Cheesecake Flan

It is rare that you eat something you love at a restaurant and then re-create almost perfectly at home.  This cheesecake flan is one of those recipes.  We used to frequent Cafe Habana in New York City regularly and fell in love with the cheesecake flan that they served for dessert.  Their food is quite tasty (killer Cuban sandwiches and grilled corn “Mexican” style), but it was that flan that kept bringing us back.  As luck would have it, Food & Wine magazine shared the recipe shortly after we “discovered” the restaurant.

As the name suggests, it is an intriguing cross between a flan and a cheesecake.  If you like both (as we do) then this is a match made in heaven.  However, if you find flan a little too jiggly and insubstantial and cheesecake a little bit too rich and heavy, this combination might win you over.  I once watched my mother polish off the last two of these and use her elbows to keep us away from taking any bites.  It is that kind of dessert – the kind that brings out the worst in people.  I also watched Ria and her little friend who came over for lunch, both inhale the dessert without even looking up even though they were “full”.  Play dates at our house come with some pretty awesome treats if you come over on the right day. 🙂

When I am not feeling lazy (my regular caramel flan recipe consists of 4 ingredients and can be made with your eyes closed), I make this cheesecake flan for a mind-blowing end to an elegant meal.  Not that this recipe is difficult at all.  The hardest part is probably un-molding the flan from the ramekin (especially when you are drunk at the end of a dinner party) without damaging it.  Damaged or not, it is till a thing of beauty.

Cheesecake Flan from Food & Wine (a Cafe Habana recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese (7 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Boiling water
  • Whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice and cook over moderately low heat until an amber caramel forms, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately pour the hot caramel into six 1-cup ramekins, swirling them to coat the bottoms.
  2. In a blender, combine the cream cheese with the condensed and evaporated milks, half-and-half, eggs and vanilla and blend on medium speed until smooth. Refrigerate the custard for 10 minutes, skim off the foam and pour the custard into the prepared ramekins.
  3. Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan; add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake the flans for about 1 1/2 hours or until they are set and a toothpick inserted in the centers come out almost clean. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.
  4. To unmold each flan, set the bottom of the ramekin in a pan of hot water for about 1 minute. Run a thin blade around the edge of the flan and cover with a plate. Invert the plate and shake once or twice; the flan should release easily. Serve with whipped cream and berries.
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A Quick Dessert: Caramel Flan

If you ever come over for a dinner party at our place, you are likely to be served flan for dessert.  I am not an enthusiastic maker of desserts primarily because I end up eating most of what I make…so I just don’t go there.  The flan recipe below is great for a small dinner party or even the end of a special meal at home. Dessert leftovers are not a good thing.

Interestingly enough, my mother who is also not much of a dessert-maker (massive dessert-eater though) would always make creme caramel to finish off her lavish and abundant Indian buffet dinner parties.  I do not know how anyone even ate dessert after all the food she forced them to eat.  With my mother, if you are lucky enough to score an invite to one of her dinner parties, the best strategy to survive is to say you are full when you are just halfway full.  I used to “die” of embarrassment when she would insist in a very pushy manner that each guest eat more.  No amount of protesting would stop her from just dumping more food on your plate, which if you did not finish would end up causing offense.  Indian hospitality at it’s best (or worst).  I know one day I am going to be exactly like her and Ria is going to be in the corner rolling her eyes.  Life is strange like that.  We are all like our parents when they aren’t in the room.

Mom’s creme caramel recipe is complicated – it somehow requires a pressure cooker.  I have pressure cooker phobia (visions of it exploding), so I satisfy myself with the recipe below.  I can make this dessert in my sleep and I suspect Ria can as well since she has assisted me on many an occasion.  Only catch is that you have to make it the day before or at least six hours before you serve it. If you could make it and serve it right away it would be the perfect, quick dessert.

Caramel Flan (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Makes 1 eight-inch flan and serves 8.  I make mine in a loaf tin which means a unique rectangular flan.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs

Method

  1. Fill a roasting pan with 2 inches of water. Transfer to oven; preheat to 325F (Be careful transferring in and out of oven)
  2. Cook sugar in a small heavy bottomed saucepan.  Stirring until sugar melts.  Continue cooking and stirring until sugar turns a dark caramel color.  Careful with this – sugar burns terribly and will get to the terribly stage in a hurry
  3. Pour caramel in baking dish you are using (8 inch cake pan or loaf tin)
  4. Blend condensed milk,  milk and eggs in a blender.  (I just use a med sized bowl and a whisk).  Pour into baking dish.  Transfer to roasting pan, placing it in the water
  5. Bake flan until just set – about 50 min to an hour
  6. Transfer to wire rack and cool
  7. Chill at least 6 hours or preferably overnight