Like flan? How about pumpkin pie? Yes. And yes some more.
If pumpkin pie and flan had a baby, this would be it. It’s got all the flavors of a spiced pumpkin pie, but the vibe of a flan. Maybe I should have named it a Plan. 😉
Flan was my dad’s favorite dessert. Every year on our annual Mexico escapade, we’d go flan crazy, eating the stuff almost daily. A questionable decision, I know, but one that made us smile year after year. I tried as a kid to make it from scratch at home… it was never quite as good as my memories recall from my Sayulita childhood, but for a 10-year-old, eh, it wasn’t too bad either.
Over the years, I played around more with different types of flans and custards. Then a few years back, just before Thanksgiving, lost in the fun of fall foods, I attempted a pumpkin flan. For any pumpkin pie lover, it’s gold. Gold I tell you.
Problem is, while I loved the recipe and made it several times that year, now that I’m more conscientious of what ingredients I cook with, the old evaporated milk and sweetened condense version just doesn’t cut it. So I tried my hand at a healthier ‘better’ version made with cleaner ingredients and foods I’d rather devour nowadays.
Traditional caramel is made with plain old granulated sugar, with either some water added in, a lid to create condensation, or a little lemon juice… all different methods to prevent crystallization. No one likes a chunky caramel. Ick. Standard caramel becomes gooey and thick as the sugar cooks down, usually in about 7-8 minutes or so.
Coconut sugar caramel is different… it takes less time and has a slightly different texture and flavor. Since it’s already brown, you don’t use the color change as the gauge to know when it’s done, but rather the texture. Like any caramel, be careful not to burn it. Burnt caramel equals bitter caramel. no thank you. Coconut sugar takes less time to cook down… but it develops into a rich strong flavor quickly. It’s almost molasses-like, earthy and deep. I love it. Of course you could make the traditional version here if you’d prefer, but I have to say, there’s something comforting about the molasses-y quality with the spiced pumpkin flavors.
I have two not-so-sceret secret ingredients I use in this flan. The first is my go-to fave for nearly all sweet treats. Chipotle. Yep, chile chipotle… that smoky spicy ground chile pepper. It’s so freaking good. It’s not enough to make this dessert spicy, but it’s enough to give it that “Oooh la la” flair. It works beautifully with the nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s been my secret weapon, shall we say, for many tasty recipes in the past!
The second is orange zest. Or in the case pictured here, mandarin zest. It adds a citrus-y undertone that works super with this flavor palate. Without it, all is flatter… it gives it this sweet treat a lift- a teeny tiny zingy punch of love.
makes 6 mini flans
for the flan…
1 2/3 cup puréed pumpkin (1 15 oz canned or homemade like this)
1 2/3 cups coconut milk, full fat (1 15 oz can)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground chile chipotle
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup coconut sugar, divided in half
4 eggs, plus two more yolks
1/4 tsp salt
for the caramel sauce…
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup water
optional toppings: toasted coconut flakes, sliced pistachios, fresh mint, whipped cream, or nothing at all 😉
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Start with the caramel sauce…
Add 3/4 cup coconut sugar and 1/4 water to a medium sauce pan
Over medium-high heat, stir the sugar until dissolved
Once dissolved, do not stir it any more… just let it do it’s thing
Let the sauce come to a light boil… unlike caramel made with white sugar,
you won’t be able to gauge this one by the color since it’s already brown
Instead, you’ll judge by thickness…
Let it bubble for about 5 minutes (lower heat a bit if needed- you don’t want that stuff to burn)
A periodic swirl is cool, but no stirring… none 😉
After approx 4 minutes, dip a spoon in there to test the thickness…
Roll the sauce around- it should thicken as soon as it chills
Coconut sugar caramel has a molassesy taste- however it should not taste burnt 😉
Remove when you’ve got yourself a smooth thickish sauce
To prevent the caramel from continuing to cook, you can place the pot directly in an ice batch if desired
Otherwise if you’re going to be quick, just begin pouring it into your ramekins right away
Try your best to get about the same amount into each ramekin
Set aside for now
(The sauce should begin to set as soon as it hits the bowls)
To make the flan…
Add the coconut milk, vanilla, spices, orange zest,
and half the sugar (1/4 cup) to a sauce pan over medium heat
Whisk well, then cook for a couple of minutes, until hot
Meanwhile, mix the four eggs, two extra egg yolks, salt, and
remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl
While whisking the eggs, very slowly drizzle the warm coconut milk mixture into the eggs
(You’re tempering the eggs- mixing the two so the eggs slowly begin to cook without scrambling)
Keep pouring and mixing until the two are completely mixed
Add the pumpkin to the mixture
Whisk until completely smooth and mixed through
Ready to pour!
Place ramekins in a large baking dish
Ladle the pumpkin mixture into the ramekins until all are evenly filled
Pour some hot water into the baking dish,
until the water goes approx half up the ramekin dishes
Bake on the middle rack for approx 50 minutes
(oven times may vary slightly depending on oven)
Flan is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean
Carefully transfer each ramekin onto a cooling rack or other surface
Let the flan cool for approx 30 minutes
If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist
nibbling one, still warm, while prepping the remaining ones for chilling 😮
Once chilled, serve ’em up!
Slide a knife along the edge of each ramekin to loosen the flan from the dish
Lay a plate over the ramekin, then flip it all over and tap until the flan comes out
You’ll be left with a little lump of heaven, smothered in
a rich coconut sugar caramel sauce ready for devouring
Top with anything you may want
Gobble all now, or eat them one by one, keeping the extras
covered in the fridge for up to three or so days