Mexican Vanilla Flan

1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar (for caramel)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 lrg eggs
4 lrg egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mexican Vanilla Flan

1. Set six custard molds in a baking pan at least 2 inches deep and large enough to give the molds at least 1/2 inch clearance all around.

2. In a small saucepan add sugar and dribble water over sugar to moisten it evenly then set over medium high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, wash down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water. Reduce heat to medium and boil without stirring until syrup begins to golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully swirl the pan over heat until syrup is a deep straw color. Remove from heat and continue swirling until syrup is a rich amber. Quickly pour caramel into molds, tilting molds to evenly cover bottom. (To clean the saucepan, fill it with water and set over medium heat to dissolve stuck-on caramel.)

3. Heat oven to 325º and position rack in the middle. Bring a kettle of water to a simmer.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup sugar, milk, and condensed milk. Set over medium heat and stir as the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. (Variation: At this point you can steep a variety of ingredients for about 10 minutes, including cinnamon, lime strips, lemon, coffee.)

5. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks well then slowly whisk in the warm milk mixture. Stir in the vanilla and strain into another bowl. Ladle the custard into the molds.

6. Pull out the oven racks and set the pan with the molds onto it. Carefully pour simmering water into baking pan, letting it come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the molds. Slide the rack back gently and bake until custards are barely set in the middle, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through baking. Let the custards cool in the hot water bath for about 1 hour. Then refrigerate at least 2 hours.