Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flan: My Love Hate Relationship

I hate flan.

It’s gross. It’s flavorless and has the texture of overcooked jellyfish. If I see it on a restaurant menu, I run in the opposite direction. Who would pay for flan, much less eat it? Blech!!! So one must ask, with such an obvious disdain for flan, why would I ever in my right mind make it? Much less for my very own birthday?

The Answer: Love (and a free cooking class).

The love part comes from the fact that my long-haired, long-term boyfriend thinks flan is the bee’s knees. And yes, despite his poor taste in desserts, I love him. So, flan has found its way into my kitchen repertoire. Well not exactly…

I would have never considered learning how to cook flan just to satisfy my boyfriend’s sweet tooth. In fact, I usually only make desserts that I want to eat. So there is a twist to this tale, and that includes some very Hip Cooks and a certain Pie Expert’s wife (then fiancé). I think Pie Expert’s wife needs her own name so I’m going to deem her –Strawberry Shortcake. She earns this name because she is sweet, adorable, one-hundred-percent irresistible, and well…she’s short. So, Strawberry Shortcake is getting married and for her bridal shower she decides to waive the classic shower shenanigans and does something totally hip instead. She decides to enroll us in an afternoon cooking class with a fun little company called Hipcooks; duly named because they’re hip and they cook – or more accurately: we cook.

The session is about four hours long and in it we learn, cook, and eat a variety of tapas. Each lesson is also sprinkled with fantastic facts about the history of tapas, the best ingredients to use, and lots of laughs. One of the aforementioned tapas was - that’s right – FLAN. Which is actually a desert and not a tapas…but what do I know. So without this afternoon of flan fate, I would never have made flan a part of my kitchen cuisine, and my long-haired long term boyfriend would be custard-less.

So if you want your friends and family to exclaim such wonderful comments as:

“This is Amazing!”
“This is the best flan I’ve ever tasted!”
“This is restaurant quality!”

Then please read the recipe below. And yes, even though my flan has been deemed fantastically fabulous, I still don’t like it. Sure my flan has more flavor than the flan I’ve had in the past, but just cause I made it doesn’t put it on the top of my tower of treats. But then that’s why I have other people to eat it!

(serves 4)

Bakeware Needed:
Four ramekins (¾ cup size)
Square or rectangle cake pan
Heavy sauce pan
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper
Mixing bowls, etc.

For the Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup of orange juice

For the Flan:
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup milk (any kind except skim)
2 eggs
1 yolk
1/3 cup sugar

To Begin With:
1) Preheat your oven at 350 degrees.
2) Arrange four ¾ cup ramekins in the cake baking pan.
3) Prep a sheet of parchment paper (NOT WAX PAPER!!) on a cookie sheet and place near stove.

To Make Caramel:
Safety Note: At no time – and I mean at no time - during the following process should you taste, lick, or test your caramel with any soft fleshy body part. Because no matter how good the caramel looks it will be crazy crazy hot, we’re talkin’ vampire-incinerating hot, and it will scar you for life! You have been warned!
1) In a heavy saucepan melt a cup of sugar over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spoon. Be patient as the sugar melts.
2) When the sugar is melt-y and brown remove from heat for a few moments so it can cool a little bit.
3) With your spoon drizzle the caramel over the parchment paper making swirls, lines, cross hatches, or any lovely design you choose. This does not need to be precise, as you will later cool this and break it into chunks for decoration. If the caramel gets too hard, simply place on heat again and stir till it is runny.
4) Place the caramel back over the heat and add the orange juice. The caramel will seize a bit but just keep stirring till it melts (it will, trust me!).
5) Spoon the remaining caramel into the base of your ramekins.
6) Put cookie sheet of spun caramel in the fridge or freezer.

To Make the Flan:
1) Scald milk and cream in a pan by heating it up until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.
2) While the milk n’ cream are heating, mix together the sugar and egg.
3) Prep what you want to add to the flan in terms of flavor – lemon zest, amaretto, vanilla, pumpkin – whatever you desire. Or don’t add anything extra (I didn’t).
4) Pour the hot milk and cream into the bowl with the sugar and egg and mix. Add your additional flavor ingredients now. Do this quickly because the egg will start to cook a little because you added the hot milk/cream.
5) Pour the mixture over the caramel in your ramekins.
6) Create a water bath around your ramekins by adding water to the cake pan (but not the ramekins). You want to fill the pan so it is about half way up the side of the ramekins.
7) Put pans in the oven (which should be 350 degrees).
8) Cook for aprox. 30 minutes. You want to check the flan when it gets close to 30 minutes, when the flan jiggles it is ready to come out. Think Jell-O for the proper amount of jiggling.
9) Set Flan out to cool, but keep it in its water bath. Be careful because the water will be VERY HOT! The flan will continue to cook a little and set as it cools.
10) Once the flan ramekins are cool enough to pick up with your hands you can put them in the refrigerator. They will need to say in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

To Serve:
1) Using a butter knife cut along the edge of the flan so it will separate from the side of the ramekin.
2) Turn flan over onto a plate. Give it a little jiggle and shake and it will fall out. Allow the caramel syrup to run all over the flan.
3) Add decoration of spun caramel (it’s in the fridge remember!). Simply break off large chunks and stick it into the top of the flan for a dramatic vertical effect. Or if your caramel was a crazy failure add fruit like raspberries or cherries. Or add both!
4) Serve. Eat. Smile.

P.S. I also hate tiramisu, so maybe I should try making that next.

Photos in this post taken by Russell Gearhart Photography
If you live in LA and are interested in HipCooks learn more about them here: Hipcooks Website


  1. I would love a recipe for tiramisu from you! My husband looooooooves it. I, too, am no lover of the flan. I had a bad one about 10 years ago and never returned. I'll just admire the pretty pictures and trust that it was wonderful.

  2. The pictures look great! However going over your recipe no wonder you don't like flan! I am sorry but you are not using the right ingredients of a traditional flan to get the right texture. Unfortunately so many people buy those awful flan prepared mix at the grocery store that is truly horrendous, or they just use the wrong recipe. The recipe for a delicious flan without the texture that you've described (overcooked jellyfish lol) should be: 1 can of condensed milk, 1 can of evaporated milk, 3 eggs, 1 cream cheese bar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Give this a try! I promise you will convert to a flan fan!

  3. This is fabulous !!!! I love how you write things, I'm not a fan of flan, custard tarts, egg tarts,anything yellow and freckily or anything that wobbles either, but other half is (which is probably why he likes me ;o)) - I will give this a go tomorrow ... a fantastic blog that I'm definetely going to follow !!!