Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pumpkin Flan (Flan de Calabaza)

Slice of Pumpkin Flan with Whipped cream
Smooth, Refreshing Pumpkin Flan

Recipe adapted from and CubanFoodMarket

It’s almost spring, and time to use up the last of the pumpkins and winter squash from last fall’s harvest. But pumpkin pies and breads seem wildly inappropriate for the season. To the rescue: Cuban flan de calabaza, roughly translated as pumpkin flan. Flan came to Cuba via Europe. In the Middle Ages flans were popular throughout Europe during Lent, when meat wasn't eaten. Flan's eggs and milk provided protein to the faithful. So what could be a more seasonally appropriate use for pumpkin in March?

Slice of Pumpkin Flan
Pumpkin Dessert for Late Winter
Though flan is popular and traditional throughout Cuba, Mexico, and Spain, flans were first made in ancient Rome. Because of a wealth of local eggs, Romans made these custards both as savory fish dishes and honey-sweetened treats. As Rome proceeded in its conquests, the flan tradition spread throughout Europe, picking up its caramel topping in France.

You might want to get a flan mold to ensure that your flans cook evenly and look great. Or, use any sort of casserole dish that can be tightly covered. To be properly cooked, the flan mold must be placed in a bain marie, or water bath. Be sure that you have a larger baking dish in which the mold will fit, and ideally be covered at least halfway with water.

Note that the total cooling time is quite extensive. Don’t rush the process, plan to chill it overnight and serve the next day. If you think of other near-spring uses for pumpkin, please post in a comment below.

Whole Molded Flan
Flan Mold is Worthwhile Investment
Pumpkin Flan (Flan de Calabaza)
Serves 6

½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1½ cups whole milk
4 large eggs
½ cup finely granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Whipped cream (optional garnish)

To spice the pumpkin: Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into the pumpkin purée. Set aside.

To make the caramel: Heat the water and ½ cup granulated sugar in a stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts bubbling. Continue cooking and stirring until all sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth and thick enough to coat spoon. Cook a few minutes longer, stirring until syrup takes on a golden honey color for light caramel, or medium brown for dark caramel. When caramel is done, pour immediately into a 4½-cup flan mold or baking dish.

Quickly turn the mold to coat bottom and sides evenly with caramel, before it hardens. A stainless steel mold will get HOT before the caramel coats it, so use potholders as needed. You may also use a teaspoon to push the caramel up the mold as you turn it. Set mold aside.

Mixer on low speed mixing eggs, milk, and pumpkin
Mixer on Low Speed is Your Friend for Flan
To make the flan: Heat milk over low heat for 5 minutes, or until very hot but not boiling. Set aside and cool to lukewarm or cooler.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Using a low speed on a mixer, beat the eggs lightly. Add the ½ cup fine sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix together. Add the spiced pumpkin purée and mix again at low speed until uniform.

Slowly add the cooled milk, mixing continuously at low speed until thoroughly blended.

Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the flan mold. Seal the top of the mold tightly with lid, or improvise with foil, shiny side down.

Place the flan mold or baking dish into a large baking pan or casserole dish. Fill the baking pan with boiling water (bain marie) at least halfway up the mold. Bake the flan for about one hour, then test. Flan is done when center is firm to the touch or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Return to oven in 15 minute increments, and check again. Total baking time, depending upon mold shape and your oven will be from 1 hour up to about 1½ hours.

Remove the mold from the pan of water and allow it to cool completely—don’t rush this step or flan can get watery. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill overnight (or for at least 4 hours) in refrigerator.

When ready to serve the flan, run a knife around the edges of the mold to loosen the flan. Then place the serving dish on top, and quickly flip the flan over. Lift off the mold and the flan should slide right out, topped with a golden caramel sauce.

Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Clear and bubbly sugar water
Beginning the Caramel

Finished golden brown caramel
Finishing the Caramel

Caramel coating in flan mold
Coating Mold with Caramel

Flan Poured into mold ready to bake
Pouring Flan over Caramel: Ready to Seal and Bake

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of pumpkin flan, despite growing up in a Cuban household, but it sounds delicious. I like that this recipe only calls for 4 eggs, not the 9 or more that some flans seem to require,