Crème Caramel with Brandied Sultanas, Pine Nuts and Thyme
Spring has sprung, and finally we had rain. The grass is green and the bracken is starting to come through. I have finally spotted some elderflowers in the hedgerows today which left me with a sigh of relief as I feared they may not show their faces this year round. Although we are relieved to have had rain, the temperature is low and without the slightly warmer days our fruit farmers and gardeners fear of poor pollination as the bees need a bit more heat to be active.
I’m a softy for all kinds of custard based puddings and crème caramel is probably one of my foodie weaknesses. It’s fairly easy to make with only the caramel that can be slightly tricky. It’s easy to overcook the caramel and be left with a bitter burnt sugar taste. Best advice is watch the caramel at all times, and preparation is key. Take extra care as you can easily burn yourself with caramel. When I make creme caramel I do it in two stages. First I make the caramel, pour it into my chosen moulds and then set that aside; it does not matter if the caramel gets cold and sets. Only then do I make the custard and cook it once it’s done. This way it’s safe and you will not feel pressured to hurry with the caramel.
Cooking crème caramel is another tricky bit and cooking them in a bain-marie in the oven is the best way. Once cooked leave them to cool completely. It’s the perfect pudding that can be made one or even two days in advance.
I have opted for a boozy garnish to give my crème caramel a bit of fruitiness and sophistication. I soaked the sultanas in brandy overnight and then added toasted pine nuts and fresh thyme leaves. The thyme cuts through the eggy creaminess and the sultanas bring a slight acidic tone to cut through the richness of caramel.
It’s entirely your choice which garnish you like to use, if any is needed. Hope you enjoy this crème caramel as as much as I did.
For the Brandied Sultanas, Pine Nuts and Thyme
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 50ml boiling water
- 50ml brandy
- 180g golden sultanas
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- Leaves from two sprigs of thyme
Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water and add the brandy, sultanas, lemon zest and juice. Set aside for 1 hour whilst preparing the crème caramel. Once ready to serve add the toasted pine nuts and thyme leaves.
For the Caramel
- 180g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons cold water
Lightly grease six classic ceramic ramekins with a light smearing of sunflower oil, not too much! Then place them in a roasting tray and set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat dissolve the sugar in the water, once dissolved increase the heat and boil the syrup till it's reached a golden deep caramel colour, watch that it does not burn. Then very quickly pour equal amount of caramel into each ramekin, set aside to cool.
For the Vanilla Custard
- 100ml cream
- 700ml full-fat milk
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds only
- 3 large whole free range eggs
- 5 large free range egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 150°C .
In a clean saucepan over medium heat bring the cream, milk and vanilla seeds to the boil, simmer for 30 seconds and remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to infuse. Beat the eggs and sugar in a small bowl and add one ladle of the warm milk to the eggs, mix and return the egg mixture to the warm milk, whisk and pass the mix through a fine sieve.
Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins and pour cold water into the roasting tray to come up halfway to the sides of ramekins.
Carefully place the roasting tray in the oven and cook the crème caramels for 35 - 40 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the roasting tray, let them cool at room temperature first for 20 minutes then refrigerate for about 4 hours to set and cool completely.
Turn them out onto a serving plate by carefully placing the ramekin upside down on the serving plate, give the plate a gentle shake and remove the ramekin. Garnish the crème caramel with the brandied sultanas and serve immediately.