Why It Works
- Boiling the caramel without stirring keeps crystals from forming.
- Heating the milk and cream with cinnamon sticks infuses the custard with flavor.
- Baking the flan in a water bath insures that it cooks evenly.
Now that I live far away from the United States, I look back and wish that I'd hopped over to Mexico more often. I've been there twice, the first time for about 25 minutes. On a road trip from Yuma, Arizona (I had the best taco of my life there) to California, my boyfriend convinced me to drive our rental car across the border into dusty San Luis. I was pretty sure the rental contract didn't include insurance for tooling around Mexico, and after a bag of cornmeal cookies and a few minutes of driving a brand new white convertible around the gritty and exhaust tailpipe-ridden streets, my anxiety got the best of me and I turned around and headed back. I still regret that I cut it short like that. The second time was for my friend Paco's wedding on the coast south of Cancún. This time around it was a week of lush accommodations, heavenly beaches, and terrific food (I'm a big queso fresco fan).
When you're living in America you tend to take for granted the availability of Mexican dishes and ingredients. When Mexican cuisine was still brand new and trendy in Australia, in Singapore there was hardly a trace of Mexico to be found. Simple ingredients like jalapeños and corn tortillas were like rare earth metals here. (I came across just one tiny closet-sized store in Holland Village that sells Mexican ingredients).
Flan, however, I can do. With just a few straightforward, non-exotic ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, eggs), I can whip up a delicious slab of this sliceable creamy custard. Instead of the classic vanilla version though, I did my thing and melted chocolate into the hot custard before baking. And because cinnamon is a common flavor added to Mexican chocolate, I infused cinnamon sticks into the hot milk. I can't get it here, but if you can get your hands on some Mexican chocolate, by all means use it! (And send a care package to me please.) The finished chilled flan is a silky smooth slice of chocolaty custard that's bathed in a complementing caramel sauce which has been created from caramelized sugar set in the bottom of the pan. Though I may have been a wimp on my first excursion to Mexico, I'm certainly not with my caramel. I like to cook it to a rich brown stage (almost burnt) to create the deepest caramel flavor possible. Mexico, until we meet again.
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup (about 8 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup water
5 large eggs
1 large yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). In a small heavy duty saucepan over medium heat, stir 2/3 cup sugar and water to dissolve; bring to a boil. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture is a deep amber color, brushing sides of saucepan with water as needed to wash down any crystals that may form. (See notes.) Immediately pour into bottom of pan and tilt pan to coat evenly; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar with eggs, yolk, vanilla, and salt. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, cream, and cinnamon sticks to scald. Whisk in chocolate until dissolved. Remove cinnamon sticks and slowly pour chocolate mixture into egg mixture, whisking to combine. Carefully pour hot custard into pan.
Set pan in a large roasting pan and place on oven rack. Add hot water to roasting pan until it comes to halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until just set but still a bit wiggly, about 30 minutes. Let cool at room temperature 30 minutes, then chill until completely set, about 4 hours.
To serve, run sharp knife around perimeter of cake pan to loosen flan. Place a rimmed serving plate (see notes) over pan and flip over to invert flan onto plate. Serve.
9-inch cake pan, large roasting pan
Be super careful when working with the hot caramel, it can burn!
Make sure the serving plate is rimmed so that it catches all the sauce.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||27%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||61%|
|Total Carbohydrate 28g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 22g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|