Over the years the relationship has strengthened and I still feel that electricity whenever I am served a plate of this decadent dessert swimming in a pool of caramel sauce. The child in me still forces me to get a spoon, open the doors of heaven and take a scoop from the dessert plate….it continues to be my favourite dessert, my ticket to heaven :)
Caramel Pudding, a dessert quite popular among Kerala homes, is a classic example of the culinary legacy left behind by the European settlers. With the use of simple ingredients and simple techniques, this European classic has been a regular in most homes and back home, this pudding is steam cooked in a pressure cooker.
Though we lost my aunt’s exact recipe for Caramel Pudding, I have been on the look out for finding that perfect recipe which comes close to the taste of that forbidden indulgence. The one featured here is something I have perfected over the period of time, based on a recipe my mother found on some cooking show. I played with the ingredients many times to get a perfectly balanced pudding, without the overwhelming taste of egg. My experiment with pressure cooker steaming has not been all that successful and hence I fake the bain-marie method by placing the custard bowls in hot water bath, in a large tray, and there-by creating steams to do the cooking in oven.
For Caramel Sauce:
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp water
- 350 ml milk (little less than 2 cups), boiled and cooled
- 2 small eggs
- 6 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Prepare caramel in a small shallow pan, by heating and melting sugar along with 2 tsp water, until they turn golden or dark brown, depending on your personal taste. (Note: The taste of caramel sauce is highly dependent on its colour. The darker the shade, stronger the taste with a mild bunt flavor.) Keep swirling the pan but do not stir. When sugar is completely melted and bubbles start coming up and if it has reached the colour you want, turn off the stove. Pour this immediately into 4-5 small oven safe dessert bowls or ramekins. (Note: You should work quickly here as caramel hardens fast when removed from heat). Swirl dessert bowls or ramekins quickly to coat the bottom of the bowls evenly with caramel and keep aside until it sets well.
- Prepare Custard: While caramel is setting, beat eggs and sugar well with a hand mixer for a minute until sugar is completely blended with eggs. To this add milk and vanilla extract and beat for another 30 seconds.
- When caramel is fully set (usually takes about only 3-4 minutes), pour the custard mixture evenly on the prepared dessert bowls or ramekins.
- Prepare a hot water bath to place the prepared dessert bowls or ramekins, by pouring steaming hot water into a large cake pan or any other oven safe tray and filling it till half. Now place the prepared dessert bowls or ramekins carefully into the hot water tray, cover with aluminum foil and slide into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or a knife inserted in the centre come out clean; the texture of pudding should be wiggly at this stage. (Note: You may keep the prepared dessert bowls or ramekins first and then pour hot water till half the height of the bowl or vice versa.) Baking time differs depending on the oven setting. You may start checking anywhere from 45 minutes into baking and if the knife inserted comes out clean, you can carefully remove the hot water tray, and leave the tray on a wire rack, on the kitchen counter and let it cool down. When dessert bowls/ramekins are warm enough to touch, remove from the water bath and leave on the kitchen counter till it is completely cool. Wrap each bowl with a clear plastic sheet and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
- For serving: You need to unmould the pudding into a serving plate, for which run a knife in full circle by the inner side of the bowl (between pudding and dessert bowl edge), cutting through the pudding and the solid caramel base at the bottom. Then place the serving plate on top of the bowl and carefully invert/turn the over and gently lift the bowl and you will get your pudding swimming in a tasty sauce of caramel. (Note: If you have a doubt that pudding may not come out of the bowl easily, either pat on the bowl after inverting or keep the bowl in hot water for few seconds before inverting)