Saturday, January 11, 2014

Silky Flan

This started out as a blog about Mexican cuisine, but how well we know that cultures cross, mixing and blending together into improved versions of the original. Many years ago I discovered this flan, otherwise known as crème caramel in French, as a guest at a country house in northern France. Our  hostess served it to my three year old son, my youngest sister  and me at the end of a sumptuous meal at a table set by a roaring fire in this country house. The impeccable French hospitality created a welcoming ambiance, leaving us with warm memories of the evening. I can remember almost everything from that meal about 30 years ago, everything prepared to perfection.  But it was the flan (crème caramel)  that came as a revelation. I wondered why I had ever tolerated those overly sweet, rubbery, rich things that looked like Swiss cheese.

In Mexico and other countries in Latin America, condensed milk is used, rendering it cloyingly sweet. No sugary condensed milk here, only whole milk, resulting in a silky, elegant custard with the smoothest texture imaginable. It makes a supreme arrival at the end of a good meal. It became one of my son's most requested desserts growing up.

Silky Flan

Recipe Type: Dessert

Cuisine: Mexican

Author: Gilda Valdez Carbonaro

Prep time:

Cook time:

Total time:

Serves: 6

The preparation time for this dessert does not include the cooling time in the refrigerator, about three hours.

  • For the caramelized sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

For the Custard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • zest of one orange (optional)

Preheat oven to 325

  1. Work quickly to line your 1 quart porcelain mold (or individual molds) and wear mitts if you're worried about getting burned with the melted sugar. Place the mold on a large strip of wax paper.

  2. In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and stirring in the cream of tartar.

  3. Boil the syrup over moderate heat tipping the pan back and forth almost constantly, until the syrup turns into a rich color of brown that looks like tea. It takes around 10 minutes.

  4. Remove the pan and carefully pour the syrup into the mold in a thin stream, tipping and swirling the mold to coat the bottom and sides as evenly as possible.

  5. When the syrup stops moving, turn the mold upside down on the wax paper to cool and let any excess syrup run out.

  1. In a 1 – 1 ½ quart saucepan, bring the milk almost to a boil over moderate heat.

  2. Remove the pan from the stove and add the vanilla extract.

  3. With an electric mixer beat the sugar, eggs, and egg yolks until they're well mixed and thickened. Add the zest if you like this flavor.

  4. Stirring gently and constantly, pour in the milk in a thin stream (you don't want to do this all at once because you'll get scrambled eggs)

  5. Strain this mixture through a sieve into your mold and place the mold in a large pan on the middle shelf of the oven.

  6. Pour boiling water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the mold.

  7. Bake the flan, but be careful to lower the temperature of the oven if you see the water in the pan beginning to boil.

  8. After about an hour, insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it's ready.

  9. Take the mold out of the water and refrigerate the flan for at least 3 hours.

  10. To unmold it, run a sharp knife all around the edge and dip the bottom of the mold briefly in hot water. Then dry the bottom, place your serving plate upside down over the mold and grabbing both sides firmly, quickly turn the plate and mold over.

  11. Rap the plate on a table and the flan should slide easily out of the mold.

  12. Pour any extra caramel remaining in the mold over the flan.