How do you like your flan? Nice soft and pudding-y? Sweet chewy and stick to your ribs-y? I sure hope it’s the latter cuz that’s what we’re dishing up today.
I almost called it “Happy Flan” because it’s the first recipe I’m posting from my nearly finished new kitchen. Some have been clamoring for pictures (thank you for feeding my passion), but I won’t do it until the entire thing is finished. And, well, you know – it’s August and all the workers are on vacation along with the rest of France (except yours truly). But here are some teasers for my pink(ish) kitchen:
Ikea spice rack with hand-written signs, painted lilac.
Pink Paris apron that I bought in Châtelet-les-Halles
Pink flowerpot for the utensils (or ustensils as Sir always says since that’s how it’s said in French).
Sir’s grandfather’s pink artwork to grace a white wall
and this lilac replica of an old advertisement that just seemed to fit.
I know – not much else of the kitchen left to see except the whole enchilada.
But today we’re making flan.
Preheat the oven to 160° C or about 325°F and place a pan half filled with water to heat. That pan should be just larger than the pan you’re going to use for the flan, as you’ll be baking the flan inside the bath of water.
Separate 12 eggs yolks
and add a teaspoon of vanilla. Or … get some vanilla beans!
Our friends brought them back from Madagascar for us.
Slice them lengthwise (see the paste inside?)
Scrape the insides of two vanilla beans
and add two cans of sweetened condensed milk, standard sized.
Mix them all delicately together.
See those little vanilla bean specks?
Set that aside and let it get to room temperature. It’s time to make the toffee.
I mean the caramel.
Now you could mix sugar and water and let the water just evaporate as it cooks – this will be easier to handle when it comes to removing the flan from the pan. But I prefer a more toffee-like consistency.
Take a 1 ½ cups of sugar (never mind if it’s large crystal sugar)
and the juice of a small lemon
Stir them together before the flame goes on. If you stir it as the sugar heats it will crystallize.
Put the flame on low,
and watch it melt.
Resist stirring, even if it’s hard to resist (although I did pick the pan up a couple of times and tilt it to get the sugar to melt evenly).
Also resist letting it get too brown as it will also cook more with the flan. If it’s too brown it will have a burnt taste, and we should really save that for the crème brulée shouldn’t we?
Pour the caramel in and …
this is what it looks like.
Time to put the custard part in, but strain it first.
See that? Aren’t ya glad you strained it?
Now cover the flan with aluminum foil and put it to bake inside it’s water bath. (Careful! If the boiling water spills on your oven mitt, it will soak through and burn you).
45 minutes at 325° and about 20 minutes at 350° until it’s firm.
It’s done – let’s take a peek.
Okay, so far so good.
Let it cool to room temperature and put it in the refrigerator overnight. (Ideally – or at least a few hours).
When the custard is cold, it’s time to de-mold the flan. But that toffee caramel topping will be rock solid. So put it in a boiling hot water bath for ten minutes, enough to melt the toffee, but not enough to re-heat the flan.
Put a spatula around the pan to separate the flan.
(You should know that those two words don’t rhyme – pan and flan. Flan is pronounced like flahn, as if you’re opening wide for the dentist).
Put a plate on top of it.
And flip upside down.
Totally still stuck to the pan?
Just stick the spatula in and tug at one end – you’ll barely notice the little chunk missing, and then you can try that tasty little bit.
Um. I guess this is when you’ll find out how rich and chewy and thick and sweet it is. It’s more like stick-to-the-teeth than stick-to-the-ribs. You might want to serve just the tiniest sliver with a large mug of bitter black coffee to wash it down.
And then eat nothing but salad for the following three days.
Oh shoot – half of my caramel is still in there! Back in the hot water bath.
Truth be told, I never did get the whole caramel bottom out, but the flan is already quite sweet so it’s not missing anything.
I put it on a cheerful semi-Mexican looking plate made by Young Lady.
By the way, flan comes from ancient Rome and the recipe trickled it’s way down. France makes more of a salty version of the custard, but Spain perfected the sweet version and spread the recipe all over Latin America, along with its melodic language.
I then cut one piece for me and one piece for my high school friend Rachel, who was visiting France with her kids for the first time, and whom I had not seen in 24 years. (Yes I am that old, but she hasn’t aged a day).
I think both the visit and the flan were a success.
If you’re into such delectably sweet encounters.