3 Fresh fig leaves, rinsed and patted dry
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
2 large eggs plus 5 yolks
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh figs, sliced
Note: You will need to start this recipe 2-3 days prior to serving
Step 1: Combine your evaporated milk, whole milk and heavy whipping cream in a large jar or other airtight container. Take each fig leaf and tear and scratch slightly (not into pieces, just at the edges) so that oils and flavor can escape more easily. Submerge all three fig leaves in the milk mixture and seal tightly. Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 2 days to allow fig leaf flavor to infuse.
Step 2: Set your oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 300°F. You’ll be tempted to grease or butter your pan, but resist that urge. I used a 9inx5in loaf pan but you may use a 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan as well, just be aware the cook time might be a bit longer.
Step 3: In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 1/4 cup of water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Stir in the crushed pink peppercorns. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Once boiling, leave unstirred until the sugar water mixture turns light golden. Swirl the pan slowly and gently, taking care not to splash, until the mixture turns the color of honey. Once your mixture is honey-hued, turn off the heat and continue to swirl the pan until the sugar mixture is a dark reddish-amber color and fragrant, about 15-30 seconds. Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons of warm tap water until incorporated – be careful as the mixture will bubble and steam. This whole process should take no more than 15 minutes.
Step 4: Pour the caramel into your loaf pan. The caramel will harden in the pan, so you’ll have to move quickly. It will soften up again as it bakes so don’t worry if you think you’ve made candy instead of caramel!
Step 5: In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and yolks until combined. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and whisk briefly to incorporate. Set a large fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and pour in the milk infusion from the jar. Discard leaves from the strainer and set aside. Add vanilla and salt and whisk until all combined. Set your strainer over a new, clean, large bowl. Strain your mixture through into this new bowl to remove clumps of egg or flakes of fig leaf. Very carefully and slowly pour the strained custard mixture into the loaf pan over the caramel. Cover the loaf pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Step 6: Position the covered loaf pan in the center of a large baking dish or 9×13 roasting pan with high sides so you can prepare the water bath. Heat a full tea kettle, electric kettle or prepare a pitcher of hot water. Place the nested pans in the oven BEFORE pouring in the hot water. This will significantly reduce your chances of burning yourself while transferring a hot water filled pan to the oven. Once on the rack, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides.
Step 7: Bake for 70-80 minutes, potentially up to 90 minutes if you are using a smaller pan. The custard will be set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center. I mean a BIT jiggly, it should be a slight shimmy and should in no way resemble Flubber. Think discreet jiggles, not enthusiastic wiggles.Carefully remove the pans from the oven. Remove the foil and leave the flan in the water bath to cool for 1 hour.
Step 8: One the flan has cooled, remove it from the water bath and wipe the pan dry. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight or up to 4 days.
To unmold the flan, carefully slide a sharp knife around the edges of the pan. Invert a plate or serving dish with a raised rim (to contain the caramel) on top of the flan and turn the pan and platter over. If the flan doesn’t release immediately, let it sit inverted for a minute and it should slide out. If it still doesn’t come out, try running the knife around the edges again. Using rubber spatula, scrape the left over caramel onto the flan and plate. Arrange your sliced fresh figs atop the flan and voila! Dessert!
This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef Caramel Flan