Frozen Crème Caramels

When I started testing recipes for this book. I froze many of the desserts I have baked over the years to see what would happen. There were many that did not work. An angel food cake got chewy, and the baklava tasted the same as always. But simply putting a crème caramel in the freezer was a winner. The high amount of sugar keeps the caramel soft, and the custard freezes smooth and creamy without the use of an ice cream machine.

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ plus cup sugar
  • Large pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped out, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1⅔ cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons water

Method

To Make the Crème Caramels

Whisk together the egg yolks, egg, the ½ cup sugar, and the salt in a bowl. Combine the vanilla bean and seeds, if using, the milk, and cream in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is almost simmering. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, discarding the vanilla bean. Cool over an ice bath until room temperature. Add the vanilla extract, if using. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the cup sugar and the ¼ cup water in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase to high heat and continue to cook until the sugar has caramelized and is medium amber in color. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the 3 tablespoons water, stirring until smooth. (The caramel will sputter as the water is added, so add a little at a time and stir carefully.) Pour the caramel into six 4-ounce ramekins so it evenly coats the bottom. If necessary, pick up each ramekin and swirl the caramel so it completely covers the bottom. Let the caramel harden for about 15 minutes.

Place the ramekins in a large baking pan. Pour the custard into the caramel-lined ramekins. Fill the baking pan with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the pan in the oven. (Be sure to keep the pan flat as you put it in the oven so the water does not slosh into the ramekins.) Bake until all but the very center of the custards is set, about 50 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and discard the aluminum foil. Let the custards sit in the pan for 30 minutes or so until they are cool enough to remove from the pan. Place the crème caramels in the freezer and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours to overnight, depending on your freezer.

To Serve

Quickly dip the ramekins in a bowl of almost simmering water. Run a knife around the inside edge of each ramekin. Invert the crème caramels on 6 individual plates. Serve as is, or with your favorite fruit.

In Advance

The custard base can be made a day before you bake the crème caramels. The crème caramels can be made and frozen up to 3 days in advance. Once frozen, wrap in plastic wrap.

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