To set up a space for a proper picnic, first we are to fluff the sheet. It’s much more fun with someone underneath getting fanned from the movement. Why, it’s enough to ruffle a lady’s lace from bonnet to socks. Once the sheet is as fluffy as the cottontail of a bunny, decorate it with doilies. It matters not whether they serve a purpose. Just put a marshmallow sauce covered strawberry on the extra ones and hold the strawberries by the sides of the doily, as if eating a taco. That way you will not have to change out of your opera gloves into fingerless gloves. And finally, dust silk flower petals on absolutely everything. Set aside room in the middle of the sheet to make silken snow angels. Skip around the sheet, weaving petals along the border, like a maypole dancer. Release them to the summer breezes, freeing them from the tropic humidity that makes everything feel heavier. Pile them and embrace as many as possible into your arms before letting go of them as they bury you like autumn leaves.
A flan is so light and fluffy that a cutting slice and swirling your spoon in it collapses it into a custard dip (see photo below; it looks prettier that way and goes well with cookies). The beauty of fluffy things is that they don’t stay fluffy very long, so that the fluffy feeling is very airy and fresh. I feel the best way to capture fluffiness in a flan is to pump it full of air (gas) freshly formed out of water, through steaming.
Mango Custard (Flan de Mango)
The word flan seems to come from flado, Old High German for ‘flat ceremonial cake’ or ‘flat offering cake.’ It’s interesting to think of flan that way because the time and attention it takes to make one may mean that a person might only make it on holidays, rites of passage (ex. anniversaries), and other special occasions. Especially since it’s a dessert. In this case, it’s Memorial Day, but also, I submitted this recipe to La Cocina de Leslie’s Food of the Month Club. While not sacred, it could definitely become a ritual of mine (when I’m done with these mango recipes)!
Mango 2 medium: ripe, peeled, and pitted
Condensed milk one 14 oz. can or 1 3/4 cup
Evaporated milk one 12 oz. can or 1 1/2 cup
Brown sugar 2/3 cup
Eggs 3 large
Vanilla extract 1 tbsp
Lime juice 1/3 tsp
Water 1/4 cup plus more for steaming
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Crack eggs in a bowl.
3. Puree two mangoes in a bender, then add condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth, and taste. Add sugar if desired. Then add the eggs and blend until eggs are fully incorporated.
4. (A) Get together a baking dish (I use a glass casserole dish), either a lid for that baking dish or another baking dish to place on top of it or aluminum foil, and a deep pan that the other baking dish(es) will fit inside of (I tend to use one that I cook Thanksgiving turkeys in). Place the smaller dish(es) inside of the deep pan. In a microwave, boil enough water to cover the deep pan an inch high, and then add the boiling water to the deep pan.
OR (B) Pour an inch of water into a large pot and boil it. Then place a pot or baking dish either on top of the water or on top of the rim of the pot. Cover the smaller pot or baking dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
5. In a glass baking dish or a glass bowl, pour ¼ cup of water and stir the lime juice into it. Without the water, the sugar will burn too easily. The citric acid in the lime will keep the sugar from recrystallizing. Add the sugar, stir (it will look like wet sand) and microwave for 2 minutes. Check the mix, stir if necessary, and microwave for another 2 minutes. It will take about 8 minutes. The darker the caramel is, the more bitter it will taste. Caramel should be gold-colored. If you accidentally let the caramel become dark, try adding vanilla extract to it for flavor. Do not touch the caramel under any circumstances. If you almost come into contact with the sugar by accident, just drop the container and let it break.
6. Coat the bottom of the baking dish that’s in the deep pan, or the one inside/atop the large pot, with the caramel, and pour the batter (the stuff with the mango in it) on top.
7. (A) For the oven steamed version, bake for about 30 minutes, then check for doneness. If your baking dish has a lid, wipe the lid off with a towel about every 5 minutes to keep condensation from getting under the lid. Make sure that the water level in the deep pan is at least an inch at all times. The batter shouldn’t take more than an hour to steam.
OR (B) For the stove steamed version, turn the stove to medium-high and steam for about 3 hours.
8. When cooked, let the flan sit until you feel comfortable removing the flan. Taking the deep pan and the interior dish(es) out of the oven will cool off the flan faster. Do not invert the flan, unless you want the caramel to drizzle down the sides of the flan. Traditionally, the caramel is not inverted.
9. Cover and refrigerate the flan overnight so that the caramel can reliquefy, otherwise the caramel will be hard as a rock.