Monday, January 28, 2008

Flan, the Finicky

In my search for that perfectly textured vanilla-y, cake-y-but-not-cake dessert, I've kind of wandered into custard-y territory. When all's said and done, I think I really craved a light bread pudding (is that possible?) but time's run out and I will soon succumb to Chocolate February in all it's Valentine's glory.

With one last vanilla hurrah, however, I tried a flan for the first time. Now, my mom's been making this for years during the holidays and she's perfected it however I hit a few bumps on the way but that's why I'm here: to warn you of where you might go wrong.

First, the sugar you melt to pour into the bottom of the custard cups for that pretty syrup that runs down everywhere when upturned. It has to be done on medium and SLOWLY. The moment it's liquefied, take it off the heat and pour away. Do not let it burn! I hesitated to make sure it got that one bubbling all over and it was too long. Side note, DO NOT try to taste it to SEE if it's burnt. This lesson is brought to you by Retarded Niki 101: liquid, scalding sugar = bad on finger and tongue. It tastes like BURNING.

Second, the texture of flan is very important. That's what makes good flan great. It should be completely smooth. If you overcook, it comes out a little chunky and not great. Keep a very close eye on it after 30 minutes (for 6 oz custard cups) and test with a knife often. If you think it's rather close to being done, know that it's going to continue cooking a little in the hot water bath after you take it out.

So. Better to take sugar and custard out of or off the heat than to overcook because they'll ruin if they go over.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

Place sugar in small skillet over medium heat and stir while it liquefies. Watch carefully so that it does not burn. Pour the caramel into the bottom of 6 oz custard cups (or 9-inch flan pan or soufflé dish) and, working very quickly, spread it evenly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place eggs, yolks, vanilla, milks and cream cheese in a blender or food processor and process AT LEAST 5 minutes. Blend to death!

Pour mixture into the cups and place in larger baking pan in the center of the oven. Pour boiling water halfway up the sides of thecups. Bake 30-35 minutes (or 1 hour and 10 minutes for 9-inch pan) or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Watch carefully and cover the flan with foil if the top seems to be getting too brown. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, then cut around the edges and invert onto serving plate.

Serve each piece with some of the caramel syrup.

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