Being a self-taught cook I sometimes have to remind myself that there are things I don’t know how to do. This week I discovered one of those things was making caramelized sugar. It sounded easy enough on paper: “In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook and stir sugar until melted and caramel colored.” After making a sticky mess of not one, but two skillets (not to mention the spoons) I was out of both the sugar and the energy to try again. I spent the next couple of days googling “how to caramelize sugar” and learned that the skillet method, also known as the dry method, is difficult to master and that most home cooks use the easier, wet method. If you happen to be an expert candy maker and have mastered the dry method, use that. Otherwise the wet method is the way to go. I even plan on experimenting with caramelizing the sugar in the Sun Oven this way.
This recipe makes eight custards. I baked them in two batches. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try cross staking the pans and bake them in a single go. In that case the cooking time would be slightly longer.
Sun Oven Caramel Flan
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Set Sun Oven out to preheat.
In a small, heavy sauce pan over medium heat, mix the sugar with 1/4 cup water, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat and let simmer, without stirring, until the syrup is amber, 10 to 20 minutes. Pour the syrup into 8 un-greased 6-ounce custard cups, tilting to coat bottoms.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the water, condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared custard cups. Set the cups in a baking pan. Add 1 inch of hot water to the pan. Bake until set and a knife inserted near the center of one custard comes out clean. Let the custards cool, the cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. To serve, invert the flans onto serving plates.
Makes 8 servings.