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mango cardamom flan

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Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

Last year, I made a pumpkin flan for my column at the San Francisco Chronicle, and this year, I wrote about how canned Indian mangoes brought absolute joy to my life in summer for Taste, so it is quite imaginable that at some point, I would try to combine both these things and make a mango flan. Summer always involved mangoes from April to late May. My parents would have boxes in their kitchen, where the large ripe fruit, sat on a bed of hay next to each other, carefully protected so they wouldn’t bump and bruise. Mangoes were and still are meant to be a delight. My mom’s sole duty in summer and part of many of our conversations on Facetime revolve around her eating fresh mangoes in India and me struggling to find the whole fruit. Till that heavenly day arrives on my shores in California, I will make do with the canned stuff. The canned stuff is amazing when using the pulp (which is more like a purée) in dishes where the flavor is important, but the texture of the mango flesh is irrelevant. I pick my cans up at the Indian grocery store near my home, and they have them year-round.

Like the sweet, aromatic mangoes, flans are quite a marvelous dessert creation. You don’t need much: milk, sugar, eggs, and something to flavor the whole thing. In summer, flans were typically served as a cooling sweet to stave off the sweltering, scorching heat of the sun and I never complained. Its bitter-sweet flavor from the burnt sugar runs and drips across the edges of the baked custard, glistening in the bright light, begging you to tear into it with a spoon and scoop the sweet and soft pudding. 

A special note with regards to the photos here:

The muffin pans: I wanted to see if it makes life easy for large preparations and report the results here from a more experimental standpoint.

However, you might face two challenges (and this is why I prefer the individual bowls when making this dessert).

1. Heating: Heating can be uneven. The ones on the outer edges of the pan will cook first, and then the ones in the middle last. You will end up with different cooking times for each of these. 

2. Releasing: It is impractical and tricky to pop just one flan out of a muffin pan. You have to release all at once. Again, this is why I prefer the individual bowls. 

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mango cardamom flan

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This is an updated version of my mango flan recipe. 

  • Yield: 8 in/20 cm

Ingredients

For the Caramel

1/2 cup/100 g sugar

2 Tbsp water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar 

For the Flan Base

One 14 oz/400 g can sweetened condensed milk

One 12 oz/354 ml can evaporated milk

1 cup/240 ml whole milk

1 tsp ground green cardamom 

1 cup/240 ml mango purée

4 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F/163C.
  2. Prepare the caramel. Combine the 1/2 cup/100 g sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar caramelizes and turns dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Quickly pour the hot liquid into an 8 in/20 cm round cake pan and rotate to coat evenly. The caramel will stiffen quickly as it cools. 
  3. Prepare the flan base. Mix the three milks and cardamom in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until it simmers at 180F/82C. Stir often with a silicone spatula to prevent scorching at the bottom. Remove from the heat.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix the mango purée and eggs, until smooth using a silicone spatula. Avoid overwhisking the mixture. You can also use a whisk but avoid incorporating too many air bubbles. Carefully fold 1 cup of the warm milk into the mango mixture. Repeat until all the milk is incorporated. 
  5. Set a silicone spatula over the caramel in the pan. Set a fine mesh sieve over the spatula and carefully pour in the mango-milk mixture. Discard any bits of egg left in the sieve. Cover the top of the pan tightly with one or two layers of foil.
  6.  Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. Place a deep, wide baking dish or pan large enough to accommodate the round baking pan in the oven. Place a circular wire rack inside the dish or make a thick 8 in/20 cm ring with aluminum foil to prevent the baking pan from the touching the base of the baking dish. 
  7. Carefully place the prepared baking pan over the rack or ring in the center of the larger dish. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the space between the baking pan and the large dish and fill to about 1/2 in/12 mm from the top of the baking pan. Cook in the oven. Start to check the temperature of the flan after 50 minutes of cooking, and continue to cook until the center of the pudding reaches 170F/77C on an instant-read thermometer. The flan should be very tender and jiggle. Remove the pan from the dish, cover loosely with the foil, and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the baking dish overnight to firm up. 
  8. The next day, remove the foil. Run a small, sharp knife around the edges of the flan. Place a large serving plate over the baking pan, hold tightly, and flip. Tap the baking pan gently to help release the flan. Scrape any extra caramel liquid from the baking pan over the top of the flan. Serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

Notes

  • You can make the flan in smaller individual portions. I like to use small ramekin bowls or a muffin tray and fill them up to 1/2 cup. 
  • I prefer using canned mango purée for the flan, but if you use fresh mango pulp, make sure to purée it, heat it, and simmer for 2 minutes before using it. Raw mango contains proteases, which are enzymes that cut other proteins, and in this case, they will curdle the milk proteins and prevent them from forming a smooth flan.
  • I’ve found that overwhisking the flan batter incorporates too much air, and often, it shows up in the flan after cooking. It isn’t a defect, just a visual feature that some people (especially flan aficionados) don’t like.  
  • I find measuring the temperature of the flan to be a better index of when to stop cooking. It won’t overcook and the flan will be very delicate and tender. 

8 Responses

  1. I love flan and my daughter loves mango….so this sounds and looks like a perfect dessert for us! The pictures are stunning!!!

  2. After some 2006 bill that GW Bush passed, we were able to start getting imported mangoes from India! They’re all over Indian grocery stores in the Bay Area. You haven’t found them?

    1. Yeah, but it is not that easy to find. Most of the Indian stores I’ve visited in Berkeley carry the Champagne Mangoes. I’ve only had luck once at Monterey Market.

  3. FWIW, I typically make flan in the sous vide rig.

    Initially, I heat the cream and the sugar together in a bag. This lets me bring the milk to the right heat without any risk of a boil over. I can also dissolve the sugar without aerating the mixture. After which, I can beat in the egg yolks and then cook the flan in individual jelly jars.

    Works really well.

    I’ll give this a try…

    1. I’ve used unsweetened and unsweetened mango pulp in this recipe, it won’t make that much difference to the final taste because the condensed milk is the main source of sweetness.

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