Monday, June 22, 2015

Flan de Laurel

     Laurel Flavored Crème Caramel!
     Crème caramel is one of the easiest desserts to make.  Crème Caramel is also called Flan.  Flan is a German word, but it does not mean that Flan was originally created in Germany.  The origins of Flan are probably lie in either Persia, Turkey, Greece, India, China or Spain.  All these countries have a long history of making egg custards of one kind or another.  Nobody knows for sure where Flan originated and some things are best left as a mystery.   
     Flan is the original.  Crème Brûlée came around at a later date.  Flan is a custard baked on top of caramelized sugar.  The caramelized sugar liquifies and becomes a sauce.  
     Crème Brûlée is a cup of chilled custard that is topped with sugar, then the sugar is lightly caramelized under a salamander broiler.  The sugar cools and becomes a crisp candy crust.   
     When making a fancy Flan, either the caramelized sugar or the custard can be flavored with spices, fruit or just about any item that is dessert worthy.  Bay Leaves and Laurel Leaves are a nice choice for flavoring the caramelized sugar, because these herbs are digestifs that sooth the tummy after a meal.   

     Flan de Laurel:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!  
     Wear protective clothing and make sure that no children are present, when working with molten sugar!  One spatter can cause 3rd degree burns!  
     I used a small muffin pan instead of custard cups to make the recipe example.  This is tricky to do.  I decided to write the recipe for ceramic custard cups instead.
     This recipe has a lot of steps, but each step is easy to do.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 custard cups or ceramic soufflé ramekins that are 3 1/2" to 4" wide.
     Step 2:  Select a deep roasting pan that can be used as a bain marie.
     Fill the pan with 3/4" of water.
     Step 3:  Place 2 to 3 small laurel leaves in 2 of the custard cups.
     Step 4:  Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the sugar starts to enter the molten candy stages.
     *When the sugar reaches the hard crack stage, it will only be a short time before the sugar turns amber, so keep an eye on the sugar!
     Allow the sugar to become a golden brown amber color.  (A candy thermometer should read 335ºF to 345ºF)  
     Step 5:  Immediately pour equal amounts of the molten amber sugar over the laurel leaves in the 2 custard cups.  (About 1/4" deep layer of amber sugar is plenty.  Any extra caramel can be used to make sugar garnishes or sauces.)
     Step 6:  Immediately place the custard cups in the water in the roasting pan bain marie to cool the molten sugar and stop the molten sugar from cooking any further.
     Set the custard cups aside on a counter top.
     The laurel leaves will now be sealed in amber sugar glass.  
     Step 7:  Place the yolk from 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Add 3 ounces of cream.
     Gently whisk the ingredients till they are blended.
     Step 8:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 6 ounces of cream.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Simmer the cream, till the sugar dissolves and the cream reaches 145ºF.
     Step 9:  Slowly pour the hot cream into the mixing bowl that contains the cold eggs and cream, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 10:  Pour equal amounts of the warm custard into into the two prepared custard cups.
     Place the custard cups in the roasting pan.
     Add enough water to the roasting pan, so the water level goes halfway up the outside of the custard cups.  (Baking in a water bath is called bain marie.)
     Step 11:  Place the entire bain marie setup in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the top of the custard turns a golden color, like the one in the pictures above.  A toothpick inserted in the custard should pull out clean with no liquid showing.
     Step 12:  Remove the custard cups from the bain marie and allow them to cool to room temperature.
     Cover the custards with plastic wrap.
     Refrigerate for 24 hours.
     Step 13:  Place 1" of water in a sauté pan.
     Place the pan over medium low heat.
     Simmer the water.
     Remove the plastic wrap from the custard cups.
     Run a thin paring knife against the inside of each custard cup, to free the sides of the custard.
     Place the custard cups in the simmering hot water to heat and loosen the hardened caramel.  (This may take 1 to 3 minutes.)
     Step 14:  Remove the custard cups from the hot water.
     Place a plate on a countertop.
     Invert each custard cup and tap it against the plate to pop the custards out.
     Use a spatula to transfer the 2 custards to 2 small dessert plates.
     Step 15:  Return any loose caramel sauce to the 2 custard cups that have hardened caramel stuck in them.  
     Place the custard cups in the hot water bath to melt the caramel.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of hot water to each portion of caramel in the muffin pan.
     Step 16:  When the caramel liquifies, remove the laurel leaves.
     Place the laurel leaves on top of the 2 custards.
     Pour the caramel sauce through a fine mesh strainer over the custards.

     Viola!  It really does take a lot of steps to make a good creme caramel, but the techniques are easy to understand and do.  

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