Pumpkin Flan

With its oozing caramel and sublime creaminess, flan is a special occasion dessert usually reserved for restaurant dining. However, it is surprisingly simple to prepare at home. This Pumpkin Flan will become a holiday favorite, and your family never has to know how easy it is to whip up.

Caramelizing sugar is a process that intimidates most home chefs, but it’s not difficult. Cookbooks and television chefs often refer to a bevy of steps to ensure the perfect caramelization, but the fact is all you need are granulated sugar, a heavy saucepan and a good "swirling arm." The sugar is heated over a medium flame, and is swirled in the pan until it begins to bubble and caramelize. This step takes mere minutes, and then the caramel can be set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the custard.

Three cans and a couple flavorings from your spice rack are all you need to create the decadent flan custard. I like to use pumpkin pie spice, which eliminates the need to measure multiple spices, but you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon each cloves and allspice. A hefty dose of vanilla extract rounds out the flavors of this holiday dessert, and baking in a water bath ensures ultra creaminess.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour sugar into a saucepan and heat over medium, swirling until sugar begins to bubble and caramelize. Set aside to cool while you prepare the custard.

Beat eggs, and then add the milks, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract, beating until well blended. Pour golden sugar syrup into the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Pour the egg-milk mixture through a strainer into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger pan and fill the larger pan with 3/4-inch of hot water (water should come up the sides of the cake pan half-way). Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.