Sometimes in this business you end up doing things that aren't really part of your job, or things that you never expected to be doing in the first place. This occurrence happens in direct proportion to the size of your establishment, the smaller the place, the bigger your "box" can be. This can be a good or a bad thing depending upon the situation, but it's always a learning experience. We are located at a very small, very high end guest house in a very small town in a relatively remote location in Colorado. Staffing is a constant problem which cannot affect our guests' experiences. Unbeknownst to the owners (who are not here very often), our "boxes" don't even exist.
So, yesterday we were short housekeeping staff and I was making beds. There are a lot of layers that go into a high end hotel bed. It starts at the bottom with a mattress cover, then an under-sheet, then an over-sheet, a blanket and a top sheet. The over-sheet is folded over the blanket and the top sheet creating a sort of blanket ravioli encased in a pasta made of fine linens. The theory behind this is to keep the tender skin of our guests from touching the actual blanket, sanitary and elegant at the same time. Over this is the goosedown duvet with duvet cover. There are four pillows on each bed wearing both a pillow protector and a pillowcase. The pillowcases and duvet cover are in the style of an overlapping closure so that nothing can hang out and accidentaly make contact with the sleeper. The pillows are stored in the closet during the day when the bed is made up and brought out in the evening for turn-down. On top of the duvet is an ornate bedspread and decorative pillows corresponding to the theme of the room. Everything under the bedspread is white to convey a message of cleanliness and purity. We use Frette linens which do not stand up to bleach very well, so keeping them that pristine white without holes is a challenge. Especially since hotel guests do all of things in our beds that they would never do in their beds at home. Enough said. All of the sheets are flat and the beds are made with hospital corners. I am somewhat embarassed to admit that I have not completely mastered that technique. We have very ornate beds with high headboards and fancy bottoms. Housekeepers who do not have arms approximately the thickness of a toothpick find changing the linens a bit of a challenge. Did I mention that we have trouble finding and keeping a full staff in spite of the fact that we pay very well for the area?
Anyway, making the beds yesterday was actually a somewhat peaceful occurrence. We have had guests for several days on end with a shoestring staff and I was a walking zombie, so the change of pace was actually somewhat soothing. Somewhere downstairs there were major issues in the laundry room but Alex was fielding that one. The bed looked so inviting, soft fluffy pillows, downy blanket, puffy duvet that I just wanted to sink into and fade away into blissful oblivion. But it was not to be, dinner was looming and I still needed something for dessert. Something comforting and relatively easy to prepare. As I looked at those pillows an image took shape in my addled brain of creme caramel. It's soft silky texture and creamy richness were exactly what I needed at the moment. Better, I could make a large batch and use them for that night's dinner and for the new guests checking-in in the morning. Even better than that, I could take one home at the end of the evening and savor it on the sofa with Alex and the beasties before crawling off to bed. Truly, the dessert was more for me than for the guests, but they enjoyed it too.
For those that feel the urge:
1cup raw sugar
2T corn or cane syrup
2cups half & half
pinch of salt
350ºF Oven (not convection)
8 4 oz disposable aluminum tins
Heat water, sugar & syrup in a small heavy pot. Cook to amber brown and distribute evenly among tins.
Scald milk and cream. Stir together eggs, sugar and salt. Temper in milk and strain. Pour into cups.
Line a roasting pan with dish towels. Place custards in pan. Add hot water to the pan halfway up the sides of the tins. Bake 40-60 minutes till custards have the texture of set jello. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and refrigerate.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of the custard and unmold it onto a plate.