One Christmas I failed to list enough presents on my wish list (in retrospect I have no idea how that could have happened - I've always been fairly materialistic) and my dad punished me by buying one of those kitchen blowtorch thingies. (That was also the year my aunt got me a pineapple peeler/slicer/torture device, and those two regularly do battle over Least Used Kitchen Gadget in the cupboard.) I think I've made crème brûlée about four or five times since then, and each time the brûlée part has been a dismal failure. (I'm afraid of fire, OK?)
So this time when it came upon me to do a solid custard type dessert, I decided to leave the blowtorch in the furthermost corner of the cupboard where it belongs and go for crème caramel instead. I also had a piece of the most beautiful ginger I've ever seen wasting away in the fridge, so choosing a flavor was no hassle at all. And it works SO WELL, people! The caramel has an intense, almost peppery tang of ginger, while the custard part is just faintly spicy (and superbly soft and creamy - be careful not to leave them in the oven for too long, the cups need to be fairly wobbly still when you take them out and will solidify while they cool).
This pudding is fairly creamy on purpose, but I'm sure you could skew the cream-to-milk ratio without any problems. The method for infusing the caramel and custard with ginger comes from this recipe at epicurious, but otherwise I stuck to a favorite baked custard recipe of mine.
Ginger Crème Caramel
makes 6 servings
for the caramel:
70 g peeled and sliced ginger
155 g caster sugar
50 ml water
for the custard:
200 ml heavy cream
200 ml light (cooking-safe) cream
100 ml 1.5% milk
75 ml caster sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
In a thick-bottomed pan, stir the ginger, sugar and water until sugar dissolves, then cook on a medium heat, without stirring, for six minutes. Fish out the ginger with a fork and set aside (you'll be steeping them in the cream in a moment) and continue cooking the caramel until it turns golden brown. Pour immediately into ramekins, tilting to spread over the bottoms. (Mine solidified to the point that I thought the dish ruined for sure, but miraculously there was actual runny caramel when I overturned them the following day. Don't despair!)
Heat the creams, milk, sugar, and ginger pieces in a large pan until it comes to the boil. Take off the heat and let stand for a few minutes. Mix the eggs and yolks in a bowl. Pour in about a third of the warm cream in a slow stream, stirring gently, then pour the egg custard in with the rest of the cream, still stirring. Strain through a fine sieve to get rid of the ginger pieces and divide into ramekins.
Bake at 150°C in a bain marie for 20-30 minutes, until the edges are just set and the centers are still wobbly. Cool on racks to room temperature, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin, then invert a plate over it and, holding everything tightly together, invert crème caramel onto plate. (May be easier said than done.)