It's almost time for another Blog Party. I had so much fun at last month's party, and was so encouraged by our fabulous host, that I've been looking forward to October's event all month. The theme? Halloween. I never get invited to Halloween parties, so this sounds like a lot of fun to me.
I've been craving pumpkin lately, so I knew it would have to make an appearance. I had considered some sort of dessert that incorporates lots and lots of miniature candy bars, but I'm also trying to watch my weight. What I needed was a pumpkiny-delicious dessert that would come in nice small portions, perfect for a party as well as for my waistline. Enter ramekins!
I've been wanting to use these adorable two ounce ramekins since I purchased them in my recent Amazon cooking supplies spree, and I kept thinking "you know what I really want? Pumpkin flan." Lord knows why. I've never actually had flan, and certainly not with pumpkin, but from an early age I've always concocted fabulous ideas for theoretical fancy restaurant menus, and so things like this tend to pop into my head. I did a quick Google, and what do you know? Recipes abound!
Next I had to think of a drink, and here I was thwarted. I planned to do orange and black and make a yummy liquorice martini. I even found a recipe for one called a "Dirty Witch," which I found absolutely hilarious. But I couldn't find Sambucca anywhere! So I rifled around in my cabinet and instead went with Kaluha, chocolate liqueur, and Diet Coke (drink very quickly, as it starts out frothy like a milkshake but curdles after a minute or two). Still, there is some relation to Halloween – when I was in college, my roommate loved to trick or treat, and so we would go out around the neighbourhood in costume, collecting candy from unsuspecting and sometimes grumpy adults. One year, however, we showed up at a lady's house who didn't have any candy, but liked the idea that we were trick or treating at the age of twenty so much that she gave us each a can of Coke and said that we should come by and have a drink with her sometime. So this is for you, Coke can lady!
I tried two different methods for the caramel top to my flan. The first was to pour some sugar in the ramekin and then hold it over a hot burner, shaking constantly, until the sugar melted. Well it turns out, ladies and gentlemen, that a hot burner is… hot. I couldn't stand the heat, so instead I made a syrup with 2/3 cup sugar and ¼ cup water. All you have to do is stir to dissolve, put it over medium heat, and then wait a while. It took mine about ten to twelve minutes to achieve the amber colour I was looking for, but it did darken up quite quickly after I removed it from the heat. The recipes say that you should use a wet brush to brush down the sides, but I gave this up halfway through. Also keep in mind that your utensils and pan will be a bit of a pain to clean when the sugar hardens, so soak them immediately in soapy water.
I poured an even amount of the syrup in each ramekin, and of course again forgot that syrup is hot. I saw a drop about to fall on the table so I instinctively put my finger on it, and then when I realised the syrup was, you know, boiling, stuck my finger in my mouth as a slave to another stupid instinct. So now I have a really attractive burn on the corner of my mouth, as well as on my finger. Oops.
The flan itself is relatively easy. I combined two recipes, trying to make something that would be creamy enough to taste rich but not with so many eggs that I'd die of heart disease at the age of thirty. What I ended up with was a mixture of ¾ cup canned pumpkin puree, three eggs, ¼ cup sugar, 1 t vanilla, ½ t cinnamon, and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. I whisked all that together until it was pretty smooth, and then added a cup of whole milk. The resulting mixture was thin, creamy, and pale orange.
I poured an equal amount in each ramekin, and had a little left over, but better too much than too little, I think. Then I set my ramekins in a small but fairly deep baking dish and filled it with water halfway up the sides. Once the flans were happily bathing, I popped them in a 325-degree oven for 55 minutes and walked away. When I came back, they were completely set. Maybe I could've taken them out earlier, but they didn't burn or anything, so I'm not bothered.
Keep in mind that, once again, these ramekins are – you guessed it – hot. Remove them from the bath with a potholder or something else heatproof. I set them on another clean baking sheet to cool for about half an hour and then popped them in the fridge. Chill eight hours.
Now, the best part, I actually had someone to help me eat my creation this time! My friend Rita has been looking forward to flan since I mentioned it two weeks ago, so she and another friend, Leslie, got to watch the big finale as I inverted our treats onto plates. In reality, it was a little anticlimactic. The caramel stayed hard and stuck inside the ramekins, though a little bit dripped out. The flans themselves were lovely, though a bit difficult to remove. They had a nice, light, creamy texture and a sweet and pumpkin-y taste that I really enjoyed. Next time I'll let the caramel cook a bit longer, I think, and use less in each ramekin, but despite that fluke I'm happy with the recipe.