Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats is indulgent, festive and beautiful.  I contemplated for a couple of weeks what I wanted to make for this holiday.  I thought about a nice cocktail but I’m not much of a drinker (total lightweight), so I went straight for what’s close to my heart: Chocolate.  A Mexican Chocolate Flan at that.

The most difficult thing about this dessert is caramelizing the sugar.  This process can go from, “I did it, it’s a perfect amber color” (happy dance) to “Crap, I burned it? It was perfect a second ago.”  Yes, it can go completely wrong that fast.  Once you’ve mastered the caramel and poured the sauce into individual ramekins or custard dishes, it’s time to make the chocolate custard base.  You want to use a top-quality chocolate and I suggest this for all your chocolate desserts.  So, what’s a top-quality chocolate?  Here are some indicators I go by. 

1.       It costs a little more than commercial chocolate.
2.       Good chocolate has simple ingredients (high cocoa solids, cocoa butter content, sugar).  Make sure sugar is not the first ingredient when purchasing chocolate.
3.       Taste it-a good chocolate will melt in your mouth and the texture should be creamy and smooth.
4.       Industry standards-look at what your favorite chefs are using for their desserts. Sometimes they’ll list the types of chocolate they use.

Here are some top quality brands I’ve used.  If you have any other brands that you love, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for a good quality chocolate.

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Inc.
Vosges Haut Chocolate
Valrhona-my go to
Godiva
Jacques Torres Chocolate

The chocolate custard base requires a bit of stirring and straining to get a smooth texture. Once you’ve filled your ramekins with the completed chocolate custard base, you’ll have to bake the custards surrounded by a water bath or Bain-Marie.  This will prevent curdling and cracking.  Once baked in the oven, allow to cool, make your candied Kumquats, release the custard from the ramekin (the best part), garnish and enjoy the fruit of your labor. 

It’s still early!  You can make this for later.  Your guests will love you. 

Enjoy! 

Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats//serves 6
Adapted from What’s Cooking America

chocolate flan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon water
Drop of lemon juice
5 cups whole milk, 2 % milk, or plant based milk
2 cinnamon sticks
3 ounces dark chocolate*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature

* Always use a top-quality chocolate.

In a heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat, combine 1 cup sugar, water, and drop of lemon juice (the lemon juice keeps the mixture from hardening or crystallizing).  

Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to simmer.  

After sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, without stirring.  Hold handle of pan and gently tilt the pan off the heat to distribute color evenly as sugar caramelizes.  Watch it carefully, as it can go past the light brown stage quickly and burn.  If you start to see a medium light amber color, you can take it off the heat, so that it can finish cooking with the residual heat.

For the chocolate custard, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the milk to a slow simmer; add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon sticks.  Be careful not to bring it to a full boil, and do not cover with a lid.  Let simmer for one (1) hour.

Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add and stir the chopped chocolate into the hot milk.  Stir every 10 minutes or so until the chocolate has been fully incorporated into the milk.  At some point, a milk film will appear, but do not worry about it, because you will strain the mixture later.  In the last 10 minutes, add the vanilla extract.  Remove milk from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

While the milk cools, beat the eggs with a hand-held mixer at medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes.  This will make your custard a little fluffier than if you beat the eggs with a fork.

After the milk has cooled, pour the hot milk mixture through a fine-meshed strainer.

Add a few tablespoons of the hot milk to the eggs and stir.  This will temper the eggs so they do not curdle.  Repeat about three more times, then add the egg mixture to rest of the milk in the pan and stir with a spoon.  If you see any curdling, pour the mixture through a clean strainer again.

Pour the mixture into the ramekins or pie pan and set into a large pan for the water bath.  Pour hot water to come half-way up the sides of the custard cups. 

Preheat oven at 325 degrees F.  Bake prepared chocolate flan approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until set around the edges but still loose in the center time.  The custard should be firm.

Remove from oven and leave the flans in the water bath until cooled.  When cool, remove cups or pan from water bath and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

To unmold and serve, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly.  Run a thin knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl.  Place an individual chilled serving plate (topside down) on top of each flan.  Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin.  You may have to gently shake the ramekin or pie pan it to loosen the custard.

candied kumquats
1 pint of kumquats, sliced into rounds, seeds removed
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water

In a small saucepan, add the sugar, water and kumquats and bring to a boil.  Once the kumquat mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the kumquat mixture cool. Once cooled, strain the simple syrup and return the syrup to the pan to reduce further.  Combine the kumquats and syrup together.  Serve or refrigerate for up to two weeks