A sweet custard recipe

“How was your week?”, people ask. But are they ready for an honest, full answer?

Because for me, it was…

A busy week. Made of work deadlines, toddler activities, juggling writing, cooking, photographing between bath times, meal times and nap times.

A grateful week, for the precious help of my mother and support of good friends.

A stressful, anxious week, with the anticipation of big life changes and all the daunting effort, work and energy they require.

A flavorful week, rich with the bounty of summer produce and local farmers.

A hopeful week, with faith in the fruits of difficult decisions and doing our best in the present.

A sad week, for the helplessness felt in the face of the struggle, pain and suffering of loved ones.

An inspiring week, with lots of ideas and connections, things to express, to explore.

A tired, humbling week, longing for sleep and rest, a reality check that my brain and body cannot function non-stop.

A joyful week, of reaping other fruits, the things Pablo has learned without my teaching, the awe and wonder of watching grow what I sowed. A spontaneous thank you, or gesture to share food, a rythm or a song, a new skill, a desire to help, a willingness to try new things, a wish to connect with others, and sprouts of empathy in his demeanor.

Such are our weeks and lives, aren’t they? Never just one thing. They are in our image, complex, mixed, impossible to define. Therein lies their beauty. They can’t be labeled, or dismissed for being one thing, these nuggets, these increments of our lives.

So with the acknowledgement of last week, ready or not, we begin a new one. With a sweet treat, and a menu, to get us on our way…

It has been a while since I’ve shared our weekly menu, and a while since I shared a dessert recipe, so I shall fix that with one post. Crème Caramel, which is basically a cold caramel custard, is a classic dessert in France. You can easily find it already-made in the yogurt section of any supermarket. All schools offer it once in a while for dessert to children (you know, French schools serving a daily four course lunch to children and all). It is a combination of such simple ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar), makes a great sweet treat.
And then I came across the photo of a verrine (pretty edible things presented in a glass, basically) on a French website, and decided to simplify it greatly to create an easy, yet delicious and crowd-pleasing dessert perfect for a summer (or any season really) afternoon, or for a dinner party.

Smoked tea infused crème caramel, & a verrine of shortbread cookie, stone fruit, yogurt, and smoked caramel custard

For the crème caramel:

Makes 4-6 ramekins, depending on size (lower, shallow ramekins tend to set better)

Age for babies: 12 months and up with the honey, in very small quantity.  I gave this to Pablo for the first time at 27 months (and it was love at first taste!)

2 cups of whole milk

1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

3 eggs

3 tbsp honey (heat it up to make it liquidy if needed)

In a pan, combine the milk and vanilla (if using a bean, scrape the seeds off into the milk, and put the bean in the milk as well). Bring to a slow boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let the vanilla infuse for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the ramekins, just enough to coat the bottom. It will harden and cool quickly. (*Note that I was able to keep this caramel covered in the fridge for a couple of months. I just reheated in the microwave to liquify).

Then, whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the honey and whisk until combined.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, (strain the milk through a fine mesh if desired), and pour the hot milk over the eggs, all at once, and whisk vigorously for a minute or so.

Pour the milk/egg mixture over the caramel in the ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a baking dish, and pour some hot water in the dish, so it goes up about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until set. You will know when you tap on your baking dish, and the middle of the custards is no longer liquid (though it will giggle a little.)

Remove from the oven and the hot water bath, and let cool. Then place in the fridge for 1 hour or more.

When ready to serve, place a plate on top of the ramekins, hold on to both and turn the plate over, shaking gently until you hear the soft “schlug” of the custard coming off the ramekin. Lift the ramekin, and pour the leftover caramel at the bottom of the ramekin over the custard.

For the verrine:

Age for babies: Omitting the crème caramel, I would give this as an afternoon snack for example from 8-10 months (yogurt, cookie, fruit mixed together and set to rest for 1 hr, so the yogurt softens the cookie).

1 plain shortbread cookie

1 spoonful of plain (full fat if possible) Greek yogurt (this one is by far the best I’ve had in the US, by the way)

1 spoonful of European style, plain yogurt, with cream on top preferably

Seasonal fruit of choice: here I used plum and nectarine 

1 bite or two of crème caramel

In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt and regular yogurt with some of the cream on top.

At the bottom of a glass, break/crumble the shortbread cookie.

Add the yogurt, the cut up fruit on top, and then a spoonful of the crème caramel.

Note: You can make these ahead and leave them in the fridge until ready to serve. It gives the yogurt time to imbibe the cookie, which makes the whole thing even more scrumptious!!

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