Servings: 12 Prep: 20 mins Cook: 1 hr Total: Overnight
This recipe was originally envisioned for a festive Holiday Dinner, with a heavy Mexican slant (I happened to be in Mexico [When in Rome… n’ stuff.]).
A flan is basically a baked or steamed custard, topped with a caramel. It’s very common in Mexico. Like many traditional recipes, there’s a lot of history behind it. Flan goes way back to Roman times. It originated in Europe and is largely viewed as a sweet or savory pastry. In the broadest sense, flans are essentially baked egg dishes, encompassing famous dishes like Quiche, Custard Tarts, etc.
The flan I know and the flan I grew up with is of the Mexican variety. It’s a very sweet caramel flavored upside-down crustless custard. It’s almost like a sweet caramel frittata.
Originally, I set out to do a Pumpkin Flan. I used this recipe as my inspiration. I don’t like straight-up ripping off recipes. I mean, at this point, everything has more or less been done. Everything is derivative of something, but I feel like I need to modify it a twinge, in order to achieve something resembling a newish attempt at something new-like. I opted to throw some chipotle (smoked jalapeños) in there. I love the subtle smoke that comes through in desserts and I also love very distant subtle layers of hot spiciness in desserts; a lingering reminder of something wonderful.
The biggest challenge of doing a flan is the caramel. See, caramel is made from sugar, but anyone reading this likely avoids sugar and uses alternative sweeteners. Something like a concentrated stevia wouldn’t work due to not having enough volume. My own favorite sweetener is erythritol based, which means that it’ll re-crystalize when it cools, if it’s too high a concentration. Looking at other similar recipes, it looks like most people skip the caramel step and use things like a bit of molasses, honey or maple syrup alternatives (typically xylitol based).
I’m not normally a huge fan of Splenda, due to the bulking agents (dextrose and maltodextrin) which can impact blood sugars. However, in this case, I made a combination of Splenda and Swerve, half and half, and assumed I’d get some nice color, flavor and enough dilution from the Splenda and ingredients in the flan to keep the erythritol from crystalizing. It “mostly” worked, but not completely…
I already had the ingredients, including a 15 oz. can of Libby’s Pumpkin puree. I set out to caramelize the 1st cup of my sweetener blend.
It’s a little thin, but a nice color. I suspect it’ll be tasty, too!
Once in the pan, it thickened up quite nicely!
After it cooled, some light crystals formed, unfortunately.
After blending, cooking, straining and pouring, I put it all into a double boiler and baked. Later, I pulled it out and chilled it, overnight.
The next day, I had set up a full Holiday Meal and unmolded the flan. Oh… dagnabbit. Hamburger!!
Unfortunately, it plopped out of the flan pan in a bit of a sloppy mess. (Don’t forget the nice pictures are at the top of this recipe) I assume a combination of the crystallization and too high a pumpkin ratio caused it to set poorly, with the top looking a bit like ground beef. I went through my holiday meal and took glorious photos of the other recipes, completely skipping the Pumpkin-Chipotle Flan. I was mad at it and I wanted it to know I was ignoring it. That said, I still used it as a fuzzy background filler in some of the shots. From an otherwise super nice photo, I cropped out this one tiny section of the ugliest flan, ever…
Don’t tell anyone!
I WILL say that it was fantastic, though. The taste was incredible. I don’t know that I’d be willing to share this lunacy if the flavor wasn’t so wonderful. It tasted like the filling inside the most marvelous Pumpkin Pie, but with some mellow smokiness and a distance afterburn. Just wonderful!
The next day, I set out to remake it, but in a way that was a bit more photogenic. However, I’d used my pumpkin. What now?! Being that I was in Mexico, I’m limited by what I can find. The town I’m in is small and relatively rustic. Cabo San Lucas is an hour away. It’s certain to have pumpkin in one of the Gringo shops, but… That’s a two hour round trip, after hunting in all the local stores. It was hot. I was lazy. Sweet potatoes are a lovely ingredient and in every store…
Sweet Potato-Chipotle Flan it is!
Crunchy Note: I used 3 parts Splenda to 1 part Swerve and this helped with the crystallization. It didn’t get as dark in color, but there was less crystallization. There was still a bit, but it wasn’t bad. It was almost more like a Crème Brûlée, with the occasional bit of dark crunchy sugar.
Let’s call it a feature!
Sweet Potato and Chipotle FlanPrint Rate
- 1 1/4 cups + 1 tbsp Splenda
- 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp 'Swerve' or other sugar replacement
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk divided
- 1/2 lb sweet potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups cream heavy whipping
- 4 large whole eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp minced chipotle pepper
- Combine the Splenda and Swerve in a mixing bowl. Mix well.
- Place 1 cup (240 mL) of the sweetener mix on the stove in a small saucepan with a dash of water (1 to 2 tsp [5 to 10 mL], it just helps the sweetener dissolve more quickly), over medium-low heat. Stir regularly, until it melts and turns a nice dark golden color. Be VERY careful not to touch this mixture, spill it, stick your finger in it, etc. Melted sugar will stick and burn, badly. Be careful.
- While the sweetener is melting, be sure your Flan pan is close (I ultimately used an 9-inch [23 cm] silicone cake pan, instead of the authentic flan pan. Most anything flat with a diameter of 8 to 10 inches will work just fine). Also, make sure your pan fits inside another large pan full of hot water. You’ll use this as a water bath, in the oven.
- Once the sweetener is caramelized and golden, pour it into the Flan pan. While the mixture is still hot, tilt the pan so that the sweet lava spreads and coats the entire bottom of the pan, as well as about 1/2-inch (1.25cm) up the sides of the pan. Set aside, to cool.
- I don’t like doing dishes, so I put the almond milk and diced sweet potato into the dirty sugar pan, thinking it’ll just pick up that extra bit of flavor. Add the remaining 3/4 cup (180 mL) sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Cover the pan and put it over low-heat on the stove to simmer/steam for about 20 minutes.
- Put a medium sized pot of water on the stove and bring it up to a boil. This will be used in the water bath.
- Pre-heat oven to 325 F (163 C).
- Once the sweet potato is soft, puree the warm sweet potato mixture in a food processor.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream, eggs, egg yolks and chipotle. Whisk these ingredients together, then add the sweet potato mixture.
- Strain this mixture through a sieve, in order to remove any chili seeds or spice granules. The flan should be smooth.
- Pour the Flan base into your Flan pan. Place the filled Flan pan into the large water bath basin. Pour the hot water into the water bath (making sure none splashes into the flan). Cover the flan and place the entire thing into the oven.
- Let the flan steam in the water bath for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and just leave the flan in the hot (but off) oven for 15 more minutes.
- Remove the flan, take it from the water, remove the cover and place it in the refrigerator until chilled completely through.
- Once it’s completely cool, remove it from the refrigerator. It should somewhat pull away from the edges of the pan, as it cools. Take a thin spatula or butter-knife and wiggle it around the edges, to make sure it’ll come from the pan, easily.
- Place a large plate, face down, over the flan. Put your hand on the bottom of the flan and bottom of the plate. Quickly flip the flan over, so that the flan is on the top of the plate. Hopefully the gravity will cause the flan to drop onto the plate. If not, you might need to nudge it, a bit.
- Once flipped, remove the flan plan, slice wedges and serve! I serviced with whipped cream and a cloud of ground cinnamon.
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