Well, after two failed attempts and 30 eggs, I finally got it right. Wasteful, yes, but also delicious. As Julia Child once said, “Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.” I hope to adopt that outlook in my cooking, mistakes and all. This experience with her French toast flan was another one full of mistakes — and lessons — but more importantly, a good outcome.
Notes to self: First and foremost, again and forever, read all the directions all the way through before beginning. In fact, read them twice. In fact, go online and look up technique tips and see what other cooks have to say about their experience. You might be able to avoid making common mistakes if you know about them in advance.
Now, onto the nitty gritty of my flan flub.
This part of the process reminded me a lot of home. In my mom’s spice cabinet, we always had a bottle marked “cinnamon sugar.” My mom never let us eat sugary cereals and pretty well controlled our diets (which has actually made me quite careful in my eating habits as an adult), so cinnamon toast was one of the few sugary treats we were allowed in the morning. Having to make it as part of a recipe, a French one no less, certainly prompted some nostalgia.
I went and overheated the lovely light cream, and it looked like scrambled eggs gone wrong. So so wrong. (The first time, which I don’t show here, I put the egg and sugar mixture in too hot a pan too soon, and it failed miserably.)
I decided to call it a night and begin again the next day with a fresh outlook. With a new dozen eggs recently acquired from Safeway, I came into the kitchen refreshed and ready to conquer my custard deficiency.
The recipe is called flan, but it’s really just bread pudding. That requires making an egg custard. First thing to do was beat the (ROOM TEMPERATURE) eggs with sugar. I used the KitchenAid, which helped me beat them just so, until the “formed the ribbon,” as Julia calls it. This is just a fancy way of saying that the mixture is light, fluffy and makes a little ribbon coming off the beater. So far so good.
Here’s what they looked like after beating, pale and fluffy. After going into a saucepan over medium heat (sorry, no pictures), I slowly, ever so slowly, poured in hot milk and stirred for about 20 minutes until it started to thicken. On the second failed batch, I guess I’d assumed the custard would thicken more than it did, which led to the overheating. The trick is to see how it holds to the spoon. If all the bubbles are gone and it sticks to the spoon in an opaque yellow sheen, YOU’RE DONE. Take that baby off the heat pronto.
After pouring the custard over the arranged cinnamon toast triangles in the baking dish, it went into the oven and came out looking lovely. Even though my first two attempts didn’t turn out to my liking, this last run was worth it. The bread pudding was light and creamy, with hardly any butter to weigh it down (surprising for a Julia Child recipe, right?), and the distinct taste of accomplishment. Bon appetit!