Why won't my flan unmold?

It was annoying and a little embarrassing when yesterday's individual flans would not come out of their ramekins. I ran a knife around the edges. I tried dipping the bottoms in a pan of hot water, and that just served to soften the custard. The lunch guests all laughed and ate the custard, but no way would the caramelized sugar be parted from the bottom of each ramekin. It took a long hot water soak in the kitchen sink to dissolve each sugary disk.

Help! what's the secret to unmolding flan? What critical step did I miss?

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