Want to liven up your day with a dairy-free flan? Say no more, friends.
Sweet and creamy with a golden layer of caramel sauce, flan really is a one-of-a-kind dessert. But if you live a dairy-free life, it's one that's off the table for you, lost to the dairy-rich dessert wasteland along with cheesecake and ice cream cakes.
Mastering the perfect flan—which is a popular dessert in Spanish, Mexican, and Latin American cuisines—is already a challenge in and of itself, but Sashah Handal, the host of the latest episode of Alt-Baking Bootcamp, went above and beyond by not only crafting a recipe for delicious flan, but also one that's dairy-free, gluten-free, and low in sugar. How's that for a quarantine baking challenge?
Handal says the inspiration for her recipe came straight from her childhood—but with a few key substitutions. The custard is made with equal parts coconut milk and coconut cream. This mixture not only gives the flan its creamy texture but also adds natural sweetness. Handal also uses coconut sugar in place of table sugar. "Coconut sugar blends this beautiful caramel-y flavor and color, so it's actually really perfect for this recipe, which is custard and caramel," she says.
Here's Handal's secret ingredient when making the all-important caramel sauce: pumpkin puree. Yep, besides the rest of the dessert's ingredients (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon zest, and eggs), the pumpkin is key to making a dairy-free caramel sing, as it forms a syrupy texture when cooked on the stove without the use of butter or cream.
When making the custard, Handal says a water bath is crucial. "It keeps the texture creamy, yet firm and helps the custard bind together," she says. In the episode, she shows exactly how to do it, filling the baking tray with water and then putting it in the oven.
Watch the episode above (or read below) for step-by-step instructions on how to make the dairy-free flan. It just might be your most delicious pandemic baking project yet.
Sashah Handal's dairy-free flan recipe
1 can coconut milk
1 can coconut cream
6 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup coconut sugar, divided into 1/2 cups
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup toasted shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp water
1. In a small pot, heat coconut milk and cream on medium-low heat until mixture bubbles at the sides. Add 1/2 cup of coconut sugar and whisk until completely dissolved. Allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes to reduce (it should lose about a third to a half of its original volume.)
2. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium (preferably metal) mixing bowl. Add vanilla, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt, and whisk to combine. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 325 F. Fill a large baking dish one-third full of water and place in oven. Using same small pot from earlier, heat the remaining ½ cup of coconut sugar, pumpkin puree, and 2 Tbsp water over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar has completely dissolved and a caramel consistency is reached (about three to five minutes).
4. Once pumpkin caramel is syrupy and viscous, divide carefully and evenly among six ramekins. Put to the side while you finish the flan mixture.
5. Whisk 6 eggs together in a large bowl. Slowly, pour a gentle stream of the reduced coconut milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from cooking. Pour mixture into caramel-lined ramekins.
6. Place ramekins into the hot water bath in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes until custard is set. (A wiggly center is okay, it will continue to set in the fridge.)
7. Carefully remove baking dish from oven and use tongs to remove ramekins from baking dish. Allow to cool and then place in fridge for several hours, or overnight.
8. To serve, run an offset spatula or knife along side of ramekin to break the seal and carefully invert onto a serving dish, allowing caramel to flow over custard. Top with toasted coconut and dig in!
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