During the latter half of the 20th century, Crème au caramel became as ubiquitous on the restaurant dessert menus of the world as Irish pubs did on street-corners. And there is good reason for this. Crème au caramel is delectable. It is also very simple to make and consists of only milk, eggs, sugar, and sometimes vanilla. As simple as it may be however, crème au caramel has a very complex medium rich flavor profile.
Interestingly, this fine dessert is also one of the world’s oldest. Well, almost, it is actually a derivative of a custard known as flan and flans are one of the world’s oldest desserts. Well, ok, even flans didn’t start out as desserts. Flan, which is the generic term for a custard made of milk and eggs was invented by Roman chefs thousands of years ago. The Romans discovered that egg white worked extremely well as a binding agent in holding various ingredients together. They began experimenting by mixing eggs with milk and called their subsequent invention Tiropatinum. Initially, Tiropatinum was not a dessert item. Rather, it was flavored with such delicacies as Ox Tongue or Eel and served as a main course. As the centuries passed, Tiropatinum evolved into sweet custard with the addition of honey or sugar, and sweet custard evolved into Crème au caramel with the discovery of caramel - thought to have been first created by French chefs sometime in the 18th century.
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