I’ve been making variations of this dessert since my days as a culinary student in Paris, and it still gives me a little thrill when I unmold it and the beautiful golden caramel cascades down its sides onto the serving plate. In this version, I infused the cream with almonds that had been toasted to a deep golden brown, then added a little almond extract to boost the flavor. The caramelized almond topping is easy to make, and acts as a crunchy contrast to the silky flan. (Fresh raspberries would be another good accompaniment.) Since the flan needs to chill for at least 2 hours before unmolding, this is an ideal dessert to serve at a dinner party, as it can be prepared well ahead.
Makes 6 servings
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) water
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) hot water
Toasted Almond Flan
- ½ cup (65 grams) slivered almonds
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cups (302 grams) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 large (200 grams) eggs
- 2 large (37 grams) egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) water
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) blanched slivered almonds
- Big pinch of fine sea salt
Make the caramel
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F (this is for toasting the almonds). Have ready a 1 1/2-quart Pyrex glass loaf pan and a roasting or large baking pan. Fill a small cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization).
- In a heavy-bottomed small saucepan, stir together the sugar and the 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) of water. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan (but don’t stir the syrup) to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat and add the 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of hot water (it will bubble up a bit). Gently swirl the pan until the water is blended with the caramel. Pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the Pyrex glass loaf pan. Set the pan aside to allow the caramel to harden.
Make the flan
- Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the nuts are a deep golden brown (deep toasting is what will give the flan its intense toasted almond flavor). While the nuts are still hot, transfer them to a food processor and process until just finely ground (but not a paste).
- Heat the cream in a small saucepan (you can use the one you made the caramel in – no need to clean it) until it just begins to simmer. Add the ground nuts, stirring to combine, then cover the pan and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Place the caramel coated loaf pan in the roasting or baking pan and set aside. Put a kettle of water on over medium-low heat (this will be for your water bath). Strain the infused cream (discard the nuts) and measure it – you need ¾ cup (174 grams), so add a little more cream if necessary. Return the almond-infused cream to the saucepan (which has first been wiped clean). Add the milk, half of the sugar and the salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, the remaining half of the sugar and the vanilla and almond extract, then slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the loaf pan, over the caramel. Cover the loaf pan with foil, pinching it around the edges. Using a kettle, pour very hot water into the roasting pan until it comes one-third to halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the flan in the water bath for 80 to 90 minutes, or until the edge of the flan is firm and the center jiggles when gently shaken, but is not liquid (the custard will firm up as it cools). Carefully remove the pan from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, remove the foil and cool completely.
- Once cool, cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the flan for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). While the flan is chilling, prepare the Caramelized Almonds.
Make the topping
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the nuts and salt and stir to coat them evenly with the syrup. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated, and the nuts are a deep golden brown. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a silicone spatula, spread them into an even layer and allow them to cool completely.
- Once the nuts are cool, break them into bite-sized pieces.
Unmold and garnish the flan
- Fill a baking or roasting pan one-third of the way with hot water and place the loaf pan with the flan in it for about 30 seconds. Remove it, then wipe off the water with a dish towel. Run a thin-bladed paring or boning knife around the edge of the flan to loosen it. Place a serving plate with a lip (to catch the caramel run-over) over the loaf pan and quickly invert both the plate and the pan. If the flan does not release, dip the loaf pan in hot water again and repeat the unmolding. Sprinkle the caramelized nuts on top of the flan. Serve 1-inch slices of the flan, spooning some of the residual caramel onto each plate.