Last year, I made a pumpkin flan for my column at the San Francisco Chronicle and this year I wrote about how canned Indian mangoes brought absolute joy to my life in summer for Taste, so it is quite imaginable that at some point I would try to combine both these things and make a mango flan. Summer always involved mangoes from the months of April to late May. My parents would have boxes in their kitchen, where the large ripe fruit, sat on a bed of hay next to each other, carefully protected so they wouldn't bump and bruise. Mangoes were and still are meant to be a delight. My mom's sole duty in summer and part of many our conversations on Facetime revolve around her eating fresh mangoes in India and me struggling to find the whole fruit. Till that heavenly day arrives to my shores in California, I will make do with the canned stuff. The canned stuff is amazing when it comes to using the pulp (which is more like a purée) in dishes where the flavor is important but the texture of the mango flesh is irrelevant. I pick my cans up at the Indian grocery store near my home and they have them year round.
Just like the sweet aromatic mangoes, flans are quite a marvelous dessert creation. You don't need much, milk, sugar and eggs and something to flavor the whole thing with. In summer, flans were typically served as a cooling sweet to stave off the sweltering, scorching heat of the sun and I never complained. It's bitter sweet flavor from the burnt sugar, runs and drips across the edges of the baked custard, glistening in the bright light, begging you to tear into it with a spoon and scoop the sweet and soft pudding.
A special note with regards to the photos here:
The muffin pans: I wanted to see if it makes life easy for large preparations and report the results here from a more experimental standpoint.
However, you might face two challenges (and this is why I prefer the individual bowls when making this dessert).
1. Heating: Heating can be uneven, the ones on the outer edges of the pan will cook first and then ones in the middle last. You will end up with different cooking times for each of these.
2. Releasing: It is impractical and tricky to pop just one flan out from a muffin pan. You have to release all at the same time. Again, this is why I prefer the individual bowls.
mango cardamom flan
makes 12 individual servings
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 cup canned or fresh mango puree (I've used the canned Indian variety: Kesar mango)
5 large eggs
seeds from 3 green cardamom pods, ground
1 cup whole milk
one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
one 12-ounce can evaporated milk
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Have 12 clean small ramekin bowls ready that can hold a little 1/2 cup liquid in volume.
Place the sugar with the water in a small saucepan and heat on medium-high. Heat the sugar on medium-high heat until it starts to change color and turn amber red, swirling the pan often, about 9 to 12 minutes; watch it carefully as it can burn easily. Once the sugar reaches a dark shade of amber , immediately about 1 to 2 tsp of the , swirling the bowls to cover as much surface area as possible.
In a large bowl, whisk the mango with the eggs and cardamom until smooth. Whisk in the milks to form a smooth and creamy mixture. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove any egg bits. Then pour about 1/2 cup of this mixture carefully over a tablespoon held over the caramel in the bowl to prevent (this reduces any unnecessary mixing).
Place a wire rack in the bottom of a deep pan that the bowls can fit inside. Place the bowls in the pan and fill it with water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the bowls. You might need to do this in batches depending on how wide your pan is and how many bowls it can accommodate. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the center of the flan is firm to the touch and it jiggles just slightly. Remove the bowls from the water bath. Let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until set.
Release the flan by running a small, sharp knife around the edges. Place a serving plate over the top, flip carefully and tap gently to release. Serve chilled.
NOTE: The photos above show a standard muffin pan but I found that although muffin pans are great to do something like this quickly, their ability to heat and cook the custards varies by location. Individual heat proof/oven-safe bowls are the best option. I've shared these photos so you have an idea of how to pour the batter and how the caramel will look inside. That part won't change regardless of the bowl.