October 3rd is National Caramel Custard Day (National Chocolate Custard Day is May 5th). Also called crème caramel in France, and flan in Spain, caramel custard is a custard dessert with a layer of clear caramel sauce (photos #3 and #4). (Note that in France, flan Parisien refers to a classic custard pie or tart. Buttery shortcrust pastry is filled with pastry cream and baked until the top blisters. Here’s a recipe.)
A layer of caramel is added to the bottom of the mold, creating a dark caramel top and sauce when the custard is unmolded.
Caramel custard can be made in individual ramekins, in a cake pan, loaf pan, in a fluted flan pan or tall fluted mold, or other shape.
In the U.S., caramel custard isn’t the same as creme caramel. Instead of the caramel topping, caramelized sugar is mixed into the custard prior to baking. It gets confusing.
Custard is one of our favorite dishes: a symphony of cream, eggs and flavorings, baked to a velvety texture.
Most people consider custard to be sweet—a dessert that ranges from crème caramel, crème brûlée, flan and others. But there’s more:
You’ve got a delicious savory custard that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In brief, custard has eggs, pudding doesn’t. Similarly, panna cotta isn’t a custard; it doesn’t contain eggs. It is an American-style pudding, thickened with gelatin.
What about custard-style yogurt? It’s a marketing name for yogurt in which the fruit is already mixed in and distributed evenly throughout. It was a successor style to fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. Its purpose was more convenience for people who didn’t like to stir up the fruit. It has nothing to do with custard.
*In Britain, puddings began as boiled or steamed, savory foods of minced meat. The earliest puddings were sausages, such as black pudding, a type of sausage made with pig’s blood. Sweet versions evolved, which were steamed cake-like desserts. Now, pudding refers to any sweet, final course of a meal, which Americans call dessert.