Valentine’s treat: Leche flan
I once made this for New Year’s and it was a disaster. My mum ate it anyway, poor her, but here I am, determined to get it right.
Leche flan is a Filipino treat and is sometimes called crème caramel. I remember having this on special occasions such as New Year’s, birthdays, Christmas — any event that is celebrated with big feasts (which happens to be the case for every holiday in the Philippines). Flan is simple but tricky; simple in its ingredients but tricky in it’s making. Leche flan is typically cooking by steaming, but I found this recipe which uses a water bath in the oven. A lot of people have trouble getting the flan to be perfectly cooked — undercook it and your flan is too custard-y and soft; overbake it and you are stuck with a pan full of eggy rubber (gross). There’s also the risk of burning the sugar bottom; you could end up with a perfectly good flan only to eat it with burnt caramel topping. It has a bad reputation for its finicky preparation.
Why did I make this, you ask? Why go through all this pain for a treat I could easily buy? Because it was Valentine’s day!
For mon petit-ami, I’ve historically made chocolatey things such as brownies and cake for birthdays and holidays. This year, I wanted to try something new and celebrate with some flan. It’s sweet, equally appealing, and a bit different from the usual cupcakes or milk chocolates. A lot of recipes will tell you that flan needs an overnight cooling, but you can make this in a day (and eat it in the same day). Just make it in the morning and plan to eat it later that night for dessert.
My (and the rest of New England’s) Valentine’s Day got snowed out so we ended up ordering pizza; it would have been disastrous to try and drive 30 minutes to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for our reservations. Still it was a fun night; I was honestly happy to just sit at home in the warmth. We’ll try and go fancy for dinner some other night when it’s not like Hoth outside.
This recipe is easy enough to make it spontaneously and pretty economical in that you don’t need to worry about separating egg whites and yolks. To make this much easier, use an 8-inch aluminum cake pan and make sure you have a roaster pan or something that can fit it easily. You’ll be using a water to bake the flan in and you don’t want to have to fight diameters and sizing issues at the last second.
Go ahead and make this flan for a friend, for a loved one, or for yourself, and make any day special.
Adapted recipe from Kusina ni Manang
Makes one 8-inch flan
1/2 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 15-ounce can of evaporated milk
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Start boiling some water (I boil a full kettle of water, just to be safe).
In a small stainless steel pot, add the ½ cup sugar and melt on medium heat. Keep an eye on this! The sugar will start smoking fairly early on and can scorch earily. Once the perimeter starts to melt, just stir it with a metal spoon. This takes about 10-20 minutes, depending on the strength of your stove. If you think your stove is too hot, feel free to take the pan off heat and stir there.
While the caramel is hot and liquid, pour into your 8-inch cake pan. Swirl until most of the bottom is coated and let cool while you prepare the custard.
In a large bowl, beaten the three eggs together, then add in the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Whisk gently to combine; small flecks of yolk are okay but try to get them without beating the batter too hard! Pour the milk mixture into your caramel-bottomed pan.
Move your 8-inch pan into your bigger pan and transfer this entire set-up onto the middle oven rack. Add just enough water into the big pan to get the level up to the top of the custard. Try not to get water into your flan. Bake for 50 minutes.
Around the 45 minute mark, start checking your flan for doneness. Wiggle the inner pan to see how the custard jiggles. If it’s too watery, leave it for a few more minutes. If it’s watery but has a skin on top, take entire thing out of the oven/ and let the flan rest in the water bath for 10-15 minutes. When it jiggles like soft jello, remove it from the water bath entirely and let cool to room temperature.
Cover with foil and place the flan in the refrigerator for 6+ hours to set. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edges of the flan. Invert onto a platter and tap the bottom gently to coax the flan out.
Serve as wedges, as big or small as you prefer.