Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Not-Yet Flan

I have to be truthful and say I am sort of at a loss for any kind of commentary to go along with this flan I made on Sunday. I don’t have a good story to share, and while it almost made me say forget it, I’m not writing anything, I thought surely there must be some way to get around this lackluster mood I am in. Right? Right. So I have been thinking that instead of a story, how about a morning poem? Yes, a morning poem would be lovely.
I decided to flip open an old volume of poems I have by Jane Hirschfield, and this is the first one I read. I thought it was funny because the poem just happens to be about not yets, and the last blog post I wrote had to do with not yets as well. And when I read the poem over once more, I realized that one of the reasons why I feel as though I don’t have anything to write is because my whole week has really been a bunch of not yets, too. It is not yet spring, I have not yet gotten that job, and my flan is not yet very good. Usually this would not bother me so much except that lately I have been feeling ready. I am ready for the ground to thaw, for movement, and for my stupid flan to come out right. But then I find this poem and am reminded that along with all these not yets, it is important to realize that I am also not yet dead. No, I am not yet dead at all, and things are not yet over.
Not-Yet, by Jane Hirshfield

Morning of buttered toast;
of coffee, sweetened, with milk.

Out the window,
snow-spruces step from their cobwebs.
Flurry of chickadees, feeding then gone.
A single cardinal stipples an empty branch-
one maple leaf lifted back.

I turn my blessings like photographs into the light;
over my shoulder the god of Not-Yet looks on:

Not-yet-dead, not-yet-lost, not-yet-taken.
Not-yet-shattered, not-yet-sectioned, not-yet-strewn.

Ample litany, sparing nothing I hate or love,
Not-yet-silenced, not-yet-fractured, not-yet-


I move my ear a little closer to that humming figure,
I ask him only to stay.
So, back to the flan. I used a recipe that Lea got from her friend Pedro, and then supplemented it with some guidelines from the Joy of Cooking. I had high expectations for it, especially after I successfully plopped it out of the soufflé mold to reveal the most beautiful round orb of pale custard submerged in amber sugary syrup I have ever seen. Truly, I cannot tell you what a joyful moment this was, and how the sight of it was one of simple, elated pleasure. I just wanted to hug and kiss it over and over. It looked so good in fact that I thought it was appropriate to have its photo taken beneath the droopy pink tulips I have on my kitchen table right now.
This was the highlight of the flan because in terms of flavor and texture I was a little let down. It tasted okay, but was a bit egg-y. Lea suggested that if it sat for a few days the sulfur flavor would eventually lessen.
Perhaps adding more sugar?
I also didn’t heat the milk when I was making the custard, and word on the street is that you should heat the milk.
I wanted the flan to be a little thicker and creamier- perhaps I will try it with condensed milk next time. Or coconut milk? Or even cream?
Who has a knock out flan recipe out there? Send it my way!

Here is the recipe I used for this flan, with some suggestions for changes.

Not-yet Flan

For the flan
9 eggs
4 cups milk
15 soupspoons of sugar (Pedro’s measurements)
1 tsp. vanilla

For the caramel:
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup water

In a heavy sauce pan heat the sugar and water without stirring it. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, cover and let boil for two minutes. Take off the cover and let boil until it turns a beautiful dark amber. Quickly remove from heat and pour into ramekins or a soufflé dish. Swirl the caramel around the dish so that it coast half way up the edges of the pan.

In a bowl crack the eggs and add the sugar. I then added the milk cold, but try heating it up and see what happens. Gently mix it up and add the vanilla. Pour into the dish and place in a water bath. Bake at 350 for at least one and a half hours. When it is goldenish on top and seems firm take out of the over, let rest a few minutes and then cover it with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Leave it there for at least 4 hours, but preferably longer. A few days even.


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  2. Oh Sophie, Sophie, Sophie,,,,, I hug you so tight... Daddy says that the anticipation of something is usually more satisfying than the you can look at life that way...But, as your mother, my exultant anticipation of your arrival into this world pales in comparison with the glowing reality of the beautiful, whole, sensual and sensitive Sophie who now lives and loves.

    Hirschfields' poem is lovely... the unfolding not-yets which sustain us all
    xxx mommy

    March 4, 2010 9:02 AM

  3. So beautifully written Sophie, from your Aunt who loves the words, but doesn't have the gift of literary prose.