Courtesy of Courtenay Dunk: www.spicelines.com
(Spicelines is a very interesting blog. You might want to check it out!)
Our delicious cena at the Coatepec home of Maria Elena Serena ended with a double-barreled coffee dessert: an intensely flavored coffee flan, followed by a scoop of her homemade coffee ice cream.
Earlier, in her tidy outdoor kitchen, Dona Elena had given us a lesson in making flan: Placing a metal pan right over a gas flame, she caramelized a few spoonfuls of raw sugar until it was brown and syrupy. Setting it aside to cool, she frothed instant coffee with eggs, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk in her blender. After pouring the coffee mixture over the cooled sugar syrup, Dona Elena tore off a sheet of aluminum foil. She eyed us sternly: “Never put the dull side next to the flan, or it will make it dark,” she instructed. And indeed, the flan, cooked on the stovetop in a pan of simmering water, had a lovely golden brown surface, not to mention a rich, creamy coffee taste.
Dona Elena flavored her flan with Nescafe Golden Selection Tueste Intenso, a strong instant coffee I have not seen in the U.S. Instead, I’ve substituted instant espresso, which imbues the flan with a richer flavor than standard issue American instant coffee. You can try cooking the flan on the stovetop in a pan of water for 45 minutes, or for a silkier texture, bake it in a water bath in the oven. Be sure to chill the flan for a few hours before unmolding.
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (see note)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk, plus 2 additional ounces
6 large eggs
Whipped cream (optional)
Chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)
Sprigs of fresh mint (optional)
You will also need:
1 8-inch round non reactive metal pan
1 9 or 10-inch round metal pan
Note: Demerara sugar is raw cane sugar; its large, crunchy, golden brown crystals have the sweet, mellow taste of sugar cane.
1. Set oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place a small saucepan on the stove over a medium flame. Add the Demerara sugar and water, and stir to dissolve. Let the sugar mixture come to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and let it bubble until it becomes brown and syrupy. This will take 7 or 8 minutes from the time it begins to boil. Watch carefully and as soon as the mixture thickens, test by letting a drop or two slide off the spoon into a cup of cold water; if the syrup makes a soft ball, it’s ready.
Quickly pour the syrup over the bottom of the 8-inch pan and swirl to cover. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely coat the bottom of the pan. It will liquefy during the baking process. Set the pan aside to cool.
3. In a blender, combine the instant espresso powder, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and eggs, and whirr until the espresso powder is dissolved and the mixture is well blended.
4. Pour the coffee mixture over the cooled sugar syrup. Set the pan inside the larger 9- or 10-inch pan. Carefully pour in almost boiling water to reach 2/3 of the height of the inside pan. Cover both pans with a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down.
5. Place the pans in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the flan comes out clean. Be very careful not to let the flan overcook or the texture will be nubbly and the edges will toughen. Remove the flan from the water bath and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until it is well chilled.
6. To unmold: Loosen the sides by running the blade of a knife around the inner circumference of the pan. Pour a little hot water into the larger pan originally used for the water bath. Set the flan pan into the hot water for 20 to 30 seconds to loosen the bottom. Remove it and dry the pan with a dishtowel. Then place your serving plate, face down, on top of the flan and invert. The flan will release easily from the baking pan, and the smooth, syrupy underside will now be on top.
7. To serve: Cut the flan into 8 pieces and serve on individual plates. Top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, a chocolate-covered coffee bean and a sprig of mint if desired.