flan caramelisado (custard with caramel topping)

Years ago, my Mexican aunt shared this, her favorite flan recipe. The recipe is foolproof if you carefully follow the instructions, and it is so delicious.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1½ cups sugar, divided
6 eggs
3½ cups milk
1 cinnamon stick, preferably canela or Mexican cinnamon
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
Cold unsalted butter, for buttering custard cups

Caramelize ½ cup sugar in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is melted and browned. Pour immediately into the bottoms of 10 to 12 well-buttered 4-ounce custard cups.

Beat eggs until well-mixed with a simple whisk. Gradually add the remaining cup of sugar, beating after each addition to dissolve the sugar.

Do not beat until foamy.

Heat the milk with the cinnamon stick until warm. Add milk to egg flan mixture, stirring to combine well. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Pour into the caramel-lined custard cups. Set cups on a cloth towel in a 10 x 14 pan (or one large enough to hold the custards) filled with hot water and bake in a 350˚F oven for 35 minutes, or until they are slightly bubbled up and barely jiggle when the water bath pan is shaken a bit. (I prefer to not insert a knife, as it will make a hole. However, an inserted knife should come out clean when done.) Overbaking is a popular problem. Do not bake past the point of doneness. Allow to cool for at least 3 to 4 hours. To serve, warm slightly in the microwave (about 3 minutes) or in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or until the liquid in the bottom has softened and the flan slides out easily. Then insert a table knife against the side of each bowl and invert onto a small dessert plate.

Notes: One large flan can be made, if preferred. It will take longer to cook and cool and must be made one day in advance.

This recipe can be halved successfully.

An internationally recognized authority on the regional cooking of the American Southwest, Jane Butel has published 18 cookbooks, including several bestsellers. She operates a full-participation weekend and week-long vacation cooking school; an online school; a mail-order spice, cookbook, and Southwestern product business; and conducts culinary tours and team-building classes. Through her writing, teaching, and television projects, Butel seasons the country’s melting pot with the Southwest’s rich culinary, cultural, and historical heritage. Learn more at janebutel.com.