Fabulous Flan

A flan is a egg-rich custard, smooth as satin, not too sweet, served cold with itâ??s own (or applied later) sauce of caramelized sugar. It is a favorite in Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries. The container (9â?? cake pan or 9â?? pie plate, or as many smaller ramekins as it takes for the mixture) it is baked in needs to be placed in a larger ovenproof container, and hot water poured around it to keep it from baking too fast. Sort of like a â??double-boilerâ?? only in the oven. When you chose the container to cook the flan in, be sure you have a larger container to set it in.

For the caramel: (If used, see Note)

1 cup sugar. Dissolve in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, cook and swirl instead of stirring, (if you get tired of that, go ahead and stir â?? I did) until sugar caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Pour caramel into a 9â?? cake pan (or individual ovenproof custard dishes), swirling slowly to cover the bottom evenly. Will immediately harden. Set aside. Note: If you want to skip the caramelized sugar step, simply pour a purchased caramel sauce or real maple syrup over the top of each chilled serving.

For the custard: Put oven rack at lower third of the oven, heat to 350 degrees. Have a teakettle of hot water prepared to pour around the custard container(s).

6 eggs

2 cans (15 oz. each) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups whole milk, or evaporated milk, either one â?? I used evaporated

1 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. salt

Beat eggs well, add the milks slowly. Beat in vanilla and salt until well combined. Strain through a fine sieve into the caramel pan, cover pan or custard dishes with foil. Note, I didnâ??t bother to strain the mixture, and it was very smooth.

Place pan or custard dishes into a larger baking pan, place in lower oven rack. Pour boiling water into the larger pan, letting the water come about 1â?? up the sides. Bake until flan is set, about two hours (or less if using individual custard cups). Carefully remove from water bath. Cool, refrigerate. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan, unmold onto a plate or serving platter, watch that the caramel doesnâ??t run off the edge.

One comment from an internet maker of flan asked â??how do you get the bit of hard caramel out of the dish after unmolding?â?? Easy, just let it sit with cold water in it, itâ??ll dissolve.

Jo Manhart, Missouri Egg Council (573)874-3138.

(This is the Cuban family recipe from Lourdes Ryszek who lived in Columbia, MO when this recipe appeared in the local paper.)