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Perfect Flan

In his safety control room, Homer pokes at all the donuts… [poking at each jelly donut in turn] [poke] Igh, lemon. [poke] Ugh, cherry. [poke] Ooh, custard. [poke] Mmmmm…. purple… — Homer, enjoying the finer things in life, “Homer Defined”

Hosted by Elise of Simply Recipes, the theme of this month’s Sugar High Friday is Cooking up Custard. Rich, creamy custard. I was almost tempted by Homer Simpson’s love for custard filled donuts in my search for an entry. But I chose to make a dish that was one of the first “real desserts” I ever baked on my own in my mother’s kitchen: flan.

Prior to attempting that first flan, I had mostly baked cookies and cakes from boxed mixes. And I baked them a lot. Looking back, I don’t remember exactly why I chose flan, but I do know that my mom played a part in my decision: she said that flan was too difficult and that I shouldn’t bother trying it. Let me tell you that she was wrong. That flan turned out wonderfully and so did this one.

This time, I used the Perfect Flan recipe from Bon Appetit. The only change I made was to infuse the caramel with vanilla as well as infusing the custard.

Don’t be intimidated by flan. Making the custard is easy, in large part because the cream cools slightly before you combine it with the eggs; the risk of curdling is quite low. The caramel doesn’t have to be cooked to a specific temperature, just make it a dark amber and pour it into ramekins. Boil water in a kettle for the water bath and bake. Refrigerate. Eat.

And while you’re eating, why don’t you check out the other custardy delights in this month’s roundup?

Perfect Flan
1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large eggs
2 large yolks
7 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine cream, milk, salt and vanilla bean in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat and remove from heat just as you start to see steam rise from the mixture. Let steep 30 minutes, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream mixture. Discard pod, or save fo another use.

While the cream is cooling, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another medium saucepan at medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Turn up heat to high and cook until color becomes deep amber (about 10 minutes). Pour into each of sic 3/4 cup ramekins/custard cups. Tilt ramekins to coat bottoms. Set each into a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk (by hand or at a low speed) eggs, egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar until blended. Gradually whisk cream mixture into egg mixture, trying not to create too much froth or foam. Pour custard through small sieve or strainer into prepared ramekins, dividing evenly (should fill all ramekins nearly to the top). Place baking pan containing ramekins into oven, then carefully pour hot or boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Take care not to get any water in the custard.
Bake until flans are just set, about 40 minutes. A very sharp knife inserted into the center of a custard should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Invert onto small plate and carefully lift off ramekin allowing caramel syrup to run over flan.
Makkes 6.

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  • Mika
    September 16, 2005

    Looks delicious, although I am intimidated by the word flan. They have not turned out well in the past. I can see the vanilla seeds in your picture, yumm.

  • Sara
    September 16, 2005

    That looks very good. I have may have to try it now that I have decided I like custard.

  • joey
    September 16, 2005

    That looks so smooth and yummy! You hit the nail on the head…I am also intimidated with flan making…you certainly made it seem simple, perhaps I’ll try it…will badger the grannies here for recipes (they always have the best ones) 🙂

  • Shakthi
    September 16, 2005


  • Nic
    September 16, 2005

    Mika – Don’t be intimidated by making them. The hardest part (which is not very hard) is turning them out onto the plate.

    Sara – I am a firm believer that if there is enough vanilla in anything, I will like it.

    Joey – I believe you’re right about the grannies. =)

    Shakthi – Aw, thanks.

  • Cath
    September 16, 2005

    Oh man that looks yummy…and it definitely made me think about my granny, too! I’m going to have to call her and get her recipe. I don’t suppose you could Fedex one over so I can confirm that it tastes as good as it looks? 🙂

  • Nupur
    September 16, 2005

    Thats a perfect flan all right! My favorite dessert 🙂 and thats a beautiful picture.

  • J
    September 16, 2005

    hi nic, that flan does indeed look perfect…i love how that glossy surface is speckled with teeny vanilla seeds…beautiful…

  • violet
    September 16, 2005

    that is truly a beautiful flan, nic. i remember my mum making flan for me when i was young and loving loving loving it. but it was rather laborous for her (she hated cooking) so it was a very rare treat for me.

  • Ruth
    September 16, 2005

    You make it sound so simple, I will just have to give it a try. Gorgeous photo, by the way.

  • Zarah Maria
    September 17, 2005

    Okay, so the picture is gorgeous and the description lovely and all – but Nic, that quote is PRICELESS! I love Homer-quotes! And I’d love to see the custard filled donut, should you need anyone to convince you to try making them… hint-hint!;-)

  • Nic
    September 17, 2005

    Cath – I would try if there were any leftover!

    Nupur – Thank you.

    J – Everything is better with vanilla. Thanks!

    Violet – If she likes flan, I recommend trying it for her someday. Since she used to make it for you, I’m sure it’ll be a big hit. Mother’s Day, anyone?

    Ruth – Thanks. I think that this is one of the less scary custards, jsut behind boxed ones.

    Zarah – Ok, you don’t have to ask twice!

  • Indira
    September 17, 2005

    Hi Nic, I guess I’m repeating what has been already mentioned, but really, your flan looks terrific!

    You showed your mother, aha…
    Had she tasted your gorgeous flan?

  • Nic
    September 17, 2005

    Inrida – Perhaps I wasn’t totally clear in my post, but my mom didn’t see this flan. I chose to make it because I hadn’t made one in a long time. I’m sure she would have enjoyed it, though I think she prefers creme brulee.

  • Ana
    September 17, 2005

    Beautiful flan Nic. As usual.

  • Kelly
    September 18, 2005

    Hi Nic, your flan looks great!

  • Jessica
    September 18, 2005

    I always wondered why flan has those square grains on the bottom. It looks like undissolved sugar, but how can that be? Nevertheless, I love flan!

  • Lori
    September 19, 2005

    Hi Nic, your flan looks gorgeous, even though you said you had trouble unmolding yours. 🙂

  • keiko
    September 19, 2005

    Hi Nic – your creme caramel looks soooooo yummy and perfect! I could eat it every day! I am another firm believer that if there is enough vanilla in anything 😉

    In the UK (maybe in europe) we call flan something similar to tarts, I find it interesting when I see different names/terms in the US and here.

  • Elise
    September 26, 2005

    Hi Nicole,
    What a gorgeous photo! And thank you for pointing the way to a good flan recipe, I’ve been looking for one. Flan is one of my favorite all time desserts.

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