I made caramel flan for the first time this week. Making the flan portion went off without a hitch. Making the caramel did not. My first attempt at the caramel ended with a half inch of hardened sugar crusted to the bottom of my sauce pan, and a newly sanded bottom edge to my wooden spoon.
I added water to the sugar on attempt number two. I thought the recipe might have been missing that step. After boiling for over an hour I was left with a crust of sugar about a half inch thick in the bottom of the sauce pan. i did spare my wooden spoon another sanding though.
On attempt number three, I learned that the sugar should be placed in a skillet rather than a sauce pan. The sugar needed to be spread thinly in the pan for even heating. This would have been a nice addition to the recipe instructions. I got out my largest skillet, which happened to be coated in teflon. The attempt resulted in semi-caramelized sugar mixed with the melting remains of my not-so-heat-resistant spatula. I’m afraid the spatula remains were very tricky to remove from the teflon without significant marring.
On attempt number four, I learned that the sugar should be placed in a steel skillet. This time the caramel turned out perfect. Apparently, teflon retards heat transfer and the dark color makes identifying burning caramel difficult. This, also, would have been useful in the recipe instructions.
Once the caramel monster was vanquished, the rest of the flan recipe was a breeze to complete. After an hour in the oven, an hour cooling on the counter, and several hours in the fridge, I ran a knife around the edge of the pan holding the flan. I put a plate on the top of the plan and prayed to the god of mangled pastries to grant my flan a pardon. The pastry god must have been pleased, because my flan turned out beautifully. It was delicious. It was more than delicious.