to make 12 flan requires the following ingredients: 10 eggs, 6 cups of whole milk, about 3 cups of sugar, 4 tsp of pure vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp of salt. that's pretty much it. i start by mixing all the ingredients (only 1 cup of sugar, the rest is for the caramel layer) in a large bowl. i use an automatic hand mixer, just because i find it makes the work a lot quicker and easier. the one bad thing about the automatic is it's very easy to mix up a froth. air bubbles create holes in the final flan. to prevent this, i let the mixture settle a bit, then mix some more, and repeat a few times until the mixture is well blended. about this same time i'm boiling two teapots for the hot water bath, one pot per dish (a total of 2 dishes, 6 ramekins each). if you don't have two teapots you can also boil water in a regular pot (it's just a little harder to pour).

once the water begins to boil, i pour it into the dishes. i find it easier if i take out one of the ramekins first, otherwise i end up getting water in the containers. i water up to the "fill line" on the side of the bowls. since the ramekins are empty, sometimes they float a little bit, but nothing to be concerned about.

now that the ramekins are soaking in their hot water bath, it's time for the more difficult part of flan-making, the melting of the sugar. i melt about 3/4 cup of sugar at a time, enough to cover half the ramekins (6). in the past i've used a non-stick frying pan, but today i tried the all-clad pan jesse gave me. whatever kind of pan you use, make sure it has a wide bottom (the more surface area, the faster the sugar melts) and set the heat to medium (otherwise the sugar might burn). the all-clad seems to heat a lot faster. every once in a while i'd lift the pan and swirl the melted sugar around, coating the unmelted parts. even though medium heat is safer, it's still possible to burn the sugar. never leave sugar heating over the stovetop! if the melted sugar begins to bubble, lift up the pan and swirl it around, letting the sugar cool back down.

once everything is melted, i quickly pour the molten sugar into each of the ramekins. the trick is to be quick, otherwise the sugar hardens back up. the hard part is making sure each ramekin gets an equal amount of sugar. usually the first ramekin gets too little because i want to have enough for the other bowls. i end up going back to the first ramekin and pouring in what's left of the melted but now fast-hardening sugar. it's okay if you get some sugar on the walls of the ramekins; it gives each bowl some character. once i'm done with the first 6, i carefully wipe the lip of the pan and continue melting another batch of sugar to coat the other 6 ramekins.

with the caramel bottom layer in place, i start to pour in the flan mixture. at this time i also begin to preheat the oven, temperature 250 350°F. i don't think it makes that much of a difference, but i use a strainer to filter out the occasional bits of unbroken egg white or yolk. i basically hold the strainer above the ramekin and pour in the flan mixture with a cup. i fill each ramekin to the fill-line. it's okay if you drip into the hot water bath. in fact, the effect is pretty cool, as the hot water quickly cooks the raw egg ingredient and creates a pretty little cloud. once all 12 ramekins are filled, i transfer the two dishes into the oven. i let everything cook for an hour, then use a knife to poke one of the bowls. if it comes out clean, the flan is done, otherwise i let it bake some more (in 10-20 minute increments). i take out the flan by first dipping my hand into a bowl of cold water before pulling out a ramekin. i let it cool in the kitchen counter, and after i pour out the water, i put the ramekins back into the dishes for easier transport. once the flan has cooled to room temperature, i put a cover on the dishes and put it in the refrigerator. in my experience, the optimal time to eat the flan is 2 days later, to allow the caramel layer to further absorb and melt into the flan layer. (if you eat it too soon, the sugar layer is still hard and sticks to the ramekin).

my bikeworldusa order arrived today (ordered friday night): a silver bottle cage ($3.59), rubber key rings ($2), spoke beads (2x$2.59), park ct-5 chain tool ($11.99), and a replacement 24" x 1 3/8" tire ($8.99). a separate package of park tire levers also arrived in the mail. i was surprised by how small the chain tool was, but if it works and doesn't break, it will have served its purpose. i was afraid the tire levers would be flimsy but they're made from this very hard plastic and they feel like they could take some punishment.

now that i'm the proud owner of a chain tool (my very first exclusive bicycle fixing equipment) i can replace my old stretched-out chain, but now i'm having second thoughts. the chain definitely needs to be replaced, but i wonder if i should also replace the rusted crankset as well. they're not that expensive - at least not the ones i was looking at online. a basic shimano with 3 chainrings and a pair of crank arms can be had for $20. however, i'd need to buy another special tool, a square taper crank puller (around $13 online). up until now, i've never had any problems with my chainrings, so i wonder if i should just leave it as is, and only replace the chain. i'm just afraid that once i start replacing things on the bike i won't be able to stop until eventually i've basically built myself a brand new bicycle. i'm not yet a hardcore bicyclist by any means. maybe after i've logged a few hundred miles during the winter will i earn the right to some more upgrades.

i didn't have a chance to try out the spoke beads but i did go down to the basement and put them on the front wheel of my bicycle (36 beads in a package for 36 spokes on a standard wheel). the colors are horrible, leftover fluorescent neon pigments. they'd be great at a rave underneath some black lights but they don't seem to do anything practical other than to uglify the bike. if only they were reflective! then they'd be really cool. my upstairs neighbor actually caught me decorating my spokes. he came downstairs because he thought somebody had forgotten to turn off the basement lights.

i was thinking i could continue using my front tire treads but since i have a replacement, might as well change it out. i could use the practice taking apart the wheel. it wouldn't be fun to experience a blowout if the old tire does decide to fail one day. i think those are the original treads, from the 90's. maybe i'll get some better performance with the new tire. one thing i noticed is the old tire is rated at 65 psi while the new one is only 55 psi. the back tire is rated even higher at 75-85 psi. do those ratings even do anything? shouldn't it be the inner tube itself that's rated, not the rubber tire?

i remembered i had some frozen lasagna in the freezer and heated one up for dinner. i think my toaster oven is broken again because it took over an hour to heat up a square of lasagna. the oven wasn't even that hot, i could put my hand on the side and not get burned (that's usually how i test ovens, fyi).

my roommate must've been embarrassed when i asked him if he doesn't have to go to the office because i didn't see him the whole day. he came back well after midnight. apparently his advisor took him to umass amherst to meet up with some associates.