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Flan
Flam (or flan in Spanish) is a dish whose popularity in Spain cuts across all borders. You can hardly avoid coming across it at some point during a stay in Barcelona, especially if you happen to visit one of the hundreds of bars and restaurants offering a reasonably priced menú del día. The wobbly milk-and-egg custard with a crown of caramel is one of the most memorable finishes to a meal. It is normally prepared in individual metal pots known as flaneras, specially made for the purpose. Since they can be difficult to find outside Spain, individual-size ramekins or small custard cups may be substituted.

Serve with a light, honeyed dessert wine from Navarre.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. plus 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or a few drops
      of vanilla extract
  • 2 whole eggs plus 6 egg yolks

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine the 3 Tbs. sugar and the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a golden brown syrup, about 4 minutes.

Pour an equal amount of the caramel syrup into each of six 1/2-cup flaneras, ramekins or custard cups, tipping and rotating the molds until the sides are coated about halfway up.

Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and place over low heat until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan, about 7 minutes. Do not allow the milk to boil.

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

In a bowl, using a balloon whisk, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and the 1 cup sugar until a pale, creamy mousse forms. Add a little of the hot milk, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Add the remaining milk a little at a time while continuing to whisk. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the prepared molds, dividing it evenly.

Place the filled molds in a large baking dish and carefully add boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the molds.

Bake the custards until they are set but the centers still jiggle just slightly, 50 to 60 minutes. Touch the surface of the custard lightly with the point of a knife; it should come away cleanly when set. Remove the baking dish from the oven and lift the molds out of the water. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

To serve, run a sharp, thin knife blade around the inside of each mold and turn out the custards onto individual plates.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Barcelona, by Paul Richardson (Oxmoor House, 2004).