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Coffee and Kahlúa Flan

Always use caution when caramelizing sugar as the syrup is dangerously hot. Use a heavy, light-colored saucepan, preferably copper, so you can judge the color of the syrup. The addition of a little corn syrup helps prevent the sugar from recrystallizing on the sides of the pan. Once all the ingredients are in the pan, the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has begun to turn amber, do not stir it. Also, never leave the stove once the syrup starts to color. The caramelizing process is quick, and the syrup can burn easily.

If possible, use true cinnamon, the delicately flavored cinnamon bark native to Sri Lanka. The stronger-tasting cassia bark from Indonesia, China and Myanmar should be used in smaller amounts, as called for in this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. corn syrup
  • 1 can (14 fl. oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3⁄4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2-inch piece true cinnamon bark or 1-inch piece
     cassia cinnamon bark
  • 1 Tbs. Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tsp.
     boiling water
  • 5 eggs
  • 3⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring only a few times, until the syrup is clear. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, without stirring, until the syrup begins to darken, 10 to 15 minutes. Swirl the pan until the syrup is a deep amber, about 1 minute. Immediately pour the caramel into a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan or into 8 to 10 individual molds, and tilt to distribute the caramel evenly over the bottom and a little up the sides. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk, half-and-half, whole milk and cinnamon and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon and stir in the Kahlúa and the diluted coffee.

In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs until blended. Gradually whisk in the warm milk mixture and then the vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the prepared mold(s). Place the mold(s) in a large roasting pan and put on the center rack of the oven. Pour boiling water to a depth of 1 inch into the baking pan. Bake, uncovered, until the flan is just set and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours for the large flan and 40 to 60 minutes for the individual molds.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, remove the flan(s) and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.

To unmold, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the mold(s). Place a serving plate with a rim over the top and invert the plate and flan together. Lift off the mold carefully, scraping out any of the remaining caramel to run over the flan and around the plate. If you have made a large flan, cut into thin wedges to serve. Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Mexican, by Marilyn Tausend (Simon & Schuster, 2003).