If you were to consult any Mexican cookbook and look in the dessert section, you would most likely find a recipe for “flan”. This is a custard that Mexicans and many Spanish-speaking countries love and prepare for dessert. This is also popular in many other countries throughout the world, yet its ties are mostly connected with the Hispanic population.
A few years ago, when I was teaching English to a group of Hispanics, one of the ladies in my class brought a “Coconut Flan” to our class for us to taste. I immediately loved it and she graciously shared her recipe with me. If you’re not familiar with flan, it typically is made by caramelizing sugar and placing it in your baking dish that will be used to bake the flan. Then, a mixture of milk, sugar, eggs and a few other ingredients are combined and poured over the caramelized sugar. The dish is placed in a larger, shallow dish of hot water and baked. When a silver knife is inserted and emerges clean, the flan is ready to come from the oven. The tricky part is inverting the dish quick enough so that the custard won’t spill out! When inverting this, or any other flan, work fast so that the flan will unmold without spills.
This recipe contains some very good things: cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, coconut and the surprise ingredient: cream of coconut! This is available in the mixed drink section of many stores and is often sold under the name “Coco Lopez”. There are other brands of this milk out there, but this is the most familiar brand. You can also make the caramel two ways: you can caramelize the sugar yourself by melting sugar in a skillet until it turns brown or take an much easier route and use caramel topping for ice cream. This is much easier, but if you feel adventuresome, try caramelizing the sugar yourself.
This can be made ahead and refrigerated. It’s best to unmold the flan before refrigeration because otherwise, this would cause the caramel to harden, causing the custard to separate from it. Unmold it before chilling and you’ll be in good shape. When you do unmold it and if the caramel has stuck to the dish, try scraping it out and spreading it on the flan before serving.
Since this dessert is much like our egg custard, I recently shared a recipe for an egg custard pie that turns out great every time. To get the recipe, follow this link:
If you happen to be looking for a good Mexican bread, here’s a video with a recipe for “Chorizo and Mushroom Bruschetta.” To see the video, follow this link:
Coconut fans, custard fans, and Mexican food fans, take this recipe down and see why the Spanish-speaking world enjoys it so much!
about 1 cup sugar (see note below)
1 large can evaporated milk
1 can cream of coconut, such as the “Coco Lopez” brand
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (1/2 of an 8 oz. pkg)
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rum or to taste (optional)
1/2 large bag frozen coconut, thawed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a large shallow pan of hot water. Place sugar in a skillet and place over medium heat, stirring until sugar melts and turns a caramel color. Immediately pour in a greased, shallow 1-1/2 quart baking dish, spreading the caramel to cover the bottom. In blender container, place the remaining ingredients. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour directly on top of the caramel. Place dish in the shallow pan of hot water, being careful not to get water in the flan. Water should come up to about 1/2 way to the sides of the dish. Place in oven and bake until a silver knife inserted comes out clean, about 35 minutes, according to your oven. Remove from oven and remove dish from water. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then quickly invert onto a serving platter. Cover and chill until serving time. Yield: about 12 servings.
NOTE: Instead of melting the sugar to make the caramel, the caramel topping for ice cream will work also. Use about 2/3 cup