How to Make Flan

Classic or Toasted Coconut Flan, a traditional Mexican dessert that pairs perfectly with spicy food,

Classic or

Toasted Coconut Flan

You always wanted to know how to make Flan, right? Or perhaps you just want to know what flan is. Flan is the traditional Mexican, caramel-custard dessert, a natural complement of spicy food.

A good recipe for flan is to a Mexican theme party what a cucumber sandwich is to a tea party... essential. With or without a theme, though, it's a great dessert.

Basic Flan Recipe

Flan must be made ahead and chilled well. Often, flan is cooked in individual ramekins but this recipe calls for the use of 2 10-inch glass pie plates, instead, because that's more practical for serving a crowd.

But if you have 16 ramekins and the time and patience to unmold them...


1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
8 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

How to make flan:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a small saucepan combine 3 tablespoons of water with 1 cup of the sugar. Cook without stirring over medium heat until it becomes a deep caramel syrup, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately divide the syrup between the two pie plates and swirl to spread the caramel evenly.

2. Heat the milk and cream together but do not let it boil. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks until well-blended, then beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Very gradually, beat the hot milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla. It's now custard.

3. Divide the custard evenly between the two pie plates. Now set the pie plates in a larger pan with hot water to reach halfway up the pie plates and bake for 1 hour or until the custard is set.

4. Remove the flans from their water bath and cool. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled.

5. To un-mold the flans, run a sharp knife around the edge and, if need be, dip the bottoms in hot water for a few seconds. Place a round platter over each flan and invert. The caramel that was on the bottom is now on top, making a sauce.

Congratulations! You're now the proud owner of enough classic Mexican Flan for 16 to 20 servings.

Toasted Coconut Flan

You'll need one 7-ounce package shredded, sweetened coconut in addition to the ingredients in the basic flan recipe.

Spread the coconut out on a large baking sheet and roast it in a 300° oven, tossing occasionally, until light brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool. Set aside 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut for garnish. Stir the rest of the coconut into the custard, between steps 2 and 3.

When the flan has been cooked, cooled and inverted, sprinkle the reserved toasted coconut over the tops of the flans.

Make-ahead directions:
The coconut can be toasted, cooled and stored in an airtight container several days ahead. The flan can be made and chilled 2 days ahead.

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