1 cup granulated sugar
dissolved in 4 tablespoons water (for the caramel)
1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 egg yolks, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(the real kind, not that artificial stuff in your mother's cupboard)
finely diced tropical fruit of your choice (mango or papaya, sprinkled with fresh lime)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the caramel by dissolving the sugar into the water over medium heat, stirring until it comes to a boil. Leave uncovered and undisturbed until it turns golden, then begin swirling the pan to turn the syrup a deep amber hue. Watch this like a hawk to prevent it from burning, and don't even think of multitasking. If you burn it (you'll smell this), dump it out and start over. Pour the mixture into 8 ramekins, working quickly. (The caramel will harden almost as soon as it gets into the ramekins.) Caution: It is extremely hot.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients and pour the mixture into the caramel-bottomed ramekins.
Place the ramekins in a large pan (a roasting pan works well). Add water to the pan up to about 1/3 or 1/2 of the ramekins' height. (Obviously, the water level should not be higher than the height of the ramekins!) Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until the custard is softly set. Remove the ramekins and allow the custard to cool. Refrigerate, covered in foil, until ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve, add some warm water to a pan and place the ramekins in it for a couple minutes. This is intended to melt and loosen the caramel at the bottom of the ramekins. Run a knife around the edge and invert onto serving plates.
If you desire, garnish by spreading some finely diced tropical fruit beside the flan, along with some mint sprigs, to cut the sweetness of the flan. You can use mango or my favorite: finely diced papaya dressed with a small amount of fresh lime.