While I don't have much of a sweet tooth, there are some desserts that I am very fond of. Near the top of that list is flan, or as I grew up knowing it, caramel pudding. A simple and comforting confection of eggs, milk and sugar, it was the first dessert I really learned to make- in the pressure cooker, in those stainless steel inserts- and also one of the first posts I wrote back in the spring of 2005.
My pressure cooker was small, so I was making caramel custard in the oven, using a bain marie (water bath). The same method went into making a pumpkin flan that featured on our Thanksgiving table some years later. However, bain maries are a bit tedious and I never really felt like I had a standardized flan recipe. By standardized, I mean a solid recipe that works in my hands, with tools that I own and familiar ingredients, and quantities that fit in my pots and pans, and with great results.
Finally, I have landed on a flan recipe that checks all the boxes. I made it this weekend for dinner guests and it is "the one". For one thing, it is made in the Instant Pot so there is no fussing with the oven or a bain marie. The flan mixture exactly fills my 7-cup Pyrex bowl which in turn exactly fits in the Instant Pot. The resulting flan has the perfect, smooth texture and serves 10-12, enough for a dinner gathering of two families, with a bit left over for the next day.
Making caramel is probably the hardest part of this recipe, which is good news because caramel is not hard to make at all. It can be done in the oven, stovetop or microwave and having tried them all at different times, I am firmly in the stovetop camp.
While flan is definitely a rich dessert and an occasional, special, treat, it is far from being cloyingly sweet. I don't use a whole can of condensed milk, saving a portion of it in a glass jar in the fridge. We can use it for another dessert later this month.
(recipe adapted from this video)
1. Set out whole milk, cream cheese and eggs out to come to room temperature (check quantities below).
2. Make the caramel. In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup regular sugar and 3 tbsp. water. Heat on medium heat until sugar melts, bubbles and caramelizes into a deep golden color. Watch the pot carefully because caramel can burn quickly. Pour the caramel into an ungreased 7 cup round bowl and let it cool for a few minutes.
3. In a blender, blend the following to a smooth mixture-
- 4 oz. cream cheese (quarter of a standard brick)
- 1 can evaporated milk
- Most of a can of condensed milk (4/5 or so)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
|Duncan enjoying a beautiful fall day|