A friend of mine had her annual girls-only food bash last night, with a spread of Indian and Pakistani curries. It’s one of my favorite meals of the year.

And, she wanted me to bring flan.

Flan is one of the most popular desserts in Mexico, not Central Asia. But Aisha likes this version so much she made an exception.

The secret to excellent flan is good eggs and good vanilla. By good eggs I mean eggs that are fresh from the farm, if you can find them. Their yolks are deep yellow/orange, because the birds roam free and eat a lot of “stuff.”

As a result, their flavor is much better. Supermarket eggs will work, too. But if you can get them from a farmers market all the better.

The other key is figuring out how long to caramelize the sugar, and how brown is too brown. My first attempt resulted in a coffee colored caramel. I had the heat on too high and cooked the caramel probably 30 seconds too long. I started over. This time, on slightly lower heat, I added water once again (slowly, because it spatters) and let the brown deepen.

Before the caramel became coffee brown, I turned off the heat and poured it into my flan dish. I It takes about a minute to set. Next came the custard. From here, the only tricky part left is flipping the flan onto a serving plate.

The result, when done right, is a velvety dessert that makes your eyes roll. Trust me on this.

El Norte, The Cuisine of Northern Mexico

Caramel Sauce
2/3 cup (130 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (56.3 milliliters) water

4 eggs and 2 additional yolks
1/2 cups (100 grams) sugar
2 cups (450 milliliters) heavy or whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the sugar in a heavy medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the water a little at a time, stirring constantly. Use caution, as the water will spatter when it hits the sugar. Cook the mixture for a couple of minutes until it is a deep caramel color. Pour the mixture into a flan pan, a pie or loaf pan, and swirl to coat the pan until it begins to set, about 2 minutes.

To make the flan, beat the eggs and sugar until well combined. Meanwhile, heat the cream until it is hot but not quite boiling. Allow it to cool for a few minutes; then beat it into the eggs and sugar, adding just a little at a time. Also stir in the vanilla at this time.

Pour the flan mixture into the caramelized pan and place it into a larger pan filled with enough warm water to come halfway up the side. Place the two pans in the preheated oven.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the custard is set, lightly browned, and a knife, when inserted, comes away clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

To unmold, loosen the custard by passing a knife around the edges of the pan. Then invert it onto a serving plate.


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