A popular Romanian dessert – crema de zahar ars – creme caramel, creme brulee or flan. Delicious four-ingredient dessert recipe.
After my grandmother’s Chicken Pilaf, her Macaroni and Cheese and her Easy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, plus some others of my favorite childhood dishes, it’s time for a Romanian dessert today: the smooth crema de zahar ars or creme caramel, one of the very few desserts my grandmother ever made. She didn’t bake this wonderful flan often, but when she did, I was in heaven.
It was not something she would eat herself, it was made with milk after all and she never ate anything made with milk, but she would make quite a large pot of it for me once in a blue moon or so. She would put it in the pantry, on a lower shelf where I could reach it myself and I would go and scoop a few tablespoons of it every now and then over a three or four day period.
I mean, it was best fresh, but as we had it so seldom and as I never got to eat any sweets at all most of the time, I did not mind eating the creme brulee or flan for several days in a row.
The custard was not as creamy and smooth anymore after a few days, it would start to get dry at the edges and porous on the inside, but it was still sweet and delicious and I loved those little pools of caramel at the bottom of the pan.
How to make crema de zahar ars?
- This is a very simple dessert made with only four ingredients, something you can prepare in no time at all, actually.
- Mix together all the ingredients, let them rest for about 10 minutes, so that they are not frothy anymore.
- In the meantime make the caramel and prepare the baking dish.
What pot to use for the caramel?
- My grandmother used to make the crème caramel in an old metallic pot and I have kept one of my mother-in-law’s ancient metallic pots just for this purpose.
- However, if you don’t have one, you can make the caramel in a regular saucepan and then carefully but quickly pour the caramel into another casserole dish, a glass or ceramic one would be perfect.
- Caramelizing the sugar is not difficult, but you have to be very careful.
- Firstly, don’t let the sugar burn or it will become bitter, it should have a pleasant, but not too dark, amber color.
- Secondly, you really have to be very careful when handling the caramelized sugar, especially if you have to transfer the caramel from the saucepan to the casserole dish. The sugar is really HOT and it can cause major burns, so please pay attention. Best is to wear thick kitchen gloves when pouring the sugar and distributing it on the walls of the baking dish.
- This Romanian dessert does need a bit of time in the oven and you have to pay attention, you want to get the baking time right.
- The custard should be cooked through and not be runny, but still remain silky smooth and soft.
- The trick to get the right moment is to let it jiggle. If it still makes waves underneath the surface, it is still not ready. It should jiggle only slightly in the middle, then you can take it out and be sure that by the time it is cold, it will be set and cooked through, but still silky smooth.
More Romanian desserts
- 6 eggs
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 750 ml/ 25.3 fl.oz/ 3 cups full-fat milk
- 1 vanilla bean or some vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a glass or ceramic dish instead of a metallic pot for making the crème caramel, place it in the oven as well, so that it can get hot before you pour the caramel into it.
- Mix together the eggs, sugar, and milk. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture or add the vanilla extract if that is what you are using.
- Let the mixture rest while you make the caramel.
- You can use a metallic pot, inside of which you can bake the custard as well. If you don't have that, you can make the caramel in a regular pan and pour the caramel carefully into a casserole dish, a glass or ceramic one would be perfect.
- Either way, add the sugar to the pot or pan. Let it untouched until it starts to melt, then start stirring carefully.
- Let it caramelize until it reaches a nice amber color, but pay attention and don't let it get too dark.
- For the next step, it is better to wear protective kitchen gloves, hot sugar can cause major burns. If using the metallic pot, grab it by the handles and start rotating it carefully to distribute the caramel evenly on the bottom and walls of the pan.
- If using a preheated casserole dish, quickly but very carefully pour the sugar into the dish and quickly rotate the dish to distribute the caramelized sugar on the bottom and the walls of the dish. It is better to heat the casserole dish in the oven before spreading the caramel sugar in it, it will give you a few extra moments time to evenly distribute the sugar before it hardens.
- Leave the pot or the dish stand for a couple of minutes until the caramel becomes hard, then pour the egg and milk mixture into the pot.
- Place the dish into another baking dish with somewhat higher walls. Pour some tepid water into the baking dish, so much that the dish containing the crème caramel stands halfway in the water.
- Bake the crème caramel for about 30 minutes.
- Check if it is done by carefully lifting the dish from the water and shaking it gently. If it still makes waves underneath the surface then it is still not ready. If so, place it back into the water and continue baking it, checking again after 10 minutes or so.
- When done, it should jiggle only slightly in the middle, then you can take it out and be sure that by the time it is cold, it will be set and cooked through, but still silky smooth.
- Let cool completely at room temperature. The crème caramel will lose much of its volume when getting cold, don't worry about it, it is supposed to be so.
- When cool, place it in the fridge and let stand for several hours or better overnight.
- Before turning the crème caramel onto the serving plate or platter, run a knife around the edges of the custard, so that it will not stick to the walls of the dish.
- Place a large plate or platter on top of the dish, grab the plate and the dish properly and turn the dish upside down. The crème caramel will gently fall onto the serving platter and the caramel will distribute itself on top and around the flan.
- Slice and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 slice out of 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 251Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 196mgSodium: 139mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 0gSugar: 29gProtein: 11g
Nutritional information is not always accurate.