I was scared to make this classic French Crème Caramel for many years after my arrival in France in 1992. Instead, I sat back and let my French mother-in-law make her delectable family-sized crème caramel each time we visited them in their pretty Provençal village of Saignon. Back in Paris, I’d order it hands down each time on dessert menus in brasseries, bistros or in Parisian cafés.
No Packet Mixes!
Somehow that pristine dark caramel reflecting our wide, greedy eyes looked so perfect yet was so light that I thought it was a no-go to make. French Crème Caramel – known as flan in other parts of the world – seemed so simple but it was totally out of my comfort zone.
Growing up in Scotland, we made ours using a green-boxed packet mix: my job was to squeeze out each sachet of caramel into each dish and excitingly, the whole thing worked just beautifully. Many years on, I cringe at packet mixes but then it’s an entirely different era; now we prefer to make dishes from scratch – as we know exactly what’s in it, can lower sugar levels and add our own creative twists (see below for flavour ideas).
French Crème Caramel Flavour Variations
This classic French dessert can easily take on many flavour variations – as the likes of teas, herbs, and floral infusions work well while infusing in the milk.
Give a Crème Caramel a twist by infusing tea or herbs into it – the following are crème caramel flavour ideas:
- Jasmine tea;
- Lavender (infuse 1/2 tsp of dried lavender flowers);
- Earl Grey or Matcha Green tea;
- Fresh or dried lemon verbena (incidentally, have you tried this lemon verbena ice cream?).
The Lightest, Silkiest Classic French Crème Caramel Recipe
All tea and herbal variations are delicious for that extra je ne sais quoi – but I keep referring back to the good old classic vanilla. There’s something so nostalgic about it, isn’t there? Fresh berries or exotic fruits on the side are enough for me. Simple yet effective.
Over the years, I prefer this version, as I’ve experimented making Crème Caramel with cream, milk and cream, milk and eggs. In the end, this is by far my favourite: just with milk but the addition of 3 egg yolks gives it that creamy, silky, melt-in-the-mouth feel, keeping it perfectly light.
Not long after launching this blog, I was fortunate to have my Japanese friend, Nami, from Just One Cookbook guest post before she hit super stardom. Here is her recipe for Japanese Purin, a no-bake version using gelatine.
This French Crème Caramel recipe below does look long making it home from scratch – but it’s the opposite: I’ve given detailed recipe steps below to explain how easy it is. Et voilà !
Have you made any of the recipes from le blog (from my books, too) or fancy making this classic French Crème Caramel? Please leave some comment love below, take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram and Facebook – or simply tell family and friends about le blog! Thanks so much for sharing.
An easy, step by step recipe for the classic French Crème Caramel. No cream but made with egg yolks for a light, melt-in-the-mouth perfect end to any meal.
- 100 g / 3.5oz granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 500 ml / 17 fl oz milk (whole milk)
- 1 vanilla pod/bean (or pinch of vanilla powder/1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 2 medium eggs (organic)
- 3 egg yolks (organic)
- 70 g / 2.5oz sugar
Put the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir using a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar in the water. Over a low-medium heat , then leave the caramel to form without stirring. This should take about 10 minutes (don't multitask and leave the pan - keep your eye on it). It should start to smell like caramel when light brown. Swirl it around a bit and wait until the caramel is medium to dark brown (too light and it will just be too sweet; too dark, it will be bitter).
Pour the caramel into 5 ramekin dishes (or one big one), ensuring that it coats completely the base. Set aside to cool so that the caramel sets and immediately put the saucepan in the sink and soak in water, making it easier to clean later.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/150°C fan/Gas 3. Split the vanilla pod down the middle if using. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan, adding the vanilla (or other infusions if using) and just allow the milk to heat to simmering point (not boiling). Take off the heat and remove the vanilla pod (scraping out the seeds and adding to the hot milk).
Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in the hot vanilla milk and whisk constantly. Place the ramekins into a large roasting tin. Pour the hot milk over the caramel in each ramekin. Place the roasting tin in the middle of the oven and pour in warm water around the ramekins so that it comes to about 2/3 of the way up.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until set (they're not cooked properly if there's a dip in the middle). Remove from the oven carefully, and gradually remove the ramekins onto a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours - or overnight.
Serve with fresh berries or slices of exotic fruits, depending on the season.
To serve, many Parisian brasseries serve crème caramel directly in their ramekins. If you like to see them upturned as shown in the photos above, slice a cross in the middle of each ramekin with a thin sharp knife and loosen the creams by running the knife also around the sides. Turn upside down directly on to the serving plates.
Best served at room temperature.
With the leftover whites, why not make macarons or financiers from my books - or try these quick almond tuiles?