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Almond Praline Flan

Almond Praline Flan

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Makes 8.
By Dennis W. Viau; my own creation.

Crème caramel, flan, custard, and crème brûlée are almost as common as white bread. How can a common recipe be ramped up for better flavor and presentation value? I chose praline, a candy made with almonds and caramelized sugar, and a little rum.

Equipment Needed:
8 ramekins, about 5 fluid ounces (150ml) each

Ingredients:

For the Almond Praline:
4 ounces (113g) whole almonds
1/3 of the Rum-Caramel from below
For the Rum-Caramel:
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120ml) dark rum
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Custard:
2 cups (475ml) whole milk or half & half
1 cup (235ml) heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3 whole large eggs
¾ cup (135g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Either roast the almonds for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350°F (177°C) or toast in a hot, dry skillet for a minute or two. Remove from the oven (or skillet) and place in a baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Place the sugar, rum, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, watching closely as the water boils out. Do not stir, but swirl the pan gently a few times to dissolve all the sugar. As the syrup thickens, the color will darken. Continue cooking to a temperature of 325°F (163°C) or until the syrup’s color darkens beyond that of the rum. It should be a rich golden color. Immediately pour a small amount into the bottom of each of the 8 ramekins, just enough to coat the bottom, using about 2/3 of the caramel. (Caution: It’s hot!) Pour the remaining 1/3 of caramel over the toasted almonds. If the sugar congeals too much in the pan, it can be liquefied by heating over a low flame. Set the ramekins and almonds aside to cool.

Heat the milk and cream in the saucepan just until it comes to a boil. While the milk is heating, whisk together the yolks, eggs, and sugar in a bowl. Add a small amount of the hot milk, whisking constantly, to temper the yolks. Repeat until about a third of the milk is incorporated. Then pour the egg mixture into the milk. Add the vanilla and combine with a whisk. Either cover and refrigerate for an hour or two, or start the next step with the warm custard mixture.

Pour the custard mixture into the 8 ramekins, dividing the mixture evenly. Do not overfill.

Heat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and heat water to boiling in a kettle. Arrange the ramekins in a baking pan large enough to accommodate all of them, or use two pans, and place on a center rack in the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan(s) without splashing any water into the custard, adding enough water to come about two thirds up the sides of the ramekins.

If using cold custard, bake 35 to 45 minutes until the custard is set. If you poured hot custard into the ramekins they will cook in 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the door open, allowing the custards to cool in the oven until safe to handle. Remove the ramekins from the water and place on a cooling rack. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator several hours, preferably overnight. (Moisture from the custard will dissolve the hard caramelized sugar, making a syrup to coat the custards. The longer the custards sit, the more sugar will be turned to syrup; therefore, a longer wait is better.)

Before serving, process the almonds and caramel in a food processor, chopping to a fine powder. For a chunkier texture, the almonds can be processed less, but be aware that the sugar is sharp enough to cut like broken glass; therefore, make certain no large pieces of sugar remain in the praline.

To serve, invert a dessert plate and place on top of a ramekin. Holding both plate and ramekin together, invert and carefully lift the ramekin, letting the caramel syrup drizzle down and pool in the plate. You might need to use a knife to separate the custard from around the insides of the ramekins. Sprinkle almond-rum praline on top of each custard to garnish. Serve immediately.