Chef Johanna Ware of Portland, Oregon, eatery Smallwares crafts “inauthentic Asian” small plates and entrées. In honor of Watermelon Week, she loaned us her spin on the traditional Filipino dessert of halo halo. A diverse foray into different textures, temperatures and flavors, this watermelon-ice-topped flan and tapioca combination is as photogenic as it is delicious. Prepare to have your palate captivated. Feel like subbing in another fruit? Peaches, mangos and papayas all work well, too.
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- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 star anise
- 2 cardamom pods
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup small tapioca pearls
- 1 can coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups seedless watermelon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the flan
Place sugar and water in small saucepot and cook until liquid turns a slight amber color. This will be the caramel set on the bottom of the pan that you will bake the flan in. Pour the caramel carefully into the pan you are baking in (a cake pan or loaf pan will do), and swirl around until the caramel coats the bottom of the pan evenly.
In another pan, combine whole milk and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean and add both seeds and pod into milk mixture. Add cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods and lime peel and bring to a simmer slowly. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to allow ingredients to steep into the mixture. Remove from heat, strain and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place egg yolks and whole eggs in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs and slowly add in the sweetened condensed milk. Then add the cooled, steeped milk mixture.
Ready a baking pan large enough to fit the pan that you will bake the flan in. This pan will serve as a water bath. Place the larger pan in the middle of the oven. Pour the flan mixture in the smaller pan that should have the now cooled and hardened caramel.
Place flan mixture in the larger pan in the oven and pour water around until the water comes about halfway up the pan. Bake until just set, about 1 hour or so. When done, the flan should have the consistency of jello; when jiggling the pan, the flan should still move but slow to a solid state. If the flan appears liquidy, it needs more time in the oven. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Still in the pan, chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, unmold onto cutting board and cut into squares with a knife dipped into hot water. Go back and forth between cutting, wiping the knife, and dipping back into the hot water until all the flan has been cut into squares.
For the coconut tapioca
Bring a small saucepot of water to a boil over high heat. Pour tapioca pearls into boiling water and cook for about 10-15 minutes. After that time, turn off the heat and cover the pan and let sit for another 10-15 minutes. Strain and let cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine coconut milk, sugar and lime juice until well incorporated. Add more sugar if needed for a considerable sweetness, and more lime, just as well, for a nice acidity.
Combine a little bit of the coconut mixture at a time with the cooled tapioca pearls until all of the pearls are well coated with the coconut.
For the watermelon granita
Place all ingredients in blender and puree until well incorporated. Taste and add more sugar and/or lemon juice as needed.
Pour mixture into a small shallow baking tray or sheet pan and place in freezer, making sure that the pan sits level. In about an hour, rake ice mixture with a fork to form nice ice crystals.
Place back into freezer and repeat the process in another hour.
For the presentation
Spoon some of the coconut tapioca pearls on the plate. Place the flan on the bed of pearls. Remove your ice from the freezer and disperse a few spoons over the flan and coconut pearls. Garnish with fresh berries, fruit compote, puffed rice, popcorn or anything you like!