Take a heavy bottom steel pan (not nonstick). Put it on medium flame with 1/4 cup sugar in the middle and just a little water to wet the sugar. See to it that the sugar doesn't touch the sides of the pan.
With a clean spatula evenly wet the sugar and let it boil on medium heat till it liquefies and turns slightly golden. Do not leave the pot on stove and walk away. Keep a watch and lower the heat.
Stir in the mixture till it is dark amber colour. Stir gently and shake the pan slightly so the sauce becomes evenly copper penny color .
Keep the pan in which you will make the custard ready with a towel underneath. Pour the caramel evenly and turn the pan around in circular motion so that the caramel covers the base completely. Tip it slightly so the sauce touches the sides too. Let it cool and set.
Break the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk gently. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk again till it dissolves.
Slightly temper warmed milk and vanilla essence to it and whisk again. Tempering (gradually adding hot to cold mixture) will bring their temperature together. The custard should come out suave, rich and mellow in flavour
Once the mixture is ready Put a double boiler or a pressure cooker with four cups of water in it on the stove. Place a ring in it so that you can put the pan on it to steam. You can also put a small bowl full of water in the cooker pan
You can also put a small bowl full of water in the cooker pan. Making custard over a water bath makes it soft and nice and shields it from harsh heat and high temperatures. Bring the water to boil and we are set to insert the custard pan.
Pour the custard mixture in the caramel covered pan. Cover it with an aluminium foil properly and place it on the water filled bowl inside the cooker or in the double boiler.
Place the lid but do not put the cooker whistle (if making in a pressure cooker). A good custard need gentle heat to keep the flame medium low.
Caramel custard has egg whites in the base, which are full of proteins that coagulate at a lower temperature remember that.
Let it cook for about 30 minutes. You can always open the lid and test. The time depends on heat, quantity and thickness of the pan etc. To test if the custard is done gently shake the pan.
If the mixture wobbles like Jelly O then it is ready. If not then put it back and let it cook for some time till you achieve the desired result.
Once cooked take out the pan and bring it to room temperature and then put it in the refrigerator. Refrigerating helps in setting the custard properly.
Unmolding the custard. Now slide a small knife around the custard to loosen it , pressing the custard against the side of the dish.
Hold a serving plate over the top of the pan or ramekin and swiftly invert. Set the plate on the counter and gently shake the pan or the ramekin to release the custard and the caramel.
Some of that delicious caramel will remain sticking to the pan or ramekin If you are not making individual custards then refrigerate the stunning ambrosia that you just dished out and make slices while serving.
You can decorate the custard with berries and other things but I don’t have patience to jazz it up. I just can not resist temptation.
Serve it warm or chilled.