Summer came like cinnamon, so sweet
23 Jul 2007

I've had a song stuck in my head for the past couple of weeks. It's Corinne Bailey Rae's Put Your Records On, and it's stuck in a good way, not an It's a Small World way (sorry). The first time I heard the song, I thought, wow, that's a great cover, but I couldn't remember the original artist. Figuring Cam would know, I played it for him. He hadn't ever heard it before. I thought he was nuts. I'm sure I said, of course you've heard it... it's an old Stevie Wonder song or something, I just can't remember exactly who. Then, of course, I used this brilliant invention know as "the web" and found that actually, I'm the crazy one. The song is, indeed, new and I am apparently experiencing a severe case of musical deja vue*. No matter, I'm still loving the song, and the particular line of Summer came like cinnamon, so sweet. As far as I'm concerned, it's a perfect line. But, then, maybe I just have a thing about food in songs. Music inspires me to create, almost as much as tooling around the farmer's market (probably with a tune swirling around in my head). So, what to do with cinnamon? I don't usually think of cinnamon as a summer spice. To me, cinnamon is curling up in a big blanket with a cup of tea and a slice of pie. It's warm and cozy, when I need it the most. Of course, there is cinnamon ice cream, with a play of spicy and cold, but even that feels more at home on a warm slice of apple pie and a roaring fire. It's winter's frozen treat. But, then there is that song, and it's pushing on me to cook with cinnamon. Maybe it's helped that in the last week the Seattle sky has returned to some of it's wintery-grey. The garden still tells me it's summer, but the cooler temperatures, a great reprieve from last weeks baking degrees, let me pretend. Inspiration strikes, and I know what I'm going to make. Cinnamon flan with a fresh cherry sauce. It's fresh and light, with a big wallop of creamy comfort.

My recipe starts from an Orange and Cardamom Flan recipe in David's Room For Dessert, a book I just recently got off my butt and ordered when I saw that it was going to be hard to find soon. I wish I had gotten to it earlier, but better late than never. Making flan is a bit time consuming, but it really doesn't require much work... just a lot of waiting around. The key to this flan is letting the milk infuse for long enough with the cinnamon to get a solid, but subtle flavor throughout. Since the original recipe was infusing cardamom, and to me at least, it's a much stronger tasting spice, I went for infusing a bit longer with the cinnamon. I also left out the orange, to let the flavors be focused on the spice.
The cherry sauce is super simple: Fresh cherries (I used Rainier cherries, but fresh tart pie cherries would be ideal), pitted and sliced in half with some sugar, lemon juice and a cinnamon stick all bubbled together until the liquid turns to a thick, caramelly syrup. The only trick is that it needs to be used immediately. I also used more fresh cherries to garnish, and just used the syrup from the cherry sauce, straining the cooked cherries out. The hint of cinnamon ties it back with the flan, but doesn't overwhelm the cherries. *If anyone knows the old song that Put Your Records On reminds me of, please send it my way! PS: I just realized that this month's theme for Waiter There's Something In My... is sauce. Good timing eh?
Cinnamon Flan with Cherry Sauce Makes 8 4 oz flans 2 sticks of cinnamon 3 cups milk 3/4 cup sugar 3 eggs 3 yolks cherry sauce (see below) Heat the milk, sugar and cinnamon sticks over medium heat till warm (don't boil it). Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. David's recipe makes a caramel sauce at this point that is part of the flan. I left this part out, and made the flan without the caramel, and instead, made a batch of cherry sauce, from below, to line the ramekins. However, since the cherry sauce needs to be used immediately, if you don't want to make two batches, you can just leave this off, and make the custard, and simply dress it with the sauce afterwards. Or, you can go ahead and make a caramel sauce, which would increase the overall sweetness of the dish, but I'm sure would still be delicious. If you have some of the cherry sauce already made, drizzle about 1 T into 8 4-oz ramekins. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together the eggs and additional egg yolks in a small bowl until they are well combined. Bring the milk back up to a warm, but not boiling, temperature. Then, pour a small amount of the milk into the eggs and give it a good stir. Then, pour the egg mixture back into the milk pot and stir. Pour the whole custard mixture through a strainer. Create a water bath for the ramekins by placing the ramekins in a deep baking dish, and adding water to the dish until it comes about half way up the sides of the ramekins. Fill the ramekins with the custard. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard has set. You'll have to remove the foil to check them, so wait the full baking time to check them, and be careful of the blast of steam you'll get when you open up the foil. The center of the custard should still be wobbly, but the rest should be well gelled. Remove from the oven, and cool them in the ramekins on a wire rack. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekin. Then, cover the ramekin with the plate you are using to serve it on, and quickly flip, giving a little up and down shake if necessary to free the flan. It should come out of the dish without too much problem. Top with a few freshly sliced cherries and the cherry sauce. Cherry Sauce 4 to 5 cups fresh cherries, washed and pitted 2 t lemon juice 1 cinnamon stick sugar to coat Place the cherries in a heavy bottomed, non-reactive pot. Add the lemon juice and cinnamon stick, and give a quick stir. Sprinkle with sugar until each cherry is well coated. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the cherries have given up most of their juices, and the liquid begins to thicken. If it thickens too quickly, add some wine and allow to re-thicken. Use a spoon to remove the cooked cherries and cinnamon stick, and then pour over the plated flan.

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