Maple Pumpkin Flan

Maple Pumpkin Flan Guests with Allergies . . . Serve Gluten & Dairy-Free Maple Pumpkin Flan

“What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?” So read the note I received last year from a friend in Florida asking for help. What dessert could she serve to her two gluten-sensitive nieces for Thanksgiving Dinner? I suggested she bake my Perfectly Delicious Maple Pumpkin Pie as a custard. A few days later I had an even better idea to try. I wanted to develop a recipe for Maple Pumpkin Flan in individual ramekins.

Maple Pumpkin FlanI never shared that recipe with you as the flan (an inverted custard with a soft caramel top) came out way too sweet. Now another year wiser, I’ve discovered the secret. Use only a scant amount more maple syrup than in my pumpkin pie recipe; though divide it between the caramel and the custard.

Maple Caramel—can it be done?
I wondered about caramelizing maple syrup, imagining the taste of the intense maple flavor along with the lightly spiced pumpkin custard. And yes, maple syrup does caramelize. I used a nonstick pan over medium heat. I counted the time from the moment the first small bubbles began to form. After 3 minutes I dipped a fork in the darkening and thickening syrup. Within half a minute the small, individual droplets flowing from the tines told me the caramel was perfect. Cooking the maple syrup any longer, made it too hard to spread in the ramekins (or even to eat).

Five Tips for Inverting Maple Pumpkin Flan

  1. Lightly coat each ramekin with cooking spray before adding the maple caramel.
  2. Chill the flan in the ramekins for 3-4 hours before unmolding.
  3. Maple Pumpkin FlanRun a thin paring knife around the edge of the cold flan to loosen it.
  4. If the custard is slow to unmold, dip the bottom of each ramekin in hot water for 6-8 seconds.
  5. Hold the ramekin upside down at a 45 degree angle to the serving plate until you see movement. Then place the ramekin face down on the serving plate. The Maple Pumpkin Flan should come right out. Remove the ramekin and serve.

Note: Should you choose not to line the ramekin bottoms with maple caramel, use ½ cup maple syrup in the pumpkin custard mixture. Serve the Maple Pumpkin Custard in the ramekins, with or without a dollop of Whipped Cream. Add a few Maple Pecan Shortbread for a satisfying crunch.

Maple Pumpkin FlanMaple Pumpkin Flan (gluten-free)

Love the Cooks Illustrated suggestion to cook the canned pumpkin and spices together over medium heat to enrich and deepen the pumpkin flavor. For a dairy-free Maple Pumpkin Flan, both unsweetened rice milk and canned light coconut milk work well. Serve with Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies for a bit of a crunch.

8 individual 4-ounce servings
Active time:  25 minutes
Total time:  70 minutes, plus 3-4 hours to cool before unmolding

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grade B maple syrup, divided
1 2/3 cups canned pumpkin, unsweetened (not pumpkin pie filling)
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup eggs (2 large eggs)
1 2/3 cups milk alternative for dairy-free

  1. Maple Pumpkin FlanHeat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Lightly coat the bottom of 8 half-cup ramekins with cooking spray.
  3. Place 1/3 cup maple syrup in a non-stick omelet-style pan over medium heat. Cook till the maple syrup darkens and thickens and falls in droplets from the tines of a fork. This process takes about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the caramel. It rapidly becomes too thick to use.
  4. Use a tablespoon to quickly spoon the maple caramel into the eight ramekins.
  5. Place the ramekins in a baking pan with at least 1-inch high sides.
  6. Maple Pumpkin FlanCombine the pumpkin, salt and ground cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves in the same non-stick omelet pan. Place pan over medium heat. Use a rubber spatula to stir this mixture continuously for 6-8 minutes until reduced to 1½ cups. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  7. While the pumpkin spice mixture is cooling, gently whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup with the vanilla extract and eggs. Note: for the best texture, avoid whipping air into the custard.
  8. Stir in the pumpkin-spice mixture and the milk. When smooth, divide among the 8 ramekins.
  9. Pour hot water into the baking pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  10. Carefully place the pan in the oven. After 25 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees.
  11. Bake another 20-25 minutes till the centers no longer wiggle.
  12. Maple Pumpkin FlanRemove the ramekins from the water and place on a wire rack to cool for half an hour. Refrigerate them for at least 3-4 hours before unmolding and serving.
  13. Run a thin paring knife around the edge of the cold flan to loosen it.
  14. If the custard is slow to unmold, dip the bottom of each ramekin in hot water for 6-8 seconds.
  15. Hold the ramekin upside down at a 45 degree angle to the serving plate until you see movement. Then place the ramekin face down on the serving plate. The Maple Pumpkin Flan should come right out. Remove the ramekin and serve.

Printer-friendly recipe