OH YES. The holidays are for eating rich, custard-y things. I feel like I say the same thing about summer (hello, old friend ice cream), but the custards of the holidays have warming spices. And without warming spices, we would surely freeze to death. Did you catch that?: If you don’t eat this gingerbread flan, you might die. Dessert = justified.
I grew up around a lot of flan in Texas; I think it’s on every Tex-Mex restaurant dessert menu, but I never reached for it. I’ve never really been a big egg person. My Mom made me fall in love with hard boiled eggs drizzled with butter over toast a few years ago, but other than that, you won’t find me eating too many egg-centric things. Yes, the yolk porn trend in the foodie world is totally lost on me. So is the ‘put an egg on it’ phase. I’d rather have fried tofu on top, thanks.
Yeah, I took a bite off the back. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.
This blog teaches me new things all the time, and one of them is to try desserts that I have previously avoided for fear of their texture. I used to avoid bread pudding because of the eggs, but then I created a bread pudding recipe for my cookbook that is so good, I ate both servings before the photo shoot was even over (oops).
Anyway, I used to assume that avoiding egg-y desserts was just another way to keep the calories in check (or save the calories for lemon bars), so what’s the harm? Answer: ALL THE HARM. Life is short. I must try every dessert out there. If a pastry chef dreamed it up, I want a bite or three. Every time I make caramel, my mind wanders to the French kitchen in which the various stages of sugar crystallization were mapped out. How many chefs did it take to realize the exact temperature of the soft ball stage of sugar? Then, the hard-crack phase? I’m endlessly fascinated by sugar. If you’re in my life, ‘Sugar’ is my common pet name for you.
The life-saving properties of this flan include cinnamon, ginger cloves and nutmeg, but also: molasses. It’s the only sweetener in the actual custard part, and I love its slightly bitter bite. The caramel that pours out on top of the dessert after a quick rest in the fridge overnight is more than enough sweetness for me. If you want it super sweet, substitute brown sugar for the molasses.
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour20 minutes
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk (white reserved for another u][use[/u])
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of ground cloves
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
First, preheat the oven to 325. Have ready 2 6-ounce ramekins and 1 8" square baking dish, preferably made of ceramic or a heavy material (not metal).
In a small saucepan, add the granulated sugar. Cover the pot, and turn the heat to high. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and tilt the sugar gently to help it melt. Set the pan back on the heat and monitor it until all the sugar melts and turns an amber color. Keep a close eye on it--it goes from caramel to burnt very quickly It should take 5-7 minutes.
Once the caramel is amber colored, immediately pour it into two awaiting 6-ounce custard ramekins. It will harden immediately.
Next, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolk, half and half, molasses, spices and vanilla extract. Whisk it well, but you don't want to create too many bubbles. Let the custard set for a few minutes if too many bubbles appear.
Next, strain the mixture into a glass measuring cup with a pour spout. Gently pop any bubbles on the surface, or let it set until most of the bubbles pop.
Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the ramekins.
Set the ramekins in the baking dish.
Turn the sink tap to HOT, and carefully pour 3 cups of hot tap water in the baking dish. It should come half way up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake the custards for 33-36 minutes. The edges will set, and the middles will be ever-so-slightly jiggly. Jiggly like jello, not like milk.
Let the ramekins cool in the water bath for 10 minutes, and then wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The longer the custards sits, the softer the caramel will get so it easily pours over the plate when un-molded.
When ready to serve,run a thin knife around the edge of the ramekins. Quickly turn the ramekin upside down on the plate. Let it sit for a few minutes. If caramel doesn't begin to run out, gently use a knife to pry the custard out.
Christina Lane is the author of 3 cookbooks all about cooking and baking for two. She has scaled down hundreds of recipes into smaller servings so you can enjoy your favorite dishes without the leftovers! Valentine's Day is her favorite holiday.