- With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 170 °C (325 °F).
- In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Clean the sides of the pan with a wet brush to remove any sugar crystals. Cook without stirring until golden brown. Spoon the caramel into six 125 ml (1/2 cup) ramekins. Let cool.
- In a saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until smooth. Gradually add the hot milk, whisking continuously. Pour into the ramekins.
- Prepare a water bath: place a cloth or baking mat (Silpat) at the bottom of a large baking dish. Place the ramekins on top of the mat and pour hot water halfway up the ramekins. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the sides of the flan are set but the centre is still slightly wobbly (like gelatin).
- Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Just before serving, run the blade of a knife around the ramekins, unmould and serve cold.
If you are using a vanilla bean, Let it steep in the milk for 5 minutes. First cut the bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds then put them in the milk with the pod. Remove the pod after infusion.
Another test to check for doneness: Insert a knife halfway between the ramekin wall and the center of the flan. If the blade comes out without a trace of cream, the flan is ready.
Change the flavour!
For a Coffee Creme Caramel...
Replace the vanilla with 45 ml (3 tablespoons) of coarsely crushed coffee beans. Bring the milk to a boil. Off the heat, add the coffee, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the milk through a very fine or cheesecloth-lined sieve and continue with the recipe.
Replace the vanilla with 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of orange zest. Bring the milk to a boil. Off the heat, add the zest, cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain the milk through a very fine or cheesecloth-lined sieve and continue with the recipe.
Add 60 ml (1/4 cup) of sifted cocoa powder and 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of sugar to the milk and egg mixture. Strain the milk through a very fine or cheesecloth-lined sieve and continue with the recipe.