Cheat’s creme caramel

I was asked to contribute a gluten-free dessert for LP’s baby shower, and chose to make a creme caramel. Not as easy to serve or traditional as say, cupcakes, but I thought there would be plenty of those and that something different might be a welcome alternative. (I was right, BTW.)

Creme caramel is not hard to do at all, and this version is no different. Once the caramel is made, all that’s left to do is to whisk up some eggs and open a couple of tins – really. The hardest part (for me anyway) is waiting for it to be cool enough to eat.

While this recipe is from Nigella (Flan from Nigella Express), I have adapted the method somewhat (according to Laura Calder’s French Taste), mainly because my only oven-proof pan is rather too big. Here then, is my mish-mash version, with some caramel-making tips from Anna Olson and Raymond Blanc thrown in for good measure. It looks like a long recipe, but it’s actually very quick and simple to do. Trust me.

150g sugar
1 tin (375ml) evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 eggs
1 tin (395g) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Put a full kettle on.
  2. Put 3 tbs water in a small saucepan, and scatter the sugar over in an even layer. Let the sugar soak up all the water before proceeding. DO NOT STIR this mixture at any point, but some gentle swirling is ok. If at any point sugar crystals begin to form, wet a pastry brush with water and brush the side of the saucepan, so that a little water trickles down gently to dissolve the crystals.
  3. Bring the sugar to a boil, and continue until a dark caramel colour is reached – don’t stop at a golden caramel – think maple syrup. Working fast while the caramel is still hot, pour into a baking dish, swirling it so that the bottom is entirely covered, with a little going up the sides. Leave it aside to set.
  4. Pour the evaporated milk into the (now empty but not washed) caramel saucepan, add the vanilla bean paste, stir and let sit a few minutes on the (switched off but still hot) stove to dissolve the caramel residue. Or put on a very low heat for a few minutes.
  5. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the condensed milk and evaporated milk. Stir well to combine.
  6. Pour the milk mixture into the caramel-lined dish. Put the dish into a roasting tray, and put this in the oven. Fill the roasting tray with boiled water to halfway up the side of the dish. Bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Carefully lift out of the roasting tin, and allow to cool until the dish is no longer hot (warm to the touch is ok). Transfer to the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Turn out to serve.

This creme caramel has a nicely set firmness that slices beautifully, but with a dreamy melting texture. Cheating has never felt (or tasted) so good.

Flan

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