Breaking the Custard Curse
I can’t remember the first time I heard about Carl Warner. I probably read about him on a cooking blog some rainy day. It doesn’t matter. He’s an English photographer who recreates landscapes with real food. A lot of big companies have hired him for his originality (can you imagine? a sea made of red salmon…) If you want to check out his work, google “Foodscapes.”
Anyway. The point is, here I was the other day, admiring his creations, when it hit me: food and art are truly related. I began clicking. One thing led to another, and I ended up looking at a Dalí painting. In the painting, a pork chop hangs on his wife, Gala’s, shoulder.
I remember reading that a journalist asked him once about why he put the two objects together. He replied something like, “I like my wife and I like pork. I don’t understand why I shouldn’t put them together in my painting.” (Aesthetics, maybe? But who am I to question Dalí.)
The relationship between Dalí and food goes further. Remember his floppy clocks? Well, he got the idea eating hot camembert. Really. I don’t know why, but the clocks have always reminded me of flan. The movement, the elasticity…
I had an idea; I’d make flan, the traditional Spanish dessert.
Growing up, I had always seen my mother and grandmother making it. I have great memories of those moments full of love and food. I had never thought that it was something difficult to make, until living in the States. I planned to surprise my roommates cooking one. I looked for the recipe, and what I got was the worst version of flan that a person could possibly make. It was a mutant flan.
The problem was that I had no idea about the American measurement system, and I translated literally what the recipe said without thinking that in the new continent the measurements were based on volume and not weight.
I am not going to extend the article explaining how awful it was, but I will say that from that moment on, I couldn’t make a proper flan. I was officially cursed.
This year I was ready to break my bad luck, so I called my mother and I asked her about it. Calmly, she said, “It is very easy. Just mix the eggs with sugar and milk. That is it.” As you can imagine, that knowledge wasn’t much help, so I searched the net for one of my favorite cooks, José Andrés, and based on his recipe I made mine. And finally it worked.
Here you are -- the recipe for one of the most Spanish desserts, with American measurements, made in Korea – a good example of fusion.
Pre-heat the oven to 135 degrees (275 degrees Fahrenheit). You can use any oven if it’s big enough to fit a pie pan and has temperature control.
To make the caramel, put the sugar in a small pan. Cook it over low heat. It should be ready after five or six minutes. Watch it carefully -- you don’t want it to burn.
Remove from the heat and carefully add a half cup of water. The caramel will sputter and release steam as it hardens. Return to low heat. After about five minutes, the caramel will become syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool a little. Coat the bottom and sides of 4 small ramekins with the caramel, using your fingers or a spatula. If you don’t have ramekins, you can use a pie pan or a round baking dish.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and the cream. Add the cinnamon, along with the lemon peel and the three-quarters-cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, removing the pan from the heat just as it reaches a boil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Carefully pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking vigorously in the bowl. Then fill the amekins.
Set the ramekins in a deep baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with hot water up to a level in the middle of the ramekins. Place the dish in the pre-heated oven and
bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let the ramekins cool.
Store the flan in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold.
(If you don’t want to make a traditional caramel, use maple syrup. Cook the syrup and reduce it to a thick, dark-brown consistency).
Flan (serves four)
• 1/2 cup plus 3/4 cup of brown sugar
• 1/2 cup of milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• Lemon zest
• Cinnamon (if you have a stick, even better)
• 3 large eggs
• 2 large egg yolks
Groove Korea website