In the center of Mexico City, not far from where the Aztec main temple, Templo Mayor, once stood, there is the famous restaurant, El Cardenal. El Cardenal is an elegant place with white table cloths, white coated staff, and wonderfully delicious traditional Mexican cuisine. We go to this restaurant each and every time we are in Mexico City, primarily because they have the most decadent desserts to be found anywhere in Mexico. Among my favorites is Flan Napolitano, a delicious creamy custard covered in a sugary caramel, it is one of Mexico’s most famous desserts!
Flan has a long and glorious history that reaches back as far as Ancient Rome. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the custard recipe they developed became popular throughout medieval Europe. As the recipe was replicated and adapted, it became more and more sweet. In Latin, the dessert was known as flado, for custard, it is from the French that it eventually became Flan.
In Mexico, flan was taken to a whole new level. Traditional flan is made with eggs, cane sugar, vanilla, and cream. It is prepared by first making sugar syrup cooked to a caramel, poured into a mold, or in my case, small soufflé molds, then finally adding the custard. It is cooked in the oven in a water bath to prevent the custard from curdling and to keep the top of the custard moist. Flan Napolitano is a bit different, in that it is made by adding cream cheese and queso doble creama to the custard. This gives the flan a much more rich and creamy texture. Flan is perfect for cooling the palatte after a spicy, chile based dish, this is why it is so popular in Mexico. There are other flavors as well; pumpkin, almond, and even coconut. But my favorite is still the classic vanilla.
In my interpretation, I decided to try to use marscapone instead of queso doble creama. The result was simply MexItaliano!
Flan Napolitano MexiItaliano
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 9 ounces cream cheese
- 9 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
- 10 eggs
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
For the caramel:
- Combine 1 cup sugar with the a bit of water in a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
- When the sugar begins to melt, swirl the pan over the heat for 10 minutes, until it darkens to a honey-amber color.
- Remove from heat and immediately pour into each flan mold, tilting it so the caramel evenly coats the bottom.
- Place the molds in a large roasting pan and set aside.
For the flan:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Bring about 4 cups of water to a simmer and keep it hot. You’ll use this for your water bath.
- You will need to slice the vanilla bean down the sides and remove the inner seeds, to do this take a pairing knife and slice it lengthwise, open it up and scoop out the inner seeds and place it in the bowl.
- Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream cheese, crema and vanilla in a saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, but don’t allow it to come to a full boil, once it is throughly combined into a cream, remove from heat.
- Whisk together the eggs and remaining 1 cup sugar in a large bowl, add a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously until thick and pale yellow in color.
- Now, GRADUALLY whisk the cream into the egg mixture, but be careful not to add it too quickly or the eggs will cook (What I do is combine the cream and the eggs together a ladle at a time)
- Pour the custard into the caramel-coated flan molds.
- Carefully pour the hot water from the kettle into a roasting pan so that it’s about halfway up the side of the molds.
- Transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- If you notice during this time that the surface is starting to turn golden-brown but it’s not fully cooked yet, cover it with foil so it doesn’t burn.
- You may also periodically insert a knife into the center of the flan to check for doneness. When the knife come out clean, it’s done; when the custard is just set and slightly jiggles, it’s time to take it out.
- Let custard cool completely in the water bath. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- To serve, run a knife around the inside of the mold to loosen the flan. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert it to pop the flan out