A rich Mexican custard that is delicious served warm or cold.
6 large EGGS
1/2 cup sugar
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
CARAMELIZE SUGAR: PLACE sugar in small heavy saucepan. HEAT over medium heat, watching carefully, until sugar is melted and turns deep golden brown. IMMEDIATELY remove from heat and pour into 9-inch flan dish or pie plate. Holding dish with potholders, quickly tilt dish to coat bottom completely and evenly. Syrup will harden quickly.
HEAT oven to 350°F. MIX condensed and evaporated milks in medium saucepan; HEAT until very hot. Milk should be steaming but not bubbling. Meanwhile BEAT eggs and vanilla in medium bowl until blended but not foamy; slowly stir in hot milk.
PLACE flan dish in baking pan large enough to hold dish without touching sides of pan. POUR egg mixture into flan dish.
PLACE pan on rack in center of 350°F oven; pour very hot water into baking pan to within 1/2 inch of top of flan dish. BAKE until knife inserted near center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. REMOVE dish from water bath at once; cool on wire rack. Gently loosen edges with tip of knife. Invert onto platter. SERVE warm or cold.
Don’t skip the hot-water bath. A hot-water bath, or bain-marie, insulates the custard from the direct heat of the oven and promotes even cooking so the edges don’t overcook before the center is done. Very hot tap water will do.
When is it done? Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath) before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when dish or cup is gently shaken. Custard will continue to “cook” after it’s removed and center will firm up quickly. Overbaked custard may curdle. The knife test: Test for doneness with a thin-bladed knife. Insert knife about 1 inch from the center custard. If knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.