Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Vanilla Bean Caramel Flan

About 15 years ago I adapted this recipe from one by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger and it's been my go-to flan recipe ever since. The difference between mine and theirs is that I substituted 1 cup of heavy cream for 1 cup out of 2 cups of half-and-half, and used vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract, to infuse the flan with all those tiny specks of vanilla bean seeds. The texture is incredibly creamy and smooth, yet not too rich or eggy in flavor, and the caramel is, well, better than icing on the cake. 



1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 cup water


2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Make caramel. When dark amber, remove from heat and pour into a 9" round cake pan, swirling a bit up along the sides to 1/4" thickness.

3. Pour any excess caramel back into the pan it was cooked in and add 2 cups milk. Cook over low heat to dissolve excess caramel in the milk, about 1-2 minutes. Pour the warm milk into a bowl and stir in the sugar until melted. 

4. Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks together in a bowl until just combined.

5. To the warm milk and sugar, add the cold half-and-half, beaten eggs, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Strain the mixture and ladle gently over the caramel in the cake pan. 

6. Set flan in a roasting pan. Add boiling water into the pan until it rises halfway up the cake pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until the center just feels firm when pressed gently with fingertips. 

7. Set aside to cool for at least 1 1/2 hours or until room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days. 

8. To serve, run a knife along the inside edge of the pan to loosen the flan. Cover with a platter and quickly invert. Carefully drain excess caramel into a small sauce pitcher and reserve. Serve wedges of flan on dessert plates topped with extra caramel sauce.

Vanilla bean paste, 8 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks, milk and half & half. 

Vanilla bean paste. Ok to substitute with vanilla extract. 

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup of water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Swirl to combine. 

Bring the mixture up to a boil over medium heat. Do NOT stir. 

Continue boiling, without stirring, for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture 
turns an amber caramel brown. 

 Immediately pour the mixture into a 9" cake pan

Using an oven mitt, hold the pan on one side and swirl the hot caramel to coat the sides 
of the cake pan about half way up.

Set the pan aside to cool.  

 In the same pot that the caramel was cooked in, add 2 cups of milk and cook about 1-2 minutes or until the residual caramel has dissolved and the milk is warm.

Pour the warm milk into a bowl and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted.

Stir in the half-and-half.

Add the lightly beaten eggs and whisk lightly to combine.

Stir in the vanilla. 

Strain the mixture through a sieve. 

Gently pour the strained milk and egg mixture over the caramel-lined cake pan, which has been placed into a large roasting pan. 

 Add boiling hot water into the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Carefully place into a preheated 325F oven and bake 50-60 minutes or until the center is springy when lightly touched in the center with your fingertip (do this carefully and quickly, of course, so as not to burn yourself). The flan may seem slightly underdone at this point, but will set up nicely once it's cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or preferably overnight before serving.

To serve, remove from the frig and use a knife to run around the edges of 
the flan to loosen it from the pan.

Place a large serving plate over the flan. 

Invert the pan over the plate.  

Carefully jiggle the pan and the flan should slide right out onto the plate, 
with the caramel cascading over. 

You can see all the lovely flecks of vanilla seed in the flan. 

Cut the flan into wedges, plate, and spoon some of the caramel sauce over each serving.