Monday, March 22, 2010

My Sister's Flan

Following is my sister's account of her first attempt at making flan:
Some might think that flan (aka pudding de, custard) is so simple that no one couldn't possibly make an adventure out of it-- except me of course.  I'd always thought of making plain custard or "gourmet" flan    sometime so years ago (probably 25 years) I bought a collection of custard cups (sorry this is supposed to be about flan so that would make them ramekins...) at some yard sales.  I ended up with 10 of various designs (they came from different yard sales).  I never got around to making flan or custard in them but those little glass dishes are useful for lots of things so my (approximately) $2 outlay was not wasted.

 Anyway, Meg's flan was so good last Thanksgiving that I decided to give it a go.  Fannie Farmer's recipe called for 8 ramekins so I was set (I had 10).  First step-- caramelize the sugar.  The recipe said to melt the sugar in a skillet and then pour a tablespoon in each ramekin and swirl it around.  I got the sugar melted, and started pouring a little into each cup.  I heard a "snick".  The third one cracked (it probably had a small crack or defect-- remember these are yard sale cups).  I pressed on but even though I was lightning fast (only a few  dozen drips of hardened syrup on the table), by the time I got to swirling the first one the syrup was rock hard-- so much for the swirling technique.  I briefly considered trying to get the nice disc of hard syrup out of now cracked #3 and transferring it to another (remember I had 2 spares) but decided the possibility of shattering the non-shatterable pyrex was too risky so it went into the trash and got replaced with a "plain" cup.

 Next step was to preheat the oven and prepare the pans.  I didn't have a pan big enough for 8 custard cups (sorry-- ramekins) so I used an 8-inch square and a 13x9 pan.  The recipe said put an inch of hot water in the pans and put them in the preheating oven.  So I got out my ruler and carefully put exactly an inch of water from the hot tap in the pans.  I only sloshed a little on the floor getting them across the kitchen into the oven.

 Mixing up the custard went surprisingly smoothly.  The recipe said the strain the mixture into the ramekins.  Well it didn't look chunky to me so forget that nonsense!  I did use a ladle though and only dripped a little on the table over the hardened syrup spots.  Now the transfer  to the pans.  I opened the oven and carefully pulled out the rack with the pans holding 1 inch of (now) really hot water and started putting in the ramekins-- my plan was 6 into the 13x9 and 2 in the 8 inch square pan.  All was going well until the 6th cup.  The HOT water was up to the rim of the previous 5 cups.  Out with the turkey baster to suck off some of the water. Problem is when you suck up the water and try to lift the turkey baster without losing any, the water kind of     blurps out, some of it into the adjacent cup with potential flan.  I continued with the turkey baster, but much more carefully.  Only thing is, it was removing so little water at each suck that I figured I'd be heating the whole house with the oven pretty soon.  The half cup measuring cup did the trick.

 With the water lowered in each pan and all the cups of flan in the pans, I was ready to slide the rack CAREFULLY back into place. The rack wouldn't slide in my decrepit old oven.  I finally manage to get it back in a little jerk at a time.  Maybe the water that got sloshed into the custard wouldn't interfere with it setting...
The recipe said to bake for 45 minutes and then test with a sharp knife in the center-- if it came out clean the flan was done.  After 45 minutes, I went to test but couldn't because I couldn't slide (what a joke) the rack out to get to the cups and trying to get to them without sliding the rack out would probably result in burns because of the second rack in the oven.  Not a problem, pull out and remove the top rack-- fortunately no disgusting chips of whatever fell into the flan although on second thought, it might have improved the esthetics   because I had forgotten to sprinkle the nutmeg on them!  Anyway the knife did not come out clean so back in the oven.

They finally got done and after cooling, Annie and I tried them and I have to say, all's well that ends well-- it was delicious!

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