Crème Caramel – a timeless classic

If you are a fan of our signature Crème Caramel, you will be delighted by the news that you can now order these from Côte at Home!

Crème Caramel has always been a constant on Cote's menus, and our guests tell us time and time again that it is their best-loved dessert. Silky smooth and indulgent, it has become something of a Côte icon over the years.

 

A simple pleasure, it is a dessert that exists in some form across the world, in name and to some extent, appearance. From the Mexican and Spanish ‘flan’, to the Italian ‘crema tartara alla caramella’, its foundations remain the same – a smooth set custard with a rich liquid caramel, cooked enough to be dark but not too bitter. For something so delicious its list of ingredients is short and sweet: milk, eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla are brought together in a pan on the hob, as is the caramel, which is made from sugar and water. A thin layer of the caramel is then poured into the bottom of a ramekin and the custard on the top, before placing the ramekin into a bain-marie to cook gently, resulting in a smooth, melt-in-the mouth dessert.  

Crème Caramel, as we would recognise it today, first appeared on restaurant menus in the late 1900’s but recipes date back far further than that. It is thought that even the Ancient Romans had an understanding of the binding properties of eggs, with records of them being baked in clay pots with milk and honey to create sweet custards. 

François Massialot, an extremely well-respected and successful French chef of his time, who cooked for royalty and high-profile Frenchmen, published a recipe for crème brûlée in 1692. Not to be confused with crème caramel, crème brûlée is a firm custard topped with a hard caramel as a result of melting sugar with a flame and allowing it to cool and set hard. The significance of this published recipe is that 50 years later in 1742, another iconic figure in the history of French cuisine, Vincent La Chapelle, then put his own recipe for a similar dish into print, but so as not to directly copy Massialot, made a few changes. The story goes that La Chappelle copied Massialot’s recipe word for word, which would be out-and-out plagiarism, had it not been for a twist in the method close to the end. Instead of melting sprinkled sugar on the top of the set custard and allowing it to harden, La Chappelle instructs those following his recipe to make a loose caramel with sugar and water, heat until golden in colour and then pour the cream and egg mixture over the top of the caramel, cooking further until it becomes set, before turning out a freestanding custard with a liquid caramel top. A recipe that is recognisable as a traditional crème caramel of today.  

It may never be known whether La Chappelle took Massialot’s recipe and tweaked it at the end to be able to call it his own, or if something bearing resemblance to baked custard dish with a liquid caramel top already existed. 

However this culinary triumph came about, we’re very glad it did! 

 

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