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Flan with Fresh Figs

Caramelized figs crown this rich and creamy vanilla-scented flan. Buy the figs just before you need them, as they spoil quickly, and select fruits that give slightly to the touch, ensuring that they are ripe but not too soft.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 Black Mission figs, stems removed and halved
      lengthwise
  • 4 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, granulated sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, about 1 minute. Add the fig pieces and cook until soft, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Arrange the figs in the bottom of a round, nonstick 9-inch cake pan, spreading the pieces in a single layer and covering the bottom evenly with the syrup. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Remove the vanilla bean halves from the cream and, using the tip of a small knife, scrape the seeds into the cream. Discard the bean halves. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer; keep warm.

In a large bowl, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks and salt. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until smooth. Slowly pour in the warm cream mixture while continuing to beat on medium speed until well combined. Pour the egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the cake pan, being careful not to dislodge the figs. Place the pan in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the cake pan. Place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the cake pan.

Bake the flan until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the roasting pan, place on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (You can make the recipe up to this point 1 day in advance.)

To serve, run a thin-bladed knife blade around the edge of the flan to loosen it from the pan sides. Immerse the bottom of the cake pan in a pan of hot water for about 3 seconds to loosen the caramel. Invert a large serving plate over the top, and invert the pan and plate in a single quick motion. Tap the bottom of the pan lightly with the handle of the knife to loosen the flan, then lift off the pan. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese (Oxmoor House, 2004).