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My Mom’s Always-Requested Puerto Rican Flan

Puerto Rican flan recipe

This is the Puerto Rican flan my mom, Marisa Jiménez Caviness, served at least every other time people came over—which was a lot because we owned a little hotel in El Condado, about two miles from Old San Juan. It was called El Canario, after her favorite color: yellow. The huéspedes came mostly from the States, and Mami and Dad invited the regulars, who came season after season, across the driveway to our condo for drinks (daiquiris and piña coladas)—and dinner, which usually started with Mom’s arroz on pollo and ended with her famous flan. The guests always asked for seconds of the flan—and so did my sister and me.

“Get ready for your family or dinner guests to ask for the recipe. I never met anyone who didn’t love it.”—Marisa Jiménez Caviness

Mom makes flan in a round mold with a hole in the middle. “The hole makes it prettier,” she says. Her secret ingredient is 2 jiggers of liqueur—she is partial to Curaçao if she has it. If not, Grand Marnier or any fruit-flavored liqueur will do.

This recipe came from her mother, my grandmother, Rocío Servera Jiménez of Mayaguez and later San Juan, who wasn’t much of a cook, truth be told. “She must have gotten it from a friend or one of her sisters,” Mom guesses.

Mom recommends serving this flan when “you want a good dessert for a good dinner.” If you make it for Thanksgiving, Mom cautions, you’ll need two: each feeds about 8 people. “I never met anyone who didn’t love it,” she says.

Hungry to Make Marisa’s Puerto Rican Flan?

My Mom’s Always-Requested Puerto Rican Flan

5 from 3 votes
Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

15

minutes

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. 14 sweetened condensed milk

  • 14 oz. 14 water (use same condensed milk can)

  • 3 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 tsp. 1 vanilla extract

  • 1 1 lemon zest

  • 2 jiggers 2 fruit-flavored liqueur, like Curaçao or Grand Marnier

  • Caramelized Sugar Topping
  • 3 Tbsp. 3 sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Lightly beat with a mixer in a large bowl: condensed milk, water, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and brandy. Set aside.
  • Pour sugar into oven-proof and stovetop-proof flan mold. Place mold on stove burner on medium-low. In about 5 minutes, the sugar will begin to turn to light brown. Watch it carefully: once it starts browning, it can quickly burn. Gently shift mold so that the still-white sugar caramelizes to a uniform golden color. Remove from burner and let cool for 1 minute.
  • Gently spread the condensed milk-egg mixture over the hardened caramelized sugar.
  • Make a baño Maria: Fill a medium-large pan wider than the flan mold with water and place in oven. When hot, gently lower the flan mold into the water. Place on the middle rack of the hot oven.
  • Bake for about one hour and 15 minutes. Starting at 1 hour, check for doneness: insert a knife or a toothpick into center: if it emerges clean, it’s done. The flan should look springy-firm and custardy-plump.
  • Let the flan mold cool for about an hour. Cover and place in refrigerator to chill.
  • At least half an hour before serving, circle a knife around the mold interior to loosen the flan edge. Gently flip onto a pretty serving plate. The caramelized sugar will slowly trickle over the flan sides onto the plate.
  • Serve cool or at room temperature. And “get ready for your family or dinner guests to ask for the recipe,” says Mom.

Notes

  • Alternately, instead of caramelizing the sugar on the stovetop, Mom says, some of her Puerto Rican friends prefer to do so in a 375° oven. Again, keep a close eye on the sugar in the flan mold once it starts to turn light brown, so it doesn’t burn.
The azúcar is beginning to brown. Keep an eye on it.
Almost perfectly golden: 30 seconds more and you’re done.
The firmness is just right, says Mom. (A different flan-making day, in her kitchen, with her baking mold.)
Marisa in the 1970s, at the height of her flan-entertaining years.
El Canario guest house Puerto Rico
Our El Canario Guest House official postcard, from the 1960s.

Mami in my cocina, going over how to make her flan—this time using lime zest, because—what?— I am out of lemons. Note that “El Libro” is open on the kitchen counter.
Marisa Flan Familia Kitchen
El flan está listo!

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