December 28, 2010

To Try Tuesday - Vanilla Bean Flan

I always go crazy during the holiday season when all of the baking magazines hit the shelves.  I just cannot seem to resist, even though I tell  myself I really should show some restraint.  There is just something about seeing all of those dazzling cookies, cakes, and other treats that gets my attention every time.

Of the stash I purchased one of them was Popular Plates Holiday Baking - Easy Recipes from America's Great Chefs.  Now whilst I might argue that a few chefs in this magazine might not quite qualify for one of "America's Great Chefs" there were a couple of recipes that I immediately flagged to try.

One of the flagged recipes was for a flan. The recipe is by Ingrid Hoffman from the Food Network. I don't know about you but I love a good flan, and I find it hard to believe that I have never tried making one.  I love the contrasting taste of the deep intense caramel against the creamy silkiness of the custard.  This one was a little different because it had cream cheese in the custard base.  Since I had some left over cream cheese that needed to be used up I decided that this would be my To Try recipe.

Now a heads up for all of you.  Rule #1 - Do not, under any circumstances, get the boiling caramel on you hands or this will happen.

My owie
I am usually so careful about these things, but after wiping up some spilled caramel from the side of a ramekin with a paper towel, the towel accidentally fell and landed on my hand.  I quickly got the caramel off and put my hand under running water but the damage was already done.  Caramel 1, Felice 0.  It was only a small burn so I put aside the dull ache and soldiered on.

Hot bubbling sugar

You will need to move quickly with this caramel because there is a fine line between "golden reddish-brown" and burnt.  I would advise that you take the caramel off just as it is hitting the later stages of golden brown as the pan is still hot and the caramel will continue to cook as you are ladling it into the ramekins.

As per the recipe I let the cream cheese, eggs, and milk all come to room temperature before proceeding.  I found it very hard to get the cream cheese and eggs mixed into a smooth batter.  There seemed to be little lumps of cream cheese in the mix that would just not blend in.  I decided to keep adding all of the ingredients and then check my consistency at the end.  After adding the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk they were still there so I strained the mixture to remove them before spooning it into the ramekins. Oh, and another word of warning - I was using my KitchenAid, and even with it on the lowest speed, the mixture sloshed everywhere.  I quickly grabbed my shield guard and they helped a little.  Part of me thinks that it might be easier to make these flans with a hand mixer. My ramekins were a little smaller than the suggested 3 1/2-inch ramekins so I ended up with 12 flans.  The more the merrier!

I found that some of my caramel stuck to the bottom of the ramekins as it had hardened like toffee.  To overcome this problem when plating the flans, I boiled some water and poured it in a shallow bowl.  I then ran a knife around the top of the ramekin to loosen the custard, making sure the knife reaches from the top of the flan all the way to the base.  Then dip the bottom of each ramekin in the hot water for about a minute.  Place a serving plate over the top and, whilst holding on to the plate and the ramekin, turn it upside down.  Shake it hard once and the flan should pop out and the caramel will pour over the sides.  I then used the leftover hot water to soak my ramekins because they are a pain to clean with that hardened toffee in the bottom.  Thank goodness this flan tastes so good so I am willing to do the cleanup it takes afterward.

Vanilla Bean Flan

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  1. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, stir the sugar occasionally, being careful not to get any grains stuck against the sides of the saucepan, until it has all dissolved. Swirl the saucepan every minute until the sugar becomes a golden reddish-brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Equally divide the caramel into 10 to 12 (3 1/2-inch) ramekins and set aside.
    Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. 
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the eggs on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until completely incorporated. Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk and vanilla paste/extract and continue to beat together until everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  3. Ladle the custard over the caramel into the ramekins filling them up to 1/2-inch from the rim. Place a kitchen towel in a deep baking dish or roasting pan and place the ramekins in 2 rows on top of the towel. Place the baking dish in the oven and using a pitcher, pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to get water in the ramekins. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the flan is just set, about 30 minutes. When you tap the edge of the ramekin the flan should still wobble in the center. 
  4. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil and let the ramekins cool slightly. Using tongs remove the ramekins from the water and set on a towel to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. 
  5. Once cooled completely, the flan can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before un-molding and serving. To serve, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the ramekin to loosen the flan, and then invert onto a plate. 
Adapted from this recipe by Ingrid Hoffman.


  1. Sorry about your injury, but your flan looks great!

  2. Ouch! I have done the same - but it wasn't an accident for me :P

    The flan looks lovely.

  3. I have actually had flan on the brain recently. I'm glad you posted a recipe; now I have an excuse to go for it! ^_^ I don't own any ramekins, though...should I invest in some, or is there something I can use instead?

  4. This looks luscious, but I am so sorry to hear about your hand. Sugar burns can be very painful. I hope you have a better day today. Blessings...Mary

  5. Great job on the flan! Vanilla bean paste has so much flavor.

  6. Oh wow..that is wonderful recipe, and amazing photos! I am so sorry about your hand!

  7. Ouch! Boiling sugar burns are the worst but the resulting flan looks worth the pain. ;-)

  8. This looks great! I will have to try it. Sorry to hear about your burn. Vitamin E and Aloe may help with the healing.

  9. Beautiful dish! But sorry about the burn...ouch!

  10. Ouch! I'm sorry you hurt yourself :(. You're not alone...I have knife marks and burns all over my hands, too.
    But the flan looks wonderful!

  11. Nice picture Felice!!! Love the blue background and your lighting is perfect! I would love some of this, and I'm not even a fan of flan... I think I might have to rethink that opinion!! Nicely done!!

  12. Dnag! Kitchen burns are the worst! The flan looks great, though! will admit. I am intimidated by making candy and cooked syrups ... perhaps this should be my challenge for the new year!

  13. It looks great. Hope your hand is healing and that it was worth it.

  14. Looks just like in some good restaurant :) Really nice flan

  15. Ouchies! You poor thing! I winced in sympathy whe I saw that picture (been there done that :( ). The flan looks amazing though-fantastic job! :D And Happy New Year to you Felice! :)

  16. Ooo.... the flan looks delish! Thanks for the tips as well. hehe... Hope you don't repeat the same thing again. Wishing you a Happy New Year. God blessed!
    Cheers, KRisty

  17. you got off easy - boiling caramel is hotter than lava I believe - I love a good flan and this looks like a good one....

  18. Looks wonderful (that is everything except that nasty burn!). I haven't made flan since pastry school and your post has me intrigued to try it again! Happy New Year!

  19. Ugh! I can totally feel your pain. My recovering from a microplane injury which while different totally sucks too!

    I've never even considered flan but it seems pretty manageable. Your photo looks great.

  20. What a wonderful dessert!! I love custards of any type, and your flan looks amazing! Congrats on your top 9 post today!!

  21. I have never made flan. This looks delicious. I will definitely make it soon. Thanks!

  22. Congratulations on the Top 9 today! What a way to start off the New Year!
    I love the way the caramel drips down the sides of flan. Your pictures are gorgeous! Hope that your finger is better.

  23. Sorry you burned your hand! Your flan looks amazing though! Thank you for sharing the recipe! Happy new year!

  24. This flan looks absolutely amazing! Glad you kept at it, even after the caramel incident!

  25. Congrats on top 9 at Foodbuzz!! Sorry about the burn...ouch!!!

  26. Oh, no! Sorry about your hand. :( The flan looks great, though. I can never resist at the local Mexican restaurant, and I'd be all over yours!

    Oh, and Flour cookbook plus pineapple at the ready definitely means you're fated to make Pineapple Upside-down Cake. ;)

  27. OUCH! I had a similar accident to me when I waas making my flan. unfortunately, it didn't turn out as nice as yours.
    I don't understand how to prevent my caramel from sticking to my ramekins.

    Is there a special technique? even the flan stuck to my ramekins. It was delicious nonetheless


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