What is the difference between crème caramel, flan and caramel custard? For the most part they are all the same. The French call it Crème caramel. Much of the Spanish speaking world calls it flan. In India, this dessert is popular as caramel custard. This simple dessert is perhaps one of the best examples of the alchemy of eggs—the magic that allow the egg proteins to harden and form the delicate, silky, creamy blob of deliciousness that is this custard.
There are thousands of great recipes for flan on the internet. Ours is based on the the flan recipe on Serious Eats by Sohla El-Wallyly. In fact this dessert is so forgiving that even if you do not follow the exact measurements you will most likely end up with something tasty. However, while making a Crème caramel is easy enough, making a perfect crème caramel certainly requires practice, as well as a deeper understanding of how a custard sets. We have some tips below that should help. We also recommend watching this very comprehensive video on the correct way to cook a custard by a channel called Magic Ingredients.
For the caramel
- 60 g sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ~25 ml water
For the custard
- 500 g milk
- 250 g cream
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 90 g sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 vanilla beans (or ½ tsp vanilla essence)
- First, make the caramel. For that, combine sugar, salt and water in the given proportions in a saucepan. Set it on low heat, and wait for the caramel to darken. Once it has reached the dark brown colour you are happy with, add a splash of water to prevent the caramel from darkening further.
- Immediately divide the caramel equally among your custard moulds, making sure to coat the bottom of the moulds completely. Set aside to harden.
- Meanwhile, prepare the custard. For that, combine milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and set it over low heat. Gently heat it until bubbles form on the edge of the pan. Turn off the heat; don't over-heat.
- In a separate bowl, mix whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt in the given quantities. Whisk to combine.
- Slowly drizzle in the heated milk and cream, whisking continuously to ensure that the eggs don't curdle the milk.
- Strain the mixture to remove any lumps and fill up your ramekins.
- In a preheated 150°C oven, set a baking pan or dish and fill it with hot water. Set your custard moulds in this water bath, and cook for 30 minutes or until the custard is set, yet the middle is a bit wobbly.
- Allow to cool at room temperature before transferring to the fridge to chill.