How does one describe flan to someone who has never had it? It’s technically a custard, like creme brulee, but it’s texture is different. It’s literally dripping with caramel flavor, much like dulce de leche, but without all the gooeyness. Perhaps you’ll just have to make it yourself and see. This recipe is from one of my students from Spain, her family recipe she received from her mother. I’ve shared it here with her permission.
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a saucepan, place the sugar over medium high heat. As the sugar begins to melt, whisk it gently, combining the melted part with the dry part. Once all the sugar is melted and a deep amber color, remove it from the heat. Let cool for 2-3 minutes, then add 3-4 tablespoons of water and whisk until combined. This part can be tricky, but the sugar WILL eventually dissolve into the water. Heat it back up over medium heat if necessary. Pour the mixture in the bottom of 4-6 ramekins, rotating each one to coat the sides. Let cool.
In a small saucepan, place the vanilla bean and the milk over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to boil, remove it from the heat, cover, and let steep for 15-20 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until lemon yellow. Once it’s cooled, very slowly strain the milk into the egg yolks, taking care not to go too fast or the yolks will curdle. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold the whites into the batter. Divide the mixture between the ramekins.
Place the ramekins into a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about an hour, or until the center doesn’t jiggle. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place the ramekins in the refrigerator overnight to set.
When you’re ready to serve it, let the flan to come to room temperature (an hour or so on the counter should be fine. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen it. Place a plate that’s just slightly larger than each ramekin on top of the dish, then quickly and carefully flip it upside down. Remove the ramekin and serve.