Cinco de Mayo, that faux-holiday of monstrously Americanized proportions, fell upon me with a cleaver of inspiration, vigorously chopping away any doubt as to what I would cook for friends coming over on Saturday. Perhaps it wasn’t as intense as that, but when the husband asked if I’d rather go out to eat or have them over, the insane nutter butter masochistic soul that I am instantly chose HOME! Partly I just like to have cute little toddlers to play with (and they have one of the most adorable and cunning rascals), and partly the pseudo-Mexicana bug bit me and I just felt like cooking.
What resulted was 4 hours of super multitasking: marinating, mixing, sauteing, boiling, baking, chopping, roasting, and sweating. But my goodness it was worth it: fresh salsa, my corny bean mash, Spanish rice, spicy chicken fajita-style atop roasted peppers, and of course dessert. So what better way to shout out my Latin American love then with another recipe I picked up south of the Border: a simple but luscious flan.
Flan was probably the easiest recipe I picked up in my language school culinary expedition, so it was both an easy decision and an easy task. I decided to go a slightly different route by making individual cupcake-sized flans, but alas I kind of scorched my melted sugar caramel concoction, so my flan was missing one key element. Because of that, I whipped in coconut to add a bit of Alya flare. I think it worked. The fact that the husband’s friend ate 2 (or was it 3?) might indicate it worked. You decide.Commit this recipe to memory. It’s that easy, and that worth it.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 can evaporated milk (I use low fat)
- 1 can condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup coconut flakes (sweetened)
I’m giving the conventional directions along with my slight variations so you can have the original recipe at your fingertips.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a saucepan (or directly in your 9″ baking pan) pour all the sugar and melt it atop the stove. Be careful not to burn the sugar but just watch until it turns a very light amber color. I did not initially do this, as I prepped a cupcake pan instead with cupcake liners. If you melted it in a saucepan, the pour it into your baking dish once complete.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture directly into the dish on top of the sugar. I divided my mixture evenly into 12 cupcakes. Now the only tricky part. Place the round baking dish (or even individual ramekins if you are using those) into a larger baking dish with high sides. Very carefully pour hot (not boiling) water into the large pan so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the flan baking dish, but make sure not to spill water into the flan mixture.
Gently place this into your oven, and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out smoothly but it doesn’t look too firm. The top should be slightly golden, but again, be careful not to overbake. I placed my cupcake pan onto a large cookie sheet (with relatively high sides) and poured water into the sheet. Also, as a result of smaller individual flans, I baked for about 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, delicately lifting the dish out of the water bath, and run a nice along the sides. Place a plate/dish on top and invert your flan onto the plate, lightly tapping all around to ensure complete removal. You should discover an exquisite golden flan dripping with a sweet layer of melted sugar all on top.
I intended to make a caramel sauce to drizzle on top, but my first attempt failed and I didn’t have time to make another batch. No matter. The coconut was a special touch, adding both crunch and unique flavor to an otherwise classic dish.