Mother Earth Living

Bitters: Vanilla Flan With Bitters

Explore and cook with the bountiful benefits of bitter herbs.
By Arthur O. Tucker, Ph.D., and Susan Belsinger
March/April 2004
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Serves 8
I was inspired to make this vanilla-scented flan with bitters after I tasted vanilla ice cream with Angostura bitters sprinkled on top. I found it to be a pleasant flavor combination. This smooth flan is complemented by the bittersweet caramel. Making caramel is a simple process, but you need to take care when working with it because it can stick and burn.

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons Angostura bitters
  • 2½  cups milk
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1½  teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 8 ramekins or custard cups in a pan large enough to hold them. Melt 1 cup of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. With a wooden spoon, stir until the sugar has no lumps and is a pale amber color. The caramel will continue to cook in the pan for another minute, so remove the pan from heat, place the pan in the sink and stir for about 30 seconds. When liquid is added to hot caramel it will foam up, so carefully stir in ¼ teaspoon of the bitters. Immediately, and with care, begin to pour the caramel into the molds, one at a time, swirling the caramel around the sides and bottom. You must work quickly because the caramel hardens fast.
  2. Pour milk into a nonreactive saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot, but do not scald or boil. Remove from heat, add the remaining ½ cup sugar and whisk to dissolve. In a small bowl, beat eggs and add about 1 cup of the hot milk to the eggs, whisking well. Add egg mixture to hot milk and whisk well. Stir in vanilla, remaining bitters and salt.
  3. Pour the flan mixture into the prepared molds and place them in the pan. Pour enough hot water in the pan so that it is at least 1 inch deep. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Remove flan from hot water to cool on racks. When room temperature, refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours, until well chilled. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the molds and invert onto individual serving plates. If the flan is not letting go of the mold, let it sit for a few minutes, or hold the mold in warm water for 30 to 60 seconds.

Art Tucker, Ph.D., botanist at Delaware State University, is the co-author of The Big Book of Herbs (Interweave, 2000). Susan Belsinger is a culinary herbalist, food writer and photographer who has co-authored several cookbooks and writes for many national magazines.

Click here for the original article, Bitters: Beverages with Moxie. 

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