SMiLes by Meg

Individual Flan

I’m writing this from my kitchen counter, taking a break from packing, but by the time I post it (a day early, I know) I’ll be in Washington State, catching a ferry to Alaska. I’ll spend the entire month of September there, hiking, kayaking, exploring, and, obviously, baking. With Erik moving to Anchorage for two years to clerk, and me not starting work for another couple months in Boston, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to get to know a state I’ve never visited. AND I’m very excited to take this ferry, which will bring us from Bellingham, Washington to Whittier, Alaska over the course of five days, basically forcing everyone onboard to unplug. I see a lot of reading, knitting, and cribbage in my future.

It seems fitting that I decided to make flan this week, then. It is Erik’s signature dessert, and one we’ve made together for the blog in the past. That last recipe is the one that he uses, and makes one big flan that you can sort of serve as a cake, with people taking slices. This recipe is a little different. I was planning on having my brother over for dinner, and wanted a dessert that I could make in individual portions just for the two of us. Flan jumped into my head because the meal itself was going to be tacos, making flan feel on theme. With a little searching, I found a recipe to make it in ramekins, and was able to cut it in half to make just three ramekins rather than six. That way, Pete and I could each have one after dinner, and I could have one the next night, too!

Alas, the best laid plans, etc. etc. My parents decided to come into town for dinner with us, meaning a quick doubling of my taco recipe. Unfortunately, flan is one of those chill-for-four-hours desserts, so I had already made the three individual servings before they decided they were coming. So my brother and dad each got one, and my mom and I split one. And now I don’t have one to eat tonight. Probably for the best.

This recipe is different from the last one I posted, which calls for sweetened condensed milk and doesn’t have you making a caramel sauce. This recipe has fewer ingredients, but also forces you to do more of the leg work on making the different components. Considering I have literally nothing else to do during the day, that didn’t bother me. If it bothers you, try my old recipe in individual ramekins!

First, stir 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water over low heat in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium or medium high and bring to a boil.

Boil without stirring until it turns a deep amber color. Swirl the pan occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes total, and the color won’t creep in until the very end. During the first 6 or 7 minutes, it’s just the water boiling off, leaving the sugar. So the bubbles will get thicker and the liquid more viscous. Also, that amber color will really sneak up on you – keep a steady eye on your pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Quickly divide the caramel between three ramekins, swirling each cup to coat the bottom and parts of the sides. Fast work is crucial – caramel solidifies super fast. Set those aside and make the custard. Start by stirring the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar just dissolves. Because milk is opaque, it may be harder to tell if the sugar is dissolved than with the water above. The milk should be lukewarm, so if you want to go by that, just dip your pinky in every once and awhile to test it. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs together. Slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. Side Note: I heard today that vanilla officially costs more per ounce than silver. I suppose I now understand why vanilla bean prices have seemed so incredibly high the past couple of times I’ve needed one.

Anyways, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the three ramekins. Place the ramekins into a 9x12x2 inch metal baking dish. Pour boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the ramekins. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, until centers are just set. Remove from baking dish onto a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for at least four hours, no more than one day.

To serve, use a knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the flan. Turn upside down on a plate. I’m not really sure I understand the magic that keeps the caramel smooth rather than the hard stuff you put into the ramekins in the first place, but I’m not going to think too hard about it. Eat with a spoon for a nice, light, single-serve dessert!


Individual Flan


  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt


  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, stir 1/4 cup of sugar and water until sugar dissolves.
  2. Increase heat to medium or medium high and bring to a boil. Boil without stirring, but swirling the pan occasionally, until sugar turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes.
  3. Quickly divide caramel between three ramekins and swirl cups to coat bottom and part of sides.
  4. In a small saucepan over low heat, stir milk and 1/4 cup sugar until sugar dissolves and milk is lukewarm.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly.
  6. Slowly pour warm milk into eggs, whisking constantly, until combined.
  7. Whisk in vanilla extract and salt.
  8. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the three ramekins.
  9. Place ramekins in a 9x12x2 inch metal baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  10. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, until centers are set.
  11. Remove from oven and take ramekins out of hot water bath. Allow to cool 30 minutes on wire rack before transferring to fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.
  12. To serve, slide a knife around the edge of each ramekin and turn the flan upside down on a plate.

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