Flan is a very popular dessert in South America. It's a creamy custard, baked on top of a layer of caramel. When the cooked flan is flipped out of the pan, the caramel becomes a pretty topping as well as a sauce for the dessert.
Flan is easy to prepare and yet always seems very impressive and dramatic in presentation. Most people serve flan cold, but I think it is creamiest and most delicious when it is still warm from the oven.
- Place the milk and cream in a medium pot with the cinnamon stick. Bring almost to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and turns a medium caramel brown. Carefully pour caramel into a 10 inch cake pan with tall sides, or into a 12 cup ring mold. Swirl caramel evenly around the bottom of the pan, holding edges with a towel (pan may become very hot, even on the edges). The caramel will harden as it cools and may crack, which is fine.
- Place the caramel-coated cake pan inside of a larger roasting pan with sides that are at least 2 inches high. Place a teapot full of water on the stove to boil.
- Place the dulce de leche in a microwave proof bowl and heat in the microwave briefly, until dulce de leche is very soft and spreadable.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the dulce de leche and condensed milk, and whisk until well mixed. Remove the cinnamon stick from the milk and cream mixture, and whisk it into the egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla, and add a pinch of salt to taste. Carefully pour the egg mixture through a sieve into the caramel coated cake pan. Place roasting pan, with cake pan inside, into the oven. Slide the oven rack out slightly, then fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the side of the cake pan. Slide the oven rack back in place, and close oven door.
- Bake flan for one hour to one hour and twenty minutes, or until it has an internal temperature of around 180 F (use thermometer to take the temperature in the middle). Flan will still seem jiggly in the middle, but will firm up as it cools.
- Remove flan form oven, then let flan cool in the water bath for about 10 minutes. Remove from the water bath, and let cool another 10 minutes. Loosed the edges of the flan with a knife, then flip flan out onto a serving platter.
- Serve flan warm, cold, or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.