1 × 13cm charlotte mould or 6× 7.5cm soufflé dishes
First make the caramel. Put the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Bring to the boil, remove the spoon and cook until the caramel becomes golden brown or what we call chestnut colour. Do not stir and do not shake the pan. If sugar crystals form around the side of the pan, brush them down with cold water. When the caramel is ready for lining the moulds, it must be used immediately or it will become hard and cold.
Coat the bottom of the charlotte mould or soufflé dishes with the hot caramel. Dilute the remainder of the caramel with
Next make the custard. Whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla essence (if used) until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. (Alternatively, infuse the vanilla pod in the milk and cream.) Bring the milk and cream to just under boiling point and pour on to the egg mixture, whisking gently as you pour. Strain and pour into the prepared moulds, filling them to the top. Place the moulds in a bain-marie of simmering water, cover with a paper lid and bake in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas 4, about 35 minutes for individual dishes and about 1 hour for a charlotte mould. Test the custards by putting a skewer in the centre; it will come out clean when the custards are fully cooked.
Cool and turn out on to a round, flat dish or individual plates. Pour the remaining caramel around. Serve with a little softly whipped cream.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.