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Tickets to paradise
by Sharon K. Ghag February 22, 2013
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Dessert isn’t simply magical, it’s transportive. One bite brings bliss, and a bowlful is paradise found. So there’s no need for an expensive getaway when paradise lies in desserts with tropical flavours.

Flan from a box is an instant hit, but flan from scratch is ethereal. Caramelising half the sugar takes time, but otherwise making this dessert is easier than the boxed version: A quick blend and everything goes into the oven. And who doesn’t want an excuse in the middle of winter to turn on the oven? It’s OK to make this without coconut, to pacify the people who don’t like the texture. And, certainly, omitting the coconut lets the flavours of the milks shine through.
1 cup sugar, divided use

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

3 egg yolks, plus 3 large eggs

1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Make sure the canned milks are open as you’ll need to add them quickly when the caramel is done.

2. To make the caramel, combine { cup sugar and a little water ( just enough to form a wet sand) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Melt the sugar, stirring often, until there are no more lumps. (If any sugar touches the sides of the pan, be sure to wash all the crystals down into the sugar mixture with clean water and a pastry brush before the mixture comes to a full boil.)

3. Swirl the sugar mixture constantly while holding the pan just above the flame, until the caramel reaches a deep amber colour. Turn off the heat.

4. Carefully and quickly stir the milks in the order listed: evaporated, unsweetened coconut, sweetened condensed; the mixture will bubble and hiss. Transfer to a blender, then add the eggs, egg yolks, remaining sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until smooth. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or more, allowing the custard to rest. Meanwhile, prepare the baking dishes: Scatter the shredded coconut in the bottom of each baking dish. Set the baking dishes in a large baking pan and pour in hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the dishes.

5. Divide the custard evenly among the baking dishes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until set, 30 to 40 minutes for the smaller ones or 45 minutes to 1 hour for one large flan. To test for doneness, gently shake the baking pan: If the flans jiggle like a just-set Jell-O, take them out of the oven or they will become overdone. If the liquid is still sloshing around a bit, give them more time.

6. Once the flans are done, remove them from the water bath and let come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

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