If you've never experienced this, I highly suggest you do. It's a custard - meaning a cooked mixture of cream or milk and eggs - if you don't like custards you probably won't love this. A custard can range in consistency from a creamy sauce (creme anglaise), to a thick creme used to fill eclairs. Custards are more commonly used in desserts with vanilla and sugar. Custards are also the basic base for quiches and some other savory foods.
This next little excerpt is from wikipedia... :D
Layers of a trifle showing the custard in between cake, fruit & whipped cream.
While 'custard' may refer to a wide variety of thickened dishes, technically (and in French cookery) the word custard (crème or more precisely crème moulée) refers only to an egg-thickened custard.
When starch is added, the result is called pastry cream (crème pâtissière), which is made with a combination of milk or cream, egg yolks, fine sugar, flour or some other starch, and usually a flavoring such as vanilla, chocolate, or lemon. Crème pâtissière is a key ingredient in many French desserts including millefeuille (or Napoleons) and filled tarts. It also used in Italian pastry and sometimes in Boston cream pie.
It is known as crème anglaise collée with gelatin added.
When starch is used alone as a thickener (without eggs), the result is a blancmange. In the United Kingdom, 'custard' often refers to a dessert thickened from cornflour rather than eggs; see custard powder.
After the custard has thickened, it may be mixed with other ingredients: mixed with meringue and gelatin, it is chiboust cream; mixed with whipped cream, it is "creme mousseline".
Not all custards are sweet. A quiche is a savory custard tart. Some kinds of timbale or vegetable loaf are made of a custard base mixed with chopped savory ingredients. Custard royale is a thick custard cut into decorative shapes and used to garnish soup or broth. Chawanmushi is a Japanese savory custard, cooked and served in a small bowl or on a saucer.
Custard may also be used as a top layer in gratins, such as the South African bobotie and many Balkan versions of moussaka.
Now that you know a little bit about custards I think perhaps I'll share this recipe with you. :D
You will need:
1/2 c sugar
Sprinkle of water
Several drops of lemon juice
3 eggs (or more - the more eggs you use the lighter the custard)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract ( I used closer to two or three )
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat ( or medium-low if you're using a gas stove) combine sugar, lemon juice, and enough water for your sugar to be the consistency of wet sand. Stir, stir, stir your sugar. It will go liquidy, then hard and grainy, and THEN it will turn into delicious caramel sauce. Don't over cook this. When it turns golden, it's done take it off the heat. Have your pie plate sitting in some warm/hot water so that your caramel doesn't cool immediately on contact. Swirl the caramel around to cover the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
Combine the rest of your ingredients. Whisk together very well. Pour egg mixture into baking dish ,cover with foil. Place your baking dish into a water bath. (A water bath is when you put whatever you're baking into a bigger roasting pan or baking sheet and fill it halfway to the top of whatever dish you're baking in.)
Bake for about 60 minutes, I would start checking it between 30 and 45. Depending on the depth of your dish it might be done sooner or later. Your flan will be slightly jiggly and will look a bit wet. If it REALLY is wet, then it's not cooked. You should be able to stick a sharp knife in it and have it come out mostly clean. Chunks on the knife are ok, as long as it's not soupy.
Pull your flan out of the oven and let it cool. If you're not serving it immediately make sure you refrigerate it. The caramel sauce needs to be warm or it won't come out of the pan. If you've cooled it down, just set it in hot water for a few minutes and that will be enough to melt your caramel. Set a big plate on top of your baking dish and flip your flan out. Slice it up like a pie and there you go!