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I love the richness of this Mexican Flan ice cream. Super creamy custard base flecked with shards of hardened caramelized sugar. So good!
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I am addicted to flan. Just ask The Beloved. If it’s on the menu, I have to order it. I’ve had sublime flan at restaurants. I’ve had horrid flan at restaurants. Sometimes I hesitate to order it because there are so many ways that such a simple dessert can go wrong. Then, my addiction and curiosity get the better of me, and I order anyway.
There is something so comforting about a perfect Mexican flan. Since it contains both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, Mexican flan has a bit thicker mouthfeel than creme caramel. And because both milks have a reduced water content, they are perfect for ice cream making.
I took a very standard and delicious Mexican flan recipe–one can of evaporated milk, one can of sweetened condensed milk, 4 eggs and some vanilla–and adapted it slightly to yield a smooth, rich and creamy Mexican flan ice cream. Flan is most often baked with a layer of caramelized sugar in the bottom of the pan. Once it is chilled and depanned, the caramel spills over the flan and acts as a thin, flavorful sauce. To mimic the same thing in my ice cream, I simply caramelized some sugar and poured it out onto Silpat to cool. I then broke it up into small pieces and stirred it into the ice cream. Some of the sugar melts into bittersweet caramel pockets in the cool, creamy flan ice cream while some retains some crunchiness for contrast.
This is an easy one, and one that flan fans are sure to love. It is dense, smooth and oh-so-rich, so the one quart this recipe makes is gracious plenty for a crowd!
For the Ice Cream Base
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 oz granulated sugar
- 1 oz light corn syrup
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch, (optional--will make base very, very thick)*
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 1/2 teaspoons (1 1/2 Tablespoons) vanilla extract (preferable Mexican vanilla)
For the Caramel
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons water
For the Ice Cream Base
- Combine all the ingredients except for the vanilla in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- *You can leave out the corn starch if you want to. You will need to make sure that you remove the custard from the heat before it comes to a boil though. The starch buys you some time if it does boil. Using the cornstarch will also give you an extremely thick base. You may have to check your ice cream maker and stir with a spatula a few times during churning to make sure it freezes evenly.
- Cook, whisking constantly, over medium to medium-high heat, until the mixture thickens. If not using cornstarch, shoot for 185F. If using corn starch, allow to boil (still whisking constantly) for about 10 seconds. Evaporated milk tends to stick and scald very easily since it has a relatively low water constant. You really will need to whisk constantly and regulate your heat if you feel it sticking on the bottom of the pan. I normally cook all my custards over high heat, but even I dialed it back to a dull roar to be on the safe side.
- Immediately strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl with the vanilla. You will need to push the thick custard through with a silicone spatula.
- Stir well to incorporate the vanilla.
- Chill in an ice bath or cover with plastic wrap (press it directly on the surface of the custard) and put in the freezer to chill quickly or refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Make sure your base is very cold, no more than 40F, before churning.
For the Caramel
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with Silpat or parchment that you've lightly coated with pan spray. (Silpat is preferred here)
- Place the baking sheet on two trivets or a folded towel to protect your counter.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and bring to a boil.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let boil for a minute or two to wash down any sugar crystals that might be clinging to the side of the pan.
- Remove the lid and allow to boil until the caramel starts to turn golden. Swirl the pan gently to make sure the sugar caramelizes evenly.
- Continue to heat until the sugar is a dark amber color and has started to smoke just a bit. I know mine is ready when it starts to sting my eyes. Make sure to take it this dark. If you don't, it will be too sweet and not provide a slight bitterness in contrast to the sweet, creamy flan base.
- Immediately pour the caramel onto the prepared pan.
- Holding the pan with a towel or oven mitts, tilt the pan to allow the caramel to flow into a thin sheet. You have about 1-2 minutes to get it as thin as you can by tilting before it becomes too hard to flow.
- Allow to cool until hardened.
Putting It All Together
- Churn the ice cream base according to manufacturer's instructions. Especially if you used corn starch in your base, you'll want to keep an eye on it and make sure the base is being churned evenly. I stirred every couple of minutes with a spatula.
- While the ice cream is churning, break up the caramelized sugar with a rolling pin or whatever hard thing is handy. Break it into fairly small pieces, no more than 1/2" or so.
- Once the ice cream is at soft-serve consistency, stir in the caramel "shards."
- Pack into a container and press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream. Put a lid on your container (if it has one).
- Freeze for several hours or overnight before scooping and serving.
- Enjoy in small portions--this is rich stuff!
- Once the base is frozen into the consistency of soft serve
Seriously, if you love flan, try this. It tastes just like the best, most creamy and delicious Mexican flan you’ve ever had.
Thank you so much for spending some time with me today. Have a lovely day.
I make ice cream at least once a week, and these are my