Such a modest little French dessert that delivers big on taste (so big, my family moved it up to number one spot on the best dessert list!). The trick to getting the smoky caramel flavor is the dark muscovado sugar – don’t be tempted to go for plain old brown sugar – it simply won’t do! Likewise, do try it with the creme fraiche rather than whipped cream; the creme fraiche nicely counteracts the sweetness of the caramel. This recipe is often attributed to GQ magazine, but I see that they credited it to Melissa Murphy, from Sweet Melissa Pâtisserie in Brooklyn, New York.
The caramel sauce is an add-on to the original recipe. It’s a simple, unfussy complement to the dessert. Once it cools, the sauce thickens slightly but remains light and syrupy. Store any remainder in a jar in the cupboard; it should keep for months and would be a lovely addition to any custard desserts like creme brulee or creme caramel and, of course, ice cream. If you want to watch the sauce being made, check out this Youtube clip - the wet caramel demonstration is 4 minutes in.
BUTTERSCOTCH POTS DE CRÈME
Makes five 3/4 cup sized ramekins or six 1/2 cup
6 egg yolks
6 tbsp dark Muscovado sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp Demerara sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
1 cup caster sugar
2 Tbsp water
2/3 cup hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whipped crème fraiche to serve
Preheat oven to 150⁰C (300⁰F).
Custards: Place egg yolks in a large bowl and lightly whisk till smooth. Set aside. Over a medium heat, heat the muscovado sugar, vanilla bean, salt, milk and heavy cream in a heavy saucepan and stir until sugar starts to dissolve and the milk is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Cover and keep warm.
In a medium saucepan, combine the demerara sugar with 6 Tbsp of water and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the sugar turns amber remove from heat (it’s quite difficult to tell when it’s done, as it’s amber to start with. However I turned it off when I could actually smell the caramel aroma and at about the same time it definitely did turn darker and more syrupy). Carefully add ¼ cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking until combined. Whisk in 2 more cups of the cream mixture, then add the rest. Pour the caramel cream into the yolk in a slow, steady stream and gently whisking the mixture continuously. Strain the custard through a fine strainer (or sieve) into a pitcher. Skim off any foam or bubbles on top.
Pour the custard carefully into the ramekins, leaving ½ inch at the top of each. Place ramekins in a roasting pan and carefully fill the pan with hot water until it comes halfway up their sides. Place a large piece of foil over the pan and tuck lightly around the edges. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until set. When done, the edges will be firm, but the centre will jiggle when the custard is gently shaken (the reason you take it out at this stage, is that it continues to set as it cools). Remove from the pan and let cool. When cool, refrigerate uncovered (to keep its burnished color) for several hours or overnight.
Caramel Sauce: In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water and cook undisturbed over high heat, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Using a moistened pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the saucepan from time to time. Remove from the heat. Very carefully add the hot water and whisk until smooth (should the mixture seize up and become toffee, don’t panic – just return it to the heat and keep stirring and it will liquify again). Add the vanilla extract. Let it cool.
Take the custards out of the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving. Dollop a small amount of the whipped crème fraiche on top (a small amount goes a long way) and drizzle generously with caramel sauce (you’ll keep adding more, trust me!).