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Basic Flan

Basic Flan. Yum!

Flan. Not what most kids want for dessert. But, if you can get them to TRY it, many will like it. As an adult, with more mature tastes, almost everyone will appreciate it. Flan is a custard that is pretty firm, and is baked with caramelized sugar that becomes a syrupy sauce.

Many cultures have a version of flan, especially Latino and Hispanic cuisines. The one I am doing here is a pretty simple, basic Mexican style flan. I ordered a flan pan via the internet to cook mine in; however, you can use an 8″x3″ deep cake pan or something similar, with or without the water bath. Using the water bath, I believe is supposed to give a more even heat and a finer texture.

Here’s the recipe:

Basic Whole Egg Flan

5 whole eggs

1 can of evaporated milk

1 can of condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to to 350F. Add sugar to a small saucepan, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Pay close attention and stir often. Adjust heat as necessary.

Starting the caramel.

Sugar starting to melt. Stir!

In a large mixing bowl, add 5 whole eggs. (I remove the little white globs with a fork, or you could strain, after mixing in other ingredients.) Add condensed and evaporated milks and vanilla. Combine well, using a wire whip.

Eggs and milks.

When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color. It will burn VERY quickly, so don’t push it too much and pay close attention! It will be extremely hot and sticky, so handle with care! I think I went just a bit too long, as some stuck to the pan and was hardened. (see photo below)

Caramel is ready!

Carefully pour the caramel into the flan pan or baking pan.

Caramel in the pan.

Ladle the egg mixture into the pan. I probably should have let the caramel set-up just a minute or two. We’ll see how it turns out. (see photo below)

Custard mixture added.

If using flan pan and water bath, affix lid to flan pan, place in a larger, oven safe dish, on a sheet pan or other larger baking pan. Add boiling water to the bath pan, coming halfway up the flan pan. Carefully transfer to preheated oven.

In the water bath and oven.

If not using flan pan  or water bath, just put baking pan on a cookie sheet onto the oven rack. Oven rack should be in the center of the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for a least a couple hours prior to serving.

Out of the oven and cooling.

To serve, run a knife around the sides to release, invert a serving dish onto the flan baking dish. Make sure you have a dish that will hold the caramel liquid, without overflowing!

I used a pie plate to invert my flan onto.

Carefully, but quickly flip over, and then remove the baking dish.

Ta da!!! Looks like I should have let the caramel set for just a minute, but looks pretty good.

Some caramel hardened onto the pan. Next time, remove from heat sooner?

Heading to the fridge for a couple of hours.

Cut into servings, plate, spoon syrup over.

May be served with whipped cream and/or berries, if desired.

You can find versions of flan with various flavors, such as coffee, chocolate, pumpkin, almond, coconut, and more. Once you are comfortable with the basic recipe, try some variations! Enjoy!

UPDATE  (9/2/17)  Since the initial post, I’ve made a couple more flan and experimented a little. First, the hardened caramel kind of bugged me, so I’ve tried to remove it from the heat sooner…just trying to make sure its completely melted. I also have given just a couple of minutes before adding the custard mixture. I’m still getting some hardened caramel, though. But I’ve found that I can break it up, and either eat it like candy, or try to melt it in a sauce pan with a couple tablespoons of water and then pour it back over the flan, after it has cooled. Melting it again takes some time and constant vigilance, though.

Eat it,or melt it?

It has produced a better top surface…nice and smooth.

Nice smooth top.

Other experimentation, has been in flavoring variations. The above photo is actually a coffee flavored flan. I just dissolved some instant coffee, about 1/3 cup, into just enough water to dissolve it. I stirred than into the custard mix until well combined. I think it was very good.

The other variation, that I did today, was chocolate. For this one, I added 1/3 cup cocoa powder directly to the custard. It was a little messy and slow to get mixed in, but I worked at it and prevailed! Here are a few photos of that flan coming out of the pan:

Out of the oven and lid removed.

Smooth, glassy top!

Mmmm…chocolate.

Nice! Definitely has that cocoa powder chocolate flavor.

 

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Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

About a week ago, my wife was looking for a box of Crunch ‘n’ Munch Caramel Popcorn that I had bought. I had bought two boxes and she had eaten one over the course of a couple of days. She assumed that the second box was hers, too, since I know she likes it. A reasonable assumption, but one that was proven wrong, because I had a craving the night before. Poor thing was so disappointed!

Never wanting to leave a woman disappointed(*wink, wink*), I decided to pop onto the computer and do a little secret research. Most of the recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have on hand, or exact temperatures and extra steps that I just didn’t want to deal with for a quick recipe to surprise my wife with on short notice. To the rescue came a recipeI found through Pinterest at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/23/peanut-butter-caramel-corn/ . Take a look, if you have a chance, you may find something else you like there as well! I like to give credit, where credit is due, and support those people who have helped me with a great recipe.

This recipe is simple, easy, and can be done in a matter of about 20 minutes with pretty common ingredients and equipment. There’s no need for a thermometer or precision. What you will need is some measuring cups, a small sauce pot for the caramel, a medium sauce pot with a lid for popping the corn (or you can use microwaved or air popped), a large mixing bowl for combing the popcorn and caramel a spoon or wire whip and a rubber spatula.

Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups unflavored popped popcorn (homemade or 1 standard size bag)*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
 *I think I use a little more popcorn and stretch the caramel out a little thinner.
Directions:

Pop the popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set aside.

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Line a sheet pan with parchment and a little non-stick spray. Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. You can cover it initially to help it come to a boil, but it isn’t required. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it go for about three minutes.
Boiling sugar and honey...HOT!!! Be careful.

Boiling sugar and honey…HOT!!! Be careful.

 

Carefully remove the mixture from heat and add the salt, peanut butter and, if using, the optional peanuts.* Stir until well-combined.
Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and, using a rubber spatula, turn the popcorn until the caramel is evenly distributed.
IMG_20160319_213236757
Pour the popcorn onto the prepared sheet pan and carefully spread the hot mass out evenly to cool completely. (See header photo) When cool, break up the caramel corn into bite-sized clusters and try not to consume it all in one sitting!
*The recipe actually calls for the peanuts to be added after the caramel is poured on the popcorn, I think…but I wanted mine coated with the caramel as well.
So, I dove into the recipe and knocked it out. I have to admit, It wasn’t *quite* completely cool when I broke mine up into clusters and presented it to my wife…so it was just a tiny bit chewy. But that didn’t really matter…my wife was suitably amazed and impressed with my thoughtfulness and effort. Then she tasted the popcorn…amazing! She could not put it down. It was a MAJOR success! Eventually, she made me take it away from her, so she wouldn’t eat it all. Again, being the loving husband, I finished the rest of it. This one really is a winner. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!
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English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I recently had a snow day. After getting the kids squared away with going out to play, I decided to make some English Sticky Toffee Pudding. I had been put in the mood for ESTP when I had some nice English Strong Ale from a local, new brewery that specializes in “English inspired Ales”. I had ESTP several times while in England for a vacation several years ago…it quickly became a favorite and “must have”. Well, I found a two-pack commercially available product in the grocery store…in the Britsh Stuff section. It was okay, to satisfy an immediate craving, but it wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. So, I jumped on Pinterest and read several recipes and found one I liked…one that used American measurements and ingredients. My only edits were adding a little more molasses, because I only had light brown sugar and substituting Half’n’Half for heavy cream, in the sauce.

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

(found at http://www.lafujimama.com/2012/08/sticky-toffee-pudding/ . Further credits referenced there.)

Ingredients:

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

Sticky Toffee Pudding ingredients

For the cake:

6 ounces chopped and pitted dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and add 1 T. Molasses)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Sauce:

2 cups heavy cream (or Half’n’Half)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or light brown and increase molasses by 1 T.)
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
1 pinch sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and then grease an 8×8 square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2" square for an 8"x8"x2" pan

Line your pan with parchment paper, about 10-1/2″ square for an 8″x8″x2″ pan

2. Make the cake: Combine the dates and water in a sauce pan.  Bring the water to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking soda, (It will foam up…don’t let it surprise you!) then set the saucepan aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

Dates, brought to boil, baking soda added, stirred, set aside.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl.

4. In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Next add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.

5. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low.  Then add all of the date mixture and mix to combine. Then finish by adding the remaining half of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Mixing

Mixing

6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cake is springy in the middle. (Test with cake tester or skewer…should come out clean…or almost clean. Better to be slightly underdone than over.)

Into the oven!

Into the oven!

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes and then poke holes in it with a skewer.  While the cake is cooling prepare the toffee sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Poke the cake and top with sauce.

Toffee Sauce

Toffee Sauce

7. Make the toffee sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Let the sauce boil until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

8. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the cake and let it soak in until ready to serve.  Turn out cake onto a service plate and remove the parchment paper.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

After the cake cools a bit, turn out onto service plate and remove parchment.

Serve in square pieces about the size of a cupcake.

Cut view

Cut view

Nap the cake with sauce on what has now become the top side. Use the rest of the sauce for serving along with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. This cake is best served warm!

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

I was very pleased with the results and I’m sure you will be too! Don’t be put off by the dates. if you just haven’t had experience with them before. They practically melt into the batter and just add a rich, sweet, caramel flavor. The little bits in the cake are pretty much indistinguishable…not like raisins or chips at all!  The only thing I may do differently in the future is look for a sauce that doesn’t use milk or cream. Technically, that would make it caramel. I know. But I seem to remember sauces more like dark caramel in England and I preferred them. I used Half’n’Half in this recipe, because I didn’t have heavy cream, but it turned out fine. I hope you’ll give it a try. Sticky toffee pudding is equally good with a nice English stout or strong ale, coffee or milk. A warm piece of Sticky Toffee Pudding on a cold day…mmm. Talk about comfort food! Drop a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top and really indulge yourself! Enjoy!!

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