- Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy - http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com -

Pumpkin Flan (aka Caramel-Covered Crack)

I’ve eaten a lot of flan in my day – maybe hundreds of pounds.  I’ve eaten it in Mexico, Puerto Rico and in numerous other Caribbean locales.  I’ve also eaten it Cuban-style, thanks to an old college roommate whose family was from Cuba. I’ve ordered it in every Latin restaurant I’ve ever dined in.  I’ve experienced custardy flans, creamy flans, eggy flans and watery flans.   I think it’s safe to say that I know my flan.  And this flan, my dear readers, is the best I’ve ever had.  It’s the Holy Grail of flan.  It’s flantastic.  It is literally caramel covered crack.

The original recipe for this flan came my way over thirty years ago, when my Aunt Yolanda shared it with my mother.  You remember my Aunt Yolanda [1], don’t you?  She’s that swingin’ 60’s chick I told you about a while back.  Well, she happens to be a fantastic cook too.  (She’s the one who taught me that you should never eat mashed potatoes without some buttery, golden corn mixed in.)  And once upon a time, she had a neighbor from Puerto Rico who was also a fantastic cook.  I don’t remember the neighbor’s name.  We’ll just call her Maria.  Anyway, Maria gave Aunt Yolanda her family’s recipe for flan and all others have paled in comparison ever since.

Why is this flan so amazing?  I think the secret lies in two ingredients that I’ve rarely seen in other recipes – cream cheese and cornstarch.   Both of these ingredients appear to bind the others for a firmer, smoother product.  While still soft and creamy, Maria’s flan does not have that spongy, waterlogged texture that one often finds with flan.  Oh no, no, no!  This flan is dense (in a good way) and impossibly  rich and velvety.  And, you know how a traditional custard flan can sometimes be cloyingly sweet?  Well, not this one.  The cream cheese adds a little tang that balances perfectly with that sticky, gooey caramel.  I would describe it as a cross between a custard and crustless cheesecake.

Another thing about this flan is that it is so darned easy to make.  Aside from the caramel, which is a necessary evil in any flan recipe, everything is just mixed together and whizzed up in a blender.  And to be honest, even making the caramel isn’t really that challenging.

Maria’s original recipe is for a straightforward, traditionally flavored flan.  However, it lends itself to lots of different interpretations.  Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I’ve punched up this flan with some pumpkin puree for the perfect holiday dessert.  The mildly sweet and earthy flavor of pumpkin just goes so well with all the rest of that creamy, caramelized goodness.

If you want to knock your friend’s and family’s socks off this Thanksgiving, Make. This. Flan.  They will think you’re a rock star and shower you with praise and gifts.  (There might even be a little jewelry in it for you.)  And, even if they don’t, the pleasure you derive from eating this luscious, caramel-covered crack on a plate will be reward enough!