Filipino Crème Caramel - Coconut Custard with a Caramel Topping
3/4 cup granulated sugar [150 g]
1/4 cup water [60 mL]
6 large eggs [300 g]
7 oz unsweetened coconut cream (half of 14 fluid oz can) [198 g]
14 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk [396 g]
12 fluid oz (1 can) evaporated milk [354 mL]
2 tsp vanilla extract [10 mL]
1 tsp finely grated orange zest [2 g]
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Do not stir the sugar. Just gently swirl the pan to make sure sugar is heating evenly.
Bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil until it turns into a copper/amber color. Be careful not to let it get too dark, otherwise it will have a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Turn off the heat as soon as it turns light amber.
Immediately and quickly transfer this caramel liquid into a 9" round can pan. Tilt the pan as needed to let the caramel liquid go all the way to the edges and evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Set this aside at room temperature to let the caramel cool and harden.
In a large mixing bowl, add 6 large room temperature eggs, 1 tsp of finely grated orange zest, 7 oz / 198 g (which is half a can) of unsweetened coconut cream, and 14 oz / 396 g (which is 1 can) of sweetened condensed milk and whisk them together until they are completely combined and the mixture is smooth.
Add in 12 fluid oz / 354 mL (which is 1 can) of evaporated milk and 2 tsps. vanilla extract, and carefully whisk it in until the mixture is smooth. Try not to stir it too vigorously to avoid air bubbles from forming. Avoid using an electric mixer or stand mixer to avoid beating too much air into the mixture.
Strain this mixture through a cheesecloth or a strainer (to remove any lumps) into the prepared 9"-round cake pan with the hardened caramel layer at the bottom.
Gently tap the pan on the counter to release any remaining air bubbles in the custard.
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat your oven to 325 F (165 C). Place the round cake pan with your leche flan in the center of a large roasting dish and place this roasting dish on the middle rack in your preheated oven, with the oven rack pulled out a bit. Do not close the oven door yet. When the roasting dish is in the oven, pour boiling water into the roasting dish so that it goes up about one inch high, creating a water bath for the flan. Very carefully (so water doesn't slosh around) push the rack fully into the oven and close the oven door.
(Pouring the boiling water while the roasting dish is already in the oven will avoid having to carry the heavy dish with boiling water inside it).
Bake this on the middle rack in the preheated oven at 325 F (165 C) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of the cake is just set. It's okay if the center is still a bit jiggly as it will firm up as it cools to room temperature.
Remove the round pan from the water bath, and allow it to cool to room temperature on a metal rack. When it reaches room temperature, cover the pan with plastic wrap, then chill it in the fridge.
When you're ready to serve, take the flan out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. This will allow the caramel at the bottom to soften up a bit, break the vacuum at the bottom, and make it easier to unmold the flan. With the knife slightly angled towards the pan (to minimize breaking the flan), glide a thin knife around the edges of the flan, applying pressure against the side of the pan to avoid damaging the flan, to break the vacuum on the sides between the pan and the flan. At this point if the flan is spinning in the pan, no need to tap the sides. If needed (if the flan still hasn't dislodged from the pan) firmly hold up the pan with one hand and use your other hand to tap the sides of the pan. Do this all around the pan. Be very careful. We're trying to gently dislodge the flan from the pan without breaking the flan.
Place your serving dish upside down onto the pan, quickly invert the flan onto the serving dish, so that the caramel is on top. We like to use a serving dish or cake stand with a raised lip or rim, as the caramel top runs as it melts. Firmly holding the pan upside down on the serving dish, give these gentle but firm downward thrusts, encouraging the flan to unmold. You can also lightly tap it on the counter. You'll hear a slurping sound when flan gets unmolded and hits the serving plate. Lift the pan to reveal the flan. Enjoy!