Dessert Disaster – Part I.

I know, I know. Cinco de Mayo was over a week ago, but as I’ve been grumbling on and on about, school has indeed bereft me of all sources of happiness. This clearly includes baking, cooking and of course, the chronicling of both. So, yes, to my utter dismay, I’ve neglected the food blog. This means, the next couple blogs are going to be slightly outdated.

Nevertheless, here I am and here is what my kitchen has been up to the last week or so.

As I was saying, Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May. While over here in Hawaii, it seems to be just another excuse of a holiday to go party and get wasted, I realize that that particular day has very much significance in the Latin American world. It’s the day where the Mexican forces won unlikely victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Therefore, people celebrate this day in order to commemorate this event.

As a student currently taking Spanish class, it was not surprising to hear my teacher excitedly say,
“Para la proxima clase, prepara una comida para una fiesta”, assigning us to bring some sort of regional dish of some sort as homework for our next and finally, last class of the year.

I, being the over-eager and over-zealous food fanatic that I am, was more than happy to begin searching any and every befitting recipe there was that could challenge and, of course, flatter myself. Well, I managed to find a recipe that indeed succeeded in calling me out on my skills, but definitely failed in showing me off to my classmates. Either way, they praised me with kindness as the majority left the burnt bottom portion untouched. Alas, it was a learning experience nonetheless – one of which I aim to pass on.

Vanilla-Lime Flan
Adapted from Bon Apetit (Feb 1998)
Makes 8 servings (if, that is, you have 8 mini-ramekins – which I did not)

Ingredients:

For the  caramel syrup:

1 1/3 cups plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

For the custard:

4 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lime slices (optional – for garnish)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Place eight 2/3-cup ramekins or custard cups (or in my case, mini metal sauce tins, how pathetic) on a work surface. Stir 1 1/3 cups sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup turns amber (don’t wait until the color is too deep because this is where I burnt my syrup and half the flan tasted burnt), swirling pan occasionally, about 8 minutes. Immediately pour caramel into ramekins (or whatever I used). Using oven mitts as aid, pick up each ramekin (I should stop, huh?) and tilt and rotate to coat sides with caramel. Place ramekins in large roasting pan.

Using back of spoon, mash 1/2 cup sugar and grated lime peel in large bowl until sugar is moist and fragrant. Add eggs and yolks; whisk to blend. Bring cream and milk to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk cream mixture into egg mixture. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Ladle custard into caramel-lined ramekins. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake flans until just set and beginning to color on top, about 45 minutes. Remove from water; let cool 45 minutes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cut around sides of ramekins to loosen flans. Invert flans onto plates.
(I skipped the above entirely and served the flan technically “upside-down” since they were easier to hand out in those mini tins.)

Garnish with lime slices and lime sugar, if desired.

That’s it, folks. Besides my mistake with the beyond burnt caramel, the flan was delicious. It was smooth and silky with a subtle sweet and tart touch. The proper and perfect dessert for the seemingly irrelevant holiday. Hopefully you have the proper tools to make this and please, although recipes that seem difficult may be appealing, I’d say it is best to start simple and work your way up to such recipes with the proper resources. Even with phenomenal culinary skills (which I do not yet have whatsoever), it’s always good to go back to and master the basics. It definitely alleviates much of the restrictive stress and unnecessary hassle. Happy baking!

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