This is a caramel dessert that every pastry chef needs to know. It has a lighter consistency and a socky texture and it’s all about the caramel with the caramel base. To start this off get ½ a cup of regular granulated sugar use a wide nice saucepan and to the sugar add 2 to 3 tablespoon of water to create a wet caramel which is fantastic. Making caramel like this helps to prevent crystallization from forming. If you make a dry caramel which is just sugar without water what happens is that the sugar starts to melt and caramelize evenly and it creates this crystal chains and the entire pot becomes crystalize and you have to start the process over again.
Easy way to make this caramel and prevent crystallization from forming is to actually use the pot lid. So in the initial stage of the caramel when it is a simple sugar syrup place the lid on top to encourage steam which is going to clog on the top of the lid and that condensation that drip down of liquid is going to actually brush away any crystals that might form on the perimeter of the pan.
Every once in a while you can always remove the lid and see if the sugar is melting nice and evenly always swirl your pot never stir it with a spoon or spatula at the beginning stage because it will form crystal on your utensil and when you reintroduce it to that caramel it will start off the chain reaction. So swirl put the lid and it will take between 5 to 10 minutes to create really wonderful dark caramel. The colour will give us fantastic flavour in the end so after a few minutes, about three at this point remove the lid because the caramel is starting to turning colour at this point swirl the pan to get caramelization nice and even and smells nice and nutty you want to make sure you are cooking the caramel to a dark rich colour.
In the recipe, you are told to cook the caramel to an amber colour so just go a little bit further when cooking in a dark saucepan for it to be dark amber in colour until you smell a little. Once it is done turn the heat off and pour it off immediately into a 9 by 2 inch round baking pan now take the time and be very careful and while the caramel is hot just swirl it around the pan to cover as much of the pan as you could possibly can but this is a thin coating of caramel so it might not completely cover the pan but as best as you can and set it aside to cool.
Be careful because once you pour the caramel to the pan it will heat it up. Once the caramel cools start making the custard base. Pour your milk into a large saucepot and when you are making a flan the main difference in terms of the custard you are making as opposed to the crème Brule is that it is not as rich and has a substantial amount of eggs or egg whites in the custard base so that you can turn the custard un the pan and it will hold up more easily have more structure.
Kind of low-fat dairy and more eggs so to the milk add granulated sugar and heat it on medium heat to dissolve some of the sugar that is added into the milk and bring the temperature to 160 degrees to scold the milk which will help to denature the protein into the milk and that will give you a really silky texture in the end but do not boil it because if you do you have the risk of taking the proteins and strangling them and it will give you a grainy texture. While it is heating mix together your eggs. In a bowl crack your eggs and to the whole eggs add egg yolks and sugar and whisk it together and a pinch of salt it is important to add the salt to balance all the flavour if you want to add any flavour just infuse it into your milk mixture.
Once the milk reaches the temperature you can begin the tempering process take the hot mixture and gently stream it into your eggs and be careful not to scramble the eggs. Add the hot ingredient into your eggs while whisking it to bring to temperature without scrambling then. Once you have a good portion of the milk in the egg you can stream the rest. Now add in vanilla to the mixture and whisk it together and now you are ready to fill your caramel lined baking sheet.
The custard is ready and now add it into your lined baking sheet. If you want you could strain your custard mixture it will fish out any little bit of egg whites maybe haven’t been dissolved in your custard but I think this is totally fine and pour it right into the baking sheet and make sure your oven is preheated to 325F with the wire rack at the centre of the oven and what you want to do is fill a roasting pan to about 2 inches of water and leave it in for about 30 minutes so it heats up. Cook the flan in the gentle water bath and it helps the temperature of the custard to increase so that the mixture will set but it does it over a long period of time now this flan will take 50 minutes to 60 minutes or maybe a little bit longer until there is a jiggle at the centre.
After 50 minutes take it out and when there is a slight jiggle at the very centre of the custard it is done. Do not worry that it is not done. At this time remove the flan from the water bath and cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Once at room temperature put it in the fridge to be nice and cold and firm then you will be ready to serve. It is good to make it a day in advance once it is nice and chilled remove it out of the pan by loosening it from the edge using a flexible knife and glide it around the outside of the flan apply the generous amount of the pressure on the pan so as you do not get any unsightly marks.
Use a cake stand or dish about an inch or two wide and something that has a lip. Flip the cake stand over the baking pan and pick both them up and give it a flip and be quick and you should be able to hear it and then remove the baking tin. Then cut a slice and enjoy. The flan is firm but it has a nice soaking texture.
For the Caramel;
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
For the Custard;
- 4 cups (1000ml) whole milk
- 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar
- 5 large whole eggs, plus 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract