I remember sneaking spoonful's of my mom’s flan from our basement refrigerator as a kid. I just loved that silky, cold custard and caramel flavor. That recipe seems to have gotten lost (maybe in our move from New Jersey to Boston), but I have been trying my hardest to re-create it. I’ve finally come very close and this delicious dessert reminds me of my childhood.
In France, this dessert is called ‘crème caramel’ and what the French call ‘Parisian flan’ is actually a denser, eggier custard in a pastry shell.
This recipe is unique because it uses a loaf pan and the flan is then cut in slices. Some flan recipes call for evaporated and condensed milk, but I like that this one only uses whole milk. I know that vanilla beans are expensive so you can leave them out, but after trying a few recipes, my husband and I both agreed that the vanilla flecks really did add something special. The flan is absolutely delicious on its own, but I also like to serve it with a tart fruit such as raspberries or blueberries or with these earthy, baked plums.
Active time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Need: Loaf pan + baking pan, blender or immersion blender
*Flan needs to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours before unmolding
¾ cup (155 g) + 1 cup (220 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) water
1 vanilla bean (optional)
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
2 strips of lemon zest
Pinch of salt
6 large eggs
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the caramel: Pour ¾ cup (155 g) sugar and ¼ cup (60 ml) water into a saucepan. (I like to use a saucepan with a light-colored inside so I can see the caramel change color easily). Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Once it starts to boil, do not stir. Let boil until it starts to change color (and become fragrant). Tilt the pan a little so it caramelizes evenly. Take off the heat when the mixture turns a deep amber (not too deep!). Mine usually takes about 15 minutes, but watch the pan carefully because once the mixture starts to turn golden, it can quickly go too far.
Immediately pour the caramel into a loaf pan and tilt to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside.
Heat oven to 325° F (165° C).
If using a vanilla bean, use a paring knife to split the bean down the middle lengthwise. Using the dull side of the knife, scrape the little vanilla seeds out of the bean and into a large microwaveable bowl or saucepan. Add the milk, 2 strips of lemon zest, 1 cup (220 g) sugar and pinch of salt. Heat over low heat (either in the microwave or on the stovetop), stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts. Set aside.
In a blender (or using an immersion blender in a pitcher), blend the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth.
Remove the lemon strips from the milk mixture. With the blender running, slowly pour the milk mixture into the eggs and blend until smooth. It’s okay if it’s a little frothy.
Place the caramel-lined loaf pan in a larger baking pan. Pour the blended milk and egg mixture into the loaf pan. The liquid should go almost up to the top. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it comes about halfway up the loaf pan (makeshift water bath/bain-
marie). Carefully place the baking pan in the lower third of the oven.
Bake for about 60-70 minutes. The flan should be set, but still jiggly. Remove the flan from the water bath and let cool completely, 30-45 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 hours (up to 2 days). It will become firmer and the caramel will soften.
To unmold, gently run a thin knife around the edges. Place a large, flat plate or platter on
top of the pan and holding the pan together with the platter, carefully flip them over. You should hear a gentle ‘whoosh’ sound as the flan is released from the loaf pan onto the platter. Serve chilled slices of the flan with fresh berries or other not-overly sweet fruit such as these baked plums. Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
And bon appétit!