Recipe #65: Caramel Custard
This custard recipe makes a lovely, impressive dessert. The distinctive contribution of the Ghanaian version is that it is lighter and less sweet than recipes from the Americas. As I began to prepare it today, I noticed that in Ghana we used a small can (called "tin" in Ghana) of evaporated milk, but it seemed that the can from our local supermarket in Pennsylvania was smaller. With a little sleuthing, I discovered that can sizes do change, and thus today's can in the U.S. is only 5 oz, not the 6 oz size we used in Ghana, so if you want to make this dessert buy a large can of evaporated milk!
Also, in Ghana we used empty evaporated milk cans for our molds. I was hoping to do that, too, but since the cans I have are smaller, decided to go ahead and use standard custard cups.
Caramel custard requires only 5 handy ingredients: water, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. It is prepared in two steps: first, the caramel that coats the bottom of the mold is prepared on the stove top, then the custard itself is made and baked in an oven.
To make the caramel topping (which actually goes in the bottom of the cups and will be inverted when serving), you need:
- 4 oz of sugar (a slightly rounded 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 cup of water (a U.S. cup, or 6 oz)
Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat without stirring. Allow it to cook about 10-15 minutes (depending on your pan and how hot your stove is), just until it begins to turn golden. Immediately remove it from the heat and stir 2 teaspoons of water, one at a time, watching out for splatters. Pour the syrup immediately into the bottom of 4 molds or custard cups, or a large single mold that can go in the oven, and allow it to cool while you prepare the custard.
2. To make the custard, you need:
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring (not imitation)
- 3/4 cup of evaporated milk (6 oz), plus enough water to make 2 1/2 cups
When Flair Catering serves this, they make often make it in a large mold, and lend it a Ghanaian touch by serving it surrounded by fresh slices of tropical fruit such as papaya (pawpaw), pineapple, mango, banana, watermelon, and oranges, and garnish it with a spring of mint. I've just removed mine from the oven, cooled it slightly, then placed it in the refrigerator to cool. I do have mint, but only have some orange, watermelon and bananas, so let me slice some of these up and then turn out the custard . . .
Incidentally, when I cut this recipe in half I still had enough extra to make the one additional serving above (though I did have to make some more of the caramel topping. Here are a couple of hints: be sure to run hot water into the pan you use for the syrup: the caramel hardens quickly and it makes for an easier cleanup; also, you'll need plenty of hot water to get the dregs out of the custard cups once you unmold them and want to wash them.