Cuban Flan

This is one of my favorite summer desserts —and my guests love it, too.  It's a delicious cross between a custard flan and a cheesecake. The filling is richly flavored with pure Mexican vanilla and has a creamy, silky texture. It makes a showstopper dessert for a crowd — double recipe and bake it in a large ring mold. Fill the middle with assorted tropical fruits or fresh berries in the summer. In the winter, serve flan with sliced bananas briefly sauteed in a little butter, brown sugar, and Meyers's Rum. 

INGREDIENTS:

Caramel
1 cup sugar

Filling
4 eggs (duck eggs are especially good to use!)
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. cream cheese (Philadelphia brand is best)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 large can evaporated milk (or 12 oz. heavy cream)
1 tablespoon Rain's Choice Mexican vanilla**

Garnish
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

METHOD:
For caramel:
Place sugar in the bottom of a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the sugar starts to melt slightly, begin stirring. Continue stirring until sugar is completely melted and a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes or so. DO NOT BURN! Immediately pour hot syrup into the bottom of a flan pan or mold of your choice. Using oven mitts, tilt the pan carefully to evenly coat the bottom and sides of your flan pan with the caramel. Set aside.

For filling:
Preheat oven to 350°. Set out pan large enough to hold flan or mold to use for a hot water bath.

Place filling ingredients in a food processor bowl and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling through a strainer. Then, pour filling mixture into prepared pan.

Place flan pan in the hot water bath pan and fill with hot water. Bake at 350* for 45-55 minutes.*

Cool. Then refrigerate. Chill flan for 24 hours before serving.  

To serve, set pan briefly in hot water. Place large serving on top, and quickly invert pan onto the platter. Sprinkle top with toasted almonds. Use fresh tropical or colorful fruits for garnish.

*If doubling this recipe, add another 15-20 minutes baking time.

**Don't use imported 'Mexican' vanilla — most are not pure vanilla extract. If you need to use a different kind of vanilla, choose Bourbon vanilla. I use Patricia Rain's vanilla for all of my baking — it makes a noticeable difference.