A few quibbles
I had a few quibbles with this recipe, from my so-far perfectly written new favourite cookbook. Firstly, I found it very sweet, unnecessarily so. I know that Middle Eastern desserts are stuffed full of sugar but I felt the amount could have been reduced a little here without too much difference in the end result. In fact, and I’m just going to throw this out there, fully expecting it to be laughed down, but perhaps there wouldn’t be so much unrest in the Middle East if everyone wasn’t grumpy from toothache all the time. Just a thought. Anyhoo…
Secondly, the instruction for making the caramel sauce was very vague. “Dissolve the sugar and then turn up the heat until the sugar caramelises.” Working with sugar is a very exact science, requiring specific temperatures to get specific outcomes. I boiled the sugar quite hard and as a result my caramel sauce set pretty firm. Actually, a rather strange alchemy occurred in the oven. When I poured the caramel into the ramekins it set solid almost immediately; hit it with a spoon, crack your teeth on it kind of solid. Once I put the finished crème caramel in the oven though the top layer of the caramel sauce melted, and didn’t resolidify; this was nicely liquid underneath the creme caramel, when it came to eating time. The layer below that though remained solid golden sugar, sharp, with the texture of a boiled sweet and impossible to remove from the ramekin with a spoon. Not ideal, unless you like serving guests impossible party games to pass their time with.
Despite these minor shortcomings I would class the recipe as a success, as I would make it again, though I’d have to play around with the caramel sauce to get it just right.
Orange and vanilla crème caramel
From Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume
One final point to note, and this was definitely my fault, not the recipe’s, is to use orange flower water and not orange essence. I didn’t have any orange flower water, but unfortunately the orange essence I replaced it with was oil-based and thus floated around on top of my caramel and made the whole thing rather greasy and messy, without incorporating properly.
125g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons orange flower water
550ml double cream
Zest of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1. Put the 125g sugar, water, salt and orange flower water into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved; this should take about 5 minutes.
2. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a gentle boil; not knowing a huge amount about sugar I can only describe from my experience, but there should be about 2 inches of frothy, boiling sugar on the surface of the mixture. Keep this amount of froth nice and steady for 8-10 minutes, or until the sugar starts to darken. Once the sugar does darken, and it will take a little while, keep an eagle eye on it. Burnt sugar tastes nasty and makes a bloody mess of your saucepans. You want the mixture to be the colour of a varnished chestnut table. Pour it straight into 6 ramekins and leave to cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 150 C. In a small bowl, or even the pot containing the double cream, mix the cream, orange zest and vanilla extract. Stir well. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and 150g caster sugar until pale, thick and creamy. Slowly whisk in the cream and zest mixture until all mixed in and carefully pour the whole lot into the ramekins, on top of the caramel.
4. Place the ramekins into a small tray, just big enough to hold them all, and fill the tray with hot water, so that it comes about 2/3 of the way up the side of the ramekins. Put the tray with the ramekins in the oven and cook for an hour, to an hour and 10 minutes, or until the crème caramels are almost set in the middle. Check halfway through cooking in case the water needs topping up. The ramekins will probably develop a sugary crust on top (which is delicious) so you’ll have to break one to test for doneness. Once done, remove from the oven and leave to cool slowly in their water bath. Once fully cool, remove from the water and put the ramekins in the fridge overnight to fully firm up.
Makes 6. Serve in the ramekins (you’ll see the futility of trying to upend the ramekins onto a plate once they’re cooked, but that’s fine, they’re perfect served the right way up).