This flan de queso or cream cheese flan is what dreams are made of. Silky, rich, smooth, and lush, I know of no other dessert that competes. The creamy custard is inverted after baking causing the homemade caramel base to generously flow over it. Simply divine.
Growing up with Spanish/Puerto Rican culinary heritages, this dessert was often at our home and is my favorite of its kind. The delicious custard, which has its origins in Spain, naturally made its way to Puerto Rico, where it is often combined with cream cheese for the perfect balance of flavors. My secret addition is orange blossom water, which adds a delicate floral kiss that transports the palate to another world . Interestingly enough, the Moors of Spain also added citrus notes to various kinds of flan –– in the same manner that they left their culinary character imprinted in the region.
This dessert is so very reflective of the fusions of culture that make gastronomy so rich. And the flavors are there to show for it.
INGREDIENTS/ SERVES 6-8
1 cup/200 gr. granulated sugar
1 can/14 oz./396 gr. sweetened condensed milk
1 can/ 12 oz./354 ml. evaporated milk
1 package/ 8 oz./ 226 gr. good quality cream cheese
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons orange blossom water
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir for a few minutes as the sugar breaks down. As soon as it begins to melt, reduce the heat to a low and continue to stir until most of the sugar has reduced to a syrup and the color is still a light golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir just until any remaining sugar granules have dissolved. Quickly pour the caramelized sugar into a round 9 in. baking pan (not springform) and rotate the pan to coat the sides with syrup. This should be done briefly as the sugar will harden right away. This is your caramel base. Set aside.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a blender and pulse until well-combined and smooth. Pour the batter into the pan with the caramel base. You will hear a most satisfying cracking sound. Place the 9 in. pan inside a larger pan and fill the larger pan with boiling water so that it goes about 3/4 way up the sides of the flan pan. Alternatively, you may carefully add the boiling water just after you place the flan in the preheated oven – whichever method is easier for you. Loosely place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and bake just until set, 55-60 minutes. Remove the sheet of foil halfway through baking or after 30 minutes. You will know the flan is ready when a knife inserted into its center comes out clean.
Remove the flan pan from the tub of water and carefully place on a baking rack to cool completely, 40-60 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the flan to loosen. Place a serving dish tightly over the pan and flip! Enjoy right away or chill in the refrigerator for later. Top with silvered pistachios, toasted almond flakes, rose petals, etc.