Thanksgiving or even a fall dinner party can be stressful. Hosting triggers my Virgo perfectionist mode and corresponding anxiety so I either sip too much wine or worry too much. I like to prepare as many things as possible in advance so everything the day-of is smooth sailing. Thankfully the last thing you need to worry about is making Thanksgiving dessert because pumpkin flan (or pumpkin crème caramel) can be made a day or two day in advance.
Pumpkin flan embodies all things basic and good in this world. As of October 1st I only want to eat squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and anything else that is golden and orange. Sweet or savory fall’s produce is nutty, rich, and earthy. The pumpkin and spices did not turn the flan orange, but it did impart its sweet buttery flavor accented by fragrant spices. Flan itself is an extremely versatile dessert- I have made coconut flan, Cuban coffee flan, traditional flan, and cream cheese flan.
When it dawned upon me that pumpkin flan was in the realm of possibility I nary shed a tear. I have a foolproof method for manipulating my classic Cuban flan or crème caramel recipe. Where the classic recipe calls for a half cup of milk, I replace this ingredient with a half cup of the flavor I am adding to the flan like a half cup brewed Cuban coffee or a half cup canned shredded coconut. Whether pumpkin flavored or not, flan is a classic dessert worthy to have in your arsenal.
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can condensed milk
- 5 eggs
- ½ cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup sugar divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch salt
Allow the eggs to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the caramelized sugar coating for the pumpkin flan first since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.
This is the hardest part of making the pumpkin flan, just don’t psych yourself out. Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera. I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the pumpkin flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.
Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 350. Before I got a KitchenAid I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera through a strainer or sieve. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.
Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. Sometimes I feel this step out and add 15 minutes or so to be sure the center is firm. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.
Remember as the pumpkin flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become firmer. Allow the pumpkin flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the pumpkin flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!
Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the pumpkin flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful pumpkin flan you have just made, slice, and enjoy!
*For a pumpkin cheesecake variety use only 4 eggs and add a ½ cup softened cream cheese.