Flan in Spain, creme caramel in France, yummy wherever. Creme caramel is not quite as rich as creme brulee, but it sauces itself with caramel when plated. Not too shabby, huh?
Most of the rules for refining creme brulee apply to flan, so read the creme brulee recipe for all the tricks. Do bake them in deeper ramekins, like these.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract, (or any other flavoring, liqueur or steep-ee of your choice)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 eggs
- Heavy pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup sugar, , for caramel
- Hot water, , enough to come 1/2-2/3 up the sides of the ramekins
For the Custard
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, F.
- Combine cream, milk vanilla bean or steep-ee, salt and half the sugar in a saucepan.
- In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks and the rest of the sugar.
- Heat cream mixture to a simmer, turn off heat and let steep for 30 minutes(if you're steeping something), then bring back up to a simmer and temper into eggs. Whisk very well. It is not necessary to continue cooking at this point since it will be baked anyway. If you do continue cooking it, it won't set up in the oven. Strain, cool and refrigerate overnight.
For the Caramel
- To make the caramel, have an ice cube at the ready. Put your ramekins in the freezer before you start. Have a friend get them out when the caramel is almost ready.
- Heat the 1/2 cup sugar together with a bit of water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- When it comes to a boil, cover with a lid or some plastic wrap for 2-3 minutes. Remove lid.
- Let boil merrily until the sugar begins to take on color. At this point, stir with a heat resistant spatula (preferably white, to check the color of the caramel) until the sugar is a deep amber.
- Immediately kill the heat, take the pan off the burner and toss in the ice cube.
- Stir with something with a long handle. It will spatter madly, so be careful. Once the boiling has settled down, pour enough caramel in each cold ramekin to cover the bottom with a thin layer. (The ice and putting the ramekins in the freezer work to help ensure that your sugar doesn't get darker than you want it due to carry-over heating).
To Assemble and Bake the Custards
- Put the ramekins in a large roasting pan with a tea towel spread out in the bottom. Once you're finished with that, pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill them almost to the top. Pop any bubbles by briefly playing the flame from your torch over the surface.
- Pull out your oven rack. Carefully place the roasting pan on the rack, and then pour in enough hot water to come 1/2 to 2/3 the way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Cover roasting pan fairly tightly with foil, making sure the foil doesn't get in the custard. If you're baking at 250 F, the baking will take a very long time. Check custards after 45 minutes and then go from there. Check your water level and add more if necessary.
- You don't want the flan to puff up, so keep them in a moist environment, well covered until they are done.
- When the flans are done, they should be fairly firm to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool the flans at room temperature for an hour and then refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, run a thin knife down around the inside of the ramekin, put a plate on top, then invert the plate and ramekin quickly. Your perfect flan should come right out, and lovely caramel will run down over it. Sigh...