AIMEE'S EASY FLAN

  • 4 cups milk (whole milk)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 overflowing teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     

For the caramel:

  • 3/4 cup sugar

Put one large dish (like a Corning Ware dish) or six ramekin molds in a pan full of hot water. Make the caramel. Spread out the sugar evenly on the bottom of a large saucepan that is warm over medium heat. Heat it slowly, stirring, tilting the pan backward and forward until the sugar melts. Lift the heated ramekins or molds out of the water and dry them quickly. Watch the melted sugar closely, and when it turns a rich golden color, pour the mixture into the dishes and simply turn until they are coated, or brush the caramel on the insides of the dishes. You will need to move quickly. Set them (or it) aside. Preheat the oven to 350. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and bring the milk to just below boiling point. Pour it into a bowl and set it aside to cool. Put the eggs in a bowl, beat them lightly, and gradually beat in the sugar. Remove the vanilla from the milk, and gradually mix the milk into the egg. (If your milk is still warm, first add just a small amount of milk to your eggs. This is called tempering, and you want to slowly heat the eggs, so you do not have scrambled eggs!) Strain the egg mixture into the caramel-lined ramekins or molds and stand them into a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the dishes, then carefully put the pan in the oven. Bake the flan for about 40 minutes. The flan is done when a slender knife blade, inserted in one of them, comes out clean. Lift the dishes out of the water, let them cool, and chill them for several hours in the refrigerator. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each custard, place a dessert plate upside down on top of the dish and turn the dish and plate over together. Lift off the dish. Some of the caramel will settle in a puddle around the flan, so it is important not to choose dessert dishes that are too shallow.