Creamy, rich, custardy, Mexican style almond flan.


It's that time of year again.  The holidays are sneaking up on us.  Makes a girl warm and tingley jingley all over. Time to start planning and preparing for Christmas present.  Which always, delightfully, carries my thoughts and daydreams back, back, back....... to the wonderful memories of Christmas past. 

Oh, the Christmases I have had!!   Heart-tugging, laughter filled, wooly mitten wrapped, twinkling light draped, giddy excitement laden, palm tree fringed Christmases.  Jingle all the way!

My memories effortlessly draw on a kind of festive yin and yang. Over the years, the tapestry of my Christmases is interwoven with happy, holly jolly memories from where I was born, in the yippee, ky-o-ky-yay ol' cowtown of Calgary, from my beloved Okanagan Valley and from that other Home Sweet Island Home, The Big Island of Hawaii.  Mele Kalikimaka!

The Hawaiians' sense of 'ohana (family) strengthens my own deeply entrenched enchantment for the undeniable warmth of the celebrations of kith and kin at this time of year.

Memories and traditions come tumbling into these anticipation-filled November days.  I think of my Mom often.  Christmas and my Mom just go together.  Mom did Christmas like nobody's business.  She wove magic into each and every festive season. 

And the goodies we had!  Melt in your mouth shortbread, honey baked ham tucked into pillow soft Parkerhouse rolls, hand-crafted candy canes, fruit filled, brandied Christmas pudding with rich, boozy, hard sauce. 

FlanYesterday, with the spirit of the upcoming season toying with me, and some of the best friends anyone could have, coming for dinner, I made Mom's old-standby dessert, Almond Flan.  This delicious, creamy rich, almost cake like dessert recipe, that was a part of so many of our family gatherings in days of yore, came from one of Mom's closest friends, a lovely, gracious Mexican lady, who eagerly shared many passed-down-through-the-generations recipes with us. Muchas gracias Ana. 

And I'm not absolutely sure, but I bet I made Mom grin from ear to ear last night, from her heavenly perch, as I served up her favorite almond flan to our very dear friends gathered around a happy dinner table laden with merry chitchat and cheery expectations for the mistletoed jubilations, straight ahead. 

- Serves 8

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup ground almonds
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
6 eggs = 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
*Optional - 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Fresh fruit for serving

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.  Melt 1 cup sugar in heavy-bottomed, medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the sugar starts to melt and caramelize, shake the pan, periodically to melt evenly until rich golden in colour.  This will take a few minutes, but must be watched carefully so it doesn't get past that rich golden colour.  Remove from heat immediately and pour carefully onto the bottom of a 9-inch deep pie plate. 

In a blender container buzz the ground almonds, sweetened condensed milk and 3/4 cup cream for 20 seconds.  Add 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks (Discard whites or freeze in a baggie for the next time you make Cloud Forest Banoffee or Pavlova).  Blend at high speed for 20 seconds or until well mixed.  Pour onto caramelized sugar in pie plate.  Set pie plate carefully in another baking dish and fill outer pan with hot water that comes just half way up the sides of the pie plate.

Bake flan in water bath for 45 minutes.  Remove pie plate from outer pan.  Let cool at least 3 hours, or can be made day ahead and refrigerated.  Cut around edges with a thin knife and turn flan upside down onto serving platter.  Spoon any sticky syrup left in pie plate onto top of flan.  Cut into wedges and serve with dollops of whipped cream and fresh fruit, if desired.

Put 1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream into medium or large bowl of electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form.  Add sugar and extracts and beat just until slightly stiff peaks form.