Pumpkin Flan
(fills one 9" pie plate)
Carmelize:
1 c white sugar
by heating it in a thick-bottomed skillet over medium heat, stirring until it turns golden brown and melts.  Pour it into a warmed glass pie plate, tilting the plate to spread it around.  Work quickly to spread it before the sugar hardens.  It's good to cover the bottom and sides, but don't sweat it if it doesn't spread very far.
 
  Blend:
2 c pumpkin, preferably fresh-baked
6 eggs
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 c water
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves, powdered
 
Pour into prepared pie plate and place into a shallow baking or roasting pan in an oven pre-heated to 350.  Pour an inch of hot water into the outside pan.  Bake (loosely covered with foil for the first 20 minutes) for about 50 minutes or until done.  Test with a toothpick; shaking the pan is not a reliable indicator.
 
Let the flan cool (it may be refrigerated overnight).  To unmold, soak in hot water if it has been chilled, then place an inverted plate over the pie pan.  Carefully invert the two plates and shake the pie plate loosely until the flan detaches.  It is best to unmold immediately prior to serving.
Notes & Variations:
  1. This is an excellent alternative to pumpkin pie, and is deliciously creamy-textured.  It is extremely easy to make, even the sugar carmelizing, if you don't get too picky about coverage.  Try making individual servings in custard cups.
  2. Be very careful not to touch the strands of carmelized sugar as you pour.  They are extremely hot and will burn you.
  3. Use a tasty, sweet pumpkin or kabocha squash.  You can vary the amount of pumpkin without changing the rest of the ingredient quantities.
  4. Try adding a pinch of powdered ginger.