Flan is an elegant, incredibly delicious dessert that is fairly easy to put together. If you have no experience with the hot-water-bath cooking method, be sure to read the instructions carefully so that you have a complete understanding of the process. It isn't rocket science, but it's better to know what to do in advance than try to figure it out as you go.
- First, make a hot water bath for the flan by setting a 9-inch cake pan in a larger pan (like a roasting or broiler pan). Hold down the cake pan so it won't float, and add enough hot water to the larger pan to come three-quarters of the way up the outside of the cake pan. Then remove the cake pan and put the larger pan of water in a preheating 350°F oven while you mix the flan.
- Melt the 1/3 cup sugar directly in the cake pan the flan will be baked in. To melt evenly, hold the pan securely (wear a good oven mitt or use tongs) over or just resting on a burner. Shake and tilt the pan, rather than stirring the sugar. Watch carefully. Once melted, the sugar will caramelize and begin to brown quickly. As soon as it turns golden brown, tilt the pan so that the entire surface is covered. Remove from heat. The caramel will harden and crack, but that's okay.
- Beat together the eggs and the 3/4 cup sugar. Add the salt, water, cinnamon, vanilla, pumpkin and milk. Set the caramel-lined pan in the middle of the hot water pan in the oven. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the cake pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Test doneness by gently pushing custard in center with back of a spoon -- when done a crevice about 3/8 inch deep will form.
- Carefully remove the flan from the hot water and chill at once. (As the flan cools, the caramel dissolves.) When cold, loosen custard edge with a knife, then cover pan with a rimmed serving plate. Holding plate in place, quickly invert. The flan will slowly slip free and the caramel sauce flow out. To serve, cut in wedges, spoon on sauce.
- Makes about 8 servings.
Note: This recipe appeared in the article Puns and Pumpkins.
Total time: 1 Hr