The ancient Greeks and Romans were on to something good. Cream, eggs, and honey – sustainable, local foods in combination – what’s not to love? Their simple recipes for baked custard developed over the ages to the dessert we know today as flan. The ancients had no problem getting organic milk (though it probably wasn’t goat)and eggs. While we may have to work harder, and even consult experts like Leda Meredith (read our interview) to find local organic ingredients, we do have the advantage of serving our flan cold. They would have loved this cool, sophisticated, vanilla-scented custard, with its piquant note of carmelized sugar. It’s a perfect summertime treat for people of any age. Read on for the recipe.
Traditional Spanish Flan
1 and 3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 large yolks
7 Tablespoons sugar
hot water for steaming the flan
Combine the cream, milk, and salt. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean into the cream mixture. Add the bean.
Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. Turn the flame off, cover the pan, and allow it to infuse for 1/2 hour.
Now preheat the oven to 350°F – 180° C. Get your ramekins or mold ready: place them (or it) on a baking pan.
Put the cup of sugar into a medium pan. Allow it to dissolve and caramelize over a medium flame. Keep a sharp eye on it – it takes only a few minutes for the sugar to brown. Once it goes black, it’s bitter and inedible. Break up any chunks with a spoon. As soon as the sugar smells only a little burnt and has a deep orange color, pour the syrup into the mold.
Be very careful – burnt sugar causes painful burns on the skin. It is best to wear gloves. Now tilt the mold so the syrup coats as much of its inside as possible. Let it cool until the 1/2 hour of cream infusing with vanilla is up.
You’ll need to fill up the baking pan with water, so heat the water up in a kettle now.
Whisk the eggs, yolks, and 7 Tablespoons of sugar together in a medium bowl.
Whisk the infused cream into the yolks, gently. Try not to make foam, which will create air holes in the texture of the finished flan (can’t avoid them entirely, but small ones don’t matter).
Pour the custard into the mold through a sieve. Sieving removes the pieces of vanilla bean and the skin that forms on the surface of the cream .
Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come half-way up the mold.
Bake till the center is gently set: 40-50 minutes.
When it’s done, remove the whole thing from the oven, baking pan and all. When the water in the baking pan has cooled, lift the flan mold out and set it to finish cooling on a rack for an hour or two. Then cover and store it in the fridge. Serve the flan cold.
To serve, run a knife around the inner edges. Turn the flan over onto a plate. Shake it gently to loosen it. Lift the mold carefully and watch, entranced, as the caramel syrup runs over the baked cream custard.
Fruited Flan Variations:
Coconut Flan: use 1 can coconut cream instead of the milk. Use only 1 and 1/2 cups whipping cream.
Mango Flan: Add 1 cup sieved, puréed mango pulp and 1 tablespoon rum to the recipe.
More “Slow” egg recipes from Green Prophet:
Photo of flan by Miriam Kresh: www.israelikitchen.com