For this New Year’s Day luncheon I decided to bake something “different”. After all the Thanksgiving, graduation & Christmas get togethers I figured family and friends were tired of my usually offering of pralines, brownies and sugar cookies. I polled for suggestion and my nine-year-old niece, Amanda, pleaded for Crème Brulee. She said she just “adores” Crème Brulee. (Insert tweeny scream here.) I think her obsession has something to do with the movie High School Musical or was it Twilight?
Oh well, not important…
In preparation of my first attempt at Crème Brulee I pulled out my well used copy of Dorri Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours, flipped to page 392 and skimmed the ingredient list. Cream: check, Milk: check, Eggs and Sugar: check, check. Blowtorch: che…. Wait a minute,
Umm, No. My teeny, tiny kitchen doesn’t boast a blow torch, or 20 individual Crème Brulee baking dishes I would need for all my lunch guest. Sorry, Amanda, no Crème Brulee for you.
But I happened to flipped to the next page in Dori’s book and found Caramel-Topped Flan. The ingredient list was exactly the same as the Crème Brulee. Humm… Flan - Crème Brulee - Flan. Almost the same thing, right?
So the baking began. It was New Year’s Eve afternoon and I was already baking three other desserts, AND I was peeling 15 pounds of shrimp that would go into our traditional New Year’s Day gumbo. No firecrackers or watching "The Ball" drop for me (or in the case of New Orleans residents we watch The Baby New Year (dressed this year as a Saints Player) drop/float down from atop Jax Brewery).
Making the Flan wasn’t too difficult, but there were a lot of steps which required lots of different pots and pans. Here is everything ready to go: 1) The eggs waiting to be whisked with the sugar. 2) The empty 8” round cake pan waiting to go into the oven to heat-up. 3) The pot with the cream and milk. 4) A roasting pan lined with paper towels (this is for the water bath that the flan cooks in). 5) The pot to make the caramel. 6) And you can’t see it in the picture, but I have a big measuring cup filled with water heating up in the microwave (I don’t have a tea kettle to warm it on the stove). Whew, can you say dirty dishes?
First, the 8” round cake pan goes into a preheated 350 degree oven to warm. Meanwhile, start cooking the caramel. Dorie said to cook it for about 5 minutes till it turned amber colored, but mine took about 8 minutes before it turned golden. From left to right are 1 minute of cooking, 5 minutes and 8 minutes.
Next, remove the hot cake pan from the oven (use a good potholder) and immediately pour the hot caramel into the pan. Swirl the pan to make sure the caramel coats the entire pan. WORK FAST. The sugar cools and hardens surprisingly quick. Set the pan aside and move onto the Flan.
Turn the heat on the pot with the cream and milk and bring it to a boil, meanwhile start whisking the sugar and vanilla into the eggs. Now comes the fun part: while still whisking the eggs, drizzle about ¼ of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Don’t dump all the milk in a once or the eggs will curdle and cook. Keep drizzling milk and whisking until all the milk is incorporated.
After all the milk has been added, skim off the bubbles and foam that your vigorous whisking has churned up.
Put the caramel coated cake pan into the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan. Put the roasting pan into the oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach about halfway up the side of the cake pan. My roasting pan was a little shallow, so I didn’t quite reach the halfway mark.
Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the top is golden brown in patches.
Let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for a least 4 hours. I let mine rest overnight. When ready to serve, run a knife between the flan and the pan, and invert onto a wide lipped serving platter. Make sure the rim of your platter is pretty high. Mine wasn’t high enough and I some of that luscious caramel topping sloshed out.
So how did it taste. Well, Amanda, gave it the thumbs down. It wasn’t Crème Brulee and she wouldn’t even taste it. The other guests thought it was so-so. But my Mom, who is a great lover of Flan, though it was pretty good (she ate all the leftovers). She did say that it needed to be sweeter and need more vanilla extract, but other than that it was pretty good. High praise indeed.
Maybe I’ll try it again one day.