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Flan is an oven-baked caramel custard dessert that is a very popular dessert in Spain and in Mexico. It is made with a top layer of custard paired with the sweetness of a light caramel sauce(made from caramelized sugar) that is put in the bottom of the pan underneath it. Both are baked together. When chilled and then inverted to unmold, the sauce pours over the custard and is served as is. The typical favoring is simply vanilla but there are numerous variations that include almonds, pistachio, orange, pumpkin, coffee, lemon, and various other fruits.
Traditional flan is both richer and denser than Crème caramel, as it contains more eggs and yolks as well as some milk, light whipping cream, half and half, and/or sweetened condensed milk. Historically, Flan was baked on top of a stove in a water bath. Now, it has become customary to cook the flan in a waterbath inside of the oven where it can bake "low and slow" until it sets.
The flan is then refrigerated. When you take your flan from the refrigerator, you need to briefly warm up the caramel (it should still be fluid) so it will release from the pan. Dip dish in a baking pan of hot water 3 seconds. Run a thin knife around edge of dish and invert flan onto plate. Shake gently to release flan.
Classic Flan Tart
The Flan may be prepared in a soufflé dish or in individual ramekins or flan dishes. In Mexico it is commonly served in 5 or 6 ounce ramekins. Flan may also be baked in a tart pan or a pan with a removable bottom.
Small savory version of Flan can be found on many restaurant menus as an accompaniment to a main course. Examples are Sweet Corn Flan, Sweet Potato Flan, etc. These are typically made of eggs, cream, and the appropriate vegetable flavoring.
For the caramel, stir the sugar and water over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and cook WITHOUT stirring until syrup turns light amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Remove immediately from the heat when done and pour it evenly over the bottom of the dish or dishes in which you will be baking the flan. Tilt the pan so that the caramel coats the bottom and a bit of the sides.
After refrigeration, run a knife around the edge of the custard to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Place a platter, top side down, on top of the custard, invert the custard onto the platter, and remove the mold.