Making the Perfect Caramel
Making a caramel can be quite scary. So many things can go wrong: it can crystallize into a powdery inedible mess, or turn into dark, bitter sludge in an instant. The best way to avoid these is to make a sort of fortified caramel that’ll need less cooking and won’t crystallize as easily.
Instead of making a straight up classic caramel with white sugar and a sprinkling of water, use half white sugar and half brown sugar and drizzle some honey, corn syrup or glucose over it instead of water. The brown sugar adds a deep butterscotch flavor to the mix, making it perfectly okay to undercook your caramel just a little and makes it easier to avoid burning everything. Adding syrups such as honey and light corn syrup helps to prevent crystallization as the syrups are invert sugars that don’t easily crystallize.
No Bubbles, Please
Every leche flan’s worst enemy is bubbles. The more bubbles there are in the custard before it sets, the lumpier the end product will be. In order to minimize the air introduced to the custard, mix the ingredients gently with a wooden spoon or whisk and only until everything is combined and homogenous. Before pouring the custard into the containers with the caramel, skim the bubbles from the top to make sure that no bubbles get into your precious flan.
Low and Slow
Don’t be tempted to hurry the process and steam your leche flan on full blast. The only way to get unbelievably smooth custard is by cooking it gently over a constant medium heat. High heat will inadvertently boil the custard and overcook it, resulting in scrambled eggs instead of luscious leche flan.
Watch Out For the Wobble
Test to see if the leche flan is done by giving it a little shake. The custard’s center should give a slight wobble to let you know it’s reached the sweet spot. If the whole custard jiggles vigorously, it’ll need a few more minutes in the steamer. If it doesn’t move at all, that means that the custard has over-set and is a little too stiff.
Keep it Cool
While it might be tempting to turn your leche flan out as soon as it comes out of the steamer, it’ll need to cool down completely before it’s completely set. Turning it out while it’s still warm will risk having the entire thing collapse because the cooked egg hasn’t had enough time to stabilize. It’ll be best to chill your leche flan in the fridge for a few hours in order to get the best possible set. Anyway, leche flan is best eaten with just the slightest chill from the fridge.