Over the years, I’ve happily stayed with one basic formula for making baked caramel custard. And, because the satin smooth dessert is so similar to a number of other classic caramel cream desserts, depending on the occasion, I might opt to call caramel custard, “flan,” “crème caramel,” or even “crème brûlée,” if the custard is to be presented with a crunchy topping of sugar caramelized with a handheld torch.
Indeed, there is nothing complicated about making familiar baked custard, but for custard to have that luscious caramel flavor, you’ve got to caramelize some sugar. There was a time I caramelized sugar in a saucepan on top of the stove, but often – in the seconds it took for the sugar to advance from golden brown to rich amber – the sugar burned.
I use the microwave for caramelizing sugar now and while the process still requires diligent monitoring, the method has proven very efficient. Sugar gets super-hot when caramelized, so be sure use a product like Pyrex glass, or even laboratory glass, for the task.
If you’ve been daunted by the thoughts of preparing desserts made with caramelized sugar, let your microwave oven lend a hand. Made for more than cooking frozen dinners or popping corn, your microwave might just be the sweetest friend you never knew you had.