Most people who grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s in SA with a TV, would remember the TV ad for “Flanby” by “Chambouchee”. I cannot seem to find anything about the elusive “Chambouchee” people on the internet. I suppose my childhood memory could have failed me with the spelling, but I distinctly remember the “Chambouchee” jingle as clear as daylight! (I’m singing it in my head…) To those who are still in the dark: a flanby (sometimes also spelled “flamby”) is a sweet, dreamy, smooth vanilla custard dessert with a saucy caramel bottom. You turn the little plastic container over on a plate, pop a little plastic lever to create an air hole, and then the custard slides out with the sauce running over it. I remember it as being REALLY delicious, and I also remember being very disappointed back then when it got discontinued.
For the duration of my childhood after that, I clearly remember thinking about Flanby often. I longed for it. I dreamed about it. I often spoke to other people about it. I asked them if they remembered Flanby, and most people did. Everyone loved Flanby. But there was surely no chance in hell that we could recreate this magical dessert with the traditional South African methods and ingredients available to our Mothers back then – or so we thought.
Many years later in an Italian restaurant I came across a dessert called “créme caramel”. I had found my beloved Flanby again! A few years after that, I started noticing it in shops again (under different names). I immediately purchased it, but never found the original Flanby taste that I remembered from my childhood. In 2007 I came across a recipe by Jamie Oliver for classic Créme Caramel, featured in Food and Home Magazine. I immediately tried it, and voilà! The magic of flanby were now available in my own kitchen, any day of the year, using very simple ingredients. I couldn’t be happier.
Créme caramel has been a European dessert favourite for years, especially in France and Spain. Also known as “flan”, créme caramel is easily my favourite dessert of all time. And that is a bold statement coming from a serious sweet tooth like me! The great thing is that you make this with regular milk, sugar, a little water and vanilla. Minimum ingredients, maximum results. And you’ll be catching yourself singing the “Chambouchee” jingle in no time.
(Note: I adapted all the measurements to make 6 really large portions.)
Ingredients for caramel:
- 200 g (just more than 3/4 cup) caster sugar
- 100 ml water
Ingredients for custard:
- 180 g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
- 4 jumbo eggs (preferably organic, free range)
- 6 jumbo egg yolks (preferably organic, free range)
- 10 ml vanilla essence (or use the seeds of a whole vanilla pod)
- 800 ml full cream milk (or low fat or skim)
- Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
- Arrange 6 large ramekins or cups inside ann empty rectangular roasting tray. Turn the kettle on to have at least 1500 ml of boiling water handy (we’ll use that later).
- To make the caramel, put the caster sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring it to the boil on high heat. Do not stir, just tip it lightly from side to side every now and then. Watch the sugar very closely: it will start to turn golden brown after a few minutes. When it is golden brown (but not too brown, because it will become bitter!), remove from the heat at once and very carefully pour into the ramekins, distributing it evenly between all 6. It will be bubbly when you pour it, but you’ll see it will become hard as soon as it starts to cool down. DO NOT TOUCH THE SUGAR – you will burn!
- To make the custard, put the sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks and vanilla in a bowl and stir gently to mix well (do not whisk vigorously).
- Heat the milk in a saucepan until it is just hot enough to dip your finger in. Pout onto the egg mixture, stirring well. Strain the mixture through a sieve, then fill up the ramekins evenly to just below the rim.
- Carefully pour the recently boiled water into the roasting tray until the water outside the ramekins is almost level with the mixture inside.
- Very carefully place the whole tray uncovered in the pre-heated oven and bake for 50 minutes until set. Remove from the oven, scoop out some of the water with a ladle untill you can safely remove the ramekins from the tray. Cool the créme caramels completely in the fridge before serving, preferably overnight.
- To serve, run the blade of a small knife around the edges of the ramekin, then carefully turn it over onto a plate. If you need extra help, dip the base of the ramekin into warm water before turning over. To be honest, I don’t even turn them over, I eat them straight from the ramekin!
Note: The hard layer of caramel will dissolve on standing. If you eat the créme caramels within hours of making them, they might still have some hard caramel on the bottom – don’t stress about it. To clean the hard caramel from your moulds, just pour some water on them, and it will dissolve after a few hours. Then simply rinse out.