.