This classic Iberian dessert was introduced by the Spaniards. In the version below, coconut, which thrives in the Pacific coast state of Colima, flavors the flans. Begin making them one day ahead; they must chill overnight before serving.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup water
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
- 8 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons triple sec
Whisk oil and 1 tablespoon water in small bowl to blend. Brush inside of eight 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins with oil mixture. Combine 1 cup sugar and remaining 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling occasionally, about 9 minutes. Immediately divide caramel among prepared custard cups. Using oven mitts, tilt each custard cup to coat bottom with caramel. Place cups in large roasting pan. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread coconut on baking sheet. Toast in oven until light golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Combine coconut milk and milk in another medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover; steep 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl until thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Whisk in triple sec. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted coconut.
Divide custard among caramel-lined custard cups. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake until custards are almost set and move only slightly when cups are shaken gently, about 50 minutes. Remove custards from water. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered overnight.
Run small sharp knife around custards to loosen. To unmold each custard, place plate atop custard cup. Firmly grasp custard cup and plate and invert, shaking gently and allowing custard to settle on plate. Sprinkle custards with remaining 1/4 cup toasted coconut and serve.