Tuesday, May 17


My sister got her driver's license.  Yes, this did happen a good 6 months ago, but it's really only affected my life now.  Sure, I no longer have to ferry her around the Bay Area, but apparently going to school (even during post-AP season) is more important than not being stuck at home until a friend can come and get you.  Thankfully, my father has prepared a list of things I can do to stave off the boredom: walk the dog (which is nice), clean the kitchen, do the laundry, glue together that ceramic bowl, take photos of the house so we'll have some kind of document of our belongings in the case of a natural disaster...

it's pretty much winter here

Instead I made flan.  Mostly because it's made with really basic ingredients that I didn't have to go shopping for.  But also because it is delicious.  You'll need a 9-inch round dish that is ovenproof.  And something bigger than that that can hold the dish and enough water to partially submerge the contained flan.

from The Art of Simple Food

1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
3 eggs

In a small pot, pour 1/4 cup water and then sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar in an even layer.  You're going to want to have the rest of the water (another 1/4 cup water) at the ready.  Cook the water and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar caramelizes.  DO NOT BE AFRAID.  I was terrified.  I've never caramelized anything except maybe onions and googling images wasn't helpful either.  My problem was that I used some raw sugar that was kind of brown to begin with.  But you'll know when it has finished.  Just be a little wary of the bubbles.  Anyway, here's what will happen: the whole thing will start to bubble violently.  If it's not heating evenly, swirl everything gently in the pot but don't stir it.  

this is when I took it off the stove...
you can't really tell, but it's golden brown

When the sugar caramelizes, it will turn a rich golden brown color.  When it does this, take it off the heat.  It will keep cooking with the heat of the pan.  Have a wooden spoon or something nearby, plus the 9-inch round glass or ceramic ovenproof dish.  When the sugar and water has turned dark golden brown, step back and pour in the measured water.  It will be a little violent, but have courage.  Stir everything together with the spoon and then immediately pour the mixture into the dish because it's going to start to harden really quickly.  (Side note: IMMEDIATELY after pouring the caramelized sugar from the pot, run it under hot water a couple times because it is going to be ridiculously difficult to clean.  As will that wooden spoon.)  

ready for the water

all the goodness is hardening

This is a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees if you plan to bake immediately.  In another pot, heat the milk and cream over medium heat, but do not let it boil.  Once it is steaming, add 3/4 cup sugar and the vanilla and remove the pot from the heat, making sure to stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.  Let it cool until it is lukewarm.  In the meantime, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks.  Tip: when separating the whites and the yolks, use two different bowls and do each egg one at a time.  That way, if you drop the egg and the yolk breaks, you won't waste all the egg whites that you've already separated.  

Whisk the eggs into the cooled cream mixture.  Pour the custard mixture into the prepared dish.  Place the dish inside a larger oven proof pan and fill with warm water to a depth halfway up the side of the dish.  

ready for the oven

Cover the larger pan with foil, place in the oven, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the custard is just set around the sides, but still jiggly in the center.  Take the flan out of the water bath and let it cool.  Run a knife around the flan to release it.  Cover it with a platter that is large enough to hold the flan and retain the caramel sauce.  Quickly invert the custard onto the dish.  Top the bottom of the baking pan and gently lift it off.  Serve the flan in slices with its sauce spooned on top.


So here's the deal: do you see how little of the bowl is taken up by the flan?  (The smaller of these two dishes cracked so I had to use the larger one.)  So when I inverted the flan... shit went down.  It was definitely delicious and perfect, but it was destroyed.  This is the final product, minus the bits that we ate in order to make it look better...

yeah... but it was really good!

Use a size-appropriate dish if you care about aesthetics.  (But would you really reject aesthetically-displeasing flan?)  Also, this recipe was a little egg-y, or so some people thought.  But all in all, it was fairly easy.

There's a whole convoluted history of flan, the origins of flan, and the etymology of the name(s), but I associate it most closely with Latin America.  And since Cuba is culturally kind of considered Latin American, here's Buena Vista Social Club's "Chan Chan":

Waters, Alice, Patricia Curtan, Kelsie Kerr, and Fritz Steiff. "Flan." The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2007. 372-3. Print.

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