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As a kid I was constantly ill with colds, ear infections, tonsillitis, strep throat and of course chicken pox, whooping cough, measles, etc. and even a mild case of polio.  Worse, this was before the age of antibiotics when nursing care was virtually the only treatment! 

Although usually eager to eat anything and everything, I was often anemic and underweight.  During most of these illnesses my appetite and ability to digest was impaired.  Mother frequently baked custard for me.  Although I could usually eat it and keep it down, I came to dislike this bland dish, and never fixed it myself until I discovered the Hispanic version:  rich, thick flan, more like a Crème Brulee than plain custard.  While it certainly is high in calories, you can cut some of the cholesterol by using eggs from chickens fed a vegetarian diet, such as Eggland's Best.  You may also use skim evaporated milk and skim  milk, but this will seriously undermine the rich flavor.  Don't use "filled" milk, which contains hydrogenated fats and which many people consider far unhealthier than a little butterfat. You can also use unsweetened coconut milk. Flan is also highly nutritious, especially for someone whose appetite is flagging or digestion is impaired.

The tastiest and easiest I have found is this Nicaraguan version, which translates to "Custard with Three Milks".

Flan de Tres Leches

Preheat oven to 325° F (unless you plan to use a double boiler).

You will need either a large double boiler, or two ovenproof dishes, one large enough for the flan, the other large and deep enough to cover the smaller dish in water almost to the top edge.  Prepare these ahead of time using hot water, making sure that the water won't overflow into or out of either dish..

Flan:

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup milk, regular or low fat  (Hint)
8 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Caramelized Coating:

3/4 cups sugar
3 Tbsp water

Mix the water and sugar in a heavy skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring with a metal or wooden spoon.   Continue to cook until it turns a medium-deep golden color (NOT brown).  Immediately pour into the flan dish or the top of the double boiler, turning this way and that to coat the bottom and as much up the sides as possible.  Be careful!  This caramel with cause severe burns if it touches your skin.

Beat the eggs slightly.  Beat in the condensed milk.  Then beat in the evaporated milk little by little, and finally the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into the flan pan on top of the caramel. 

Place the pan of water in the oven   Set the flan pan into the water.  Bake for 1 to 1 3/4 hrs.  (More if deep, less if shallow.  If using individual custard cups the time will be greatly reduced.)

If using a double boiler, pour in the egg mixture, cover the pan and simmer over hot but not boiling water for about an hour, or until the pudding is firm.

Check from time to time by inserting a clean, dry butter knife into the center of the custard.  If it comes out coated, cook some more.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!  It will seriously affect both the texture and flavor!  The outside edges will cook sooner than the middle, so be really careful.


Hint:  I heat the plain milk in the microwave nearly to boiling.  This slightly warms the flan and cuts the baking time.

 

The Sneaky Kitchen
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