Vanilla Flan

February 5, 2014

This is probably difficult to believe given how much I bake… but this is the first time in my life I’ve ever cooked with a vanilla bean as opposed to vanilla extract. I guess I just don’t make too many desserts in which vanilla is the prominent flavor, and it always seemed like the direction “one vanilla bean, split lengthwise” would result in much accidental finger slicing and a complete mangling of the bean itself. But armed with my new awesome 6-inch chef knife (best birthday present ever), I decided to be brave and branch out.

Turns out all my fears were unfounded! I was honestly surprised at how easily and perfectly my knife cut through the outside of the bean. I can see how it could be tricky if you were trying to work with an old dried-out vanilla bean or a really dull knife, but all the more reason to keep your knives nice and sharp!

The rest of this flan recipe (from the Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook) came together with no problems. I’ve made caramel before, and I’ve made custard before, so those processes don’t phase me at this point. But if those are two things that you’ve been intimidated by, I recommend putting aside your discomfort and giving them a try! Just like with my vanilla bean slicing, you’ll probably find that they’re not as difficult or fussy as people have made them out to be. And learning new techniques opens up so many more possibilities in the kitchen! I’m looking forward to making the next recipe that calls for a whole vanilla bean… because now I know I can! :)


Makes 6 individual flans


  • 1¾  cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1  cup whole milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2  vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1  cup plus 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3  cup water
  • 3  large eggs
  • 2  large egg yolks


  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Combine cream, milk, and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until syrup is a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes Immediately pour caramel into six ¾-cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts as aid, immediately tilt each ramekin to coat sides. Place ramekins in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan.
  3. Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and remaining 7 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until just blended. Gradually and gently whisk cream mixture into egg mixture without creating lots of foam. Pour custard through small sieve into prepared ramekins, dividing equally (mixture will fill ramekins). Add enough hot water to baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
  4. Bake flans until center is gently set, about 40 minutes. Transfer flan to rack and cool. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and chill overnight.
  5. Run small sharp knife around sides of one flan. Place plate atop ramekin. Invert flan onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin, allowing caramel to run over flan. Repeat with remaining flans and serve.


  1. How love,y- delicious!

    • Thank you so much! :)

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