MARIELLE’S GRANDMA’S CREME CARAMEL & HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, EGGS

Simple and delicious, this traditional recipe is un délice absolu!

Crème caramel is a deliciously simple, classy, and light dessert of milk, eggs, and sugar.  My friend Marielle likes to cook but not to spend hours in the kitchen. She explained that this crème caramel is the best she’s had, and that she has never known of anyone to mess it up.  So I tried it. Verdict: fabulous! A recipe so simple highlights the few ingredients that compose it, so I recommend using the best you’ve got. For example, tasty local eggs from real free-range chickens.

Every other Wednesday or so, we stop at a farm a couple minutes from the Pézenas town center, and buy organic eggs.  Last time I went, the eggs had not yet been collected for the day, so the farmer invited us along to collect them.  Upon entering the chicken coop, curious chickens scurried over to greet us, and a couple obstinate hens tried to sit on their eggs. The farmer delicately lifted them to the side, collected the eggs, and placed them back on their perch.

After about 10 minutes we had collected them all and carried them back to the house where they were weighed and separated into catagories small, medium, and large. With the greatest care, as if they were white and black pearls, he divided the eggs into cartons, always 3 brown and 3 cream colored per carton. The difference in color comes from the type of chicken who lays it. The difference in size comes from the age of the hen. Young hens lay smaller eggs.

I love these eggs for a few reasons.  For one, it’s a pleasure to see the chickens who lay them in their happy little habitat overlooking hills of vineyards. But they are also great for purely practical reasons. The shells are thick, the yolks, a deep yellowish orange.  They are fresh. Because they are unwashed, their natural oily coating preserves them better than washed eggs. In brief, I’m a happy egg-eater.

Eggs like pearls in a carton

You can add a extract of vanilla or other flavor to your crème caramel. I added a hint of orange extract.  You can either make one large crème caramel using a soufflé dish, or many small ones using individual ramekins. It may seem odd that this recipe uses sugar cubes. There is an explanation. For some reason, sugar cubes are easier to caramelize than sugar, which sometimes crystalizes. But if you haven’t got them, sugar works just fine.

recipe for Marielle’s grandma’s crème caramel

1 liter of milk (reduced-fat works just fine) (that’s about 4 1/4 cups)
8 eggs
15 sugar cubes for the caramel (that’s about 15 teaspoons)
15 sugar cubes for the crème

Preheat oven to 150°C or 300°F.

Make a caramel in a heavy-bottomed saucepan by heating 15 sugar cubes with a few drops of water until melted and colored. Immediately pour into the bottom of your soufflé dish or ramekins. Set aside.

Bring the milk and other 15 sugar cubes to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Mix eggs in a large bowl and pour the milk over the eggs, whisking constantly. Add any extracts at this point.

Pour directly onto the caramel and bake for about an hour.

Allow to cool and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

To serve, turn onto a plate or serving dish.

Pour the caramel into the base of a soufflé dish or ramekins, this is about the color you want to have

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