Da Lat Flan
Serves 6.In chef Andrea Nguyen’s cookbook Vietnamese Food Any Day, she includes a recipe for her mother’s flan which uses sweetened condensed milk as a base. We loved this simple approach to making the custard and adapted chef Nguyen’s recipe to include our Da Lat Spice — its beautiful coffee and chocolate notes complement the flan’s sweet caramel flavors. Be sure that you don’t stir the caramel after it starts to bubble because stirring can cause the sugar to crystallize. Straining the Da Lat-infused water into the custard mixture and discarding the solids ensures that the flan has a silky texture.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place six 4-ounce ramekins in a 9”x13” baking dish (or cake pan) and place in the oven while it preheats.
Put the orange zest and Da Lat Spice into a liquid measuring cup and add boiling water up to the 1-cup mark. Set aside and allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes.
Prepare the caramel sauce Put the sugar and rice vinegar into a small saucepan set over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of water. Stir gently with a heat-proof spatula until the sugar is almost dissolved; use the spatula, or a pastry brush dipped in water, to clean any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. Continue to cook undisturbed until mixture bubbles and becomes a light amber color. Turn off the heat and, watching closely, allow the caramel to darken to a deep amber color, about another minute.
Remove the baking dish from the oven. Pour the caramel sauce into the ramekins, dividing it evenly between them. Use tongs or an oven mitt to pick up the ramekins and swirl the caramel to coat the bottoms. Return ramekins to the baking dish and set aside.
Make the custard Put the condensed milk, egg, egg yolks, and vanilla extract into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl and pour the infused water through it — don’t press on the solids in the strainer — discard the spice solids and orange zest. Gently whisk the water into the custard until completely combined and smooth.
Divide the custard mixture between the ramekins. Carefully pour hot tap water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake the flan Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake until the custard is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the ramekins comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Move the ramekins to a wire rack to cool the flan completely. Cover each ramekin and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
Serve the flan Remove the ramekins from the fridge 15 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Set out six dessert plates. Just before serving, place the ramekins in a shallow dish of hot water to loosen the caramel, about 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of each flan. Working one at a time, invert a plate over a ramekin and holding them together with both hands, flip over to un-mold the flan onto the plate. Repeat with the remaining ramekins. Serve immediately.