Recipe: Caramel-topped pumpkin flan

by Julie Snyder

FlanPumpkin flan can end a meal in style any time of year, but it really struts its stuff around the holiday season.

Expand your pumpkin horizons beyond pie with our spicy flan served in a pool of caramel sauce.

You'll love the subtle blend of flavors. Each spoonful offers your taste buds the creamy taste of the pumpkin mixed with custard and bathed in caramel.

Another thing you'll appreciate -- our recipe uses low-fat milk for a lighter version than the traditional cream-based recipes.

Caramel-topped pumpkin flan

Prep time: 20 minutes | Total time: 1 day | Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

• 1 cup sugar, divided
• 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
• 1/2 cup condensed skim milk
• 3 large eggs plus 2 egg whites
• 1 3/4 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 15-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

For spiced pumpkin seeds:
1 cup green pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and Preheat oven to 350 F. Warm the soufflé dish while preparing the caramel.

Make the caramel:
In a dry, heavy 2-quart saucepan, cook 3/4 cup sugar over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel.

Remove the hot dish from oven. Pour the caramel into the dish, tilting it to cover bottom and part way up the sides. Keep tilting as caramel cools and thickens enough to coat and then let it harden.
Place a large baking pan of water in the oven.

To make the flan:
Bring the milk and condensed milk to a simmer in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then remove from heat. Whisk together whole eggs, egg whites, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Whisk in the pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt. Add hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking.

Pour the custard over the caramel in the dish. Set the dish in the baking pan water bath until the flan is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the dish from water bath and set on a rack to cool. Chill the flan, covered, until cold, at least 6 hours.

Make the spiced pumpkin seeds:
While the flan cools, coat the pumpkin seeds in oil and toast in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Stir the seeds constantly, cooking until puffed and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with salt and cayenne until well-coated.

To serve, run a thin knife between flan and side of dish to loosen. Holding dish and platter securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto platter. The caramel will pour out over and around flan.

Sprinkle the flan with spiced pumpkin seeds just before serving.

Cook's note

If you prefer a more decadent, sweeter, richer dessert, replace the milk mixture with 1 1/4 cups cream and 3/4 cup whole milk. Increase to 1 1/4 cups sugar and 5 eggs plus one egg yolk. Heat the milk, add the eggs one at a time, whisking and then pour in the cream at a low trickle, whisking well. Continue as above.

With any flan, the trick is to cook it in a water bath to ensure gentle heat so it won't break or curdle.

The next trickiest part is flipping it over onto a serving plate. Once you've run a knife between the flan and the side of the dish, shake dish gently from side to side. If the flan seems stuck, run a knife around it once more. Once it moves freely in dish, invert a large platter with a lip over dish, hold it snuggly and bravely invert.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.