What could be more minimal than a simple, rich and creamy flan? The Romans were supposedly the first to invent this dish, and culinary historians have found their recipes for baked egg custards with honey, but they also made savory varieties, including one with eels (hmmm…). The French and Spanish both continued to refine the flan tradition, but the Spanish exported it to Latin America, where many countries now claim it as one of their national dishes. In Morocco it is made from little Flan Ideal mix packets, in case you want to see a Moroccan TV commercial for a common flan served there. I love all types of flan, but lately I like this coconut version, which is more Latin American, the best. The caramel pours over the sides, but if any hardened caramel remains in the ramekin, break it into pieces with a knife and toss over the flan as little candied garnishes.
- ¾ cup sugar OR ½ cup maple syrup
- 4 eggs
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 14-oz can light coconut milk
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- ½ tsp. coconut extract (optional)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut, for garnish
- To make caramel, put ¾ cup sugar in a small, heavy saucepan and heat on medium, stirring every minute or two, until it melts and turns a deep caramel color. IThis takes some time, so the easier version is to use ½ cup maple syrup.
- Once the caramel is melted (or if using maple syrup), distribute in the bottom of 5 ungreased large ramekins or 8 very small ones. Place the ramekins in a large 8×13 baking dish, or something similarly sized.
- Begin to boil water.
- Heat oven to 350. Meanwhile, in a large mixer, beat eggs until bubbly. Add condensed milk, coconut milk, vanilla, coconut extract and salt.
- Pour boiling water around the sides of the ramekins in the large baking dish, being careful not to get any water in the ramekins themselves. The water should go about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Then, distribute flan custard mixture evenly into ramekins.
- Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, until they begin to turn golden brown, rotating if necessary. Flan is ready when a knife inserted in the middle of one comes up clean, but watch them closely so they don’t overbake.
- Cool for at least 3 hours if you can wait, refrigerating once they are cool.
- Toast your coconut in a toaster oven. Slide a knife around the outside of the flan and unmold onto a plate. If it won’t come out, you can also poke the knife once into the middle of the flan until it just touches the bottom of the ramekin.
- Sprinkle with toasted coconut.