Become a flan connoisseur — it’s easier than it looks

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

A few years back my grandson decided to take up cooking. His inspiration was a young, male YouTube chef.

My grandson became an instant devotee and followed his recipes to the letter. (Red food coloring in chicken?) I would tease him about his slavish devotion. Still, I was happy that he was developing his culinary skills.

Now it is his turn to have the last laugh. While checking out some recipes, I discovered my own cooking guru. Unlike my grandson’s mentor, mine is a grandmotherly type who speaks in a calm, slow, reassuring voice. All her recipes are from scratch, and she doesn’t blink an eye when saying that something will take five hours to make.

The aim of her videos is to instruct rather than to entertain. I thought she was my own special discovery until I learned that her YouTube channel had 5 million subscribers.

I will also confess that I joined her fan club on Facebook. Every day her faithful students post pictures of their creations using her recipes. I like the group for its inspiration and the fact that all of the comments are kind and helpful. Both successes and failures are applauded.

Recently the group has been taken over with flan fever. I’ve always wanted to make one, but I was a little daunted by the process of creating the caramel.

With the encouragement of my fellow online cooks, I held my breath and took the plunge. Flan has now become my new favorite dessert.

If you aren’t familiar with it, flan is a rich, creamy custard dessert topped with caramel that is popular in Mexico, Spain and many Latin American countries.

Easy to prepare and elegant in presentation, flan makes a great company dessert.

The key to great-looking flan is to let it thoroughly chill before removing it from the pan. Warm flan could collapse onto the plate.

Flan

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil. Using a blender or mixer, mix the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla. Set aside.

In a small, heavy-bottom sauce pan, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the bottom and turn on medium heat. As the sugar starts to melt, sprinkle more sugar over the layer that is melting. Using a spoon or a spatula, gently drag the un-melted sugar into the melted sugar. When all the sugar has melted and turned a golden brown, immediately pour it into an 8-inch cake pan or ramekin, and quickly swirl it around to cover the bottom and a bit on the sides. Let cool about 30 seconds, and then pour in the flan mixture.

Place the pan in a large baking dish or roasting pan, and pour the hot water about halfway up the side of the pan. Place in the oven and bake for 60 to 80 minutes. The flan is done when it’s lightly colored and firm to the touch but not solid. To check, stick the blade of a knife in the center halfway down. The blade should come out clean. Remove the flan from the water bath and let cool on a rack. When cool, refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of four hours.

When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan. Place a plate on the top, then invert, allowing the caramel to flow over the flan.

Helpful tips for fantastic flan

  • If you don’t have an 8-inch cake pan, you can use a Pyrex or any baking dish that holds a quart of liquid. Just be sure it has straight sides, or unmolding the flan may be difficult.
  • Making the caramel may seem like it takes forever, but once the sugar begins to melt, it happens very quickly. You need to pay careful attention to prevent burning.
  • Although it is tempting, resist the urge to unmold the flan before it is thoroughly chilled.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.