Flan is a custard dessert made with a soft caramel top. I initially thought it was a traditional Latin American dish, but further research indicates that many regions of the world has their own version of flan. It’s very similar to crème brûlée, except flan has a soft caramel top instead of a hardened caramel.
That being said, you still need to caramelize sugar in order to make flan. If you can get through that, flan is incredibly easy. I was too busy making caramel to take any photos of the process, but if you haven’t caramelized sugar before, I would highly recommend at least skipping through shots from this video in order to see the different stages of melting sugar. It takes patience, and frequent stirring. When the sugar first starts to melt, you end up with hard chunks of semi-caramelized sugar. Soon the entire pot is full of hard chunks – it’s fine, keep going, it’s all going to melt soon and all those chunks will smooth out.
Once it’s melted, cover the bottom of your flan dish with the caramel. It hardens quickly so you need to move quickly as well. My tip for cleaning the saucepan is to immediately fill the pan with hot water and put it right back on the hot burner to dissolve all the remaining sugar and caramel.
Cover your flan with aluminum foil, then place it in a 9×13 dish. Add water to the dish until the water is about halfway up the flan dish. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Remove from oven, let cool completely, then gently pull the sides of the flan away from the dish and invert it over a plate.
This dessert tastes amazing – the caramel gives it such depth of flavor! A coworker brought flan to a work potluck, and they had added a toasted coconut and cinnamon topping which absolutely took this dish to the next level. Cinnamon is a perfect complement to the milk and caramel flavor.