flan flop

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1 a.m. Saturday, I texted Alex to say: “Being dragged to M Shanghai now. Flan was an inedible disaster. Will turn in cooking credentials now.”

Really people, it was that bad. My friend Molly took one look at it, pushed it away, and said, “I think I’ll skip this one. Sorry, Deb.” Jocelyn had one bite and pronounced that “This is the first thing that you have ever cooked that I actually didn’t like.” Darren smartly pretended he was too full from dinner to try it. And I nibbled on my spoonful, trying to figure out how something with such glorious flavors as rum, coconut, caramel and vanilla–from a batter that smelled so good, I wanted to wear it as perfume–could go so horribly awry. Oh, and then I drank some bourbon and forgot about it.

But it’s Sunday now, and I demand answers. To rewind, Jocelyn was making turkey tacos for dinner (which were delicious, by the way) and I wanted to make a flan for dessert. I scoured my cookbooks and cooking websites, deciding to (danger! danger!) combine two recipes to get what I desired, namely a dreamy coconut, caramel and rum flan with a real caramel layer on the bottom (or top, once you flipped it out of the pan).

To achieve this, I caramelized the half-cup of sugar that the recipe called for in the bottom of the pan, as instructed in a second recipe. I then swapped the quarter-cup caramel sauce (ech) for regular sugar. But I otherwise changed nothing, and the flan, it never set. At 1 hour, 15 minutes (the suggested cooking time) it was wiggly and loose. Ditto at 1 hour, 25 minutes, and every ten minutes after until well into the second hour, at which point I quit and brought it over anyway, if nothing other than to have a solid excuse for making them wait to eat dinner until 10 p.m. (I had had no such effect delaying their wine intake, and they were SO FUNNY when I arrived.)

The cab decimated any parts of the flan that had managed to firm up, leaving us with a final product, so utterly vile-appearing in a dessert dish (we had hope) there will be no pictures of it, ever. I don’t want you to lose your breakfast. But if I am ever to make flan again, and I’d really really like to, I want to know why a recipe that was loved by all of the people who successfully made it before me failed only me. Is it that big of a deal to create a caramel layer the sugar? (I’ve always figured the custard texture came from baking eggs with dairy.) Was there a better approach? Do you have a favorite flan recipe? Aren’t you glad I spared you the nauseating final photo? Let me answer that last one for you: believe me, you are.

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