Monday, November 23, 2009

The Flan That Would Be Pumpkin

pumpkin flan with gluten free crust

naked pumpkin flan

If you still have pumpkin or ran to the store and bought out the dwindling supply, this recipe is for you. Pumpkin flan in a pate brisee crust, topped with a little cream fraiche or whipped cream will make your guests think you are Martha Stewart.

Oh, yeah. This is Martha's recipe. Sort of. Since it was made in the L&P gluten free test kitchen, it has, shall we say, been modified to meet gluten free standards and enhanced slightly. In addition, since it is a MS recipe, we sought to simplify wherever we could.

First, begin by making a pot of high test French Roast coffee. You will need it. Second, make sure you begin a couple of days before you want to serve the dessert. It tastes better the second and third day. It was not so good the first day.

You could get a gluten free (or regular) pie crust mix at the store. That is a great alternative to save you time.

But if you are a whiz at the pie crusts, you know these crusts are simple to make and don't take much time at all.

Just remember - the flan needs to be a little bit smaller in diameter than than the pastry crust.

The hardest task was the making the caramel. It goes from perfect to hard candy in a flash. Be careful. And no, the hard candy stage will not get you the caramel you need for the flan finish.

Just have patience and learn from our mistakes. The caramel is easy. It is simply water and sugar boiled gently on really low heat until the color is perfect. Martha said to make it a nice deep amber color. Don't!

It will be hard candy in about 5 seconds after it turns amber. Just get it to that light blond stage and by the time you pour it, the color will be perfect. And it will pour! Hard candy doesn't pour. My first batch made it to the ramekins and then became a hard shell.

The flan is flavored with real ginger - so beware. If you enjoy the sharp taste of ginger, by all means, use the recommended dose. But if you want a subtle taste of ginger, dial the portion back a touch.

And last, be sure to follow the directions to strain the flan into the ramekins unless you enjoy little stringy bits of ginger and pumpkin. It makes a difference. And don't press too much on the strained stuff or you will push through some things you don't want in there - speaking from experience.

And the biggest advice of all: Don't serve it with the pate brisee if you don't want to bother making the crusts. It is perfectly pretty and tasty all on its own. The pastry crust is fun, but really, it is the kind of thing we expect from Martha, a little over the top.

We made it so you don't have to - but you might want to. It is really good. But then again, I was dreaming of Smitten Kitchen's chocolate pudding pie as I was making the crusts. That should tell you something.

Pumpkin Flan in a Gluten Free Pate Brisee Crust

Ingredients for Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup filtered water

Directions for Caramel Sauce

make sure the sugar and water dissolve

In a small saucepan with high sides, heat the sugar and water gently till disolved. Don't stir it at all. Just swirl the pan with the handle. Have a glass of cold water and a pastry brush nearby. Once the sugar is dissolved, heat to a gentle low-heat boil, keeping it simmering at the lowest heat possible. Use the cold water/brush to brush down the sugar crystals that form on the side of the pan once in a while. Swish the saucepan once in a while. Do not let it get to the deep amber color Martha suggests. Light blonde is good.

once it dissolves gently boil it

As soon as it is the right color, set the pan in cold water for a second - be really careful - boiling sugar is hot and can burn. It will sizzle like crazy when it hits the cold water. Immediately pour the caramel into the bottoms of 6-8 shallow ramekins about 4 inches in diameter. Don't worry about the size so much - just divide the caramel evenly. Let it cool on the counter while you prepare the flan.

this would be the perfect color

If you did this right, the caramel is runny. If you did it almost right, the caramel might be slightly hard, but still gooey. That will work too. The only instance where you need to begin again is if the caramel is hard as a rock. It won't make that nice runny stuff when you flip it and will stay in the ramekin. Do it over.

this is the do-over color, sigh

Ingredients: Flan

cast of characters pumpkin flan
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 12 ounces canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
  • 1 tspn grated fresh ginger root (MS uses 2 tspns)
  • 1 tspn cinnamon (MS uses 1/2 tspn)
  • 1/4 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 5 large eggs plus two large yolks
  • 2 tspns vanilla

Directions Flan

flan ramekins in roasting pan

Preheat oven to 325. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan. Bring the milk just to a light boil on the stove. In the meantime mix the remaining ingredients until well incorporated. Temper the mixture by adding the hot milk slowly and stirring at the same time. Whisk it all together. Using a fine strainer, pour the flan over the caramel, into the ramekins filling about 2/3 full.

before the boiling milk, the flan ingredients
tempering the mixture should get you this

Place the pan in the oven and carefully add hot water until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins in the roasting pan. Place a sheet of foil over the top - it doesn't have to be a tight fit at all - just covering it is fine.

in the oven, with a water bath

Bake for almost an hour or until a knife comes out clean from the center. It can take a little less than an hour. Over cooked flan looks a bit grainy and crumbly. So keep a watch out. Once you've done it successfully you will know when to fetch it from the oven. The first time is always the hardest.

Let them cool in the bath until they are room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for the next day.

just done - wait until tomorrow

Ingredients Pate Brisee

  • 1.5 cups of gluten free flour
  • 1 tspn xantham gum
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tspn white sugar
  • 9-10 tablespoons of ice cold unsalted butter cut into tiny pieces
  • filtered ice water

Directions Pate Brisee

Measure the dry ingredients into a food processor. If you are using a bowl, do the same. Drop the butter bits into the flour mixture in the processor or a bowl. For the processor: Pulse it until the mixture looks like cornmeal. For a bowl, using a fork or pastry blender tool, mix in the flour until it looks like cornmeal.

whiz this until it looks like cornmeal

Add about 1/4 cup of ice water all at once. In the processor, pulse until it just comes away from the sides into a ball. Add more ice water to get there if needed. In the bowl, add the ice water and work it in until it just starts to turn into a solid ball.

ready to come away from the sides, perfect

Grab the ball of dough and divide it evenly in half, and then again in half again until you have four to eight even-sized pieces. Gluten free pie dough does not roll easily. Since you filling 5-inch tart pans, smack the dough into the pan and work it up the sides until it is nice and thin and evenly done. The dough will be quite soft by now.

You want to bake it when the butter is very cold, so refrigerate the tart pans on a cookie sheet for at least 30 minutes or longer. You can leave them overnight if you like. They freeze well too.

chilled, ready to bake

Take them from the refrigerator or directly from the freezer and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes or just until they look very lightly brown. GF pie dough never browns like regular pie crusts - so don't worry if they are light color. They are supposed to be that way.

Let them cool completely at room temperature.

toasted blonde, not browned

Assembling the Tarts

Take the flans out to come to about room temperature before serving. Run a butter knife around the edges a few times. Take the tart dough and remove the tin if you can. If not, don't worry about it. Put the tart shell upside down on the ramekin and securely holding it so it doesn't shatter, flip the whole thing quickly and remove the ramekin.

Once you've done this, the rest will be easy. I always make an extra so if I break it, or screw it up, it doesn't matter. The first is the hardest.

Serve with whipped cream or cream fraiche.

Or serve the flan naked and skip the tart shell. Both ways are great.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit

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