Have you ever encountered a stubborn teenager who outright refuses to eat something new, in spite of everyone telling her how good it is? At some point you just give up and say, “oh have it your way, all the more for the rest of us.” I was that stubborn teenager one summer in Mexico City, surrounded by my host family pleading with me to try this weird looking dish that they had translated as “burnt milk”. I’m forever grateful my friend’s mother Señora Argüelles didn’t give up on me that day. After finally submitting to one bite, I ate all that remained in the pot. Ever since that day flan is one dessert that I simply cannot refuse.
This recipe makes a fabulous flan, giving you the scent of roses with every bite. (Perfect for Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?) The recipe is adapted from the cookbook Doña Tomàs: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking from the Doña Tomas restaurant in Oakland, California.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon rose water*
Special items needed
- 4 6-ounce ramekins
*Rose water can be found in Mediterranean markets and also Whole Foods in the baking department. According to the Doña Tomàs book you can also make your own by boiling a cup of rose petals (fresh from a garden, not store-bought, no pesticides, no fungicides) in a cup of water with a tablespoon of honey, for 10 minutes. Let steep overnight and then strain. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
1 Have your ramekins ready, near the stove. When you pour out the caramelized sugar you will want to work fast. Place the sugar and water in a small, thick-bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium heat. As the sugar beings to melt, gently stir with a wooden spoon to break up unmelted lumps. Once the sugar has melted it will begin to turn golden and then darker brown. As soon as it turns a strong shade of reddish brown, remove the pan from the heat, working quickly, evenly divide the sugar between the ramekins, coating the bottom of each ramekin. Place the ramekins in a 2-inch deep baking dish.
2 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan, on medium high heat, mix sugar and milk until the milk is warm to the touch and the sugar has completely dissolved (about 120°F). Do not let the milk boil. Remove from heat. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and rose water. Temper the egg mixture with a little (about 1/4 cup) of the warm milk mixture, whisking as you add the milk. Add the egg mixture back into the pan of milk. Lower the heat to low and whisk the egg mixture in for a minute until the egg mixture is fully incorporated.
3 Pour custard mixture into the ramekins, up to about 1/4-inch from the top edge of the ramekins. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
4 Bake on the middle rack until centers of flans are gently set, about 45 minutes. Transfer flans to rack and cool. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead.)
5 To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Turn over onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin allowing caramel syrup to run over flan. Repeat with remaining flans and serve. If you have refrigerated the flan over night and the flan won't easily release, you can heat it in the microwave for a few seconds (10-15) to loosen it.