Over a month ago I got the sudden desire to make a flan for some friends. No reason in particular. I just felt like it. Then someone asked me if this recipe was on my blog. I had to think about it for a little while and realized that I had never done a flan post.
What kind of self-respecting Puerto Rican am I to have never shared the joys of flan with you?
Note that I let a month pass before I made another flan. I am a bad flan-sharer.
But you can’t hold it against me because you too will be a bad flan-sharer. Initially you will think to yourself, “Oh, I will make some flan for my family, friends or co-workers.” But when you get your first taste of this flan, you will end up eating the whole thing while hiding in the closet. Trust me, you will turn into a rabid bad flan-sharer, attacking any hand that reaches out to take any of your flan.
There are many different kinds of flan. Cheese, coconut, pumpkin, vanilla, rum, coffee, chocolate–you think of it, it’s probably been done. I gravitate toward cheese, vanilla or coconut. There are a lot of things that make a flan delicious. The creamy texture, the caramel and for some of us it reminds us of home. Many things can make a flan delicious but, there are just as many things that can make it bad.
Traits of a Bad Flan:
- Strong eggy flavor (So bad!)
- Cheese flan with a lumpy cheese layer
- Burnt caramel
- Grainy texture or air pockets
- Skin. Skin is bad.
I am going to show you how to avoid making a bad flan and how to make a flan that will make you a bad flan-sharer.
When making a cheese flan, you want to make sure all your ingredients are room temperature. This means your eggs and cream cheese, too. If your cream cheese is room temperature and your eggs are cold, your cheese will lump up and make your flan miserable. (See 2nd bullet point above.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Have a 9-inch round cake pan standing by.
Add sugar to a small sauce pot over med-high heat.
Don’t leave the sugar unattended, but don’t mess with it for a while. Wait until the sugar is beginning to melt and then stir. It will clump up at first, but do not stress. Just keep stirring it.
Continue to stir and the lumps will start to melt. If it’s getting too hot or brown, just lift it off the burner for a bit while still stirring. When the sugar starts to melt this can go fast, so don’t walk away or it will burn. (See 3rd bullet point above.)
Continue to stir and melt the sugar until smooth and a deep golden brown color.
Immediately pour the caramel into the cake pan. You will want to pour throughout the cake pan and not just in one spot.
You want to coat the bottom of the pan as evenly as possible. Again, move quickly because the caramel sets pretty quickly. Set the pan aside until ready to use.
Let’s move on to the custard.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk together until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides as needed.
Switch the whisk to the paddle attachment. (I took the picture before making the switch.) You do not want to use the whisk attachment because this will incorporate air, making air bubbles in your custard. (See 4th bullet point above.) Beat in eggs one at a time until well combined.
There is a debate about how many eggs makes a good flan. Egg quantities can range from 4-8 eggs. That is a pretty big spread. Personally I think any more than 6 and you are begging for an eggy flan. Eggy flans are bad…very bad. (See 1st footnote)
When your cream cheese and eggs are smooth and creamy, beat in evaporated milk, sweet condensed milk and vanilla.
Although we’ve taken steps to avoid having cream cheese lumps, I am going to suggest we take one more step to guarantee a lumpy cheese layer-free flan. (See 2nd bullet point above.) Pour the custard mixture into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. This will take out any stray cheese lumps.
Pour the stained custard into the caramel coated pan. The caramel may make a cracking sound. That is completely normal.
Bake the flan in a water bath for 1 hour. The flan should be set and just beginning to brown on top. The browner it gets on top, the more skin you will end up with. And skin is bad. (See 5th bullet point above.)
Let the flan cool out of the water bath and in the pan for about 5 minutes. Run a knife along the edge to release the flan.
Invert on to a large rimmed platter. I say a rimmed platter to contain the caramel. DO NOT invert this into a flat cake stand because the caramel will just run off the edge. Not that I ever did that….
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Overnight is best.
Now take the flan that you made for your family, friends or co-workers and hide in a closet. Trust me, this is a dessert that you will not want to share. When you dig into it, it should be smooth, creamy, bubble, lump and skin free. Very close to the texture of a really creamy cheesecake, but it’s better than cheesecake because it’s flan!