Coffee Crème Caramel & A New Year
Is it too late to be saying Happy New Year? Because I'm going to say it anyway.
Happy New Year!
It's been a while since my last post. I spent my New Year's Eve on an overnight train to the mountains in Vietnam, trapped in a four-person sleeper with a crying baby, but at least I had Joe with me. I hope yours was better.
Regardless, our trip to Vietnam was beyond amazing--filled with language barriers and plenty of gesturing, random acts of kindness, adorable kids and stray dogs...
And the food... oh, the food. I tried to photograph everything we ate but there were still a few times where my mouth got ahead of the camera.
My only regret is that I had my first taste of a mangosteen on my second to last day... That meant I had to eat a lot of mangosteens in two days before I left. And I did. And it was good. If you've never had one, they look strangely ugly on the outside but have the juiciest, loveliest fleshy white insides and taste heavenly (pretty much the best way to describe the taste).
Another sweet treat I loved in particular and of course, forgot to photograph, was the créme caramel at a little restaurant called Morning Glory in Hoi An.
It reminded me of the créme caramels (we called them caramel custards AKA flan) that my grandmother used to make me when I was a kid. I always thought they were made from scratch, until I was about 14 and found the boxed mix in her pantry. That didn't change the fact that it was delicious. Ever since my first one, I've always been in love with custard-y sweets--especially anything involving that delightful, dark bordering-on-bitter caramel poured on top.
I'd never attempted my own créme caramel until now, not even for the blog. With so many bookmarked recipes from online and recipes from cookbooks that I recently purchased, my caramel custard experimenting fell to the wayside. It doesn't help that this dessert just doesn't seem prevalent in cookbooks anymore. Créme brûlées seem to be far more popular, and yes, I do love me a hard shell of sweet caramel, but sometimes you just need something silky smooth and eggy after dinner, ya know? Or after lunch, or in between meals, or perhaps for breakfast, just because.
In the spirit of Vietnamese cuisine, I was hoping to make one with condensed milk and somehow incorporate coffee, since Viets love their dark dark coffee with condensed milk. I've never been a fan of coffee (besides drinking Frappucinos in high school when it was "cool") but on this trip, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was actually quite good, but mostly because I loved the condensed milk component so much... according to Joe it was more "some coffee with your milk?" instead of the other way around for me. Oops.
*In addition to the caramel from the bottom of the dish being emptied on top, I also poured some black coffee to offset the sweetness of the custard.
Coffee Créme Caramels
Adapted from Rasamalaysia
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk (preferably whole milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 tsp cinnamon (preferably the Viet kind)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
a couple drops of lemon juice*
1/4 cup black coffee
Arrange 6 ramekins together.
Stir the sugar and water and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium to low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let it sit until it turns deep amber (keep watching it, it'll be about 5 minutes but burnt caramel is not something you ever want to deal with).
*Lemon juice keeps the caramel from hardening
Take off heat and pour in equal portion into the ramekins.
Tilt the ramekins to evenly spread out the caramel around the edges as much as you can.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat up some water in a kettle (or fill up hot water from the sink into a kettle)
Clean the same saucepan and heat the milk and sugar and cinnamon stick on low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let it sit for about 2 minutes. Then remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
In a big bowl, whisk the eggs until blended and then add in the warm milk slowly.
Add the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.
Strain the custard mixture into each ramekin.
Place each ramekin into a large baking dish.
Place the baking dish halfway into the oven.
Heat up hot water in a kettle and carefully pour into the baking dish, taking care not to splash water into the ramekins.
Close oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Remove from the baking pan and let cool.
Once cool, transfer to the fridge and chill for a couple of hours.
When they're ready to serve, slide a knife around the side of each ramekin to loosen the custard and turn it out onto a dessert plate.
Top with black coffee and serve.