Thursday, 10 May 2012

Rich and Commanding Vanilla Flan

It is Mother's Week this week. (What? You only celebrate one day? I am campaigning for Mother's Month. Preferably without kids. Ha! Sorry, I am a terrible mother.)
But that doesn't mean  that I don't like to be showered with treats, in fact I insist on it.
Mother's Day for me has become like a second birthday and I like to milk it for all it is worth.
Sure, often I make the treats myself, but I have fun doing it. Sometimes I even share.

For cooking club this week we had Mother's Day as a theme. I went with flan as they look fun and sweet and I have never tried them before. Sure, mine look a little ragged around the edges - but I assure you they are delicious! And they have good fridge life so you could prepare them ahead of time and serve them when needed.

There is some sort of sorcery involved in flan. The caramelized sugar that you line the moulds with, and that immediately turns solid, somehow turns into liquid caramel gold when you serve the flan. I don't know why - I think you have to have an in with the Mexican gods to get the real answers.

And I am sure that you will actually use the back of the knife and not the front to loosen yours - and not get such a ragged (yet delicious!) looking flan. You know, if you have the patience to do things properly. I don't. Let's get down to eating. Happy Mother's Day!

Classic Rich and Commanding Vanilla Flan
adapted from Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time
online recipe courtesy Eddie Ritter's Family Blog


    ¾ cup sugar for the caramel

    ¼ cup sugar
    1½ cups milk
    One 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
    3 large eggs
    4 large egg yolks
    1½ teaspoons pure Mexican vanilla extract

Caramelizing the Molds

Set your 6 ounce molds in a large baking pan at least 2 inches deep and large enough to give the molds at least 1/2 inch clearance all around. Measure the sugar into a saucepan and dribble 1/3 cup of water around and over the sugar, evenly moistening it. Then set this over medium-high heat. The mixture will quickly come to a boil. Do not attempt to mix with a spoon because this will cause crystallization of your sugar, and you don’t want this. Just be patient because it will take the sugar water a good 5-10 minutes before it begins to change to a golden color. Mean while, if you notice that some of the sugar crystals may stick to the inside of the pan, you can dissolve them using a pastry brush and some water. Once the sugar water starts to turn golden, it will quickly get darker. When it does this, you can turn off the heat and then gently swirl the pan around until you reach the desired color. You’re going for sort of an amber color. Any darker and you’ll start burning the sugar, and obviously, you don’t want this. When finished, evenly pour the caramel into your molds, enough to coat the bottoms.

The Custard Mixture

Now for your custard mixture, preheat your oven to 325 and have a rack set to the middle position of your oven. Now combine your milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. At the same time, you should get your water for the water bath ready, either with a tea kettle or a separate pot of water set over high heat. This way it will be ready when your flans are ready to go into the oven. Gently stir your milk mixture with a wooden spoon to dissolve everything together. Be careful because the milk can scald easily if you don’t watch it. You want to bring the mixture up to a simmer. The mixture will be steaming and tiny bubbles will form a ring around the edge of the mild mixture. When you are ready for the eggs, whisk your eggs and yolks together until they are well combined. Now gently temper the eggs with the milk mixture, whisking as your drizzle the hot milk into the eggs. As the mixture heats up, you can begin to pour a little faster. After all your milk mixture is combined with the eggs, add your vanilla and then strain the custard mixture into a clean bowl. I like to use a bowl with a spout.

Baking the Custards

Pour your custard mixture into the caramel molds and fill then about 3/4 the way to the top. Then open your oven door and slide out the middle rack a ways. Then take your baking pan with the molds to the oven and set it on the middle rack. You need to be very careful when pouring the hot water for the water bath. I usually remove one of the corner molds for this to give myself some extra room in the pan to pour. Pour the hot water about 1/2 way up the sides of the molds. Add the final mold and slide your baking rack back into place. Bake for about 50 minutes, depending on your oven. You don’t want to over cook your flans or they just wont be as good. They should be almost like jello when you bump one of the molds. The flan will jiggle but will clearly bounce back into place.

Serving the Flans

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the flans to rest in the pan for about an hour. Afterward, wrap each flan individually with plastic wrap and set them in the fridge for about 2 hours. When ready to eat, remove the plastic, then using the back of a knife, carefully go around the edge of the flan to loosen it from the mold. This may take a few tries, but eventually the flan will come loose onto your serving dish.

Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded IHCC