Since tasting and loving the flan at Cancun, the local Mexican restaurant, my kids and I have been making it at home.
At bat was a boxed mix from Mexico, about a dollar at the local supermarket:
It was very stiff and yet somehow slimy, and the caramel sauce tasted burnt. We gave it three thumbs down.
On deck was Royal's take on the same thing:
It was smooth and slippery, rather like a pared-down custard. The caramel was dark but sweet, toasty but not burnt. Two thumbs up (my daughter was put off by the texture). I didn't think it was quite rich enough to qualify as flan.
In the hole was a recipe based on eggs and sweetened condensed milk. It was easy to prepare and used ingredients I already had at home (which is why I didn't try the more authentic cream-based recipes -- no cream). I found the recipe at allrecipes.com, where it was submitted by Jessica Dezendorf. She says it's a Mexican recipe from the late Iris Perez, and suggests substituting 8 ounces of cream cheese for two of the original 8 eggs, which I did, like this:
Put 6 eggs, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Melt 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan. I'd never done this before, and my kids and I were amazed by the transformation. It went from this
Pour the melted sugar in a 9-inch round pan, then pour the egg mixture over it.
Bake in a water bath at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 70 minutes. How do you know when it's done? My most trusted source is the folks at Cook's Illustrated. In The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, they state that "if a paring knife halfway between the center and edge . . . comes out clean," the flan is done.
We loved it. It was dense and creamy, nearly like cheesecake. In fact, it was so close to cheesecake that my daughter said, "It's really good. But it's not flan." Out of the mouths of babes, eh?
Next we'll try a cream-based recipe, if I can still get into my jeans.