By Harold McGee
Crème caramel is a freestanding sweet custard with a layer of moist caramel on top. It’s made by coating the bottom of the dish with a layer of caramelized sugar before the custard mix is poured in and cooked. The caramel does harden and stick to the dish, but moisture from the custard mix softens it, and the two layers become partly integrated. The custard is turned out of the dish while still slightly warm and the caramel soft. If the custard must be refrigerated before serving, leave it in the mold; the caramel can be softened again by placing the dish in a shallow pan of hot water for a minute or two before unmolding.