Monday, August 27, 2007

Quintessential Winter

Maple Flan with Pears

No matter what the weather is, most of us somehow find a way to find fault, grumble and whine about it. It’s always either too hot, too cold, too sunny, too windy, too wet, too sticky. And I admit, I am usually a prime suspect for such behaviour; in the winter I moan about how I can never get warm enough and then come December and the Sydney summer descends on us and I complain about how insufferably hot it is.

The weather has always been a talking point, a conversation starter I guess, and why should it be different on this blog. You have probably heard me complain several times about how cold and wet it has been the past few months and I bet you’re sick of it. Well before you leave, I should mention that this time I have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sydney’s weather today was as perfect as the proverbial postcard.


But before winter is all done and dusted, I thought I would make her one last meal to send her off in style before she makes her way up into the northern hemisphere. For me, there are certain words that epitomises winter, and no they aren't “cold” or “snow”. One word is curry, then there is pudding, and the other is custard. Quintessential Sydney winter, I think, starts and ends with one or perhaps even all of these words and I know that my winter is never complete without them.

I think it’s quite obvious why these are considered, well by me anyway, winter fodder. They pretty much are equivalent to having a furnace in your belly; they are classic winter warmers, full of fatty goodness. And if you are somewhat inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness (in wintertime), well let me introduce you to this maple crème flan.

Maple Flan

Now, if you aren’t inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness then don’t be disheartened, it’s rich but it’s not heart attack inducing. It’s more likely to give you a toothache or a sugar rush than anything else.

I love the smoothness of custard, especially baked custards like flans and crème brulee. They are like the suave, debonair cousins of the crème anglaise. This flan, I warn can get a bit too sweet, and I wouldn’t even be opposed to reducing the amount of maple syrup in the future. But saccharine overindulgence aside, the flan does have a depth of flavour that you can't get with simple sugar. It's the the lushness of the maple syrup that gives this flan that depth.

Pears and Custard

When you overturn the wobbly custard onto a plate you will smell with giddy excitement the scent of pure maple syrup, cream and eggs coming together to produce something so ethereally good, it’s almost criminal. But to stray from harping on with one superlative after another, all I can say is that this flan is good, it’s great in fact. But moderation is the key.

I used buerre bosc pears, which you might be familiar with from a few posts ago. They are the best looking pears out right now with their beautiful brown russeted peel and their spongy but firm flesh. They are perfect for poaching and if you accidentally leave them too long to overripe, then it’s all the more reason to poach them.

These pears might seem like the supporting act for this maple custard but it's to the contrary. The pears serve a purpose, in that it cuts out a lot of the flans cloying sweetness. Whoever made this recipe must have known how potent the sweetness of maple can be, and if you have second thoughts about including the pear then think again. The pear becomes a welcome companion after a few spoonfuls of the custard.

Pears soaked in maple syrup

Well, you might remember I attended their soiree last year but they having another one this year! Ivonne and Lis are hosting another round of La Festa Al Fresco. This custard with the glazed buerre bosc pears are what I am contributing to the shindig and what I am offering up as a last hoorah for the end of the winter season here in the southern hemisphere. Soon enough we will be saying hello to spring!

This is a feast of everything fresh and in season whatever hemisphere you are from, so go and check out what everyone else has cooked up after the 3rd of September and meanwhile, here is the recipe for the maple creme flans.

Maple Crème Flan with Maple-Glazed Pears

Serves 10

Maple Flan with Pears

NOTE: It is recommended that you start making the custard one day before serving.

¾ cup pure maple syrup
3½ cups whipping cream
7 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt

½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 ripe Bartlett pears, unpeeled, quartered, cored
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Simmer maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until reduced to ½-cup, about 7 minutes.
Stir in cream; return to simmer.
Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend.
Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture.
Whisk in salt.
Strain custard into another large bowl.
Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Stir sugar, water, and maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber colour, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes.
Pour syrup into 10 rectangular, 10 x 5cm ceramic dishes, tilting pan carefully to coat sides. Let stand 10 minutes.

Pour custard into pan with syrup.
Place all the dishes in large roasting pan.
Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan.
Cover roasting pan with foil and pierce foil all over with fork.
Bake flan 1 hour 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 170°C in the last 45 minutes of baking. Uncover and bake until flan is set around edges but center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken.
Remove flan from water. Transfer to rack; cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Melt butter in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
Arrange pears, 1 cut side down, in skillet. Cook until brown, about 4 minutes.
Turn onto second cut side and cook until brown, about 4 minutes longer.
Stir in maple syrup; bring to boil.
Place in oven and bake until pears are tender, about 25 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate.

Run sharp knife around edge of flan to loosen.
Invert flan onto platter. Surround with pears and sauce.

NOTE: You can have the flan warm of slightly chilled. If you are serving them chilled, then simply heat the bottom of the dishes with some boiling hot water to looses then syru at the bottom to make for easier unmoulding.


Brilynn said...

That's stunning! And I'm sure the taste was fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks so beautiful and delicious! Nice colours...

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting, being in America, to read about winter coming to a close as our summer comes to a close. All the more perfect timing for a recipe like this, how delicious!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

the flan is absolutely breathtaking - your blog never ceases to make my mouth water :0)

Unknown said...

mmmmmmmmmmmm.... Droolalicious

Unknown said...


Just one question Jen, wheres ours???

Amy said...

That looks absolutely divine! I love the reflection, that photo is just gorgeous.

Anonymous said...


This is like a photo essay in STUNNING! Your photos are just incredible and you're so creative. Thank you so much for preparing this incredible dish and for coming to the party!

Anonymous said...

This truly looks beautiful. I was close to choosing to make a dessert with sauteed pears this past weekend, but ended up choosing apples. Goodness, your recipe sounds delicious!

Anita said...

So gorgeous and cozy looking! I love the presentation!

Anonymous said...

ok, my mouth is watering. This looks incredible. thank you for all your beautiful posts!

shaz said...

Im sure eating them hits the right spot everytime. thanks for sharing.

eatme_delicious said...

Oh that looks so so good! And your photos are so beautiful. I love seeing the things you make.

Anonymous said...

Stunning photos as always :) You're making me drool!

Chubbypanda said...

I'll gladly take your winter if you throw some flan in to sweeten the deal.

monica said...

that looks stunning! i love the mirror shot on the flan and the extreme close up on the pears! you take beautiful photos...

Nic said...

Beautiful photos - looks delicious!

Jen said...

Brilynn- Oh it was divine! Thanks.

Linda- Thank You, it certainly was.

Hillary- Yes I guess even you guys up north can use this recipe pretty soon.

Veggiegirl- Thanks, just doing my bit for those who love to eat.

Descardo- Thanks so much!

Amy- To be honest it was complete serendipity, I was trying t find my focus on the flan, but then found the reflection instead. It does look pretty doesn't it?

Ivonne- Well, thank you for inviting me to your party. I can't wait to see what everyone else brings along.

Kellypea- I think apple sound just as good. Pears and apples are just perfect for desserts.

Anita- Yes, I think cosy would be the best word to describe this dessert. Thanks for stopping by!

Syrie- Your welcome. I just try to cook what I would like to eat, so I'm glad you like it.

Shaz- Definitely you couldn't have it said it better than that.

Eatme_delicious- Thanks so much. I'm gad you like it.

Ovenhaven- Then I have achieved my purpose. Thanks!

ChubbyPanda- That's a deal!

The Pastry Princess- Thanks! The reflection shot was a complete accident.

Nicisme- Than yo so much. : )

Lin said...

oh my goodness. looks delicious.

Helene said...

That second shot is incredible! I am sure the flavors were just as great!

Lis said...

You've brought me to tears.

How can the Gods of all that is Mapely Goodness frown upon me in such a way that you live all the way across the world from me and can not knock on my door RIGHT NOW with a huge plate full of maple flan and maple poached pears?? WHY GODS?? WHY??


Your desert looks most delectable and I can not thank you enough for joining in on the Festa again this year.. bless your heart. =)


Kim Sharifi said...

Looks incredible! You do take great photos. This is the first foodie blog I have put on my list. I think my pals are going to like you!

Anonymous said...

that looks and sounds fantastic, i'm going to have to make it for my boyfriend who is a huge pear fan!

test it comm said...

This just sounds so good! I have never tried a flan. I am bookmarking this to try later.

Katia Mangham said...

wow...the photo is just beautiful and the flan looks aboslutely heavenly. I think this will soon be on my menu!