January 16 2018
Try one of these recipes the next time you celebrate #toasttuesday.
*This recipe appears in the Naturally Sweet cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen
Flan is a rich, custardy dessert with a deep toffee flavor and a uniformly silky texture; what sets it apart from other custards is its caramel layer, which bakes along with the custard and glazes the flan after baking. But most recipes we’ve tried are cloyingly sweet, the custard is heavy and dense, and there’s an unappealing thick “skin” on the top after baking.
For our naturally-sweetened version, we started by cutting the sugar from a whopping 45 grams per serving to a more modest 22 grams by swapping the usual granulated sugar for a smaller amount of maple syrup. We loved the unique flavor that maple syrup brought to our flan, and we had no problem making a caramel out of the syrup: We simply cooked the syrup on the stovetop for 5 minutes to thicken it to a caramel-like consistency.
To make the custard, many traditional recipes call for sweetened condensed milk—a nonstarter in our low-sugar recipe. Instead, we opted to make a custard using half-and-half, eggs and egg yolks, and a bit more maple syrup, a combination which produced a rich flavor while maintaining a silky smooth texture.
To prevent an unsightly “skin,” we baked the flan in a water bath so that it would cook gently, and we covered the pan with foil during baking to avoid exposing the custard to direct heat.
While traditional flan is often baked in a round cake pan, we found that switching to a loaf pan produced a sturdier, more statuesque flan. For safety, be sure to use a tall-sided saucepan to cook the maple syrup in step one. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8 ½ by 4 ½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 10 minutes earlier than advised in the recipe.
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 large eggs plus 4 large yolks
3 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Before: 45 grams sugar → After: 22 grams sugar