Recently I won a cookbook from Book Giveaways. A Century of Flavor, to be exact. This book showcases Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (I never realized there was so much variety out there), and there are some incredible recipes. Pictures win me over every time when I am considering a cookbook. This cookbook has everything. Lots of desserts, of course, but there are also side dishes, salad dressings, and main dishes. I can't wait to try some of the other recipes.
I love flan. In Brazil, they call it "pudim" (pudding), and pretty much everyone makes it because it just has basic ingredients and it is not that difficult. I really like eating it with the little spoons they have there too (dessert spoons are about as big as a baby spoon). But this isn't a Brazilian recipe, this recipe calls for Mexican vanilla (another favorite of mine). Mexican vanilla has a distinct flavor, and is darker than most vanillas.
The secret ingredient in this flan is lime zest. The hint of lime brings out all of the flavors very nicely. Don't be intimidated by the instructions. This is fairly easy.
Flan Clasico de Vanilla
adapted from A Century of Flavor, contributed by Rick Bayless
1/3 C water
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 C milk
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
4 (1/2x2-inch) strips lime zest (optional)
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla extract *
Place 3/4 C granulated sugar in a small saucepan, and sprinkle the 1/3 C over it. Heat on medium-high heat until boiling. Swirl the pan (do not stir). If necessary, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 3-5 minutes, until it turns a golden color (sometimes it takes longer). Swirl it until it becomes a deep straw color, then remove from heat. Immediately pour evenly into six 6-ounce or four 8-ounce molds (ramekins or other little glass bowls...though you can do this into one large one as well), while tilting the molds to coat the bottom evenly.
Postition rack in center of the oven and preheat to 325. In saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 C sugar, sweetened condensed milk and lime zest. Stir frequently and bring to a simmer. Cover, remove from heat and steep for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the whole eggs and yolks in a bowl. After the 10 minutes, mix the warm milk mixture, a little at a time, into the eggs. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain entire mixture into a large glass measuring cup.
Place the molds in a deep baking pan (roasting pan without the rack works well for this), leaving about 1/2 inch in between each. Pour about 2 inches worth of hot water into the baking pan (avoiding spillage into the molds). pour the custard liquid evenly into the molds. Bake for 50-60 minutes.
Remove from oven when done. Allow to cool while still in the water bath for about 15 minutes or so. Remove molds from the bath, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Use a sharp knife (or toothpick) and scrape along the inside edge of each mold to loosen. Invert over a dessert plate to serve.
1. * Nielsen-Massey published this book and so all of the recipes call for their specific vanillas. If you don't have access to their brand, use what you have that is closest. Mexican vanilla is everywhere.
2. Be careful while simmering the milk mixture. It might not appear like it is scalding, but it could be, so you really need to be stirring as much as you can.
3. My flans baked for the full 60 minutes (maybe even an extra minute or so). To know if it is truly "done", pull out the baking dish. If the custard is still a little sloshy, it needs more time. If it looks firm, you're good to go.
4. My lime zest was done using a fine grater. I think I would add more next time. Maybe about 1/2 TBSP at least, and see if it changes much. It's be fun to experiment with other citrus fruits, or even a raspberry or something.