Flan is baked custard, usually served with caramel sauce. The first time I had ever heard of it was in 1995, when my neighbor asked a woman who I was dating at the time if she knew how to make Flan. “Of course”, she said, “Flan Royal”. Wow, not mere flan for commoners, but Royal Flan. I thought she was a “keeper”. But it turned out that Royal was just a brand of Jell-O; most Latin Americans do not make flan from scratch, much in the way we (as a country) no longer make chocolate pudding. (Note to self: make chocolate pudding.)
The Flan was truly impressive, but I was a little nervous that it would release properly and the caramel would be thick and fluid. I could not have asked for anything more. I liked the addition of espresso powder as it made the flan more interesting. The flan is very potent and this yields enough to serve a large crowd. 4-1/2 stars.
- For me the caramel cooking times were all considerably longer than specified in the recipe. The most critical thing was that I continued until I saw the reddish-amber hues specified in Step 3.
- Because my cooking times were noticeably longer when making the caramel, I used 3 tablespoons of water instead of 2 tablespoons specified in the recipe. My fear was that more of the water had an opportunity to evaporate and that the caramel might completely seize up in my loaf pan. The final consistency was perfect.
- I would recommend making your caramel in a stainless steel clad pot. I made mine in a Calphalon (anodized aluminum) pan, and it was difficult to see the color of the caramel to judge its readiness. The good news is that the reddish-amber color was easily spotted.
- Chris Kimball also has a variation using almonds (which uses 1 teaspoon almond extract in lieu of espresso powder). Or for a regular flan just omit the espresso powder.
Rating: 4-1/2 star.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time: 1 PM. End time: 4 PM. (for serving the following day)
The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:
2/3 cup sugar (4-2/3 ounces)
2 large eggs plus 5 large yolks
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
12-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a medium-sized saucepan, add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Mix until sugar is completely wet.
- Put pan over medium-high burner and bring up to a boil (4 to 5 minutes). Cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Gently swirl pan and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until it becomes the color of peanut butter.
- Remove for burner and swirl the pan until the mixture turns red-amber, about 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add 2 tablespoons warm tap water, which will bubble a steam, and swirl until it becomes incorporated.
- Empty caramel into an 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ loaf pan (mine was 9″x5″). Do not scrape out saucepan, only allow the liquid to pour by itself. Set loaf pan aside.
- Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees. Fold a dish towel so that it will evenly fit in a 13″x9″ Pyrex baking dish, and set aside. Bring two quarts of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks. Add sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla extract, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
- Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the loaf pan containing the caramel. Use aluminum foil to tightly cover loaf pan and set in baking dish ontop of dish towel. Put in oven and carefully add the two quarts of boiling water into Pyrex baking dish.
- Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours until the custard reaches 180-degrees. The center of the custard will still jiggle slightly. Remove foil and allow to completely cool in the water bath; about 1 hour.
- Once cool, remove from water bath and tightly cover using plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight of from up to 4 days.
- When you are ready to unmold the flan, use a paring knife to slide around and loosed the edges. Invert serving plate ontop of loaf pan, flip over. After it releases, you can use a rubber spatula to scrape and remaining caramel onto the flan.
- Slice and serve, and any leftovers can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.