When it comes to vanilla, I prefer it to chocolate any time. Lately, I have fallen for Tahitian vanilla and am going through the stuff way too quickly. This pumpkin-orange flan, adapted from a recipe in last October's Sunset magazine, was only improved by using my favorite vanilla. You can see how the flan separates into layers as it bakes, with the caramel on the bottom, the heavier pumpkin custard next, topped by the lightest layer of orange-flavored flan. —Lizthechef
1 3/4 cups
organic cane or white sugar, divided use
Using a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 cup of the sugar over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar until it has totally melted and the syrup is a light brown color. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the zest of 1 of the oranges.
Working carefully and quickly, pour the zest-infused syrup into a soufflé dish. Tilt and turn the dish until the bottom and the sides ( halfway up the dish) are coated with caramel. It will harden quickly. Set aside.
Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan, just until it simmers - small bubbles will appear at the sides of the pan. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Using either a standing mixer or large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Beat in the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Add the salt and remaining orange zest. Mix well. Slowly add the hot milk, beating on low as you pour.
Pour the custard into the caramel-lined soufflé dish. Set the dish in a square baking pan and fill the baking pan with hot water until the water level is 1 inch deep.
Bake the flan for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the flan comes out clean. Remove the flan dish from the hot water and allow to cool on a rack. Chill in fridge for 4 hours before turning onto a serving plate. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the flan. Pour remaining caramel sauce over the flan, garnish with orange peel curls and serve.