By Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins | Illustration by Zoe van Dijk
“This started off as a little bit of a joke when Mexican avocados weren’t crossing the border a few months ago,” says Chef Zepeda-Wilkins, Top Chef alum and the creative force behind San Diego’s El Jardin. “I said,
How many things can we put avocado in once they come back?” She compares what happened next to a Forrest Gump shrimp moment: They put avocado on anything and everything. Including the dessert menu. Welcome to avocado flan.
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 oz full-fat cream cheese
2 ripe avocados, about 1 lb
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1. Prepare the custard: blend the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, cream cheese, avocados, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend in two batches if necessary. If you have time, refrigerate the custard for 12 hours to let the flavors marry.
2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F° and bring a kettle of water to a boil.
3. Make the caramel: Combine the sugar with ¼ cup water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Without stirring, let the sugar smoke and bubble until it turns a deep amber color, 3-5 more minutes. Pour the caramel into a 9-by 13-in baking dish, swirling to cover the sides. Then pour the custard on top of the caramel and wrap the dish tightly in foil. Fill a deep roasting pan with boiling water, carefully set the foil-wrapped dish in the water bath, and bake until set, about one hour. The sides should be firm to the touch, but the center should still have a slight jiggle.
4. Remove the flan from the water bath and leave to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Then transfer the flan to the refrigerator to chill. When ready to serve, slide a paring knife along the edges of the flan to loosen. Set a large rectangular plate over the baking dish and invert. The flan should easily fall out of the dish and the caramel should run evenly over the baked custard. Cut into pieces and serve.
The secret to a perfect flan is patience. How do you get a solid-yet-creamy custard evenly coated in amber caramel? Keep your hands off the caramel—let the sugar melt, smoke, and brown without stirring! Then, give yourself enough time to bake the flan low and slow. Go the extra mile and make it the night before so the custard can rest and the flavors can meld.