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Flan is a traditional Mexican custard. The cooking method causes a delicious caramel sauce to form as a topping for the flan. If possible, make the flan a day in advance to give it extra time to set up.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • For the Caramel:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • .
  • For the Custard:
  • 1 quart milk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick or vanilla bean
  • 1 small piece orange or lime rind (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks

Preparation:

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 has melted. Increase the flame and let the sugar bubble and color. Pour the caramel into the mold and quickly turn it around in all directions, tipping it up in a circular motion until the surface, bottom and about 2 inches up the sides has been lightly coated with the caramel. If the caramel thickens and becomes sluggish, gently heat the mold in a pan of hot water or over low heat, depending on the material, and continue the coating action. Set aside to cool.

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 rung of the oven and heat to 325 degrees F.

Beat the eggs and yolks together and stir into the tepid milk. Pour the mixture through a strainer into the flan mold and place it in a hot water bath in the oven. Test after 2 hours with a skewer or cake tester; if it comes out quite clean, the flan is cooked. Remove from the oven, but allow to sit in the water bath for about 15 minutes longer. Remove 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.

Yield: 8 servings

Author's Note: If you have time, make this flan the day before so that it has time to set well and is easier to cut. While I use the Mexican flan mold for mine, you can use any sort of mold and put it in an improvised water bath. Be sure that the water is very hot when you start to cook the flan and that it comes at least one third of the way up the sides of the mold. Cooking time will depend on the depth of the custard in the mold; if it is less than about 3 inches, it will probably take less cooking time.

Source: The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy (Bantam)
Reprinted with permission.

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