Like the black sapotes we've gotten in other weeks, canistels must go very soft to be fully ripe, and the fruit bowl of late has been looking like something out of a Peter Greenaway movie (I should have taken a picture). Of course, they rarely cooperate by ripening simultaneously, so I harvested the flesh of these as they ripened and froze it until they were all ready. Fortunately, Little Miss F liked the flavor of the canistel much moreso than the black sapotes (she's a big fan of mamey) so I had a willing assistant in preparing this.
I looked mostly at pumpkin flan (a/k/a flan de calabaza) recipes for inspiration, and after considering several variations went with the following (look, an actual recipe!):
- Flesh of 3 canistels (~1 cup)
- 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
- 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 3/4 cup sugar
Note that the color is almost entirely from the canistels, not the eggs. Then, make Thomas Keller proud - pour it through a strainer:
Next, the caramel. Put the 3/4 cup sugar into a saucepan over medium heat. Some recipes I read said stir constantly. Others said leave it alone until it starts to melt, then stir only occasionally. I eventually learned the latter instructions were the right ones. Just leave it be until the sugar starts to melt, then stir occasionally with a fork to incorporate the rest of the unmelted sugar. I stirred too early and ended up with big lumps that took longer to dissolve. After about ten minutes, you should have liquid (molten! be careful) golden-brown caramel.
Set up eight 4-oz. ramekins in a baking dish large enough to hold them, with sides at least as tall as the ramekins (OK, I only had seven ramekins. Someone broke one.). Working quickly, spoon a couple spoonfuls of the caramel into each of the ramekins. It will solidify quickly.
Then pour the flan mixture into each of the ramekins. I had almost exactly 4 cups = 32 oz., which would have been perfect for eight ramekins - if I still had eight.
When they're all filled, place the baking dish in the oven and pour about 4 cups hot water into the baking dish (enough to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins). Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until fully set (you can stick a skewer into one to get a sense of whether they're cooked through). Remove and let cool on a rack:
To serve, run a knife around the edge next to the ramekin, to loosen the flan. Then put a plate over the top of the ramekin, and flip the plate and ramekin over. The flan should release onto the plate, topped with the caramel (ideally with some oozing over):
These can be refrigerated for service later; I just re-warm them in a pan filled with hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekin on medium heat for about 5 minutes to melt the caramel.
The flavor of these is spot-on: it has the combination of rich flavor and light texture of a good flan, and the flavors of the canistel come through. Next time I might up the nutmeg and cinnamon a touch. I'd also like to work on the caramel a bit, as it stays pretty thick and sticky, and some of it doesn't free from the ramekin even after warming. But Little Miss F and Frod Jr. tell me this one's a keeper.
[*]Week 6? I know, it seems like we're going back in time here. But those canistels took a while to ripen.