Vanilla-scented cream cheese flan is a favorite in Caribbean and Central American kitchens. The addition of a chocolate crumb "crust" makes this flan a marvelous Valentine's Day dessert, as vanilla and chocolate are the perfect aphrodisiacal pair to make hearts go catapún catapún.
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
7 large eggs
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. chocolate wafer cookies
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) lightly salted butter, melted
1. In a food processor or blender, whip the cream cheese, eggs, and condensed milk. Add the whole milk, sugar, and vanilla, and process until smooth.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. Have a 2-quart soufflé dish standing by. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until it turns a honey color and begins to dissolve, then stir only occasionally. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, stop stirring but continue cooking until it is deep amber in color. Remove the caramelized sugar from the heat and pour immediately into the soufflé dish. Quickly tilt the dish in various directions so that the caramelized sugar coats the bottom and sides.
4. Place the souffle dish in a shallow pan that's larger than the dish. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the soufflé dish. Add 1 inch of hot water to the shallow pan to make a water batch (baño maria) for the souffle dish. Bake the flan on the middle rack for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted off center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and carefully lift the soufflé dish out of the baño maria. Set the flan aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, grind half of the cookies in a food processor to make fine crumbs. Add the other half of the cookies to the crumbs and grind those. Pour in the melted butter and process for a few seconds to blend.
6. Spread the cookie-crumb mixture evenly over the flan. Press very gently on the crumb mixture to pack it down. Allow the flan to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours so that the topping sets.
7. Unmold the flan by first running a sharp, nonserrated knife around the inside of the soufflé dish. Invert the flan onto a serving platter. The topping is now the "crust."