Flan de Coco

Last week, Dan and I celebrated 5 years of marriage! I can’t believe how time has flown by and how many different things we have shared together since then, including moving in together, planting a garden, being there for each other through the ups and downs of life and career, and surviving a pandemic. Dan and I had two wedding ceremonies, which means that we had a blast planning two wedding events that were very distinct, and that every year, we have two anniversaries to observe. Our first wedding ceremony was short, to the point, small, and intimate, held in Minneapolis near Lake of the Isles. Even though it was super simple, it was the best day ever, and because the event was so small, we could entirely take in the meaning of our vows and the joy and poignancy of this life event. This first wedding ceremony was in April, just as things were sprouting and turning green, and we celebrated with our immediate family at the iconic, but now-closed, farm-to-table restaurant Lucia’s, which was an institution and classic in Uptown, and if you’ve ever hung out with us, you would know it couldn’t have been a more appropriate spot. Our friend Avi kindly gifted us a second bottle of champagne at Lucia’s to celebrate. It was such a happy day! And because it was a magical day and we had balloons tied to our car, we love to look back on that day and commemorate it. 

For our anniversaries, I usually try to re-create something from our engagement or wedding events. It’s so much fun to look at the photos and stroll down memory lane, and I am a firm believer that if you have the right dish, that dish can transport you back in time. When we went on our honeymoon, there was a Spanish and Cuban restaurant on the island that we absolutely adored, and they had all kinds of incredible dishes and desserts that we loved. So in that spirit, I tried to create something in my little kitchen here on the Minnesota prairie that could taste a little bit Caribbean and tropical for this special occasion. Dan is a great lover of flan, as am I. I believe it is the most perfect dessert known to man, maybe even surpassing ice cream. It is creamy, it is sweet, it is nourishing, it is cool, and it’s also easy to make and a little bit exotic. Kids eat flan and then have energy for hours to play and get into all sorts of mischief. Adults eat flan and marvel at its simple sophistication and are inspired to travel and cook and eat more flan. Ministers eat flan and come up with their next sermon. You get the idea! One curious fact about flan is that it originated during the Roman Empire as a savory dish, and then the Spanish transformed it into a dessert when they because the first to top it with a sweet caramel sauce. When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they brought their recipes with them, and flan is today one of the most popular recipes in Central and South America. The flan I grew up with was my mom’s recipe, and it was usually baked until there were little holes on the side, but as I grew up, I learned that there are all kinds of other flans, and my world of custard-based desserts expanded. I am hoping that this summer, I will be making many different types of flan, starting with this one.

This flan de coco, or coconut flan, is a breeze to make, and yet it can be quite an impressive dessert. Made with condensed milk and coconut milk, this delicate custard is super simple and can be made ahead. It is a little bit different than other flan desserts because it does not have whole milk or cream or even evaporated milk, and it has the addition of shredded coconut that creates in the flan two different layers while it’s baking: a bottom layer that has a coconut crust and a top and thicker layer of luscious, creamy custard. When you invert the flan to serve, you also get all the caramel on the top, making for a third, delicious thin layer. It’s a truly outstanding, silky-smooth dessert!

For about three days, Dan and I feasted on this delicious flan de coco and reminisced about the wonderful time we had on the island at St. Armand’s Circle. We sunbathed, swam in the ocean, visited all creatures great and small at the aquarium, watched stunning sunsets on the beach, walked around the island, spotted lots of fruit trees like mango trees and avocado trees, and ate lots of seafood, Spanish, and Cuban food. Oh, what I would give to be there right now! Aside this flan de coco, for our anniversary, we made some other Spanish and Cuban dishes at home like paella and guava cheesecake, but the flan de coco was the brightest star of the week. We had it for dessert and we had it for breakfast, and then we had some more as a snack. It was this incredible dish that never got old and was always a marvel to discover in the fridge. You don’t have to get married to make this flan! You do need to have about 20 minutes to put it together, and then sit down and watch your favorite telenovela while the magic happens in the oven, and then go to bed early so you can wake up the next morning to eat flan. If you’ve never had flan de coco, this is one recipe you need to try! It’s an irresistible dessert, and we could all do with a taste of the tropics as we usher the slow and shy spring season into the Midwest.

Flan de Coco

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 50-60 mins

Chill time: 8 hours or overnight

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

For the flan:

  • 1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk (14 oz can)
  • 1 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk (about 13 fl oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup cane sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, making sure it has a rack in the middle.
  2. Have a large roasting pan nearby as well as an ungreased metal loaf pan.
  3. In a large kettle, bring 10 cups of water to a boil over low heat. This will be used for baking the flan in a bain-marie.
  4. While the oven preheats and the water is heating up, place 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. As the sugar melts, stir with a wooden spoon occasionally to prevent burning.
  5. Watch the sugar bubble and turn golden carefully, and when the sugar has turned an amber-brown color and is completely liquid with no visible granules, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the caramel carefully and evenly into the loaf pan and, grabbing the loaf pan, swirl so it coats the bottom and sides of the loaf pan evenly.
  6. Set the pan with the caramel aside to cool so the caramel hardens.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and. coconut milk
  8. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, followed by the coconut and vanilla extracts. Finally, add in the shredded coconut, stirring well to combine.
  9. Pour the flan custard mixture into the loaf pan over the hardened caramel.
  10. Place the large roasting pan onto the middle rack in the oven and place the loaf pan in the center of the empty roasting pan.
  11. Fill the roasting pan with the 10 cups of boiling water. You may need to use all of the water or part of it, depending on how large your roasting pan is. You may need the loaf pan with the flan to be submerged at least ¼ to ½ of its height in the water.
  12. Bake the flan for 50-60 minutes, or until the top of the flan is a light brown or caramel color, and when shaking the loaf pan, the flan jiggles slightly in the center. If, when you shake the loaf pan, the flan jiggles creating a large ripple over the surface of the flan, it’s not done and probably needs another 5-10 minutes.
  13. When it is done, remove the roasting pan with the loaf pan in it from the oven. Remove the loaf pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
  14. Chill the flan for at least 8 hours or overnight. I highly recommend chilling it overnight because it will achieve a dense texture and the caramel flavors will really seep in. I like to make my flan at least a day in advance from when I plan to eat it to achieve this effect.
  15. To serve, place the loaf pan in about 2 inches of warm water, so that the caramel at the bottom softens. Run a butter knife around the edges of the loaf pan, and then invert a plate over the loaf pan and quickly turn it over so that now the loaf pan is on top of the plate. Sprinkle with shredded coconut before serving.

© 2022 Carol’s Baking Adventures

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