It's no secret that I am a lover of all things custard and caramel.
Creme brulee? I'm there
Creme caramel? Can't stop me.
Dulce de Leche? Hold my earrings
So, what is the one dessert that combines all of my true loves? South American style flan. Instead of heavy cream, you use a combination of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk which gives it a bit of the dulce de leche flavour that I love so much. It's smooth and dense and creamy and the liquid pool of caramel that naps it makes me swoon.
The only problem is that I couldn't find a cooking method that I loved. Doing it in the oven with a water bath is nice but fussy and I always slosh the water around and some of it gets into the ramekins. I was finding that doing it in the pressure cooker was kind of hit and miss and because 1 minute in Instant Pot time is like dog years, I was overcooking it far too often, depending on the size of the ramekins.
I have have such consistent results doing creme brulee with Sous Vide that it stood to reason that it would also work beautifully for flan. Because flan has to stand on it's own, it does need to be much firmer so all that was left was to play with a higher temperature and a slightly longer cooking time.
In the end, cooking these babies at 82C (about 179.5F) with my Anova precision immersion heater for an hour and an half resulted in the perfect flan and because sous vide means even cooking from tip to tip , there were no overcooked outside edges with wiggly insides - just perfectly dense, creamy flan from top to bottom.
I will admit that it's a tiny bit harder to get the flans to pop out of the jars as opposed to the straight sided ramekins but a little extra coaxing and a quick sweep of a thin, sharp knife and they will pop out nicely.
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbls pisco (optional but if you happen to have a bottle of it laying around, it adds a nice touch)
Preheat the sous vide water bath to 82C (179.6F) - I use a square polycarbonate bin bin so that I can keep an eye on things and they fit so nicely in a square bin as opposed to a round pot. Polycarbonate is also much better at holding the heat in, which is good when you are cooking at higher temperatures like this. I cut an opening in the lid that came with mine and by using a lid, you also cut down on evaporation. If you are going to sous vide frequently, get one of these bins - they are also great for food storage when not busy being used for sous vide purposes.
In a heavy bottomed, small pot, melt the sugar and water over med heat until the sugar is completely melted and it starts to boil. After this point, don't stir it at all but you must keep swishing the pot around to stop it from burning. Slowly swish the pot from time to time and watch it like a hawk until it turns a lovely, deep amber colour.
Remove from the heat pour a bit into each jar, swishing it around quickly to coat the bottom and let it come up the sides a bit. You can't dilly dally with this part as the caramel sets up quickly.
Now, whisk together the two milks, eggs, vanilla and pisco and let sit for a few minutes to let any bubbles settle down.
You don't have to, but I spray a bit of cooking spray into the 125ml glass canning jars first to help it to release more easily after it's done.
I pour my custard into a large measuring cup through a fine mesh strainer and then fill each jar up until about 1/8" inch from the top. Put on the lids and finger tighten - not too tight or the glass can crack.
Carefully lower the filled jars into the water bath using one of those jar lifters that you use when canning as the water is quite hot. You can stack them on top of each other, as long as all of the jars are completely covered by water.
Set a time for 1.5 hrs and walk away.
When the time is up, carefully lift out the jars and let them come to room temperature on the counter before you put them in the fridge. They are okay to serve after about 3 or 4 hours but I like to make them the day before.
When it's time to serve, take them out of the fridge for about half an hour and then fill a pan with hot water and sit the jars in the pan - the water should only come up about 1/4 of the way up the jar. This will help loosen the caramel a bit.
I use the heel of my hand to pound around the jar to loosen up the flan from the sides but I often also have to use a sharp, thin knife to run around the flan in the jar to get it to pop out. Put a small serving plate on top of the opened jar and carefully flip it so that the jar is not open end down on the plate and give the jar a good shake to get the flan to pop out. Don't worry if it takes a couple of tries.
You can then pour more really hot water into the pan and put the empty jars back in the pan to loosen up some more of the caramel from the bottom of the jars and pour that over the flans to serve.