The base for microwave crème caramel in a mug

How to make an incredible dessert out of stuff lying around your office lunchroom

Everyone’s so down on technology these days.

“The Internet is turning us into drooling mushheads!”
“No one talks anymore! They just fiddle with their damn cellphones!”
“The government spies on us through our e-mail!” (OK, fair point.)

Still, the joys of progress well outweigh the gripes of a bunch o’ crybabies. I’m not just talking about Roombas and 24/7 access to dirty pictures, either.

sexy roomba
Although, sometimes they’re both at the same time. Grrrr.

I’m talking about antibiotics that’ve kept millions from writhing into an early grave. I’m talking about upgraded rice strains that fill the bellies of starving children.

I’m talking about Class IV lasers that can crisp just the fat of bacon, leaving the meat striations crudo.

“Wait… what?”

Molecular gastronomy. It’s been a buzzword (or buzz phrase, rather) in kitchens ever since Ferran Adrià whipped up his first lecithin foam. Taking ingredients and techniques from the packaged food industry, so-called modernist chefs tweak the textures of their dishes to tantalize tastebuds and dazzle the mind. They turn fruit juice into caviar. They blend olive oil into dust. They make ice cream tableside with dramatic flair using liquid nitrogen.

Octopus lollipop
They also make octopus lollipops, for some reason.

Sure, it’s impressive. It’s unbelievably creative. It can even be delicious sometimes. But it’s not exactly practical from a home cooking standpoint.

Most people have trouble searing a fish fillet, let alone fucking with xanthan gum and sodium alginate. Fortunately, people cooked great food for centuries without breaking things down to the molecular level. For a truly great meal, all you need is fire and a knife.

Still, if you’re a food and science dork like I am, it’s hard not to get excited by the wild and crazy creations available when you bring technology into the kitchen.

What if I said we can do it too? Like Steve Austin, we have the technology.

Almost all of us have access to some of the most advanced cooking technology around. At home or at work, there’s a machine that cooks food from the inside out by vibrating the very water molecules themselves. Better still, we can use this futuristic technology to make an incredible dessert in minutes out of stuff just lying around your office lunchroom.

Don’t believe me? Well, get ready to get schooled, babiez.

That magic technology? Your microwave oven.

Now, it’s become en vogue to trash microwaves lately. “I don’t even own a microwave” has become the new “I don’t own a TV.” (Ugh…)

I’m not sure why. Frankly, I blame the tinfoil hat brigade who act like microwaves are blasting food with gamma rays, Bruce Banner-style. (They’re not.)

bruce banner, microwaved

Microwaves are unbelievably useful kitchen appliances. Besides defrosting frozen foods in minutes and reheating leftovers, they’re great cooking devices in their own right. For steaming foods, there’s nothing easier — throw some green beans on a plate with a little water, nuke it for a minute or two, then hit it with salt and pepper. Your side dish is ready. Ba-BOOM!

Any idiot can tell you to microwave green beans. I’m here to tell you that this steaming property also lends itself well to another, vastly tastier recipe. No, not mug cakes (which are fine enough, I guess). Today, I’m showing you how to make crème caramel using just three ingredients, two mugs, and one neglected kitchen appliance.

Microwave Crème Caramel in a Mug

Let me say it first — this recipe is a little tricky (that’s why it’s taken me over three weeks to write it). I think I’ve hammered out the kinks, but be prepared to test it a few times before you use it to charm your sexy coworker.

That said, dig up this stuff:

Ingredients for crème caramel

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sugar

That’s it.

Pour one cup of milk into a mug.

Heat it on the medium setting of your microwave (5 out of 10) for three minutes.

Milk heating for crème caramel

While the milk is heating, crack a whole egg into another mug.

Separate another egg, saving the yolk (let the white run down the drain for all I care).

Add the yolk to the whole egg.

Add a crapload of sugar to the eggs (¼ cup or 12 teaspoons).

Eggs and sugar for crème caramel

Beat the sugar and the eggs with a fork until they look smooth and consistent.

When the three minutes are up, check that the milk is mildly steaming, but not actually hot.

Spoon a little milk into the egg-sugar mixture and stir it with the fork. (We do this to slightly raise the temperature of the eggs so they don’t curdle when we fully combine them with the milk. It’s called “tempering”.)

Pour the egg-sugar mixture back into the warm milk.

Custard base for crème caramel

Stir it all around with a spoon.

Heat this mug of egg, milk, and sugar on the medium-low setting of your microwave (3 out of 10) for five minutes.

Take it out and poke the top. Does this custard feel set (but just barely)? Good. If not, nuke it for another minute.

There’s a chance the custard may break at this point. Shit happens. Try again on a lower microwave setting.

When it’s done, shove the mug in the fridge and go pretend to work for an hour (or longer, really).

Later, check the custard. Is it thick and sort of wobbly? Great. (Otherwise, throw it out and grab a pudding cup from the vending machine.)

Now, heat half a mug of milk on high for 45 seconds.

Stir in an equal amount of sugar (we’re talking diabetes-threatening loads, around ½ cup or 24 teaspoons. Hey, it’s a dessert.)

Put this mug on a plate and heat it on medium for two minutes.

Milk and sugar for dulce de leche

Stir it.

Heat it on medium for another two minutes.

Stir it.

Heat it on medium-low (3 of 10) for two minutes.

Stir it.

Heat it on medium-low for another two minutes.

Watch as the sugar milk boils up, probably over the rim and onto the plate. Is it getting weird and sticky? Good. Stir it.

Repeat the heating and stirring until it starts to look vaguely tan. (Yes, this takes foreeeeever.)

Eventually, pour the tan sugar-milk (aka dulce de leche) over the custard.

Now, the sticky crap that overflowed onto the plate? Scrape it up and pour it onto the custard too.

Dulce de leche for crème caramel

Devour fast, before the caramel sets (but avoid burning your tongue).

Microwave crème caramel in a mug
I like to finish it with a little sea salt.

Not bad, huh? It isn’t the most elegant dessert, but it is the best thing to make in a microwave with eggs, milk, and sugar. See all the glory a microwave can bring? Those Cold War scientists were right after all. Why don’t you join us in the kitchen of the future?

microwave kitchen of the future

Try out these crème caramels and let me know how it goes — I’d love to see how they turn out. Hit me up on e-mail or on the Facebook page. And, if they don’t work, just toss ‘em and try again. There are few cheaper ingredients than a couple of eggs and some milk. With a little work, we can all start eating better — through science!

PS. This is the first dessert recipe I’ve posted, but check out other egg recipes below!

Scrambled eggs: Look closer…

I am the egg man (Goo-goo-ga-joob!)


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