Velvety Pumpkin Spice Flan
This creamy pumpkin spice flan is a great way to end the Thanksgiving feast. The pumpkin pie flavours are beautifully complemented by the caramelised sugar, making for a special treat.
Although I adore lemony sweet potato pie, I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. However, pumpkin is an essential Thanksgiving ingredient.
Thus, as a mother, I have spent years seeking out alternative Thanksgiving desserts involving pumpkin. I particularly appreciate desserts that play up the smooth texture of the pumpkin purée — such as this flan.
Frankly, I’ve been eating flan ever since I was a very little girl. My mother made it regularly, and I started making my own as soon as I left home.
Over the years, I have experimented with lots of different flavour additions to flan. However, none has been more beloved in my house than this festive pumpkin spice flan. The colour is beautiful and reminds us of the season, while the pumpkin itself melds beautifully with the other ingredients to create a rich, flavourful custard.
If you’ve never made flan (a.k.a. crème caramel) before, it may sound intimidating. However, if you make it once, you’ll realise it’s the easiest dessert in the world to make successfully.
The only tricks making the perfect flan are: (a) caramelising the sugar properly; (b) baking it in a water bath; and (c) ensuring your flan is set. If you follow my instructions, your success is practically guaranteed.
Place the sugar in a cold pan, set over medium heat. Until you get the hang of caramelising sugar, do not leave the pan unattended — even for a second. Stir continuously, until the sugar melts and turns a deep amber colour. This should take about 5 minutes.
Do not allow the sugar to scorch and burn, or it will leave an unpleasant bitter taste in your mouth when you eat it. If your sugar does burn, it’s best to clean your pan and start from scratch, rather than ruining the custard.
Stay calm and take deep breaths. Once you get the hang of it, caramelising sugar is super easy.
The Water Bath
When baking custards, a water bath is essential. Without the water bath, the outside of your custard would overcook before the centre sets.
Creating a water bath is a very simple process. Simply add about an inch of water to a baking dish that is big enough to hold the dish you plan to cook your flan in. When you set your flan in the larger dish, water should come about halfway up the sides of the dish.
When Is the Flan Set?
The flan is set as soon as the entire thing ripples symmetrically. So long as different parts of the custard are moving independently, the custard is not set.
Until you get to know the timing for the container you are baking your custard in, be conservative. Start checking regularly after about 40 minutes or so.
When in doubt, you can insert a sharp knife or a cake tester in the centre of the custard. If it comes out clean, your flan is set. If not, leave it in the oven a bit longer.