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Friday’s Flan Farewell

I'll wager that many of us could use a little extra sweetness to wrap up the events of this intense week. With Thanksgiving a few weeks away (on my blog, Vegan Latina, I'll be gathering together a few of my go-to recipes plus a few unconventional new favorites soon), the daily enjoyment of pumpkin sweets is practically a ritual. I've been making vegan flan for years, so practicing pumpkin vegan flan has been on my mind.

Practicing flan? Indeed. Both traditional and vegan flan radiate elegance and sophistication that clouds the simplicity behind the caramel curtain. Simmer an easy caramel and the flan; pour and chill for a few hours or overnight. But flan may require a little practice. Once you've done it a few times, however, it's so easy to prepare, it can be made while house guests are napping (as I made mine). Or you can get up a little early, simmer, and pour before leaving for work to have flan later that night.

This recipe can be made even richer by replacing a cup of almond milk with more coconut milk or made very light indeed by replacing the coconut milk with additional almond milk. Try adding a tablespoon of dark rum whisked in with the vanilla, or use only brown sugar for an intensely gingerbread-like flavor. Make one big flan in a pie plate or several individual servings in 1-cup or smaller ramekins. What is not negotiable is the agar power, a vegetarian substitute for gelatin made from a glassy sea vegetable. When boiled and cooled, it will even firm up at room temperature; here it does a smash-up job of replicating the gelling quality of eggs without having to cross a single chicken.

With that, I'd like to thank you for joining me for this week of blogging. It's been more challenging than I expected, but I'm grateful for the chance to share what's cooking in my world right now with Powell's hungry audience. Have a great weekend, spend time with good friends and good food, and relish every day.

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Maple Pumpkin Flan

Serves 8

Agar powder can be found in natural food stores and some Asian markets (especially Thai groceries). If you find it at an Asian grocery, make sure to buy the plain variety without added sugar or flavorings. If you can only find agar flakes (inferior to the powder but unfortunately more common), double the amount and cook for twice as long until the flakes have completely dissolved.

Maple Caramel
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar

2 cups vanilla almond milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon agar powder
2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
1 cup very smooth pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup and agave nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium high, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mixture turns a darker shade of amber and a drop of the caramel in water hardens into a firm ball. It will smell like caramel, but watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Immediately pour the caramel into a clean, dry, 9-inch glass pie plate (or divide among small ramekins or bowls); tilt the plate to coat the bottom and lower portions of the sides of the plate with caramel, and set aside to cool. The caramel may make a cute tinkling sound as it cools, and that's okay!

2. In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 cup of almond milk, white and brown sugar, and the agar powder, then bring to an active simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the remaining almond milk, cornstarch, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, lemon juice, spices, and sea salt. Using a wire whisk, slowly stream in the coconut milk mixture into the saucepan and bring to an active simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the cornstarch has fully cooked and the mixture thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour into the caramel-coated pie plate and set aside to cool on a kitchen countertop for 20 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

3. To serve, invert the flan onto a large shallow bowl or dish with curved edges. Gently tap the top of the plate to release the flan; if the flan is stubbornly stuck, lower the bottom into a pan of hot water for 2 minutes to loosen the caramel. Slice and serve with caramel sauce spooned on top.

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Terry Hope Romero is a vegan chef and author of several bestselling and award-winning cookbooks. She contributes to VegNews‘s “Hot Urban Eats” column and has hosted the public access/podcast vegan cooking show the Post Punk Kitchen. She lives in Queens, New York.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Vegan Eats World: 250 International...
    Sale Hardcover $14.98

Terry Hope Romero is the author of Vegan Eats World: 250 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet

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