This particular flan gets its flavor from summery sweet corn which is infused and then blended into the milk. And what better way to garnish a caramelly, corny custard than with crunchy, gently spiced kettle corn and fresh berries?
Note: I like to make flan in individual 4 ounce aluminum cups at work, but they're not easy to find in normal retail stores. You can make one large flan in a 9- or 10-inch cake pan or pie plate, or you can do what I did at home and find foil muffin cups and cut them into individual cups. The muffin cups were a little less than 3 ounces each so I got more, smaller flans. Just remember that the bigger the flan, the longer it takes to cook!
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.
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- For the Flan
- 1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed (about 1 cup sweet corn kernels), cob reserved
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- Pinch salt
- 5 eggs
- For the Kettle Corn
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Flan: Place forn cob and kernels in a medium saucepan and add milk. Bring to simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and cover. Let steep for 1 hour.
Set 9-inch pie plate or 10 to 15 small cups on a level surface. Place 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan and add enough water to moisten all the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and allow to cook until slightly caramelized. Remove from heat and gently swirl until caramel reaches an amber color, somewhere between honey and maple syrup. Pour caramel into baking vessel(s) just to coat the bottom. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Set prepared pan(s) in a large rectangular cake pan, Dutch oven or other larger vessel. Remove cob from milk and squeeze all excess moisture back into milk. Discard cob. Place milk and kernels in blender and puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, cream, and salt. Set over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Crack eggs into medium mixing bowl and whisk to fully scramble. Once milk mixture come to a low simmer, remove from heat and gradually pour into eggs, whisking constantly. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer, then gently pour into baking vessel(s).
Open oven and set large baking pan holding smaller vessel(s) in center of rack, then carefully pour hot water about halfway up the sides of flan vessel(s). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and poke several large holes in foil. If baking smaller individual flans, check and rotate after 10 minutes, then continue to rotate every 5 minutes. If baking one large flan, check and rotate after 30 minutes, then continue to rotate every 10 minutes, reducing time to every 5 minutes once flan begins to set around edges. Flan is done when edges are set but center is still quite jiggly, but not liquid. Remove from oven and immediately (and carefully) remove flan(s) from hot water to cool on rack. Once cooled to room temperature, loosely wrap with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
For the Kettle Corn: Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and rub them into sugar with your fingertips until evenly distributed. Combine sugar, oil, butter and salt in a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent uneven heating. Once butter is fully melted and begins to foam, add popcorn kernels and cinnamon. Cover pot and shake constantly over the heat for several minutes. Popcorn will begin to pop; keep shaking. Popping will eventually slow, when there are a couple of second between each pop remove pot from heat and continue shaking until all popping stops. Immediately pour onto a parchment or silicone lined sheet pan and spread evenly. Once cool, break up any large chunks. Keep in an airtight container.
To Serve: If you made a large flan, get a serving platter or large plate with a bigger diameter than the pan you used. If you made individual flans, get as many plates as flans you will be serving. Run a paring knife around the edge of the baking vessel, being sure to scrape along the vessel so the flan edge isn't jagged. Invert platter or plate over flan and quickly but carefully flip the whole thing over so the flan rests upside down on the platter or plate. For a large flan, you can help it shimmy out by holding both the pan and the platter and giving it a couple firm shakes; for aluminum cups you can poke a tiny slit in the top to release it. You can tell it's out when caramel gushes out around the flan. Lift the pan or cup straight up. Garnish each slice or individual flan with a handful of kettle corn and some fresh berries, if desired.