I not only love Thanksgiving the holiday, but I devoutly believe in thanksgiving every other day of the year as well. Practicing gratitude and giving thanks to others is a gift to the giver.
This is much of the reason of why I love to bake. By its very nature baking is a communal endeavor. You don’t bake a singular cookie, one slice of pie, or a piece of bread, but rather dozens of cookies, a whole pie, and a loaf of bread. All meant to be given and shared, especially on Thanksgiving.
Now, let’s face it. Thanksgiving is culinary chaos at its best, so anything I am able to make ahead to minimize the stress of the day I welcome. This Pumpkin Flan recipe is not only luscious, caramel goodness, but it’s also a perfect make ahead dessert that is even better the next day. It’s a fantastically fall and perfectly pumpkiny spiced dessert that is fairly easy to make once you master the caramel part (which you will because I teach you how to make it here, step by step!).
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water
Pumpkin Flan Ingredients:
1 can (12 fl oz/354 ml) Evaporated Milk
1 can (14 oz/396 grams) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup (120 grams) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice* (buy or make your own with the recipe below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix Ingredients:
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
How to use them:
Preheat your oven to 325°F/163°C. Put a kettle of water on the stove top to boil. This recipe will need an 8 or 9 inch glass pie pan or non-stick cake pan, and a larger pan to sit your flan pan in. You will be baking the flan in a bain-marie, or water bath, which is why you need the larger pan.
For the caramel:
Caramelization is a method by which water is removed from the sugar by heating, thereby causing the disaccharide sucrose, granulated sugar, to break down into the monosaccharides fructose and glucose. This process is what allows the melted sugar to change color and develop the depth of flavors and aromas associated with caramelizing.
In a medium pan, heat the sugar and water on medium-low heat, gently stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. After this initial stirring, you do not stir for the remainder of the process, you simply swirl the pan instead. You can see that when you first combine the sugar and water, it’s a quite a cloudy and murky white mixture as the sugar has not yet dissolved.As the temperature of the liquid increases and it begins to boil, you can slowly see the sugar dissolving.The water also begins to evaporate and the syrup starts to bubble up.Note, a technique that you can use to ensure that the sugar will not seize and crystallize is to use a pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the pan throughout the caramelizing process.
As the water in the syrup begins to evaporate you will see clearer and larger bubbles forming.
Allow the sugar to boil on medium without stirring until the syrup reaches a golden caramel color, usually 8-10 minutes. This caramelizing of the sugar is what happens to pure sugar when it melts and the compounds begin to break down and new compounds form. I have taken several picture of the stages of the caramel so you can have a sense of the range of color that the caramel goes through and the color you want your perfect caramel to be.
Here you can begin to see a bit of color.Not only is the caramel color becoming more pronounced now, but as most of the water evaporates, the sound of the boiling becomes louder and more aggressive, and you begin to catch a hint of a smoky caramel aroma begin to rise.This deep golden color means you’re almost there. You must pay very close attention here, do not walk away for even a second!Now this, this is the color of perfection. Once you reach this deep amber color and the scent of caramel fills the air, immediately remove the pan from the heat……and pour the caramel into an 8 or 9 inch nonstick cake pan or glass pie plate.Quickly swirl the caramel around to evenly coat the bottom, and about half way up the sides of the pan.
Allow the caramel to cool while you make the pumpkin flan.
For the Pumpkin Flan:
Add all of the flan ingredients into a blender and blend just until smooth, about 1 minute. Don’t over-blend. Strain the flan mixture by pouring it through strainer or sieve into a medium bowl. Repeat this straining step another time for a super smooth mixture.Place a larger pan, like a roasting pan, in the preheated oven and position the flan pan inside of the larger pan first, BEFORE you pour the boiling water into the larger pan. You don’t ever want to transport a pan of hot boiling water to your oven, therefore, you place the larger pan with the flan pan inside of the oven first, and then you carefully pour the hot water into the corner of the larger pan being careful not to get any in the flan. Cook the flan in the water bath for about 35-45 minutes, or until only slightly jiggly.
Very gently remove the flan from the water bath so that is does not continue to cook, and place on a cooling rack. Once the flan has cooled completely, then transfer it to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
To serve, run a thin knife around the edges and invert the pan onto a serving dish. Make sure the dish has room to hold the caramel.
Gently lift the pan off, and either slice and serve as is, or garnish with fresh whipped cream.Now if you’d like to make your own Pumpkin Spice for the flan, then simply measure out the Pumpkin Spice Ingredients above.Mix the spices together.Pour into a spice jar, and just like that you have your very own pumpkin spice mix!So a very Happy Thanksgiving to you all friends, and I am so incredibly grateful for each and every one of you!