There is a store on a dusty street in the small Mexican border town of Puerto Palomas appropriately called The Pink Store given its bright pink exterior. Tourists and residents alike find every manner of Southwestern décor and trinkets. Tucked in back is a restaurant well known for especially fresh Mexican fare and where I experienced the most decedent Mexican chocolate flan.
This recipe begins with those flavors and deepens the chocolate by adding 70% bittersweet chocolate to the Mexican chocolate. Taking the dessert to the next level happens with the addition of ground chili peppers; just enough to create the hint of spice on the tongue.
Using Mexican chocolate is a must here. Unlike chocolate bars, Mexican chocolate is rough since the sugar is not fully dissolved. Usually used to make hot chocolate, in this recipe, it lends a silky sweet smoothness to counter the bitter chocolate.
1 ¼ c sugar, divided
5 T water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
5 large egg
1 large egg yolk
6 oz Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra
4 oz 70% bittersweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli 70% Cacao Extra Bittersweet Chocolate
1 t vanilla
¼ t ground chili pepper such as Penzeys Spices Ground Ancho Chili Pepper
2 T coffee liqueur
Heat oven to 325°.
In a small saucepan, mix ¾ cup of sugar and the water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer; use a basting brush dipped in cold water to wipe down any sugar crystals that form on side of pan. Simmer without stirring until syrupy and medium amber in color. The syrup will continue to darken when removed from heat.
Evenly divide syrup between 8 custard cups. Swirl to coat sides.
In a medium saucepan, combine whole milk, heavy cream, remaining sugar and cinnamon sticks. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate and stir until completely melted. Return to a simmer. Remove from heat. Place a lid on the saucepan and allow the chocolate mixture to seep for 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, chili pepper and coffee liqueur.
Slowly add ½ cup of the chocolate mixture, whisking continuously. Add an additional ½ cup of the chocolate mixture, whisking continuously. Finish by adding the remaining chocolate mixture, whisking until completely mixed.
Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the mixture through the strainer. Do not push through. Once the mix has drained into the bowl, scrap any drips from the bottom of the strainer and discard any solids remaining in the strainer.
Evenly divide the chocolate mixture between the eight custard cups. Place the cups in a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to reach halfway up the cups. Cover loosely with a sheet of foil. Do not seal. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. A knife inserted between the center and side of the cup should come out clean and the custard will be barely set. Remove pan from oven. Remove cups from water bath and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 3 hours.
Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the cup. Place a desert plate over the custard cup and invert. Flan will release to the plate. Be sure to scrape any remaining caramel from the cup.