Traditional Caramel Flan (also known as crème caramel) is a rich, sweet custard topped with caramel sauce. It may look fancy, but you can make it in just six easy steps!
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Growing up, my mother’s baked custard – a simple mixture of eggs, sugar and milk – made me feel loved in a way few things could. I remember watching her carefully slide the big aluminum pan of hot water into the oven, then gently place the glass dish of custard mix into it and shut the oven door. Then I would hover over the steamy oven, endlessly checking the time, while an excruciatingly long hour ticked away.
Toward the end of the baking, she would occasionally open the oven to test it for doneness with her favorite paring knife, shake her head and slide it back into the cloud of steam. When she was finally satisfied that it was done, she would pull it out, set it on a wire rack to cool, and tell me we couldn't have any until after dinner.
But it was all worth the wait. Each spoonful was a small, regal bite of perfection as it melted over my tongue in sweet, creamy satin bliss. I couldn't get enough.
Then I grew up and met Flan, Custard’s sexy Latin cousin.
Flan... caramelly brown, sensually sweet, and just a little mysterious - it was love at first bite. Now don't get me wrong: I still love a good home-cooked custard in the cold winter months, or when I'm feeling blue, but Flan… well, Flan just makes me tingle all over.
Sweet without being cloying and smooth in all the right ways, flan is far easier to make than you might think. There are, however, some tricks I've learned that can [literally] make or break your flan.
Tips for Making Perfect Caramel Flan
- Making the caramel - Don't sweat it if there are a few very small lumps in your caramel. Even after making this 100 times, my caramel had a few this time as a result of my running around my kitchen trying to Blog things at the same time I was making it. Not a problem: small one lumps will just melt and disappear when the flan bakes. Just try to avoid the big ones.
- Pouring the caramel - The pan you pour your caramel into must be hot so that the caramel doesn't set up before the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. (Hence the empty pie plate in the oven in Step 1.) Once poured, it is totally OK to set it aside for as long as you need. Don't worry if the caramel cracks as it cools: it will all come together when you baked the flan.
- Putting the flan in the oven - Put the large pan into the oven first, then set the custard pan in it. If you have a sliding rack, make sure everything is slid in at this point. Finally, add 1-inch of hot water to the outer pan.
- Unmolding Flan from pan - Allow the flan to cool for Exactly 10 minutes before flipping. No more, no less.
Perfect Caramel FlanPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- Put an empty 8” or 9” glass pie dish into the cold oven and preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C).
- In a small stainless saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-low heat. Shake occasionally to distribute sugar evenly. You may slightly stir with a wire whisk while cooking, but don’t overdo it or the sugar will crystalize and clump. Continue to brown the sugar until it becomes a medium-dark golden brown.
- Remove the hot pie dish from the oven and immediately pour in the caramelized sugar, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Set aside.
- In a blender, combine sweetened condensed milk, cream, milk, eggs and vanilla and blend on high for about a minute.
- Put a large pan or casserole dish (one big enough for your pie dish to easily sit inside of) into the oven. Set the pie dish with the caramel in the bottom into the larger pan. Carefully pour the blended mixture over the caramelized sugar.
- Add 1-inch of very hot water to the outer pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.
- Remove the pan from oven. Remove the flan from hot water bath and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Place a large plate on top of the flan, and Very Carefully flip it over. Gently tap the side of the dish to encourage the flan to release. Carefully lift the plate off the flan. If your flan is kind of wonky on the plate, gently push it over a little at a time with a spatula to center it. (Don't try to pull it.)
- Serve warm, or refrigerate and serve cold.
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Taking a Closer Look:
Step 2: In a small stainless saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-low heat. Shake occasionally to distribute sugar evenly. You may slightly stir with a wire whisk while cooking, but don’t overdo it or the sugar will crystalize and clump. Continue to brown the sugar until it becomes a medium-dark golden brown.
Steps 5 & 6: Put a large pan or casserole dish (one big enough for your pie dish to easily sit inside of) into the oven. Set the pie dish with the caramel in the bottom into the larger pan. Carefully pour the blended mixture over the caramelized sugar.
You may notice that I've made one large flan and two small ones. I did this for two reasons: (1) I know from experience that this recipe makes slightly more than my pie dish can hold, and (2) small flans tend to be more photogenic.
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