This wobbly milk-and-egg custard with a crown of caramel makes a memorable finish to a Spanish meal. It is normally prepared in individual metal pots known as flaneras, specially made for the purpose. These can be difficult to find outside Spain, but you can substitute individual-sized ramekins or small custard cups.
For the caramel:
- 3 Tbs. sugar
- 2 Tbs. water
For the flans:
- 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or a few drops of vanilla extract
- 2 whole eggs plus 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 cup (7 oz./200 g) sugar
- Boiling water as needed
1. To make the caramel, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, then cook without stirring until the mixture becomes a golden brown syrup, about 4 minutes.
2. Distribute the caramel evenly among six 1/2-cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) flaneras, ramekins or custard cups, turning each mold to coat it with caramel about halfway up the sides.
3. To make the flans, in a saucepan, combine the milk and the vanilla bean. Place over low heat and heat until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan, about 7 minutes. Do not allow the milk to boil.
4. Place a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 300°F (150°C).
5. In a bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and the sugar until a pale, creamy mousse forms. Add a little of the hot milk, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Add the remaining milk little by little while continuing to whisk. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the prepared molds, dividing it evenly.
6. Place the filled molds in a large baking dish and carefully add boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the molds, creating a water bath.
7. Bake the flans until they have just set but the centers still jiggle just slightly, 50 to 60 minutes. To test, touch the surface of the custard lightly with the tip of a knife; it should come away clean. Remove the baking dish from the oven and lift the molds out of the water. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.
8. To serve, run a sharp, thin knife blade around the inside of each mold, then turn out the custards onto individual plates. Serves 6.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish, by Paul Richardson.
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You had me at vanilla bean!