FlanThat’s the Flan
The older I get the more I notice how time is speeding up. The month of April is gone and I seriously have no idea where it went. It’s crazy to believe that we are now in the Month of May. But if it is early in the month of May you know what that means…

For me, Cinco de Mayo is just another excuse to make Mexican food which, frankly, I make a lot. However, for Cinco de Mayo I like to step up my game. I try to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and get to the good stuff beyond tacos and enchiladas.

One such dish is flan.

True, flan is not exactly unheard of. You can basically get it in any Mexican restaurant but it’s not something that your average home cook just whips up. I will whip up a batch of guacamole at the drop of a hat. Flan? Not so much.

Flan can be sort of polarizing. I have found that people either like it or they hate it. There is not a lot of grey area. For the most part, it’s a texture thing. Not everybody likes that eggy custard mouthfeel. Personally, I love it. Though it may seem daunting, Mexican flan is not difficult to make especially if you do individual servings. I have had more difficulties with the bigger versions coming out clean.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean if you want big vanilla flavor. I like to add a little cinnamon to mine. Try to use a true Ceylon cinnamon if you can.

Regardless of what you serve at your fiesta this weekend, enjoy the great weather, good food, and good friends. And, most of all be safe.

Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
Yields approximately 8 servings

For the caramel
3/4 cup sugar

For the custard
1 quart milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick (or vanilla bean)
4 eggs
6 egg yolks
hot water

Approximately 8 ramekins

Make the caramel
Heat the sugar for the caramel in a small, heavy frying pan over low heat until it begins to dissolve. Shake the pan slightly (do not stir) until all the sugar had melted. Increase the flame and let the sugar bubble and color. Pour some caramel into each ramekins dividing evenly. And, quickly turn them around in all directions, tipping them up in a circular motion until the bottom and a little of the sides have been lightly coated with the caramel. If the caramel thickens and becomes sluggish, gently heat the ramekin in a pan of hot water and continue the coating action. Set aside to cool.

Make the custard
Put the milk, salt, sugar, and cinnamon or vanilla into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue boiling slowly—taking care that it does not boil over—until the milk has reduced by about 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool.

Place an oven rack on the lowest setting of the oven and heat to 325º F.

Beat the eggs and yolks together and stir into the tepid milk. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into the flan ramekins.

Bake the flan
Place the ramekins in a pan or tray filled with half an inch of in a hot water in the oven. Test after 40 minutes with a skewer or cake tester. The flan should still jiggle a little. But, if the tester comes out quite clean, the flan is cooked. Remove the pan or tray from the oven, but allow the flans to sit in the water bath for about 15 minutes longer.

Remove from the hot water bath and set aside to cool completely before refrigerating.

To unmold, carefully slip a blunt-ended, thin metal spatula around the rim of the flan and gently tip the mold from side to side to see if the flan is loose. If the caramel has hardened at the bottom of the mold, place it in a pan of hot water for a short time and test again. Place the serving dish (it must have a rim to hold the syrup) on top of the mold, invert quickly, and pray that the flan comes out whole.

Always serve a wedge of the flan with plenty of the extra syrup.

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