16 August 2009

Dulce de Leche Flan

Dulce de Leche Flan (with title)
When I was in college, there used to be this strange yearly event for freshman orientation wherein various organizations compete to be the best. At what, I don't know, because it involved racking up points for 1) collecting as much newspaper as you can and 2) hanging out at a particular building in campus during your spare time for the most amount of hours. It was considered to be a chore because let's face it, there's a ton of places better to go than some ratty building wherein you played board games until everyone went postal from having to hang out with each other (er, never happened).

Long story short, I was a new member of my organization and I thought I'd contribute by having my soul eroded by boredom. It was there that I got to meet an officer of our organization (our org was pretty huge, and not everyone gets to talk to everyone). He wanted to set an example for everyone else, so he hung out there too. I have no idea what we talked about, but by the time I went home after maybe the second day we met, he sent an SMS message: "You know, I enjoy talking to you, you stimulate my mind. Have a nice Sunday."

That was funny, I thought. What a great way to say "You're such a nerd." Kidding. But I found it kind of refreshing that someone would tell me that so openly after meeting me twice. I guess we've all just become so used to keeping our cards close to the vest-- not looking so keen-- that it's so easy to take for granted that someone actually enjoys your company. And as for me, I give myself so little credit (still do, to this day) for being liked just for who I am.

I don't think anybody ever got our friendship, as we had nothing in common. But he was like a second older brother to me. When we were in (different) medical schools, I once told him that maybe it was time I refrain from giving him hugs, as it might embarrass his friends. He seemed surprised by this, saying that he doesn't care about other people, and if I ever needed a hug, to just go for it.

The last time I saw him was late last year, for his wedding. He told me to write him as often as I can. While it hasn't been as often as I'd like, I do, because this friendship was as rare as the person as I shared it with. It's been nine years since I received that message, but I preserved it from phone to phone and it still lives in my current phone: a reminder that there's always someone out there who likes me for who I am and isn't afraid to show it.
Dulce de Leche Flan (top view)
This dulce de leche flan is adapted from the book Seven Fires. You can read a great book review of Seven Fires at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, written by Uncle Rob (he calls it "the most perfect cookbook" he's ever read-- what a recommendation!! Click on the link to see why :). I've adapted it so it only serves 8 (not the original 16 (!)), but it is very sweet and while Mallmann recommends serving it with unsweetened whipped cream, I recommend 1) small servings and 2) a glass of water. Anyway, even if it is sweet, it reminds me of my favorite kind of Filipino leche flan, rich with a ton of egg yolks, only with a luxurious caramel flavor permeating the custard itself. A dessert for the dessert-lover!

Dulce de Leche Flan adapted from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way
I had a problem with the baking time here. The original recipe that was double this called for three hours in a bain-marie, but I baked it for the same amount of time for this smaller one but it wasn't yet done. Impatient at 2:30AM, I cranked it up to 160C, and this caused curdling of the upper quarter-inch of the custard. Sigh. Just be patient and it'll eventually set.

  • 1 kg (4 cups) whole milk

  • 400g (2 cups) granulated sugar

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split

In a large pot, whisk together the milk and sugar. Scrape the caviar from the pod and throw in everything with the milk. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the milk nearly boils. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and simmer very gently without stirring for three to four hours, skimming the foam that forms on top. When it has a light coffee color and is syrupy (and is reduced to two cups), it's ready. Strain through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, let cool completely, cover with cling film and refrigerate till ready to use.

Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F). Have ready a 7.5 x 3.5 inch (18x9cm) loaf pan that fits in a roasting pan. Pour some boiling water into the roasting pan and place the loaf pan in to warm the bottom.

  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

  • 60g (1/4 cup) water

  • 1 large egg

  • 7 large egg yolks

In a small heavy saucepan, pour in the sugar and add the water around the periphery. Place over medium-high heat and swirl without stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, swirling occasionally until it is golden amber (don't take it too far-- 175°C or 350°F is enough). Immediately pour into the loaf pan and tilt the pan until the entire bototm surface is covered. Remove the loaf pan from the roasting pan and let the caramel cool till hard. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and yolks, then add the dulce de leche. Strain into the loaf pan, return it to the roasting pan, and pour hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for at least 3 hours, replenishing the hot water if needed, until the middle barely jiggles. Remove from the bain-marie and let cool completely. Refrigerate overnight. To unmold, loosen the edges with a thin knife, then either pass the bottom over a flame, dip the bottom in boiling water for half a minute, or torch it with a blowtorch while inverted to liquidize the caramel again. Invert onto a platter.

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