Flan or caramel custard is an elegant desert that is fit for company or to be indulged in all by oneself. A good flan is hard to resist – silky smooth and sweet with a caramel crown. This is the grandmother of all self saucing puddings. When you have something as pretty as this , all you need is to hide the extra spoons .. or so I have been told ;-).
There are many versions of flans, some richer than others. The one that I am going to talk about here is my favorite – the easy flan recipe. This recipe is remarkable for its simple ingredient list – eggs , sugar, milk , and optionally a pinch of nutmeg or vanilla. All things easily found in most kitchens. The richer versions include cream cheese or condensed milk. But this today’s is the minimalist version, minimalist but sleek and elegant.
True it is not a 5 minute desert, and caramelizing sugar and the water bath might seem like a lot of trouble. But believe me it is not all that much trouble, once you know what to watch out for. At the end of it all you have an impressive and elegant home made desert to be proud of.
The first step is to make the caramel . Have the flan molds ready on the side. Take 1/4 C sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat over gentle heat till it turns to a dark gold liquid. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel into flan molds. Swirl the molds to coat the bottoms evenly with the caramel. Set aside. As you proceed you might hear / notice the caramel crack a bit , don’t worry about this. It will all come together while baking.
It is time to proceed to the next step. Combine the milk and the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat on medium heat. While the milk is warming up , break the eggs and the yolks into a large bowl and whisk together until well blended and frothy.
After the milk has come to a boil turn off the heat and pour a couple of the ladles of milk into the egg mixture . While pouring the milk continuously whisk the egg mixture to prevent curdling. This tempers the egg mixture by gently heating it and and prevents curdling when adding to the hot milk later.
Pour the tempered egg mix into the milk this time stirring the milk continuously. This is the time to add vanilla or nutmeg. Return the pot to the stove and turn the heat on to low. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes until you see the custard thicken a bit. If you heat for longer the custard might stick / curdle or burn. Do not worry about under cooking at this stage – it is gong to finish cooking in the oven. Turn the heat off.
Pour the custard into the flan molds over the caramel . If you think there are lumps in strain the custard first before transferring into the flan mold.
Place the mold/s in a oven safe pan , large enough to hold them. Transfer to a preheated oven . Pour some hot water into the pan enough to have the molds sit in 1″ water or about half way up the sides of the molds.
Bake for 40 mins to 1 hr. until the flan is cooked
The flan is done cooking when the top hardens a bit . At this point if you gently shake the pan the center of the pan will wiggle a bit . Remove from the oven. Let cool for 30 minutes . Cover with a foil and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving .
When ready to serve , take it out of the fridge , run cover the pan with the serving dish and invert into the serving dish .
Keep it simple and let the dish speak for itself ..
- As soon as the sugar is melted and turning to golden brown turn off the heat.
- While tempering and adding the egg mix to milk keep stirring vigorously to avoid scrambling eggs.
- Flan can also be steamed – if steaming make sure that the flan mold is not touching water.
- Straining the custard removes any small pieces of coagulated/ hardened mix and creates a smoother desert.
- If the caramel hardens before you finish swirling the molds, microwave for 10 seconds, just enough to melt it, and swirl again.
- Using a knife to loosen the flan before inverting from the mold helps it to slide off together, preserving its shape.
- Make individual size puddings , rather than one large 🙂 .
- 1 C Sugar
- 3 C Milk Full fat or Skim
- 3 Eggs
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 1 - 2 Drops Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 Tsp Nutmeg Optional
- 1 Pinch Salt
- Gather your supplies and ingredients . Preheat the oven to 350 Degree F. Have some hot water ready.
- Make caramel by heating ¼ c sugar in a heavy bottomed pan over gentle heat till it turns to a dark gold liquid . Pour the caramel into the waiting flan molds and swirl to coat the bottoms evenly. Set aside .
- Heat milk in a heavy bottomed pan with the remaining sugar . Meanwhile combine the eggs and the yolks in a large pan and whisk till the mixture is frothy . Once the milk comes to a boil turn the heat off and slowly add a couple of ladles of milk to the egg mixture while whisking the mixture continuously . This will temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling .
- Pour the tempered egg mixture into the hot milk , this time stirring the milk vigorously . Add the vanilla, nutmeg and salt . Stir to combine and heat the custard mix on low heat for a couple minutes until it begins to thicken.
- Turn off the heat . Strain and pour the custard into the waiting mold/s.
- Place the mold/s in the roasting pan. Pour some hot water into the pan so that the molds are sitting in about 1 inch water or the water is about half way up the sides of the molds.
- Put the water bath in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the flans . The flan is ready when the custard begins to harden on top . At this point if you gently shake the pan the center of the flans should wiggle just a bit .
- Remove the molds form the oven . Cool for 30 minutes and refrigerate covered for at least an hour or till ready to serve.
- When ready to serve , run a knife along the side of the mold to loosen the flan and invert it onto a serving plate .