pumpkin flan

Happy Thanksgiving friends! It is that time of year again, I will invariably gain an additional few pounds just from being around people who are in the holiday spirit. Though I remain on the outside of most of these festivities, I am inevitably, and without hesitation, drawn in. Despite the cold I find myself in Bryant Park sipping soup and watching people ice skate. I wonder if the holiday decorations are up in Rockefeller Plaza. I even went outlet mall shopping at midnight on Black Friday! Though retailers are trying to insist that the holiday season begins after Halloween, I know it really begins with Thanksgiving.
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This year we spent Thanksgiving with Martin’s parents. My father-in-law likes to prepare amazing feasts so I occupy myself with side dishes or with dessert. I saw this recipe about a month ago and I NEEDED to make it. I mean how can you go wrong with flan AND pumpkin. The combination sounded heavenly and I wanted to eat it immediately. I’ve been thinking about it, reading about it, finding reviews and learning how to make caramel. Mind you, I am not good at desserts. Someone once said cooking is an art and baking is a science. You can adjust stew “to taste” but can’t adjust a cake. Baking sweet stuff is not where I shine, so there were about 80,000 things that could go wrong. I’ve never made flan, or made caramel or steeped things in eggs and then strained them and why are there 4 million steps for ONE dessert? Fortunately, there isn’t much to distract me when I’m in Virginia so I had plenty of time to steep stuff in eggs. Thanks Bon Appetite!
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6 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
1¾ cup sugar, divided
1 tsp orange zest
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
5 whole cloves
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cracked cardamom pod
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

Whisk eggs, egg yolks, ¾ cup sugar, and orange zest in a large heatproof bowl.

Bring 2 cups heavy cream, milk, cloves, star anise, cinnamon and cardamom to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once heated slowly whisk into egg mixture. Steep for 30 minutes. Strain. Whisk in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Chill for 3 hours.

To make caramel sauce stir 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is a deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in ⅓ cup heavy cream – caramel will bubble. Divide caramel among twelve 6-oz ramekins; chill until set.

Divide custard among ramekins; place in a large pan. Add hot water to pan to come halfway up the sides of ramekins; cover pan with foil. Bake at 350 until center is just set, 20-25 minutes. Chill until cold, invert onto plates.

Recipe notes:

This was pretty delicious, but I hesitate to even call it flan. It does not have the same texture as flan, we decided it was closer to a pumpkin egg mousse. There are a few things that I did differently. I used steeping pods for the spices instead of letting them float around freely – this saved me the straining step. I basically used the metal pods one uses to fill with lose tea – it worked out well. I also let the custard chill overnight instead of 3 hours – next time I will leave the spice pod in the custard while it is chilling. The custard is runny and doesn’t firm up until baked. Also, do not forget to use hot water when baking the ramekins – I totally forgot and this extended my bake time to nearly an hour, yikes.

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