The Perfect Flan

jeriMay 7, 2013

I used The Perfect Flan recipe from Epicurus. It was delicious! However, I did have a bit of trouble with the Caramel part. I followed one reviewers advice to submerge the bottom of the pan into cold water to stop the cooking so it would not get darker. This worked very well at stopping the color from getting any darker, but it did cause the caramel set up too fast. Of course, the ramekins were also cold, so I'm sure this didn't help.

Fortunately, I was able to microwave the ramekins for 20-40 seconds which worked great, but I would like to avoid this next time.

Here a my thoughts, but I would like to know what you think!

1) Perhaps I should still halt the cooking process by dipping the pan in cold water, but for less time and have my ramekins preheated?

2) Perhaps I should not dip the pan in cold water, but I worry that the caramel will be very light on the first few and very dark on the last few as it continues to cook.

Using the Ramekins I already have, this recipe made 4 ý instead of 6. I was very happy with the end results size wise, so I will be increasing the recipe. Actually, I want to make 12 for this weekend, so I think I should triple the recipe. Should I do this all at once or make 2-3 batches?


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Your solution #1 sounds like the right idea to me. I have not made flan, but I've made a lot of caramel, and it is necessary to stop the cooking at a certain point but still keep it warm enough to use. When you do halt the cooking process, you do not need to cool the pan much to stop the cooking - as long as it drops in temperature, it will be okay, as the goal is to stop it from getting hotter, and it will continue to get hotter if taken off the heat and not cooled. If it cools too much, you can add a bit of heat to make it workable without cooking it more. It does get tedious when working with large batches, but I keep hot water (not boiling or on heat) on the stove to reheat the caramel when it gets too cool.

Personally, I would not make more batches but just have a method for keeping the caramel slightly warm and do preheat the ramekins in a warm oven.

Hope this helps - maybe others have more experience with flan.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:26PM
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Thanks Lars! That is very helpful. I was very happy that all of the flan's had the same âÂÂperfectâ caramel color and was not sure how to achieve this without halting the cooking. I think I cooled it too much - I'll correct this next time.

Are you saying I could have a pan of hot water to put the caramel pan into while working with it? I have to pour a small amount of caramel from the pan into the ramekin and swirl it to get the caramel to coat the sides. I have to do this with each of the 12 ramekins, so if I could place the pan of caramel into the hot water while working on each ramekin, that would be very helpful.

Also, the Ramekins will be placed into a pan with hot water after they are filled. Why don't I just do that step before filling them? This will keep them nice and warm too I would think.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 6:08PM
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I use a double boiler to keep the caramel warm, and I have the caramel in the top of the double boiler, and then I have warm but not boiling water in the bottom of the double boiler. It's important not to have the water too hot or it can start to cook the caramel again. The hot water that you have the ramekins in is a different story. I would add the hot water only at the end, as I am about to close the oven door, as it can slosh about. If you put empty ramekins in hot water, they might float. You do NOT want water getting into the ramekins!


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 7:11PM
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My flan recipe doesn't call for cooling the dish. I just take them out and refrigerate and when I "upturn" them, the caramel is perfect and runny and the flan is set up. I havent made it for a while but I made it a lot for years for it was a favorite dessert of mine.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 8:09PM
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Lars - Do you put the caramel in the double boiler after it has reached the desired color?

If you put empty ramekins in hot water, they might float.

DâÂÂoh! (smacks head) That would be exactly what would happen to me! :-)

Martha - If you have your recipe handy I would love to see it!

IâÂÂm surprised others havenâÂÂt chimed in - I would have expected Flan to be more popular amongst this crowd. It was delicious, looked very impressive, and can be made ahead of time. A win-win-win! Now, I just need to perfect it⦠:-)


    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 10:57PM
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WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a

Martha (Linderhof), I would love to have your flan recipe, too. I am hoping to make it for Mother's Day.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 1:10PM
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In regards to most ramekins, they would only be submerged in water halfway, so they won't float. The smaller ramekins may dance around a tiny bit, but not float, so it shouldn't pose a concern.

About the caramel. Whether I make flans, creme caramel or budinos, I never cool the pan once the caramel is ready. As soon as the caramel reaches a desirable shade of amber, I quickly fill the ramekins.

Caramel tends to stay pourable long enough to fill, say, 4 to 6 ramekins.
If you're making more than that, then Lars' idea of keeping the caramel pan in a double boiler is for you.

I make my caramel in a frying pan, not a saucepan. And I never stir it. Instead, I swirl the pan to melt the sugar. So I don't need to bother brushing down the sides of the pan, because this process is quick, and keeps the sugar from crystallizing.

More often than not, the only ingredient in my caramel, is sugar, no water. So, if by chance, the cooked caramel starts to harden before its time, I simply plop the pan back on a 'Low' burner to keep it flowing, without burning it.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 2:46PM
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WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a

Your flans look delicious, Sol. Do you have a link for the recipe(s)? I went to your website, but could not find a search box.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 6:54PM
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Out of curiosity, why do some add water and others don't when making caramel?

My current game plan is to have hot water ready to place the caramel pan into, since I will be making 12. I'll forgo putting the pan in cold water first, hoping the hot water will still work at preventing the caramel from turning darker while allowing it to flow nicely. What's the worse that can happen? I'll have to throw out some caramel and make more. I'll have plenty of sugar on hand. :-)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 11:51AM
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I bow to Sol as the flan master, and I have never made caramel in a frying pan with no water, but I know it is much faster and requires skill. Personally, I would not attempt it without someone to show me how to do it, but you can probably find a video on line to demonstrate it.

Making caramel with water or milk (I use cream instead) slows down the process and reduces the risk of burning it, but any way you make it, you have to work quickly to get it out of the pan right when it is done, unless you cool the pan. If you overcook the caramel, it can become hard and brittle when cooled. The caramel I make is used as a filling for chocolate candy.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 6:00PM
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I looked for my flan recipe and I can't find it! I'm not sure what I did with it and I'm so mad at myself because it was given to me by a Filipino whom I worked with and it was so good! Sorry I can't post . . . but even sorrier that I can't make it!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 9:16PM
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The one I linked to is very good - you should give it a try. There is a video at the link as well and they do not use the pastry brush - so I didn't either. They also âÂÂswirlâ the pan and do not stir (just as Sol recommended), so I too did this. Those 2 modifications make this even easier and it really was delicious!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 3:11PM
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All my extra work didn't help the caramel at all. I created a double boiler with a glass bowl over boiling water, but it was not hot enough to keep the caramel at the right consistency and preheating the ramekins didn't help at all either.

In the end, I had to MW the glass bowl and the ramekins to achieve my goals, but I have decided that it really isn't that much work - the end results were amazing.

After tripling my recipe with this go, I can see why Sol uses a frying pan and why the original recipe called for brushing the sides with a pastry brush. My âÂÂSwirlsâ created a crystal sugar rim which eventually slid back into the caramel and did not melt, so I had to work around that hazard. I learned that exactly 1 ounce is the perfect amount of caramel for my ramekins and I have a 1 ounce ladle.

Next Time: Use a frying pan to make caramel and pour into a heated glass bowl so I can nuke it if necessary. Use the 1 ounce ladle to dole out the caramel as quickly as possible - not caring about what it covers at this point. Then nuke each ramekin 20-30 seconds until it foams and easily swirl to coat the sides.

Not a hard recipe - just a bit time consuming. However, they can be made 2 days in advance and they will wow your guests with their looks and taste. :-)

Came home from Mom's house with a 4 week old feral kitten we have named Romper because her gray color matched the cute gray Romper my dd was wearing. :-)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 2:58PM
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I love flan and have never made it, so I've been reading this thread with interest.

Any time I've ever made caramel it's turned out tooth-breakingly hard. I made some totally inedible caramel pecan turtles at Christmas, and I've tried Ann T's soft caramels with the same results. Even my caramel topping/syrup comes out crunchy, although I resorted to a candy thermometer eventually. To no avail, I might add, as I've never successfully made caramels or anything caramel based or related.

Sol, that looks completely delicious, but I'll just have to visit you for a lesson!


    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 12:00AM
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You don't need to swirl the caramel up the sides of the ramekins. Just pour it in the bottom and it will sort itself out! Just pour caster sugar into a non-stick frying pan. It takes a short time so you can do 2 batches for 12 ramekins.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 3:07AM
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When I clicked on the link, a recipe for pork chops came up - no mention of flan.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 3:58PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Annie, the candy thermometer is crucial and I always stop cooking caramel five degrees below the suggested reach temperature. I don't like flan that much ( Sol's is the BEST pic I have ever seen and is supremely tempting- I like crunchy so the crust is the bomb) but I adore all things caramel. My favorite dessert flavor.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 5:34PM
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