This caramel custard is different from the smooth and melt in your mouth one a lot of people like these days. It is an old fashioned one. It is slightly harder so you can make 'caramel custard à la mode' with this.
Put the sugar and water for the caramel in a sauce pan, stir gently and put on the heat. When you stir do not let the mixture touch the side of the pan. Do not stir while heating.
When the bubbles thicken and the colour of the sugar mixture near the side of the pan starts to change move the sauce pan around (without stirring) to even out the colour of the caramel.
This is still golden brown in this photo. Continue to heat until the caramel is dark brown. After this you will have to add hot water. Measure the hot water and heat water in a microwave.
Remove the pan from the heat when the caramel is dark brown like this. Reduce the caramel until the it is dark brown and starts to smoke a bit! From this point move quickly.
Add 1 tablespoon of hot water into the pan (the caramel spits so be careful not burn yourself). Move the pan around and stir the caramel with a spoon to even.
After this step pour the caramel into cups. You don't need fill the bottom of the cups. Just fill about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bottoms. It will harden after a while.
Pour the milk into a sauce pan and add 1/2 of the sugar. Start to heat and turn off the heat when it starts to bubble around the side of the pan. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile crack the eggs into a bowl and beat. Add the sugar and mix. Do not whisk the eggs but just beat.
Add the vanilla oil, brandy and rum and stir well. If you don't have vanilla oil, use vanilla essence. Use either brandy or rum.
Stir the warmed milk gently and pour into the egg mixture. Make as few bubbles as possible!
Pour the mixture through a sieve. Heat water in a kettle for a bain-marie (to about 50°C).
Arrange the 6 cups on a baking tray and pour the custard into each. If you fill the cups too full you will make 8. If you fill up to 70 to 80 % you will make 10.
If you want no bubbles on the surface bring the flame of a lighter close to the bubbles to remove. It might cook the surface unevenly if you heat too long.
Set the baking sheet in the oven and pull out the sheet a little. Pour the water heated to 50 to 60°C to fill the baking tray up to 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Steam-bake the custard in the oven pre-heated to 140°C for about 30 minutes. When you move the cups and the custard sets it is ready! I use the middle shelf in the oven for baking custard.
Take out the cups from the bain marie and transfer to a shallow dish to cool. After cooled slightly chill in the fridge.
Press around the edge of the custard surface with your finger and flip over onto your 4 fingers. Place your thumb on the bottom of the cup and shake fiercely to remove the caramel custard from the cups.
Story Behind this Recipe
My sister used to say 'I want to have a crème caramel à la mode but I can't find it in the stores recently," so I decided to make one for her. The soft and melt-in-your-mouth caramel custard which is very popular these days doesn't work for this so I had to make old-fashioned caramel custard.
You don't need to moisten the cups before use! Be careful when you add the hot water to burnt sugar. If you use water it will spit more. If you don't pour the caramel into the cups straight away it will harden very quickly. Do not boil the milk. If the milk ends up boiling, cool it first before using it.