(Serves 8 to 10)
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce, warm
3 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
"Flan (which, I have to confess, is Spanish, not Mexican) is surprisingly easy to make. The trick is to cook it in a water bath to ensure gentle heat surrounds the custard so it won't break or curdle. There are various methods of infusing coconut flavor into a flan, but coconut milk is the easiest, giving you intense flavor and also a smooth texture. When I first made this recipe, I thought adding shredded coconut to custard would give even more flavor. It does, but it takes away from the velvety texture, so I opt to sprinkle some toasted coconut on the top instead," says Valladolid.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray and drizzle the cajeta into the pan, turning to coat the bottom and sides.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour the mixture over the cajeta into the Bundt pan. Put the pan inside a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with warm water to come halfway up the sides of the Bundt pan. Cover the Bundt pan with foil.
3. Bake until the center jiggles slightly when the pan is moved, about 1 hour 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 3 hours or overnight.
4. Turn the flan out onto a platter. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.
Marcela Valladolid was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana. She had already started her studies in architecture at the university, when she decided to spend a school break in Baja California, working at her aunt's cooking school. It was love at first bite. Marcela exchanged college careers and entered the Los Angeles Culinary Institute, followed by the Ritz Cooking School in Paris. Years after a very satisfying tenure as Food Editor for "Bon Appetit", she began starring in her own show, "Mexican Made Easy", now in its second season at the Food Network.