Delicious Flan Recipe

By David J. Stewart
December 2007 | Updated May 2016

Flan (Spanish egg-custard)

Stove Top Caramel - Melt 1 1/2 cups sugar in a non-stick pan, over low heat. Keep your eye on it. If it burns you will have to start over. It just needs to melt that's all. Using a non stick pan will cause the caramel to just slip off the pan when pouring - easy to clean later. As the caramel melts, stir gently until it is all liquidized, but don't let it burn (see below how to caramelize sugar).

Immediately pour the caramel into a non-stick metal pan (or cupcake pan) and swirl it around to cover the bottom and sides. I pour it all in the pan (or a little amount in each cupcake pan) at once and then use a metal spoon to spread it to the sides. You may actually want to melt two batches of sugar, so you can just fill 6 of the 12 cupcake holes at a time. This way you won't be so rushed, trying to work quickly before the caramelized sugar solidifies. Your have to be quick because once it starts to cool down you can't work with it anymore. Please be careful because melted sugar is extremely hot!

Flan - Blend all ingredients until completely mixed. I use an electric mixer on high. Pour the flan mixture into the caramelized pan.  The caramel should have cooled down before you pour the egg mixture in it.

Set the mold in a broiling pan (baño de María). Cook in a 350º oven for 45 minutes. At 30 minutes check to see if it's getting too brown on top - if so cover loosely with foil. If you don't have a double-broiler, you can simply use a larger baking pan filled with water, and then put the smaller baking pan with the flan in it. However you do it, you must cook the flan pan in water, or else the caramelized sugar will stick to the pan like supper glue. You can't just put the flan directly into the oven. I have a big rectangular baking pan with 2" sides. I put the flan into an 8" round pan, and then float that inside the big pan filled with regular tap water. You might need to cook the flan for an hour or more, until you can insert a fork and pull it out dry. If your flan starts to get too dark (I like it dark on the bottom), you can lay a piece of aluminum foil over the flan while it is baking.

Test the flan to see if it's done by inserting a knife in the center. If the flan is still soft, let it cook longer until a knife inserted again comes out clean. Remove from the oven carefully and let it sit on the counter until it cools. Then cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

To serve lay a plate on top of the mold then carefully flip it over and slide the mold off.

—How To Caramelize Sugar—

       Caramelizing plain white sugar is an experience if you've never done it before. However, once you've done it's as easy as can be.

The first time I melted sugar the sugar turned black and I backed away from the stove. After the black caramel cooled I lifted the entire pot by the spoon as a handle, because the spoon was locked in the burned sugar. What a mess! My heat was too high. If this does happen, just reheat the pot and then pour out the burned sugar. You haven't ruined the pot.

The way to caramelize sugar is to keep the heat low. For the first few minutes the sugar will stay white and it will seem like nothing is happening, but be patient and DON'T raise the heat. After a few minutes you will see some bubbles here and there, especially around the sides. Don't stir the sugar yet. Wait until you see several bubbles. If you stir it too soon, it just may clump on the spoon. (But if it does clump, don't worry, just let it heat up more and it will all liquefy.) By waiting, it will be easier to start stirring. Just gently stir the sugar, working it around, until all of it has caramelized into a delicious looking golden color. IT'S HOT, SO BE CAREFUL. Once the sugar is completely liquefied, it's done! Don't burn it! If you want a toasted flavor, then cook the sugar some more, but watch it carefully because it burns quick.

WARNING: Melted sugar is hot like melted glass. It's not as dangerous as glass, but you can get burned very badly. Make sure there's no kids under your feet, running pets or anything you can slip on. You don't have to panic, but you do need to work fairly quickly because the sugar cools fast and gets hard. Just pour the sugar into either a cupcake pan, or just one big non-stick baking pan. I've used both, whatever I have on hand. Use a metal spoon to work the sugar up the sides of the pan. You've got about 30 seconds to work before it hardens. Let it sit and cool for at least 20 minutes before adding the mix to the pan.

—Helpful Preparation Tips—

Let the caramelized sugar cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes before pouring your mixture into it. This is just to make sure that the sugar has set to the sides of the pan. Add the mixture into the pan. Then allow it to sit on the table for about 2 or 3 hours to cool down before putting it into your refrigerator overnight. If you put it into your refrigerator right away, the warm flan will raise the temperature in your refrigerator. I once made two cheesecakes and a flan and put them into the refrigerator for 12 hours. Instead of the cheesecakes being nice and cold, they weren't chilled because I had put the warm flan into the refrigerator also (and it raised the temperature for several hours).

Also, I've learned not to flip the flan until the next day, because half of your delicious caramelized sugar will remain stuck in the baking pan. So what I do is firmly place a flat plate with raised sides (because you don't want the caramelized sugar to leak all over the place). Place the plate on top of the flan and then fairly quickly turn it over. Make sure to hold the plate (or whatever) firmly, so your flan doesn't slip out onto the floor. I made flan today and actually used my cookie baking sheet to turn it over. It's flat and has a slightly raised edge. The idea is to turn the flan over today, so tomorrow when you remove the pan, after being refrigerated overnight, the pan will come right off and all the caramelized sugar will stay on your flan. Emmmmm!

I went to a local Philippine restaurant last night and bought a sizzling Tagalog beef and onion dish from their menu for $12.95. I also noticed flan on their menu, but was shocked when I saw the price. They wanted $8 per slice (and there's 8 slices in a pan). I asked why it costs so much and the waiter said it was “homemade.” I told him it was too expensive and I didn't order any. But I went home and made my own flan the next day for $5 total. So now I call my homemade flan “The $64 special” (eight slices times $8). Caramelized sugar tastes so delicious in my flan recipe. Forget that artificial topping that comes in a hello box. Caramelized sugar is the real deal and you'll love it! It's very unique and simple to make.

Also, caramelized sugar tastes great over fried bananas in butter with some brown sugar and a little vanilla extract. Serve over French vanilla ice cream! Em, em good!