Lightly coat 8 (6-ounce) custard cups or ramekins with cooking spray. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring gently as needed to dissolve sugar evenly. Cook an additional 4 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Immediately pour into prepared ramekins, tipping quickly to coat bottoms of cups.
Preheat oven to 300°.
Heat milk, coconut, and cardamom over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy saucepan to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 minutes. Strain the milk mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a medium bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, half-and-half, salt, and eggs in a large bowl; gradually add milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Divide mixture evenly among prepared custard cups. Place in a roasting pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 300° for 25 minutes or until center barely moves when ramekin is touched. Cool completely in water. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the custards; chill at least 6 hours. Loosen edges of custards. Invert the custard cups onto plates. Drizzle any remaining caramelized syrup over custards.
Very nice creme caramel. I am French and have made this type of dessert many times. A couple of things I would change: less sugar is required since the coconut flakes are already so sweet. I put an additional cardamom pod and that made the flavor a bit more intense. The big problem with this recipe is the cookin time! It takes at least 1 to 1.5 hours for the creme to be done. Every other recipe out there recommends at least that much cooking time if not 2 hours so just be aware of that and don't pull out of the oven too early or you will have a runny mess!
Delicious take on flan. Worth the effort. Just keep cooking the caramel until it turns golden, swirl if need-be, just like other caramels. Used decorticated cardamom because I couldn't find the pods, about a T. for a half batch. Also had to cook for about 1.5 hrs. The flavors were subtle and perfect that way.
I'm an experienced cook, but had trouble getting the caramel to brown (it never browned, but although clear, the syrup was fine). The cardamom flavor was so subtle to be practically non-existent (I grind my own beans). That said, it has a lot of potential, so once I master the caramel, I'll add more cardamon and it should be great.
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