Créme caramel has to be one of our all-time favourite desserts. Easy enough for every day (really), but posh enough to serve to company. This is a quick and scrumptious version of an absolute classic.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
2 1/2 cups milk, heated until hot but not boiling
1/2 tsp vanilla
In a small heavy saucepan, combine ½ cup (125 mL) of sugar with the water, and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and becomes golden and caramelized. This will take longer than you think it should, but don’t turn the heat up because when it happens, it happens quickly, and you don’t want it to burn. Once it turns golden, immediately remove the pan from the heat, and pour evenly into six ¾ cup (175 mL) heatproof glass or pottery custard cups. Set these aside. This, I promise you, is the trickiest part of the entire recipe.
Beat the eggs with the remaining ¼ cup (50 mL) of sugar, then add the hot milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into the prepared caramel-lined custard cups, dividing the mixture equally. Place the cups into a baking pan that's large enough to hold them all, and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the cups. Put the entire pan (water, custard cups and all) into the oven, and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife poked into the middle of a cup comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let the custards cool on a rack to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours or, preferably, overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of each custard to loosen it from its cup and unmould each one onto a plate. The melted sugar will have dissolved into a delicious caramel sauce, which should be poured around each serving.