Sunday, August 21, 2011

A New Flan Recipe

We entertained four delightful houseguests this weekend at the coast - dear friends that we have known since our grown children were in pre-school together, and Ellen's brother and his wife.  I was a bit concerned about making dinner for the group because Ellen is an excellent cook and brother, John, is a caterer.  So the LOML (Love Of My Life) and I stuck with our successful guacamole and chips, cedar-plank salmon with a fruit salsa and rice (which I kind of burned, fortunately it isn't only the LOML who enjoys crunchy rice, only this time it was a bit too brown for my liking).  The broccoli with brown butter and caper sauce was over cooked (a fact that my wonderful guests chose not to comment on).

But the dessert was a biggest hit - a very simple flan that turned out to be spectacular. Flan (custard with a carmelized sugar syrup) can end up dry and clumpy no matter how carefully you follow the recipe.  This time it turned out to be a silky smooth custard.  I have two "go to" flan recipies.  One is made with sweetened condensed milk and the other is a custard of milk, eggs and sugar.  I didn't have a can of sweetened condensed milk in the cupboard and my other favorite custard recipe was in our other abode.  Searching through my eclectic collection of cookbooks, rather than the internet which would be really overwhelming, I found a flan recipe that I had tried awhile back but the LOML claimed it was too eggy - refinement was needed.

Success!  Our guests had either too much wine with dinner or they totally loved the flan (I choose to belive the later).  Chef John said that it was the best flan he had ever eaten - I thought it a huge compliment.  Following is my recipe.  The proof of the refined recipe will be in the tests of my readers!  Please add your comments if you try it.

Best Flan

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

2 cups milk (I used 2% - I don't think it matters too much)
2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have a 9"x9" pan available (preferably glass or ceramic) Note: I used and 8x8 ceramic dish and had to pour about 1 cup of the custard mixture away.  I haven't  actually tried it with a 9x9 pan and don't even know that such a pan exisits!  You could also use a different shapped pan that will hold about 2 quarts of liquid and fit into a larger pan for the water bath I used an oven-proof fry pan for my water bath.  I am not sure if improvonization will make or break this recipe!

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Stir to combine the water and sugar and then let it boil until it is just a shade under the color of maple syrup, stiring occassionally.  [Lots of recipies tell you to wet down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan and such but although I have had the sugar mixture totally crystalize and harden it has always melted down again and come to the purfect color and liquidity without special care.]  When syrup is the golden brown color that you want, pour it into the waiting pan and swirl mixture to coat the bottom of the dish and about 1/4 inch up the sides.  Set prepped dish aside.

Bring milk and cream just to a boil.  Meahwhile, wisk eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl,  add 1 cup sugar and vanilla extract.  When the milk mixture is ready  pour it slowly into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish (many recipies recommend pouring mixture through a sieve but I don't bother with this step).

Place baking dish in a pan of hot tap water (hottest that you can get without pre-boiling which is a nusence) so the water comes about half way up the side of the baking dish (remember you are going to have to remove the flan dish from the pan of hot water without burning yourself) and carefully place the two pans into the oven.  Bake for about 1 1/4 hours or more until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out almost clean.  The top will probably still be jiggly but might be a bit toasted on top.  Turn oven off and let flan rest in the warm oven until ready to serve. 

The orginal recipe calls for chilling the flan for 3 hours.  Our guests loved having the flan with the carmelized sugar sauce spooned over it served warm.  If you have left overs (which we did not!)  it really is delightful chilled.

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