I am a sucker for fall spices – I just love the warmth they bring to any dish. But pumpkin pie, in particular, with its creamy pumpkin custard speckled with warm cinnamon and nutmeg, encased in a flaky crust and dolloped with fresh whipped cream? Well, that is a can’t-miss dish for me, and I can’t imagine ending a festive fall meal without it. It’s no wonder that for generations, pumpkin pie has been the go-to dessert for American families.
That’s all about to change.
Several years ago, during one of our many get-togethers, my mom pulled a fast one on the family, and replaced our much beloved pumpkin pie with the less traditional pumpkin flan. And while there were many skeptics in the bunch (myself included), once they had a single taste of the creamy, rich flavor and burst of spice from a little orange-tinged bite of the pumpkin flan, there was simply no going back. The verdict was in. We had a new fall dessert! Since then, serious jeers abound if we get together in the fall and there is no pumpkin flan in sight.
I understand that flan, in general, is a polarizing dish. Trust me, I’ve tasted my fair share of egg-y, rock solid, just plain bad flan. But if you’ve never tried Cuban-style flan, you’re doing yourself a disservice, as its thick, creamy custard with sweet caramel sauce oozing down the sides, is more akin to a crust-less cheesecake than anything else.
And when you combine that with the distinct flavors of fall that can only be found in a pumpkin pie, what results is an undeniably can’t-miss dish. It’s truly a perfect ending to any fall festive meal, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Shabbat, or in this year’s case, even Hanukkah. Promise.
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
½ can coconut milk
7.5 oz pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and add empty pan in the oven to warm. Note: it’s best to use a 9 inch cake pan.
Mix first seven ingredients in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar becomes a deep amber color (about 15 minutes).
Working quickly, remove the empty pan from the oven, and pour in the melted sugar. Swirl the pan around, so the sugar covers the entire bottom of the pan. Pour in the milk and egg mixture over the caramelized sugar.
Insert the now full pan into a larger pan, and fill the larger pan about half-way up with water (a water bath).
Return the flan pan and water bath to the oven, and bake for about 70-80 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the flan pan from the water bath, and set on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to serve the flan, run a knife along the edge of the pan, place a rimmed serving platter over the pan, and invert it. The flan should fall easily, and the caramel sauce will coat the top and run along the sides.