I’m Filipino (with very Canadian sensibilities) and it is in my DNA to love custard. Leche Flan, otherwise known as crème caramel, in particular is so common in Filipino parties that its true delicacy is taken for granted. Every once in a while though, you come across one that is so rich it will blow your mind away – my mom’s flan is like that. It really is a cross between flan and pot de crème, very rich, very dense. I was craving the flavour of her flan but I wanted to make something that is lighter in texture. Lighter because it is the beginning of Spring after all.
Inspired by the daffodils and tulips in my husband’s little garden, I decided I wanted a custard with a floral note. During the winter holidays when I was desperate for a ray of sunlight and was searching for a dessert that could brighten up my mood, I came across Sweetapolita’s Layered Chocolate and Lavender Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. If there’s anything that can evoke the feeling of being under the warm sun, it is lavender for sure. Sweetapolita’s recipe was stunning and memorable. It was that lingering essence that led me to infuse lavender into Dorie Greenspan’s version of the flan. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I’m in love with Ms. Greenspan’s French way of cooking. I seriously want to live her life – living and working around food in New York and Paris and hobnobbing with the likes of Pierre Herme and Jacques Pepin! Until I get there, I will live her life through her recipes.
This crème caramel recipe is amazingly easy and straightforward. Apart from the infusion of lavender when I heated the cream mixture, the only other change I made was the amount of sugar. I reduced it as I am prone to do. Also, I was too quick to remove the caramel off the heat, afraid that I would burn it. Next time, I’ll wait until it reaches its full golden brown potential before taking it off the stove.
What better way to herald the arrival of Spring than by showering your kitchen with the scent of lavender and cream. Enjoy, everyone!
Lavender Crème Caramel
(Adapted from Baking by Greenspan)
for the caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoon water
a squirt of lemon
for the custard
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon cooking lavender
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan with two sheets of paper towel. The pan should be large enough to hold the 8-x-2-inch metal cake pan where the crème caramel will be cooked and deep enough to make a water bath. Boil water in a kettle and set aside. Place the cake pan in the oven in the meantime.
to make the caramel
Combine the sugar, water and lemon in a small saucepan. Cook the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until the syrup turns into a golden-coloured caramel then immediately remove from the heat. Full attention should be paid as the caramel can burn very quickly.
Remove the cake pan from the oven; pour the caramel while tilting the pan in a circular motion until the caramel is spread evenly over the bottom. Set aside to cool.
to make the custard
Combine the cream, milk and lavender in a sauce pan and bring just to a boil. Set aside and allow the lavender to steep a little more.
Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in a large glass bowl for one minute. Whisk in the vanilla.
Strain the cream and lavender mixture through a sieve and into a large glass measuring cup. Continue whisking the egg mixture and add the hot cream, trickling the cream at first to temper the mixture so as not to cook the eggs. Then, slowly and steadily pour the rest of the cream in a small stream while still whisking the mixture. There will be foam and bubbles with all that whisking. Spoon them all out.
Put the prepared cake pan in the lined roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slowly put in the oven, on the center rack. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it comes halfway up the cake pan. The original recipe suggests a 35-minute baking time but mine was done at the 25-minute mark. I suggest you check for doneness between the 20 and 25-minute mark. Insert a knife into the centre of the crème caramel; it should come out clean.
The top, when done, will puff up a bit and should have gold speckles here and there.
Carefully remove the roasting pan out of the oven. Remove the custard-filled pan from the water bath and put on a rack to cool. Run a knife between the crème caramel and sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature, cover with a foil and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. I refrigerated mine overnight, allowing the custard to really set.
When unmoulding, run a knife between the pan and custard again. Use a rimmed platter otherwise the caramel will spill all over once you flip the pan. Place the platter over the cake pan and with two hands holding the pan and platter together, swiftly turn over. There should be one clean pop, signalling the separation of the crème caramel from the pan. Remove the pan and voila, a beautiful shiny flan!