When I was a kid, there were two desserts that my mother made religiously, her glorious rice pudding (with those whole cinnamon sticks that I loved to suck on) and her velvety, sticky-sweet flan. I remember the smell of caramel, her yelling once it burnt (“carajo!”) and using it anyway because it was too much of a hassle to start all over again.
And now I understand why every time she made it, it always tasted different.
Sugar is a tricky ingredient to work with, especially once melted.And in my house, there were no candy thermometers and the words “exact science” were never spoken. My mother’s philosophy was one of the senses, all about the smell, feel, look, and most importantly, the taste.
I took a risk and decided to make a sea salt caramel banana flan.A decadent custard with ripe sliced bananas (which surprised me by floating right to the top of the custard). I also added sea salt, which is traditionally omitted in the mostly one-note Dominican caramel flan.
Overall, I’m happy with my sea salt caramel banana flan. Even though it brings me back to the familiar, nostalgic desserts my mother used to make, this one’s mostly mine.
Sea Salt Caramel Banana Flan
1 can of condensed milk (14 oz)
1 can of evaporated milk (12 oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cups sugar
2 ripe bananas
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Beat four eggs with whisk, add both milks. Continue whisking until well blended, add vanilla.
Brown sugar in a saucepan until medium/dark golden brown color. Do not stir the sugar with a spoon, just let it do its thing until it starts to melt (you may have to move the pan a little). Once it’s that perfect golden brown color, immediately pour into the bottom of a pie dish. It will harden almost immediately so rotate the dish to get an even coat of caramel and sprinkle with sea salt while still warm. Thinly slice the bananas and place evenly on top of the hardened caramel.
Pour mixture into pie dish (the bananas will float, that’s ok) and set the pie plate in the middle of a baking sheet. Place in the oven and pour water into the baking sheet to create a water bath (prevents cracking and un-even baking).
Let cook for 55 minutes to one hour. If it jiggles a little in the middle, that’s ok. It will firm up as it cools. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, loosen the edges with a butter knife and invert on a plate. Slice and make sure you get a few extra spoonfuls of that caramel sauce on top. Yum.