(picture courtesy of Cook Sister!)
I know I am turnning your menu plans on the head now, but for the continuation of our Mexican Cooking Extravaganza, I just couldn't resist blogging about the dessert before all the mains... firstly because it's just too yummy and secondly because there's less work involved ;-)
Mexico is not necessarily renowned for its sweet cuisine - probably also due to the climate which doesn't really make you crave what we call traditional desserts over here in Europe... at 45 C and more in some places, you wouldn't trust anyone who serves you mousse au chocolat or elaborate cakes involving large amounts of cream. In this climate, only hydrogenated fats can be trusted and those don't make for particularly delicious creations! If you browse Mexican cookbooks, you will find you're not really spoilt for dessert choices - wheras any other cuisine will have a whole chapter dedicated to the sweet finish of the meal, Diana Kennedy's "From my Mexcian Kitchen" mentions only one dish - and in a by-line...
Of course, Mexicans do have a sweet tooth just like us, but due to circumstance, sugary dishes tend to be very different from what we know here - pan dulce (sweet breads), cookies, churros (fried sticks of dough dusted with sugar and cinnamon), sweet tamales (dough made from cornmeal, stuffed with fruit or nuts and steamed in corn husks) etc... but the king of desserts in terms of being the most wide-spread has to be flan.
Often confused with a simple custard, flan is baked in the oven, like crème caramel, but tends to be firmer than its French cousin. The caramel is poured into the bottom of the baking dish, then swirled around to cover the sides. Once it has set, a mixture of eggs, (often condensed) milk and sugar is poured in and baked in a water bath for about an hour. Once cooled, it is turned out onto a plate and served with its caramel syrup.
Whether it was out of necessity or not, I have become addicted to flan and if only my family liked it, I could make this much more often. I find it terribly moreish, being in love with everything that involves caramel I can easily make a meal of it... and since it keeps very well, I sometimes make a whole flan just for myself and indulge in it for days on end - well, we all have our weeknesses, don't we?
Flan de Fiesta
(serves 6 generously)
230 g and 115 g sugar
6 large eggs
1 can (397 ml) sweetened condensed milk
2 cans (410 ml each) evaporated milk
1 vanilla pod
Pre-heat oven to 160C. You will need 6 ramekins or one larger oven-proof dish and a large baking pan to put them in.
Pour 230 g sugar and 100 ml water into a non-stick pan over medium heat. Constantly stir until the sugar browns and caramelises. Quickly pour into the dish (or divide between ramekins) tilting it to swirl the caramel around the bottom and the sides.
Beat the eggs together with the remaining sugar. Mix in the two milks, then the scraped vanilla seeds. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added.
Pour custard into caramel-lined dish/ramekins. Place the dish in a large baking dish and fill with boiling water, at least half-way up the sides of the flan dish/ramekins. Keep an eye on the water and re-fill if evaporating too quickly.
Bake for 60 minutes (35 - 45 minutes for individual ramekins) in the water bath and check with a knife in the center. If knife comes out clean, the flan is ready. Remove and let cool in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Turn carefully onto a large plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard.