Caramel Custards

By Gregory León

Gregory León

This caramel custard, one of Gregory León's favorite desserts, is a little “more advanced,” he says, referring to the homemade caramel. But “the final result is so worth it,” he says. It was the dessert he made for the first Amilinda pop-up in 2013 – the catalyst that ignited his Milwaukee restaurant.

To serve, do as he does by gilding the lily with whipped cream. “I never went to cooking school,” he says, “and certain things I taught myself.” This is one of those things. For the smoothest top to your custard, “grab a torch before you bake it.” Passing a flame over the surface “gives a smooth, shiny top. No bubbles.” Leon also likes to serve it with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream flavored with a touch of vanilla. Mastering a dessert like this will give you bragging rights. 



12 servings

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons cold water

4 tablespoons warm water

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

4 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar


Place the 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a heavy saucepan with the 4 tablespoons of cold water and place on medium-high heat. We want to cook the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Remove from the heat and add the 4 tablespoons of warm water, being extra careful, as the caramel will splatter. Return to a low flame and keep warm.


In a large saucepan, combine the cream and milk, and scald. Once small bubbles start to appear around the edges, slowly pour in the caramel little by little. Note that the cream/milk mixture will bubble and want to overflow the saucepan.


In a bowl, whisk the eggs, the egg yolks and the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar until combined. Then, slowly whisk in the cream/caramel mixture. Pass through a fine mesh strainer.


In a shallow baking pan, arrange your 12 ramekins, and fill each 3/4 of the way. Fill the pan with hot water until it comes up halfway to the ramekins.


Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 40 minutes until the custard is set but not firm. Remove from the oven and let cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Pro Tips


Make a prep list. It will keep you organized with a minimum chance of surprise, and it will help you determine which projects need to be started first, like items that need to be roasted or simmered for a long period of time and can be cooking while other prep work like chopping, can be done.


Chef Gregory León was born in Oklahoma but grew up around the kitchen table in Venezuela. After working for 18 years in some of San Francisco’s hottest kitchens, he relocated to Milwaukee. In 2013, he started a successful pop-up restaurant called Amilinda and in August 2015, he opened Amilinda on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee to rave reviews. It has appeared on the Journal Sentinel’s Top 30 Restaurants list each year it’s been open. In 2022, Amilinda was named one of Milwaukee's quintessential restaurants by Thrillist and Eater. León was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest in 2022, was a Best Chef Midwest finalist in 2023, and a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in 2024.


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