In my never-ending list of ideas for recipes, I jotted down “maple flan,” wanting to take advantage of the amazing local maple syrup in New York. I was pleased to find Claudia Fleming had already done the work for me when her book The Last Course was republished. Her recipe does not disappoint. It is luxuriously thick, creamy and bursting with maple flavor. Her recipe calls for baking an 8-inch version and inverting it in a walnut crust to catch all of the caramel. She also gives instructions for individual molds without the crust, which is how I executed it.
In her original recipe, it calls for Grade B maple syrup. Since the release of her book, the maple syrup labeling rules have changed, so look for “Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste” to give you the same result. I made a few other adjustments to her ingredients and instructions as well. First, the caramel portion of her recipe calls for granulated sugar and corn syrup, but I opt for maple sugar instead. As the popularity of alternative sugars is growing, they are easier to find in stores. Maple sugar is less processed than standard white sugars and of course enhances the maple flavor of the dish as well. Since it is darker than white sugar, it is more difficult to determine if it is caramelized by the typical color indication of a “dark amber” color. I suggest going by smell as well; it is ready when it has a slightly nutty aroma. I also added more detailed unmolding and storage instructions to guarantee success. Everything else is how she detailed it in her book!
- 1 cup (300 grams) maple syrup (preferably Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste)
- 3 ½ cups (840 grams) heavy cream
- 7 large egg yolks (130 grams)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (72 grams) maple sugar
- 1/2 cup (118 grams) water
Make the Flan:
- Place the maple syrup in a large, heavy saucepan. Set it over low heat and let simmer until the syrup is reduced by a quarter (to ¾ cup), 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the cream to the syrup and stir until the mixture is smooth and comes back to a simmer.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add a little of the hot maple cream into the eggs to warm them, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Pour the mixture into the saucepan, whisking the cream constantly until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into a bowl, stir in the salt and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
- Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Place 8 four-inch ramekins into a baking pan with high sides and set aside.
- Place the maple sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture becomes a dark amber caramel and has a nutty aroma, 7 to 10 minutes. Immediately pour the caramel into the ramekins, tilting to make sure the sides are well coated. Work quickly so the caramel doesn’t harden. If it does, rewarm it over low heat.
- Ladle the maple custard into the ramekins. Pour enough very hot water into the baking pan to reach 2/3 of the way up the side of the pan. Cover the pan with foil and prick all over with a fork. Bake the flan for 45 minutes, then lift off the corner of the foil to vent the steam. Re-cover the pan and continue to bake until the flan is set around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 45 minutes longer. Remove the flan from the baking pan and transfer to a rack. Let cook at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- To unmold the flan, run a small knife around the sides of the ramekins and dip them in a pan filled with very hot water for 5 to 10 seconds to loosen, then invert onto a serving plate. They can be stored unmolded in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.