Oaxacan Coconut Caramel Flan

I can attest from personal experience of a childhood spent in part in the North of  the country that Mexicans have a very sweet tooth. Why have one type of milk sweetened with sugar when you can have three (Tres Leches Cake) and why have a hot chocolate when you can have it with cream, cinnamon, honey and brown sugar? The belief that this orgy of sugary milky puds and drinks mitigates fierce chile heat is not wholly correct though. Mexican food is actually about the judicious application of heat as opposed to the machismo of the Scoville brigade who seem to judge a dish by how much it makes their fellow men weep in pain and puddings like this are not in existence solely as band aids for the chile foolhardy. They are an excellent answer to the problem of gluts in fresh foods- dairy and eggs, in a hot country where storage was something of an issue in more rural communities. Caramel in all its forms is another Latin and South American love made from boiled down milk and as such a safe way to use up a dairy product that doesn’t keep so well. Necessity is the mother of invention here and we can all be thankful for that

This creamy flan is made adult by the tawny caramel flavours and is an ideal accompaniment to a chile infused main course should you so wish. . If you want to make this alcohol free simply omit or substitute with rum flavouring although in cooking the alcohol is removed.

The ingredients are measured using the American cup system because it is a Mexican recipe. However these can be easily converted using an online conversion chart available here- http://goo.gl/It3mbC

Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar / 1/4 cup water / butter / 2 cups single cream / 4 large eggs and 2 extra egg yolks / 1/4 cup dark rum / 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice / 1/2 cup toasted and flaked almonds / 1 teaspoon vanilla

 Directions
Place an 8×1-1/2-inch round baking pan in oven. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.
For caramel, in a heavy small saucepan combine sugar and the water. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, about 13 minutes or until amber-colored.
Using oven gloves, remove the  baking pan from oven. Carefully pour sugar mixture into baking pan, turning pan until bottom and sides of pan are evenly coated. Let stand on a wire rack until cool.
Lightly butter any uncoated surfaces of the pan. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a small saucepan combine the single cream and the cream of coconut. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Slowly whisk the coconut cream mixture into egg mixture ensuring it is well incorporated; then add the rum, vanilla, and allspice.
Place the coated baking pan in a small roasting pan. Pour egg mixture into coated pan. Place on middle rack in oven.
Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up baking pan. This works as a water bath, maintaining even cooking and a moist wobbly texture. Ensure the water cannot ingress the cooking mixture- you may need to wrap the outsides of your baking tin with foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or just until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Chill for 2 to 6 hours. To serve, run a knife around edge of baking pan.
Place a serving plate on top of baking pan; carefully turn platter and pan over together, letting caramel run over top and side of flan. Remove baking pan. Sprinkle flan with toasted coconut. The flan is also gorgeous with more toasted almonds scattered over or do as I do and infuse sultanas in sweetened rum then serve alongside too. (Don’t drive after if you eat loads of these!).
(To toast almonds, spread on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place under a grill until lightly coloured. Watch them like a hawk as this takes very little time and they burn fast!)

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