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Making Better Flan from a Box

Easy Ideas to Enhance the Flavor and Texture

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Coffee Flan - Flan de Cafe (c)

Coffee Flan - Flan de Cafe

Lisa Sierra (c) 2009 Licensed to About.com Inc.

We all have busy lives, even those of us who love to cook. Sometimes I'm too busy to make flan, (Spanish vanilla custard) from scratch, even though it doesn't take much more time than making it with a mix. When I don't have time to stay in the kitchen while the flan is baking in a water bath, I open a box and about 10 minutes later the flan is in ramekins, and is cooling on the counter. Twenty minutes later, it's safely chilling in the refrigerator and I'm off doing something else. If made from the flan mix, the texture is smooth and the taste is acceptable, but nothing compared to a flan made from scratch. So, what can you do to jazz up a flan from a box? Here are some ideas for making a flan from a box taste richer, give it a special flavor, and improve the texture:

  1. Substitute half-and-half for half of the milk. This will give the flan a richer flavor and creamier texture.
  2. Substitute espresso coffee for half of the milk for deep coffee flavor. Garnish with whole coffee beans and a dollop of whipped cream.
  3. Replace the milk with equal parts of half-and-half and coconut milk for a richer texture and coconut flavor. Garnish with toasted shredded coconut on top just before serving. To ensure coconut flavor, use full fat coconut milk. "Coconut cream" is thicker and richer, with more coconut flavor, but because it has added sugar it may make the flan too sweet.
  4. Melt 2-3 oz of bittersweet chocolate in a small sauce pan or in the microwave, then stir in some of the milk-flan mixture to the chocolate to thin it. Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture into the milk-flan mixture, while stirring. If necessary, use a stick blender or electric mixer to thoroughly blend.
  5. Substitute half of the milk with half-and-half and add 1/2 cup (4 oz) almond paste for a rich almond flavor. Garnish with sliced almonds.
  6. Add a teaspoon of finely chopped dried fruits, like figs and dates, or chopped nuts such as almonds or walnuts to each ramekin after pouring batter.
  7. Add two to three tablespoons of your favorite Spanish liqueur or brandy to the milk-flan before it boils. Instructions on most flan mixes will state to bring the milk mixture to a boil briefly, so adding the alcohol before it boils will allow some of the alcohol to evaporate before baking. Spanish sherry brandy, rum, or Liquor 43 are a few possibilities.

If you are preparing a no-bake flan from a box, and want to use fresh fruit, we recommend that you wait until the flan is ready to serve. Arrange the fruit on top of the individual servings, or on the side to add color and fresh fruit flavor. Adding some fresh fruit to the mix may cause the flan not to set properly.

About's Guide to Baking has tips on baking with Cake Mixes: Baking with Cake Mixes-Cake Ideas Jazzing-Up Your Mixes

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