Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sabado Gigante Part I: Flan Brûlée

And the winner for best jiggly dessert is flan! Take that jello!
This past Saturday, we had some tough decisions to make. Without college football on, what were we to do with our day? After some most tasty recon at a nearby taco truck, we decided to use our energy (thanks to the two naps I'd taken since Friday night) to host a fajita night (stay tuned for portobello mushroom and gardein fajitas with two fancy salsas). Since I made tres leches the last time we had a Mexican night, I determined I should go with the next greatest hispanic dessert: flan. I mulled the many recipes out there, but it ended up being a no-brainer once I found Susan Feniger's (of Street and Kaya Toast fame) take.

Flan Brûlée
Adapted from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken
Time: 150 minutes (plus cooling)

1 1/2 cups sugar (plus extra for the end)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Equal amount of whole milk (use cans for measuring)
8 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp Amaretto
1 orange, sliced 
1 pint strawberries, halved

I was most skeptical that this would be able to come out after baking.
A water bath as seen in science!
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Make the caramel by heating the sugar in a medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to melt. Then lower the heat to low until it finishes melting and browning. 
  3. Pour the caramel over the bottom of a 3 quart baking dish (preferably more oval and shorter than the one I used). Tilt the dish so the caramel spreads evenly, but do this quickly because it will harden rapidly.
  4. Gently whip the eggs in a large bowl until smooth.
  5. Add the condensed milk, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt and amaretto and whisk until smooth.
  6. Strain the mixture into your baking dish to remove any of the unmixed egg.
  7. Set the dish in a warm water bath covering at least halfway up the flan.
  8. Loosely cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.
  9. Bake for 90 minutes to two hours or until the center feels slightly firm agains the touch. 
  10. Remove from the water bath and cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
  11. Sprinkle sugar on top of the flan and harden with a butane torch.
  12. Carefully remove the flan from the baking dish by covering with a large plate and flipping over.
  13. Garnish with oranges and strawberries and serve.
A terribly unappealing looking skin formed on the bottom. (I was very shallow when it came to my decidedly not shallow, giant flan.)
I was a little too confident going in to my first foray with flan. About half an hour after putting it in the oven, I realized the shape of the baking dish was probably just as important as the volume. Suddenly, my super tall flan seemed highly impractical and likely to bake poorly. After another hour of pacing uncontrollably, I was finally ready to check the flan. The top had started to become firm, but the insides were still a lake of eggyness. Following several voodoo sacrifices and another half hour of baking, the insides finally firmed up, and the flan was ready to come out. Sadly, the top was now slightly overbaked and a skin had formed. Determined, I set about to correct this by fighting fire with, well, fire.
So I fixed it with fire!
The decision to brûlée the bottom of the flan served two purposes. It helped distract from the skin (with both taste and texture), and it helped make up for the lack of caramel on top due to the shape of the dish. Plus, it was pretty fun to play with a torch. The real danger was only just beginning, as I now had to flip the flan over without destroying it (seeing how I'm terrible at flipping something as simple as eggs, I wasn't hopeful).
You've just been brûléed!
After some minor side scraping with a knife, I was able to successfully release the deliciousness. The extra baking didn't leave much time for it to chill in the fridge, so I had to serve it slightly warm (trust me when I say it's even better after sitting in the fridge overnight). Despite this, it was still one of the most incredible flans I've ever had (and I've had my fair share of flans thanks to my grandmother). The middle was splendidly juicy and bouncy, which went perfectly with the caramel top and crisp brûléed bottom. Of all the flavors, the amaretto was the star to help set this apart from your typical flan, and a subtle hint of orange from the garnish helped provide a fabulous finish.
Just when I thought the flan couldn't get any more awesome, it turned into pac-man!

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