Flan, a sweet crème caramel popular in Latin countries, makes a beautiful sugar-coated, fruit-topped presentation at the end of a meal. This recipe is an easy Puerto Rican-style custard with just the right number of eggs for a smooth, sturdy texture, and enough vanilla to add a rich, aromatic flavor. Feel free to fiddle around with different flavor profiles by swapping out the vanilla for other extracts (almond, lemon, hazelnut). Or, replace some of the milk with coconut milk, and top with tropical kiwi and mangoes instead.
The hardest part of making flan is caramelizing the sugar. Be patient, and don’t raise the heat or you may burn the sugar. For the first 8 minutes or so, almost nothing happens. Then, all of a sudden, the sugar begins to brown and clump, then suddenly transitions to a rich, golden syrup. It will be extremely hot, so take caution when pouring the sugary syrup into the mold.
1 cup sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh mixed berries for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small heavy saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until caramel forms, stirring constantly until sugar caramelizes and becomes syrupy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour the caramelized sugar into an 8-inch round mold or baking dish. Swirl quickly to coat the mold evenly. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla. Mix well with the eggs.
Pour the mixture into the caramelized mold and cover with foil. Place in a water bath on a strong cookie sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let the flan cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.
To serve, invert the flan onto a platter. Garnish top with fresh berries.