Bake a sweet custard for your sweetie

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By Frank Chlumsky

Striving to stay current with the latest trends in cooking can become tiresome, especially for a cook long dedicated to the view that truly satisfying cuisine is usually uncomplicated, always consistent and always excellent. It's what I call classic. I never tire of it.

And so, in keeping with my penchant for the classics, I've turned my attention to a simple dessert I've been making a lot recently, due in part to the egg yolks that are always left over after my son has had his favorite breakfast of bacon and eggs. (He only eats the whites). It's called crème renversée in France and our Spanish-speaking neighbors call it flan. We call it caramel custard, a simple pudding-like dessert made with a mixture of sweetened milk and eggs, gently baked in a caramel coated mold. It's as classic as a recipe can get. Simple and delicious.

This is one of those desserts that contemporary cooks are always meddling with, trying to be creative when it just isn't necessary. But then again, Valentine's Day is next week. You could garnish it with a few fresh strawberries. Just keep it simple.

 

Caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

Custard:

4 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups milk, warmed

Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the caramel:

Without stirring, bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a small, nonreactive saucepan over medium high heat.

Cook until the syrup turns golden, swirling the pan gently (and carefully) to ensure even coloring (about 5 to 6 minutes).

Continue to cook, constantly swirling the mixture until it turns a deep reddish brown (about 4 to 6 minutes).

Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully pour the caramel into each of six (6 ounce) ovenproof ramekins (or soup cups).

Set the ramekins aside and let the caramel cool and harden (about 10 minutes).

For the custard:

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a separate pot or teakettle.

Combine the whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl and gently whisk until smooth.

Add the heated milk, vanilla and salt, and whisk just until combined, but not foamy.

Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a pitcher or other bowl.

Divide the custard among the six ramekins.

Place the ramekins (not touching each other) in a roasting pan or large baking dish.

Set the roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven.

Fill the pan with the boiling water half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a paring knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the ramekins from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To unmold, slide a paring knife around the edges of the custard.

Place a small plate on top of the ramekin and invert the plate.

Give a slight shake to the ramekin to unmold the custard.

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