Gluten-free Monday: Flan Again

So, last week, I ventured into the World of crustless custard desserts with a pumpkin cheesecake crème caramel.  This week I decided to explore a traditional crème caramel, sans cream cheese.  For uniformity, I made a pumpkin crème caramel.

Out of the gate, the prep time on this recipe was more than five minutes for me.  The caramel sauce probably took more than 5 minutes.

This recipe starts with a caramel made from only sugar.  The sugar caramelized nicely in a small pan medium heat on the stove top, and, again, did not spread well along the bottom of the flan pan and hardened quickly.

caramel sauce

For the custard, this recipe uses milk and heavy cream, heated—or actually “scalded”—on the stove top.  Scalding is an old cooking technique, from the days when milk wasn’t necessarily pasteurized.  Scalding milk involves heating milk slowly in a sauce pan on the stove top to 180 degrees without allowing the milk to boil.  It should froth a bit around the edges, but not boil.  In this recipe, I believe it also serves to thicken the milk and cream mixture and start the process of cooking the custard when mixed with the egg.  I let the milk heat a bit too quickly and it did start to boil.  I immediately removed it from the heat.  The milk mixture did develop a bit of skin on top and on the bottom of the pan.  While I did not strain the milk/ pumpkin mixture, I can see why there might be lumps that one would want to remove if the scalding technique is used.  I also used a sauce pan just big enough for this mixture.  The scalding might have gone better if I had used a larger pan with more surface area on the bottom and shallower depth for the milk/ pumpkin.

The back and forth mixing—2/3 cup scalded milk/ pumpkin whisked into the egg/sugar mixture, the all of the egg/sugar poured into the scalded milk was easier than it sounded, although I did have to pour  the remaining scalded milk mixture into a separate large bowl to accommodate all of the egg mix.  Again, I would suggest using a large sauce pan with a lot of room for the scalding that would also accommodate all of the egg mixture at the end.

I then poured the final mixture into the flan pan with the hardened caramel “sauce” and popped it into the same Pyrex pan, which I again let preheat in the oven.  The mix was liquidy and the dish was almost full.

full to the top

As I closed the oven, I realized that the recipe I was following was for single serving ramekins, and I was making a full-size flan!  I immediately searched the Net for adjustments to the cooking time and came up with 45 minutes to an hour for a full-sized pan.  After 45 minutes, it was still very sloshy, so I left it for another 15 minutes.  At that point, it was still sloshy, but a knife inserted to the middle came out clean, so I took it out and then cooled as follows—five minutes in the bath, an hour on the stove, overnight in the fridge.  It didn’t pull away from the sides by itself, but a knife run around the edge revealed sticky syrup stuff.

see the sauce?

Next morning?  The flan flipped!  Like a champ.

flippity flan!

Very soft, almost pudding-like texture.  No apparent ill effects from letting the milk boil a bit, or the failure to strain or some fumbling over the back and forth mixing of the milk/pumpkin or the egg/sugar mixes.  Also, this recipe resulted in much more syrup.

All things considered, this wasn’t that much harder or complicated than pumpkin pie.  Perhaps my years of flan fear were unfounded . . . .

I am used to flan being a bit firmer.  I am wondering if this is the pumpkin, or if was the lower cooking temperature.  I think I might try a vanilla flan/ crème caramel to see how the recipe turns out without added flavor ingredient to affect the texture.  Next Week!


Pumpkin Crème Caramel/Flan

If classic crème caramel is comforting, then this pumpkin crème caramel recipe is the ultimate comfort food. Pureed pumpkin and aromatic spices warm up the flavor of this already soothing, velvety-smooth dessert. The secret ingredient, a hint of maple syrup, gives an almost indiscernible rustic note to the sophisticated dish. The finished result is absolutely fantastic at a stylish dinner party or after a casual family supper.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) ground ginger
  • 7 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Boiling water


In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt and caramelize 1/2 cup of the sugar. Shake the pan occasionally to stir the sugar and evenly distribute the color. The sugar is caramelized when it has turned a uniform light tan color. ovenproof ramekins.>  Note:  I used a medium-sized ceramic baking dish and made a flan.  Swirl the caramel inside each ramekin to coat the sides and bottoms completely. Arrange the ramekins in a 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch deep baking pan.

Preheat and oven to 325F. In a clean saucepan over medium heat, stir together the milk, cream, pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger just until it begins to scald, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not allow the liquid to simmer or boil at any time. Remove the pan from the heat and press the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve or strainer, discarding the large solids. Return the pumpkin-cream mixture to the pan and set it aside for a moment.

Stir together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the eggs. Allow the sugar-egg mixture to rest for 5 minutes. Slowly add 2/3 cup of the hot pumpkin-cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Stirring constantly, add the tempered eggs and pumpkin-cream back into the hot- pumpkin cream in the saucepan. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract.

Carefully pour the hot pumpkin-egg mixture into the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the pan holding the ramekins until the water level reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. <Bake the custard for 30 to 35 minutes, until the custard is just set. (Overcooking will remove the silky texture for which crème au caramel is famous.)>  Note:  I cooked the flan for an hour.

Remove from the oven and allow the ramekins to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes.   Note:  I air cooled for an hour then chilled in the fridge overnight.

Run an offset spatula or butter knife around the edges of each ramekin and invert the custards onto serving plates. Serve them at room temperature or chill for up to a day before serving.

About missbodie

The Dragon Lady is a life long tea drinker. Her first coffee shops were Big Boy and the Oriental Diner in downtown Milwaukee. She lives in our Nation's Capital with three bicycles and an energetic tabby cat.
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