This is another French classic that made the rounds of the adult dinner party circuit when I was growing up. I still remember my mum making this and me thinking it was SO exotic — caramel placed on the bottom of a ramekin that flowed down over the custard when it was flipped out onto a plate? Magical! And this dessert couldn’t be simpler. Even young bakers should be able to manage most of this on their own, apart from making the caramel and using the caramel and using the stovetop.
For the caramel
For the custard
Place the sugar and water in a pot, and swirl them around gently with your finger or a chopstick to make sure the water is absorbed. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Do not stir.
Once the sugar has melted and is liquid, cook for 4 to 5 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, but never stirring, until the caramel is a deep golden color. If sugar goes up the side of the pan when you are swirling, use a pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the pot.
Pour the caramel directly into the ramekins, swirling to evenly coat the bottom of each one. Place the ramekins in a deep-sided baking dish or roasting pan, and place this on the countertop close to the oven.
Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC). Fill a kettle with water and bring it to a boil.
In a large, heatproof bowl, using handheld electric beaters, beat the egg yolks, eggs and sugar on high speed until pale and starting to thicken slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the bowl on a damp cloth or paper towels to hold it in place later when you are whisking one-handed.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized pot, heat the milk and cream over medium-high heat. Bring this to a simmer (do not boil) and immediately remove from the heat.
Slowly pour about one-quarter of the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so you don’t scramble your eggs! Once this is completely combined, add the rest of the hot cream and the vanilla, whisking constantly.
Pour the custard into a large jug (this makes it easier for kids to pour the mixture into the small ramekins).
Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the baking dish, being careful not to get any water in the custard, until it’s about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This is called baking in a bain-marie and it cooks the custard gently.
Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. The outside of the custard should be cooked but the center of the custards might still be a little jiggly.
Remove the dish from the oven and, using rubber-tipped tongs or a flat spatula, remove the ramekins from the boiling water. Place them on a wire rack to come to room temperature.
Cover each ramekin in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight (these will keep for a day or so in the fridge).
When you are ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the fridge and, one by one, place each one in a dish of lukewarm water for a minute or so.
Run the blade of a small knife around the edge of the custard, place a small plate on top of each ramekin and, holding tight, flip the plate. The custard should fall easily onto the plate but if not, you can shake the plate vertically until you hear it drop.