|In their little ramekins|
|Plopped on the plate, bathed in its caramel juices.|
And the recipe. Sounds frightening but you can do it! And it is sooooo worth it!
The Perfect Flan
This was a late minute addition to the collection. I tried this recipe from a magazine and it lived up to the title. It is simple and elegant. Even if you're on a diet, treat yourself once in a while with something as superb as this.
1 cups of whipping cream
1 cup of milk (do not use lowfat or nonfat)
pinch of salt
1/2 of a vanilla bean split lengthwise (or 2 teaspoons of extract)
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of water
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
7 tablespoons of sugar
Put six empty 3/4 cup ramekins in the oven at 150˚ F to warm them.
Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in another heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber, brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the pan occasionally. It takes about 10 minutes.
WARNING: This is a tricky and possibly dangerous procedure. When brushing down the sides of the pan, the hot sugar syrup will spatter a bit and can cause a burn. If it gets in your eye, it hurts a lot. Be careful! Also, when the water is all boiled out of the mixture and it begins to caramelize, it proceeds very quickly and is not easy to control. Watch it closely. The time from a good amber colour and a nice caramel flavour to a brown colour and a burnt taste is very short. If you burn it, start again; it's only a cup of sugar and a burnt syrup will spoil the flan. Use a bit lower heat; it takes longer but will be easier to regulate.
Quickly pour the caramel into the six warmed cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts to keep from burning your hands, immediately tilt and roll each ramekin to coat the sides. You have to work very quickly as the sugar will solidify as it cools. Set the ramekins into a large 2 inch deep baking pan.
Position the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350˚ F. Combine the cream, milk and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream mixture and add the bean too. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat being very careful not to scald the cream. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. If you use vanilla extract, simply warm the cream mixture until it shows the first sign of steaming, add the extract and use directly.
Whisk the eggs, egg yolk and the 7 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl, just until blended. Gradually and gently whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture without creating lots of foam. Pour the custard through a fine sieve into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly (the mixture will fill the ramekins). If you don't sieve the custard, an unpleasant surprise encounter with a chalaza may spoil this otherwise devine dessert. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake until the centres of the flans are gently set, about 40 minutes. Transfer the flans to a cooling rack. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Cover individual ramekins with stretch wrap and refrigerate. It's best to make this four or five days ahead so the caramel has time to completely dissolve into the custard.
Before serving, bring the flan to room temperature. This can be done using a microwave oven, if you wish. To serve, run a small sharp knife around the flan to loosen it. Hold the ramekin in the palm of one hand and put a plate face down on the ramekin, holding it there firmly with the other hand. Turn them over quickly. Holding the plate and ramekin (now face down) firmly in both hands, shake gently to release the flan. If the flan refuses to let go its hold on the cup, use one abrupt downward snapping motion to release it. Carefully lift off the ramekin allowing the syrup to run over the flan. This dish is heavenly, but is definitely not diet food.