The secret is agar powder, that gelling ingredient made of seaweed (!!!) that makes jiggly wiggly deliciousness (such as Chocolate Pudding Pie and Grasshopper Pie). Having never made anything caramel before either, that was also intimidating, but it all worked out nonetheless. In fact, the caramel was so easy that do not be surprised if you see some sort of homemade salted caramels coming to this space soon!
A word of advice on the caramel; if you are using individual ramekins, do not be tempted to pour more than 1 teaspoon of the liquid caramel into the base when you are building the flan, thinking that it will give you that much more caramel Goodness. Not only will it be wasted since it hardens into a diamond-hard surface that will not be released when it is time for serving. But you will need to pour countless cups of boiling hot water over it to dissolve the rock hard caramel in order to clean said ramekin.
A note on portions: the recipe below is for 2 individual size, 4 inch round ramekins, so double or quadruple if you are making a family size flan in a larger pan.
Vegan Caramel Flan (from The Gothic Homemaker)
1/4 c cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon agar powder
3 tablespoons cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (DIY Pantry)
Add coconut milk to a medium saucepan and sprinkle with the agar-agar powder. Whisk in the sugar and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. While it comes to a boil, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl and add this slurry to the custard mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Keep it simmering over a very gentle heat, stirring it as often as possible to prevent it from prematurely setting up, until the caramel is ready.
Place the sugar and water in a small sauce pan and stir to combine. Over medium-low heat stir the mixture every few minutes until it begins to bubble vigorously. Turn heat down to simmer and keep an eye on it as it will quickly start to turn an amber color. When the caramel is a deep, golden color, quickly pour 1 teaspoon of caramel into each of the 2 6-oz. ramekin dishes. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes. It will begin to harden immediately.
Turn off the heat under the custard and stir in the vanilla. Pour the custard into the caramel-glazed ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
To remove the flan from their ramekins, run a knife around the sides of the flan and then dip the bottoms into a bowl of very hot water for 10-15 seconds; invert onto a serving plate and drizzle any additional caramel over them.
Recipes currently inspiring me:
David Rocco's Hot Hot Hot Chili Pesto at Recipes from 4 Every Kitchen
Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Sandwiches at Chez Cayenne
Fusion Tacos with Sesame Carrot Coleslaw at Just the Food