Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TWD: Caramel Topped Flan

For this challenge, we had nearly two weeks to put together our caramel flan. Being a native San Diegan, I'm a big fan of all things Mexican, especially their guacamole and their desserts. Now living in the barren wasteland of Mexican food joints known as Long Island, I was excited to try making the flan. While its just a custard, I'd never tried making one on my own.

The boiling of the caramel was probably the most worrisome of the tasks, trying to get it to a nice amber color without burning it. I was dutifully stirring, thinking it might never turn brown when all of a sudden the color bloomed in the pan. I suppose if not carefully watched, it could go from clear to burnt in no time. So I carefully poured the caramel into the pan, spread it around, and set to work on the custard.

I don't know if Dorie owns any dogs, but by this point, my 2 had been out enjoying the sun in our fenced in back yard. Lily, the larger of the two, started making a fuss usually reserved for when Bowie has done something that she can't. Like jump the fence to escape the yard.
Sure enough, there is a plaintive looking Lily, and no Bowie to be seen. So I turn off the milk and set down the whisk, running out the door to find him. After 5 minutes circling the neighborhood in the car, he came running, excited at the idea of a ride in the car. Sucker. He got to enjoy a ride in the car all the way back up the driveway.

Anyhow, going back to the flan, the caramel had started to cool and solidify in the pan, and I hoped this wasn't a bad sign. I finish heating the milk, stirring it into the eggs, and then all into the water bath to bake.

At the 35 minute mark, the flan looked just as described. A light browning and puffiness in places, and my knife came out clean. So it was set aside to cool.

That night, I had a group of friends over for Passions Party, and figured the flan might be good to set out as a munchie. But as usual, I think I overdid myself on the food. Between the Asian noodle salad, apple dumplings, brownies, shrimp, chips and dips, and a cheesecake I bought through a school fundraiser for a co-worker's kid, There was more than enough food. So the flan went into the fridge until Monday night.

I think the waiting was my fatal mistake. Come Monday night, I carefully inverted the flan onto a plate. And rather than thick gooey caramel, out came some watery, mildly caramel tasting water. I don't know if it condensated and watered down the caramel sauce in the fridge, but it wasn't nearly as pretty as Dorie's picture. The husband and I each tried a piece, and he said "It tastes like Flan. Pretty good." It was good taste wise, but 'pretty' is open to debate. The edges got a little crumbly, turning the liquid a bit milky. While the taste was great, I think if I were to ever make this again, it would HAVE to be served same day.

Caramel topped Flan
For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice
For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.
Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.
To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don't worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.
Yield: 6 to 8 Servings


Bumblebutton said...

Despite your troubles, it looks good! My flan actually tasted better on day two--go figure!

Anonymous said...
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noskos said...

Great looking flan!

Mary Ann said...

Fun, fun, fun!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Your story was very funny! Too bad about the caramel water, mine had the same thing. It looks good though!

Marie said...

I think your flan looks great! My caramel always burns, but I'm happy to say that this time I managed to do it without that happening! Must be Dorie's great instructions!

Dianne's Dishes said...

A little added adventure when you're cooking is always fun! ;) It looks great though!

Annemarie said...

It looks great! Good job!

Heather said...

Your flan looks great!

Rebecca said...

At least you got a "pretty good." My husband wouldn't touch it. He's holding out for the gooey chocolate cakes. ;)

Melissa said...

Hello fellow Californian! Caramel water is a great name for it...I think almost everyone had that issue.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

And I thought, I always over did it on food for parties...hee-hee! Your flan looks perfectly fine. Good job!

Natasha said...

CHOCOLATE rocks!!!

I miss Bowie...silly boy! I'm glad he and Lily are happy together.