There are few desserts as versatile as Spanish flan, which is egg custard gently baked in a water bath until it can just barely hold itself together. A variant of the French crème caramel, most Latin American countries embrace it as their own. Though many flan recipes start the same way – caramelizing a metal mold with sugar until it’s pulled back from the brink of bitterness and ending with a precarious un-molding where it can still go all wrong – in between the possibilities are endless.
Cheese, pumpkin, coconut, coffee, pineapple, and even melon flans all have their adherents, not to mention the savory varieties. This almond-orange flan, made with almond milk and a strong dose of orange juice and zest, is a popular dairy-free option for Passover. As the custard bakes, the sliced almonds form a light bottom crust for added texture. Dense but smooth and brightened by the citrus flavor, it will be a welcome last bite.
1 1/4 cups of sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk 1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds 4 large egg yolks
2 large whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from one large orange
Equipment: 8-inch round metal cake pan (preferably 2-3 inches deep), roasting pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour 3/4 cups of sugar into round metal flan mold.* Place over medium heat and carefully move the pan frequently, without stirring, until it takes on an amber hue. Off heat, swirl the caramel so that the bottom and sides are lightly covered. The caramel will be very hot. Set aside to cool.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, almond milk, orange juice, sliced almonds, egg yolks, eggs, vanilla, salt, and zest to a blender and mix on lowest setting until blended.
Carefully pour the custard into prepared mold and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the prepared mold in a larger roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the mold. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 60-75 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean though it may still appear wobbly.
Allow to cool completely inside the water bath then refrigerate covered at least 4 hours or overnight.
To un-mold the flan, run a thin knife along the side of mold. Gently shake to loosen. Invert a large plate over the flan and quickly invert the mold in one motion. The flan will gently drop onto the plate and the caramel will flow out so allow extra space around the flan.
Notes: The caramel could also be done in a small saucepan then poured into the mold.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog, hungrysofia.com. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.