I think most cultures have their version of a custard dessert, such as custard pie and creme brulee. I must admit that I am partial to this Mexican Flan, which was actually introduced to Mexico by Spain in the days of the conquest. The caramelized sugar topping is what sets this one apart from all others.
You can find Flan offered as a dessert at most Mexican restaurants, but it is so simple to make you don’t need to eat out for it. You can even make it a day ahead of time and it still makes a great presentation! Your family will love it. A dollop of whipped cream will take it over the top!
This recipe was adapted from this cookbook, Mexico the Beautiful, which is not only a part of my living room decor, it also has some great recipes with large, beautiful pictures. Each chapter begins with a short history of Mexico and it’s regional foods. I picked it up at Costco many years ago and I refer to it often, but here’s where you can get it.
Here are the easy steps to making flan. Boil and simmer the milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla and salt until it is reduced by half. See how the milk is below the original line? That’s the reduction and it is important for a creamy, smooth flan.
Meanwhile, while the milk mixture cools a bit, make the caramel topping. The sugar will start to harden and become rock-like. Keep stirring and cooking until it all melts…
…and it looks like this. How beautiful is that?
Swirl the caramel in the baking pan to cover the bottom and sides. Or, make individual portions, if you prefer, using custard cups. Now that the milk mixture has cooled off a bit, you can whisk in the eggs, slowly. You don’t want scrambled eggs.
Pour the mixture into the pan that has been coated with the
beautiful brown caramel and bake as directed.
- 1-3/4 cup sugar, separated
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a saucepan, combine the milk, half and half, 1 cup sugar, vanilla and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the milk is reduced by half. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
- Place ¾ cup of the sugar in a separate heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and caramelizes, turning a golden brown. Pour into a 1-1/2 qt. ring mold, or round baking dish. Tilt the mold so that the caramel covers the bottom and sides.
- Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Stir cornstarch and water together and add to the eggs.
- Slowly pour the eggs into the warm milk, stirring constantly. It is importantnot to dump the eggs into the milk while it is hot as you don't want the eggs to curdle.
- Pour the custard through a strainer into the caramel-coated mold. Cover the mold with foil, set it in a larger pan and pour boiling water into that pan so that it comes up to 1 inch of the side of the flan mold. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes*, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. The flan will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven.
- Let the flan cool for 30 minutes to room temperature, then refrigerate, preferably overnight.
- To serve, invert the mold on a platter. You can run a knife along the outside edge before inverting, if necessary. Serve cold.
- *If you use a round cake pan, increase the cooking time to 1 hour.