An easy recipe for classic French Crème Caramel. No cream but made with milk and egg yolks for a light dessert, popular in Parisian restaurants.
Large Crème Caramel
The beauty of a classic French Crème Caramel is that it’s always a crowd pleaser. However, it does look like it’s difficult to make. I was scared to make this classic French Crème Caramel for many years after my arrival in France in 1992. Instead, I just watched my French mother-in-law make her delectable family-sized large 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 Mix: How to Make a Crème Caramel From Scratch
Growing up in Scotland, we made crème caramel using a green-boxed packet mix. I didn’t think there was any other way. My job was to squeeze out each sachet of caramel into each dish and, as if by magic, the upturned caramel creams were just perfect, with that mirror of caramel on top. Many years on, however, it’s a different era when many of us prefer to make a crème caramel from scratch.
I cringe at packet mixes simply because of the “stuff” that’s added to them – like far too much sugar. Making our own also means that we can infuse them with flavour combinations, if we want to try something a bit different from the plain classic French caramel. However, making from scratch – is it really that easy? The simple answer is YES!
French Crème Caramel Flavour Variations
This classic French Crème Caramel is delicious plain – but the recipe can easily take on many flavour variations: teas, herbs, and floral infusions work well. Just infuse in the milk. Here are a some 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, show me on social media (my links are splattered around here) – or simply tell family and friends about le blog! Thanks so much for sharing.
Classic French Crème Caramel
- 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
Make the caramel:
- 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.
Make the custard cream:
- 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.