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Cocoa Nib Flans with Raw Sugar Sauce

For New Year’s Eve this year, Dave and I served a multi-course meal, full of complex and labor-intensive dishes. What had our guests raving and demanding seconds and thirds, though? These simple little flans, which I threw together on a whim the day before.

This basic flan recipe has only 5 ingredients, and takes just about no effort whatsoever. Add some cocoa nibs and infuse the cream before mixing everything together, though, and you have a more interesting and elegant dessert.

The combination of the cocoa nib infusion and dark muscovado sugar resulted in a rich, intense coffee flavor – I don’t quite understand why this happened, but I certainly don’t object! Perhaps I should call them Faux Coffee Flans instead.

You don’t have to find cocoa nibs to make this work, though. Make plain flans (which still taste and look extraordinary), or infuse the cream with other flavors (rosemary, cinnamon, whatever you like) instead.

If you like to entertain without putting in too much effort, this is a fantastic recipe to have in your box of tricks. Flans look and taste so amazing, no one ever guesses how easy they are to make in advance.

Cocoa Nib Flans with Raw Sugar Sauce
(adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)
3 C half-and-half
3/4 C cocoa nibs (optional)
2/3 C firmly packed dark muscovado sugar (you can substitute any raw sugar, or just dark brown sugar, if you prefer)
3/8 tsp salt
5 large eggs
3/4 C granulated sugar

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, stir together the half-and-half and cocoa nibs and bring it to a boil. Then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave it to steep for 15-20 minutes. This step is optional – you can infuse the half-and-half with any other flavor you like instead, or if you prefer your flan plain, just warm it up until it just barely starts to steam but don’t bother infusing it at all.

Get a big baking pan. Cover the bottom with a small kitchen towel or doubled layer of paper towels. Place your ramekins in the baking pan, using either eight 6 oz ramekins or twelve 4 oz ramekins.

Stir 1/4 tsp salt in with the muscovado sugar, and rub it between your fingers to get rid of any lumps. Divide it evenly among your ramekins, and press into the bottom of each ramekin with a small cup to compress it into a layer at the bottom of each.

Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and remaining 1/8 tsp salt. Pour the half-and-half while it is still steaming hot into the eggs, whisking all the while.

Strain the mixture, then gently ladle or pour it into the ramekins. Try to disturb the sugar layer as little as possible, but don’t stress too much if some of it drifts up.

Pour boiling water into the baking pan around the ramekins until it comes up about halfway up their sides.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the centers are just barely very slightly wobbly.

Remove the ramekins from the water and let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate them overnight (though close to 24 hours would be better).

The long refrigeration time allows the layer of muscovado sugar to absorb water from the custard, which will turn it into a liquidy sauce. If you serve the flans too soon, the sugar may still be a crunchy layer instead.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan, then invert it onto the plate.

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20 Responses to “Cocoa Nib Flans with Raw Sugar Sauce”

  1. bonnie says:

    YUM. i need to dig out my heart-shaped tins and try this.

  2. brilynn says:

    Who knew flan could be so easy?
    And I actually have cocoa nibs that are begging to be used…

  3. Lydia says:

    I’ve always been a bit afraid of making flan, though it is my husband’s favorite dessert. Will definitely try your recipe — it does look easy. Thanks!

  4. miss ginsu says:

    Now *that’s* food porn. Gah! I’ll have you know you’re ruining New Year’s resolutions across the blogosphere…

  5. katy says:

    wow — those look just amazing. i haven’t made flan yet, but it’s definitely on my list. and i love the idea of infusing rosemary — sounds so unique and delicious!

  6. JEP says:

    What a gorgeous dessert!

  7. clumsy says:

    This looks gorgeous and I had no idea flan was easy! Thanks for the recipe. :)

  8. Tartelette says:

    I love flan,and it loves my hips back…Your second picture would make Alice proud…or just make you proud, it is gorgeous!

  9. Danielle, thanks for this recipe…I will have to make it because recently I have been searching high and low for the perfect flan recipe. I adoooooore flans, but have never made them. The ones I bought from stores are always “powdery” in taste I don’t know why, but yours look oh-so-smooth and that it has coffee flavor so I bet it’s the best recipe! Bookmarking!!

  10. Lisa says:

    And yet.. another reason why I heart you so very muchly.

    Hey.. if things don’t work out with Dave.. will you marry me? ;)


  11. Warda says:

    Danielle, the second picture is saying:”Pick me! you know you want it!” It’s gorgeous. Now I’m craving Flan. It’s been a while since I’ve made one. Happy weekend!

  12. cedar says:

    OMG, flan is my all time favorite dessert, and it has been far too long since I last had it….

    ….I think I shall make it this week!

  13. Graeme says:

    It’s innards look almost condensed milk-like; It’s absolutely gorgeous.

  14. Your flan looks amazing! I’m a sucker for a good flan. I just made one yest

  15. Sorry, I accidently clicked submit. Anyway, I almost made the one from Pure Desserts, bu I chickened out and made the recipe I knew best. I’ll have to give this a try.

  16. arfi says:

    that looks soooo tempting!! i love dessert like this.

  17. Rosa says:

    What gorgeous looking flans! Very tasty and refined!



  18. Girl… these are right after my heart! I make flans all the time!! This one here is very pretty. I’ll try yours to taste the difference…



  19. secret…i’ve never made a flan before.

    but, it doesn’t seem so hard. just a handful of ingredients!

    p.s. i’m going to try to make some tea this weekend – bought some mace!

  20. kate says:

    this flan looks really gorgeous. So shiny and slick ! The texture of the flan looks too perfect.

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