You can use another dessert wine – such as muscat de Beaumes de Venise – for these, which makes them less expensive, but Sauternes is delicious. You can buy most dessert wines in half bottles.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook time: 45 minutes
For the caramel
175g caster sugar
For the custards
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs plus 6 large yolks
475ml double cream
To make the caramel, put the sugar in a pan with 3 tbsp water. Gently heat until you can see the sugar has melted. Don’t stir, just tip the saucepan gently from time to time to help it melt. When it has melted, turn the heat up and cook until it goes from golden to caramel. You can tell by smell as much as appearance. Be careful not to take it so far that it burns.
Immediately pull the pan off the heat and add 2 tbsp of water. The caramel will hiss and spit, so keep the pan at arm’s length and stir.
Divide the caramel between eight metal pudding moulds, each about 125ml in capacity, swishing it round so it doesn’t just lie in the bottom. Put these into a roasting tin. Set aside.
To make the custards, beat the sugar with the whole eggs and yolks (I use a hand-held mixer; you don’t want to beat the mix too long or hard, just enough to combine).
Heat the wine and the cream in two separate saucepans until they are at simmering point. Take off the heat. Add the cream to the eggs, stirring to combine, followed by the wine.
Pour the mixture through a sieve (to catch any bits of thick egg white) into a jug. If you don’t want to cook these straight away, cover and keep in the fridge until needed – no more than three hours in there ideally, and bring out (crucially) a couple of hours before cooking.
To cook the custards, heat the oven to 140C/130C fan/gas mark 1.
Pour the mix into the moulds in the tin. Add enough boiling water to the tin to come a third of the way up the moulds.
Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 30 minutes. The custards will still have a little wobble in the centre. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely and set; about three hours, best in a cool room. You can check by inserting a sharp knife into the centre of one.
Dip the moulds into a bowl of just boiled water for about 15 seconds. Invert each one on to a small plate and give it a good shake. If the pudding doesn’t come out, very carefully run a fine knife between the custard and the walls of the mould – this will help it but you risk messing up the sides a little. Serve with a great deal of pride.