thanksgiving apple flan

Dear Dad,

Welcome home! It’s good to have you back, I hope you’re not going through a tough bout of jet lag. But I’m glad you’re back safe and sound and in time for Thanksgiving. We kept hearing about typhoons in Taiwan and was glad to know you could still reach us online. But in true dad fashion, you went out in the rain anyways.

The good thing is your brother started to get better and things weren’t as worrisome as they were last month. I feel that I’m grateful every week, but it’s nice to have a day dedicated to really looking back and evaluating how blessed and lucky we are. So many things have to happen for us to get to where we are today. I’m so grateful you and mom came to Canada, gave my brother and I numerous opportunities and paths to choose from, and continue to take care of us even though it should be the other way around by now.

I used to think that our family wasn’t of the norm, we went to school and classmates would point out that they get grounded, that their parents were never around, and that they don’t always eat dinner together at the dining table. Well first, thanks for never grounding me – I also understand that it’s not a typical punishment in our culture. Thank you for always being around. And I look forward to our family dinners even though technology has slowly crept in with phones and tablets in the kitchen.

I think flan will always be associated with you. It was the first time I found out that there was a dessert out in this world that you liked. That it gave you childhood memories. That it’s one thing I’ll serve that you won’t share with others and will give me the plate back with no flan crumbs on it.

I’ve made classic flan and then a coffee flavoured one in your request, but for this Thanksgiving, I’m adding an autumn touch with apples.

Apple Flan
(Fits one loaf pan)

1 apple
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1½ cup whole milk
1 (300mL) can condensed milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Use a roasting pan that is large enough to fit your loaf pan in it. Put in the loaf pan and then fill the roasting pan with water. Make sure the water doesn’t spill into the loaf pan, you want it about half an inch from the top. Remove the loaf pan. Put the roasting pan with water into the oven.
  2. In a small pot, add in the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Let the sugar dissolve, you don’t need to stir or move it.
  3. While the caramel is forming, slice up the apple into thin slices. I only needed about half the apple, but you can use the entire one if you want more apple in your flan.
  4. Take out a skillet or frying pan and heat if over medium-high heat. Add in the butter, apple, and cinnamon. Cook until the apples are tender, which should take around 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and set it aside to cool.
  5. Check on that caramel! When you see it turn brown, you know it’s ready. Mine went to a deep golden colour because I took my eyes off of it to set up the next photo. Oops! Luckily it didn’t burn and I quickly poured it into the loaf pan to keep it from cooking any more. Make sure the caramel coats the entire bottom of the loaf pan.
  6. In a mixing bowl or using your stand mixer, pour in the milk, condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla extra. Whisk until combined.
  7. Arrange the apple slices over the caramel in the loaf pan. As much as I wanted them to stay in the pretty layers on the caramel, they will get loose and float to the top of the flan.
  8. Using a sieve or strainer, pour in the flan batter over the caramel and apple slices.
  9. Carefully place the loaf plan in the roasting pan with hot water and bake for 50 minutes. The custard should be set when you take it out – it’ll be a little jiggly, but will firm up after some chill time. Let it get to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  10. When it’s time to serve, fill the roasting pan with hot water. Place the loaf pan in it to help loosen up the caramel. This will make it easier to unmold. Then, run a knife around the edge of the pan to help separate the flan from the loaf pan. Find a platter or pan with edges to serve the flan in. Carefully turn the flan upside down and give it a slight shimmy if needed. The edges of the serving dish will help catch any extra caramel sauce.
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I remove the skin on my apples – mainly because Howard seems to get an allergic reaction to apple skin (maybe from the pesticides? – but you can choose to keep them if you want.
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Slide those apples up really nice.
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The cinnamon apples smelled sooooo good.
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Ai! Hot, hot, hot. Look at that steam from the caramel.
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There really isn’t a point to arranging the apple slices nicely, but . . . doesn’t it look nice?
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Straining the batter will help you get a smoother flan texture.

Apple Flan
Use the same pan from the water bath to help loosen the bottom of the flan. Sometimes you get to hear a very satisfying “crack” from the caramel.
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Plop! A clean removal.Apple FlanLook at all that caramel sauce. Soak your loaf pan in hot water to help remove the hardened caramel.Apple Flan
Don’t forget the extra caramel sauce when you serve!

Sincerely,
Syl

cinnamon waffles

Dear Alison, Catherine, Charidy, Kathryn, Kathy, Liz, Liza, Lynne, Pamela, Peter, Samantha, Sue, Tara, and Vikki,

I cannot thank you enough for my waffle maker!

Some of you know that I used my bridal shower gift for it, but what you didn’t know was that it was actually a huge group effort (yo, waffle makers are pricey). It was only with the generosity from past and present colleagues that I was able to pick up this awesome makes-four-at-a-time waffle maker! I received a lot of great kitchen appliances from my wedding, but I probably use this one the most – almost on a weekly basis. Some of you have even seen me munching away on a waffle at my desk. They make for a great grab-and-go breakfast item.

This is the recipe I use that lasts me all week. It’s versatile and pairs well with maple syrup or fruits. AND, it’s technically a pancake recipe (waffles are pancakes with abs) from one of my favourite NYC brunch places, Clinton Street Baking Company.

Cinnamon Waffles
(Makes about 16 to 18 waffles)

6 large eggs, separated
3 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

  1. I know this looks fussy and complicated, but it’s not that bad! Ideally you’d have two mixing bowls to separate the egg yolks and egg white, but if you only have one, use the egg whites in the one for the stand mixer so you don’t have to do the whisking. Once separated, you can turn on your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on low for a bit and then medium to get the egg whites started.
  2. In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Whisk that together until combined.
  3. Next, add in the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until it comes together, but not smooth. You don’t want to over mix the batter – that will make your waffles really tough. Clumps are ok! You know why?
  4. Because the next step is to check on your egg whites. They should be fluffy clouds by now. You don’t want it shiny (like when you make meringue), but soft peaks. Add that into the batter and fold it in (see more mixing, so the earlier clumps will be smoothed out).
  5. Preheat your waffle maker while you’re folding in the soft peaks into the batter. When your waffle iron is ready, ladle the batter in, close the lid, and wait patiently for the the waffle maker to beep!

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Weekends are for waffles? Well . . . weekdays are for waffles too!

Oh if you’re what waffle maker I got, it’s the Breville Smart Waffle. I read a lot of reviews and it came down to the Breville and the All-Clad version. The sales person at the store told me that she owned the All-Clad one and recommended it highly. I wanted the waffle iron to make four at a time (to cut down on waiting time when I’m hungry in the morning), but it was the two slice All-Clad that mainly received the praise, not the four slice. Wait, are waffles called slices?

That was the deciding factor for the Breville Smart Waffle and I couldn’t be happier. It’s truly nonstick, I haven’t had to use any oil on the irons (in fact, the instruction manual says not to). The waffles release super easy when they’re done. The moat around helps catch any overflow (which has happened when I pour too much batter in). But I haven’t even had to fiddle with the settings because the machine just magically knows how long to cook the waffles for. And you can adjust the dials for something lighter or a bit more darker. I love how thick and fluffy the waffles turn out! The deeper the irons, the better. I knew I didn’t want one that creates thin ones that are akin to frozen waffles. This waffle maker is basically perfect for my sweet tooth and creates the right amount of thickness for savoury dishes too (chicken and waffles!).

Sincerely,
Syl