Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Maple Flan (or Creme Caramel)

There are a few, faint signs out there that Spring will arrive someday. The birds have changed their tunes from random chatter to cries of "MY tree!" and "Hey, sailor, new in town?", and as I have been driving around the area I see quite a number of blue buckets hanging from the trunks of trees. Maple syruping time! This is a reminder to me that I have quite a bit of syrup left from last year, and it's time to use it up - so I can buy some more, maybe at the Elmira maple syrup festival, which will be on April 5th this year.

One of my all-time favourite desserts, Maple Flan is really quite straightforward to make - once you have the knack for making the caramel. The first few times I tried making flan I ended up with the sugar reverting to sugar - just drying out and refusing to turn to caramel. The secret is not to muck with it. Once it starts to cook, let it do its thing and don't go disturbing it with a spoon. If it does revert to sugar, there is nothing to be done but to discard it and start again fresh. (You shouldn't have a problem with this if you cook the sugar and maple syrup together, but if you are a caramel novice, I suggest you start with just the sugar anyway.)

6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Maple Flan or Creme CaramelMake the caramel:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup maple syrup

There are two ways you can do this. You can put the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed pot, stir once, then bring to a boil and boil, without stirring again, until the sugar turns a good definite brown (but don't burn it!) at which point, remove it from the stove and add the maple syrup, stirring like crazy. Return the pot to the stove and continue to stir until the maple syrup melts.

Or, you can put the sugar, maple syrup and water into the pot, stir once, then bring to a boil and boil until the sugar caramelizes as above. This is less work, but you have to be able to recognize the moment when the sugars have caramelized, which is more difficult since the maple syrup is already quite brown. There will be a slight change in colour, a slight change in odour (caramel!) and the bubbles will be considerably smaller than when the mixture first started to boil. If you haven't much experience making caramel, you are probably better off using the first method.

Once you have achieved caramel, you must act quickly. Pour it into a 1 1/2 litre (quart) baking dish or 6 smaller baking dishes, and swirl it around to coat the bottom completely, and a little of the sides if possible. You must act very quickly as it will turn solid within not very many seconds.

Make the custard:
6 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 2/3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sherry
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the eggs and maple syrup. Whisk in the milk, vanilla extract, sherry and salt. Strain the mixture into the prepared baking dish or dishes. Put them in a larger baking pan or high-sided baking pan (such as a jelly-roll pan) and put it (them) in the oven. Pour water into the pan - without getting any in the custard - until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish(es).

Bake for 1 hour, until a knife inserted in the centre of the custard comes out clean. You may need longer if it is baked in one dish only, say an hour and a quarter.

Let the flan(s) cool. Run a knife around around the sides of the flan(s) to loosen. Set it (or them) into a shallow pan of hot tap water for about 15 seconds or so, then flip each flan onto a serving plate. The caramel should be melted by the hot water and flow over the custard as a sauce.


Kevin said...

I still haven't tried making a flan. A maple flan sounds really good. Bookmarked.

Marilee said...

I love maple flan, and one of my favorite places to eat it was in Aruba. It was always perfect, but I think I might be afraid to try it as it seems to be a little difficult. The carmel sauce would be a sure way for me to fail. It really looks beautiful and my mouth is watering.

Brilynn said...

I wish I was home to help with the maple syrup, I'll have to make this instead!

Ferdzy said...

Aruba? Maple flan in Aruba? Okay... not what I would have expected.

Brilynn, I wish I could go with you to help with the maple syrup. I never have, and that would be super neat-o! :P

jasmine said...

What a gorgeous flan.

Let me know if you're heading to Elmira on Saturday...I'll probably be heading up myself...


Ferdzy said...

Hi Jasmine - yes I am planning to go, although I am not sure what time. I'd like to go early because I know it can be a ZOO, but getting up early is not my forte. Early-ish, let's say.

Eva said...

this recipe looks great and I will try it. Have you ever tried making flan using only maple syrup (and no sugar) for the "caramel?"

Ferdzy said...

Hi Eva;

If I have, I can't remember the outcome. (I don't even remember if I have, sooo...) Sorry!