When I think of Caramel Custard I think of those long buffet tables at restaurants in Pakistan. The white ceramic bowls with salads and condiments, that array of silver chafing dishes, and then that smorgasbord of desserts at the end. The gulab jamuns lazing in their syrupy bath, the sponge cakes iced with cream swirls dotted with jam. Then came this simple beautiful thing; a gently baked Caramel Custard with it's pool of caramel sauce. As a child my primary mission was to scoop up as much of that sauce as possible onto my plate. As an adult I take a polite amount for decorum's sake.
I started making this custard sometime in my teens and remember loving the results. However as an adult that childhood recipe of mine has failed me. I have several theories as to why, but since none of them are particularly scintillating I will skip them.
Long story short it has taken a few tries to get here, to a point where the caramel is just right, where the custard feels like rich velvet, where giving it to other people to try is a genuine act of love because I'd really like to eat the whole thing myself. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that although there were many great resources on Custard the Serious Eats article was my favourite.
Why label this Caramel Custard as Pakistani?
When I was in college I went to an International Students event where someone had made a Caramel Flan. It was one of the South American students. I gleefully cut myself a big piece and then. Well, then I was confused as hell because even my college going self could tell something was not right. That custard had a deeper sweetness, a dense texture. It was good. Very good, but it just wasn't the same. Since then I have learnt that the set of ingredients can be different and so I call this a Pakistani custard because it is made the way I grew up eating it in Pakistan. Without condensed milk or evaporated milk etc.
Caramel Custard FAQS
It seems only fair that I share a little of what I learnt along the way, right?
1.) Why does my Caramel Custard/Flan taste eggy?
A Caramel Custard or Flan has an egg and milk base. If you overcook the custard then the eggs inside the custard effectively start to scramble causing those grainy sides and that eggy taste. A custard is done when the center is still pretty jiggly, even slightly wet to the touch and the sides are set.
2.) What is the best way to mix a Caramel Custard?
It is hard to evenly disperse all those eggs into the Caramel Custard base. I have used a hand mixer/ electric beater, an immersion blender and a blender. With the hand mixer it was a bit of an eggy bits gong show that required some straining and massive annoyance. The immersion blender worked well and in a pinch I would use it again. The blender however was the best. It allowed me to warm the milk in the pan I used for the caramel thereby amping up the caramel flavour (a tip I got from Serious Eats) and pour it in without risking any curdling. It's also incredibly quick then and what's not to love there.
3.) What kind of milk or cream should I use?
Walk way from that carton of non fat milk. Just don't even think about it. The low fat milk will not have the richness to stand up to the eggs in the base. My preference here is to use full fat for the milk and whipping cream for the cream, but you can use
- All whole milk
- Whole Milk or 2% (2 cups) and Half-n-half or table cream (1 cup)
- Whole Milk or 2% (1.5 cup) and Half n Half (1.5 cup)
Bonus Tip: For the BEST Caramel Custard
If you want to make the best caramel custard you have ever had then use a vanilla bean. It is undoubtedly an indulgence, but well worth it for special occasions. Simply halve the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and mix into your milk as you warm it stove top. Add the scraped pod in there for extra flavour and just when you're about to mix it into your eggs then remove the pod.
Hope you love this take on one of my childhood favourites! Do rate the recipe below and tag me in your recreations on Instagram @flourandspiceblog - your feedback always keeps me going!
Caramel Custard or Caramel Flan
- 1 5*7 loaf pan or a 8 inch round pan
- A roasting pan large enough to fit the custard pan (above)
- A blender
- ½-2/3 cup sugar (⅔ for a round pan, ½ for a loaf)
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups Milk Whole preferred, but nothing lower than 2%
- 1 cup Cream Whipping or Table, either is fine. Half in Half works too
- ¾ cup Sugar
- 6 Eggs
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp Salt
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and place the roasting pan with an inch or two of water inside the oven.
- Spread the sugar evenly across the bottom of a heavy based pan
- Sprinkle the sugar with water so that it disperses evenly and all the sugar is moistened. If you need to add more water that is fine, just sprinkle it over top and DO NOT STIR
- Keep the pan on medium heat and keep a close eye on the sugar, but again do not stir.
- As the sugar turns a honey color watch carefully, you want a dark amber liquid, but this happens very fast. You can swirl the pan gently to even the caramelizing
- As soon as it turns a beautiful amber colour pour it into your custard dish.
- There is loads of beautiful caramel flavour still in the pan you used for caramelizing the sugar so pour your liquids into the pan along with the sugar and the salt and warm through stirring occasionally.
- While the milk mixture is heating crack 6 eggs into your blender along with the vanilla extract and pulse/blend slightly to create an even mix.
- Now while your blender is running on low pour the milk mix into the blender through the feed tube/opening, stop running the blender as soon as it is all in.
- Pour the mixture into your caramel dish, you can remove the foam from the top.
- Place the pan inside the roasting pan with water and gently pour in more hot water so that only the top inch of the pan isn't submerged.
- Bake until the sides are set and the center is still jiggly, 50- 55 minutes for a loaf pan, 40-45 for a round pan. When you touch the top it will seem soft but set.
- Cool completely (4 hours+ in the fridge) then run a knife along the edges to seperate them. Invert in a dish with high sides and pour the remaining caramel sauce in the pan into another small bowl for your grateful loved ones.
- If you want to skip warming the milk in the caramel pan then simply pour it into the blender as is.
- If some of the caramel stays stuck to the bottom of the pan after you flip the custard/flan then pour over some boiling water to loosen it up
- For more tips and tricks please read the blog post!
Want to see some more of my childhood favourites?