Coconut creme caramel
The first (and last) time I made creme caramel, which is custard flan, it was a spongy and holey flop. I ate a very good flan last week and that challenged me back into the kitchen, after a 2-week break during which the family ate mostly noodles and leftovers.
Creme brulee, similar to creme caramel but has a hard caramel crust, is the more flashy-looking of the two custards. I prefer creme caramel because the molten caramel blends well with every spoonful of the custard, giving a smooth silky feel in the mouth. The crisp caramel of creme brulee is impressive but takes too much attention from the custard and tends to be too sweet. It's also the more troublesome of the two custards to make because you need a strong blow torch to caramelize the sugar without melting the custard.
This recipe, from an old issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, was copied into my recipes book but like a hundred other recipes that I've copied while at the hairdressers and doctor's clinics, I never got around to testing it. Btw, these days I don't scribble recipes on paper napkins and ATM slips because my phone camera does the job. Bob's right, the times they have changed.
I didn't want to run out to get coconut cream so I mixed powdered coconut with dairy cream and milk instead. The result was excellent although I think fresh coconut milk is always infinitely better than canned. For plain flans, use milk, cream and pure vanilla extract instead of coconut cream. You can use individual ramekins or a large round pan to make a large single flan for a big party. Remember that flans will spread out a bit when they are turned out so make them a little higher. Height does matter when it comes to looks.
1/3 cup caster sugar (or 1/2 cup, if you want more caramel syrup)
1/3 cup water (or 1/2 cup)
180 ml milk
300 ml thick coconut milk or cream
6 t caster sugar (or double the amount if you like it sweeter)
If powdered coconut is handier, whisk 25 to 50 g into the cream. For plain flans, use a milk-dairy cream mixture and add 1 t pure vanilla extract.
1. Put 8 ramekins of 8 cm/3" diameter (or use one 8" round pan) in a baking pan. Pour water into the baking pan until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins/pan. Preheat oven to 170 C.
2. Put the 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water into a small pot and let simmer without stirring (swirl the liquid) until it thickens and bubbles and turns golden. Remove. If the sugar browns too much, the caramel will taste bitter.
3. Pour the caramel while it's still hot (careful, because hot caramel sugar is VERY hot) into the round pan or divide among the ramekins. It's okay if the caramel hardens and doesn't cover the whole surface of the bottom of the ramekins. The caramel will liquefy and spread out evenly after baking.
4. Put the eggs and 6 teaspoons of sugar into a large bowl and whisk well until sugar is dissolved.
5. Put the milk and cream into a small pot and heat until hot but not boiling. I remove the pot when I see the first bubbles beginning to form at the side of the pot. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking the egg mixture rapidly as you pour.
6. You can either sieve the hot custard into a measuring jug so that you can divide it equally or you can sieve the custard directly into the ramekins. I like a flan of at least 1"/2.5 cm high. A 1" -deep uncooked custard will spread out to 3/4" high when turned out so start with 1 1/4"-deep custard to get a turned-out flan of 1". Bake for 45 minutes. For the single custard, bake longer, depending on the height of the custard. The centre will still be jiggly but firm up upon chilling. It's best to chill the custard overnight so this is a good dessert to make ahead of a party.
7. To serve, run a blade around the inside of the ramekins/pan and turn over onto serving plates. Serve very cold.