Recipe adopted from The New Best Recipe.
There's just one problem though; I've never had the dessert before to know what to expect! No flan. No crème brûlée. Nada. When chocolate is offered in a dessert, it gets my immediate vote.
So what was the result? Despite my picture lacking the perfection that ATK is all too good at, I think it was a solid first attempt. My homemade caramel loosened up like it was supposed to after its initial hardening. The egg-based dessert refrained from transforming into scrambled eggs. And my water bath managed to create the perfect texture in the dessert. As with any recipe, there are things I want to try different next time (like using part heavy cream, added flavor through cinnamon, nutmeg, and coffee, and slightly less cooking time on the caramel), but I can finally say that I have a decent idea of what custard-making is all about.
7 ounces (~1 cup) sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
4 3/4 ounces (~2/3 cup) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring the ingredients for the caramel to a simmer. [Side note: as with any homemade caramel, use a gentle swirling motion of the pan to stir the mixture rather than using a spoon, or similar utensil.] After a simmer is met, continue heating the caramel until it transitions into a golden honey color with large, slow-forming bubbles. Carefully divide the caramel into eight 6-ounce ramekins. While they are cooling, line a large (lasagna-sized) pan with a nonstick baking mat or a wet towel. When they're cool enough to handle, transfer the ramekins to the pan, making sure they aren't touching.
Preheat the oven to 350° F and adjust your oven rack to the center position.
For the custard, heat the milk and cream over medium heat until steam appears. While this is heating, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl, just until uniform. When the milk is hot enough (only steaming; not simmering or boiling), gradually add to the egg mixture while whisking. [Side note: this gradual process of introducing a hot liquid to an egg-based mixture is called tempering]. Run this mixture through a fine sieve to ensure that none of the egg has curdled. Reserve.
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts (8 cups) of water to a boil. Add the boiling water to the pan until the water covers half the height of the ramekins. Loosely cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a paring knife comes out clean after being inserted halfway between the edge and center of the custard. Transfer to a cooling rack and bring to room temperature. To serve, carefully run a sharp paring knife between the custard and the ramekin, place a plate on top of the ramekin (upside down), and invert. Remove the ramekin and enjoy.