Start to Finish: 4 hours 45 minutes total; 4 hours cooking and cooling time.
Servings: 6
Difficulty: Intermediate

Flan is a simple dessert that highlights the subtle notes of homemade caramel. If you don’t have ramekins or individual soufflé dishes, make this recipe in coffee cups — just be sure they are all the same size so the flans cook evenly.


Ingredients

Caramel
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/8 cup corn syrup
* Water

Custard
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14-ounce
* 3 eggs
* 4 egg yolks
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the Caramel

Set six 6-ounce ramekins into a roasting pan. Be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of space all around each dish.

Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Pour 1/3 cup of water over the sugar and mix just until the sugar is completely moistened. It will not seem as though there is enough water to dissolve the sugar. At this stage, you aren’t looking for liquefied sugar. It should be the consistency of damp sand.

Put the pan over medium-high heat and leave it until it comes to a full boil. Do not stir or jostle the pan at this stage, or crystals will form and your caramel will be grainy.

After the sugar melts and the mixture comes to a full boil, use a pastry brush moistened with water to wash down the sides of the pan, dissolving any sugar crystals that may have splashed up from the boiling syrup.

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to boil until the syrup begins to turn a pale gold color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gently swirl the pan over the heat until the caramel darkens to light brown. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to swirl until the caramel reaches a deep amber color.

Pour a portion of the caramel into each ramekin. Swirl the ramekins to coat the bottoms with caramel. Be extremely careful while pouring the hot caramel. If it splashes on your skin it will cause serious burns.

Make the Custard

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix 1/4 cup of sugar, heavy cream, milk and sweetened condensed milk. Stir to combine, then heat over a burner set to medium-low. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl until thickened. Whisking constantly, add 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs. When the milk is completely incorporated, add another 1/4 cup until about half the milk has been added to the eggs. The egg mixture should be warm to the touch. If it is still cool, add more of the milk mixture 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly. This process gently warms the eggs so they don’t cook when they are combined with the hot milk mixture.

Pour the rest of the milk mixture into the eggs and whisk to combine.

Lay a sheet of cheesecloth inside a colander. Place the colander over the top of a large pitcher or 4-cup measuring cup. Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth to remove any lumps.

Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins.

Bake the Flans

Set the roasting pan with the ramekins in the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan around the ramekins. The hot water should come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins without overflowing the roasting pan.

Bake the flan for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the custards are barely set in the center. Turn off the oven and carefully remove the roasting pan with the ramekins to a wire rack.The flans will continue to cook while they cool.

Allow the flans to cool in the water bath for an hour, or until they are completely set.

Remove the ramekins from water bath and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

To serve, run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the custard. Place a serving plate on top of the ramekin and flip the plate and ramekin in one smooth motion. The ramekin should be upside down on top of the plate. If the flan does not drop out of the ramekin, jiggle it carefully to loosen.

Scrape out any leftover custard from the ramekin and allow it to drizzle down the sides of the flan.

References and Resources

Fine Cooking: The Science of Caramel