Caramelize sugar: (Caution: Caramelized sugar is very hot; take care not to touch
it.) Place sugar in small heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, watching carefully,
until sugar is melted and turns deep golden brown. Immediately remove from heat
and pour into 9-inch flan dish or pie plate. Holding dish with potholders, quickly
tilt dish to coat bottom completely and evenly. Syrup will harden quickly.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix condensed and evaporated milks in medium saucepan;
heat until very hot. Milk should be steaming but not bubbling. Meanwhile Beat eggs
and vanilla in medium bowl until blended but not foamy; slowly stir in hot milk.
Place flan dish in baking pan large enough to hold dish without touching sides
of pan. Pour egg mixture into flan dish.
Place pan on rack in center of 350 degrees F oven; pour very hot water into baking
pan (Hot-Water Bath) to within 1/2 inch of top of flan dish. Bake until knife inserted
near center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove dish from water bath at once;
cool on wire rack.
To serve warm, cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Gently loosen edges with tip of
knife. Invert onto platter.
To serve cold, cool completely on wire rack.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to chill thoroughly.
Gently loosen edges with tip of knife. Unmold before serving.
Garnish with strawberries and fresh mint. Cut into wedges.
Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 45 to 50 min | Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Don't skip the hot-water bath. A hot water bath, or bain-marie, insulates the
custard from the direct heat of the oven and promotes even cooking so the edges
don't overcook before the center is done. Very hot tap water will do. The caramelized
sugar melts during baking, forming an amber-colored caramel sauce. The sauce flows
down the sides when unmolded, to surround the flan in a pool. Be sure to use a deep
enough platter or plate to contain the sauce.
When is it done? Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath)
before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when dish or
cup is gently shaken. Custard will continue to "cook" after it's removed and center
will firm up quickly. Overbaked custard may curdle. The knife test: Test for doneness
with a thin-bladed knife. Insert knife about 1 inch from the center custard. If
knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the
blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.