Hot and Cold… and Caramel

22 11 2010

A few weeks ago, Jenni of Pastry Methods and Techniques posed an interesting challenge.  She wanted to play with hot and cold, temperatures and flavors.  I love this sort of game.  Let’s see, cold custard… crème caramel is one of the easiest and tastiest ones I know.  Now how can we warm it up?  This being Fall, warm spices like cinnamon and ginger immediately spring to mind.  (I considered star anise, but upon sticking my nose in the jar, I decided that anise/licorice is a distinctly cool flavor.)  So we have a warm-tasting cold thing, how about a cool-tasting warm thing to go with it?  I think pears are on the cool end of the flavor spectrum, so to speak, but if we cooked them with butter and sugar until they were caramelized and a little sticky?  Then they would be hot, and awesome on top of a creamy dessert.

An autumnal caramel palette

And are they ever!  The spiced crème caramel has an almost pumpkin pie-like flavor, the caramel makes it decadent, and the pears keep it from going overboard.  Personally, I think these would make a great Thanksgiving dessert, as long as you don’t have any die-hard traditionalists at your table.  And maybe even if you do – it’s good enough to change some minds.

I’m very interested to see what other people have come up with in response to Jenni’s challenge, so it’s fortunate that she’ll be posting a roundup of hot-and-cold inspired desserts on December 1st.  Which means you still have time to play along, if you’re so inclined.

Spiced Crème Caramel with Hot Caramel Pears

Warm spices, cold, creamy custard, hot pears and a double dose of caramel make this darn near my ideal Fall dessert. It would be right at home at the end of an elegant holiday meal. As a bonus, it’s completely do-ahead: the custard needs time to chill, and the pears can be reheated in a snap.

For the Crème Caramel:

9 oz. / 265 ml milk (whole is best, 2% is ok, but please not skim)
3 oz. / 89 ml cream
3 Tbsp. Brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
A few flakes of whole mace, if you can get it, or a few grates of fresh nutmeg
1 piece of crystallized ginger, sliced
A pinch of salt (I used vanilla salt, which is salt with a vanilla bean scraped into it)
3 eggs
½ cup sugar, or thereabouts, plus some water.

  1. Preheat the oven to 330 F / 165 C.
  2. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, spices, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring up to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the sugar in a small pan and add just enough water to moisten it. Place over medium-high heat and cook without stirring until it begins to brown. Swirl it gently until it is a deep amber color (or even darker – I like mine when it just starts to smoke). Quickly pour a thin layer of caramel into the bottom of five ramekins. Set aside.
  4. Strain the spiced milk into a blending-appropriate container, add the eggs, and blend until smooth. Pour this custard into the prepared ramekins.
  5. Place the ramekins into a large oven-proof dish. Put the dish in the oven, then fill it with hot tap water until the water level is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custard is just set (it should wobble a bit in the middle when jostled), about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely. These can be made up to four days in advance, but keep them covered and chilled.

For the pears:

3 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
2 Tbsp. / 30 g unsalted butter
½ cup / 100 g sugar

  1. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar starts to melt.  Place the pear halves in the sauce and cook over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until evenly caramelized. Serve immediately or chill and reheat.

For the dessert:

To unmold the chilled custards, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge. Invert the ramekin onto a plate and shake a bit to loosen. It should come out in a splash of caramel sauce. Top the custards with a warm pear half and a little extra caramel sauce from the pears.

Makes 5 desserts, plus one extra pear half.




13 responses

22 11 2010

You just made my mouth water! Thanks for playing, friend:)

23 11 2010

Croque, I just stumbled upon your blog and fell in love at first byte! We are planning on a full house for Thanksgiving and they are breathing down my neck to come up with the desserts.

First, I must say I can’t thank your friend ‘Joe’ enough for he’s saved me the embarrassment of having to discard this (otherwise completely runny) pear-lychee brule/concoction. The result tastes somewhat like a spicy banana pudding (after adding a touch too much fresh nutmeg.)

FYI: Leibovitz is way ‘overrated’ in my book because he’s such an unresponsive correspondent. To wit, your’s is a better website, as your word choice is truly inspirational. -From now on, I’m using “bubble-wrap” on all my holiday dishes, to keep all the goodness in!

23 11 2010

I had the most insipid, soul-less, crappy “caramelised passionfruit tart” (the quotation marks are for its awfulness) the other night, and it breaks my heart that I wasted precious tummy space on it when I could’ve been making or eating something like this. Camille… won’t you please work out a way to air-freight your magnificent creations to your woebegone sister in Australia?


24 11 2010

@Hannah, OZ may be too far from Paris for some of these yummy dishes to survive the trip, but there is hope! Having been on a quest for great food images I just discovered a site in Sydney that will tickle even the most fickle of taste buds!! Check it out: “What Katie Ate.”

24 11 2010
hungry dog

This sounds delicious and looks beautiful. Pears and caramel…is there a more heavenly combination? Hey, happy thanksgiving, Camille–enjoy your holiday abroad!

24 11 2010

Wow – this looks fabulous – I love a study in contrasts on my plate and tongue!!! Brilliant – a must try! I have a lovely pear tree in my yard – will definately book-mark for the next season!

24 11 2010

Jenni – Thank you for giving us such a fun challenge to work with! Can’t wait for the roundup.

TSGordon – Thank you for your kind words. Good luck with the Thanksgiving desserts!

Hannah – I’m so sorry to hear about the wasted tummy space! And at least I gave you the recipe… what’s that old saying about giving someone a fish?

Hungry Dog – Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Nanan – Wow, you’re lucky to have a pear tree!

25 11 2010
Atlantic Birches Inn

Thanks for the recipe, I am going to try it out on our guests for a side treat with breakfast on thanksgiving Day. Love the blog Keep up the good work. I will definately book-mark for futue reads

26 11 2010

You are always so creative! Happy T-gives to you, my expat friend!

26 11 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, looks delicious!

27 11 2010

Speaking of ‘traditional dishes,’ here’s just one of the obscure things I cam across while Googling ‘traditional french, provençale, etc…’

From the Physiologie du gout, by Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin (first published, 1825).

He says:

Les Femmes sont gourmandes. Women are gourmandes.

Le penchant du beau sexe pour la gourmandise à quelque chose qui tient
de l’instinct, car la gourmandise est favorable à la beauté.

The fair sex’s penchant for la gourmandise is something instinctive, since la gourmandise goes hand in hand with (is favorable to?) beauty.

Une suite d’observations exactes et rigoureuses a démontré qu’un régime
succulent, délicat et soigné …

The following observations, exact and rigorous, demonstrate that a succulent, delicate, and careful regime [i.e., a good diet]

repousse longtemps et bien loin les apparences extérieures de la vieillesse.

pushes far away, and for good, the exterior appearances of old age.

Il donne aux yeux plus de brillant …

It gives to the eyes more brilliance,

… à la peau plus de fraîcheur

to the skin, freshness,

… et aux muscles plus de soutien;

and to the muscles, support;

… et comme il est certain, en physiologie,

and it is certain, in physiology,

que c’est la dépression des muscles qui cause les rides,

that it is the depression of the muscles which causes wrinkles,

… ces redoutables ennemis de la beauté…

those redoubtable enemies of beauty;

… il est également vrai de dire que, toutes choses égales,

it is equally true to say that, all things being equal,

… ceux qui savent manger,

those who know how to eat

sont comparativement de dix ans plus jeunes

seem ten years younger in comparison

que ceux à qui cette science est étrangère.

to those to whom this science is a stranger.

27 11 2010

Atlantic Birches – That’s great! I love to hear that people are using my recipes!

Andrea – Aw, thanks! Happy long weekend to you, too!

Fiona – Thank you!

TSGordon – What a great quote!

1 12 2010
Hot and Cold Dessert Round Up | Pastry Methods and Techniques

[…] was inspired by a warm-tasting cold thing and a cold-tasting warm thing, but she decided to call it Spiced Crème Caramel with Hot Caramel Pears.  Probably a good […]

%d bloggers like this: