Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by its common French name crème renversée — flipped custard — because of the way you serve it, upside down: this way the layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.
The layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.
I am so partial to my mother’s recipe that I never ever order crème caramel when dining out, because I know it will fall short. Her version isn’t overly sweet, and it has the simple flavors of childhood — milk, eggs, vanilla. The silken, slippery consistency feels fresh and clean, though my favorite part is actually the lightly nubby “skin” that develops at the surface of the custard, where it was exposed to the oven’s heat.
Since the ingredients list is so straightforward, use the best ones you can: now would be a fine time to use your neighbor’s backyard eggs, that farm-fresh milk you get from the greenmarket, and the fat, waxy vanilla bean you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
My mother makes crème caramel in a single pan — a repurposed charlotte mold if you must know — for the whole family to share, but I usually cook it in ramekins instead: individual containers look fancier when we have guests, and if it’s just us, they make it easier to handle servings and leftovers.