Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leche Flan

If you're Pinoy or have eaten at a Pinoy's house, chances are you've experienced the majesty of the leche flan. Much creamier and sweeter than its Latin American counterpart, the leche flan was introduced to Filipino cuisine during the Spanish occupation (1521-1898) and has graced Pinoy dinner tables since. It's also added as a garnish to halo-halo. The dessert's attraction comes from its apparent effortlessness, requiring less than five ingredients normally found in the Pinoy cupboard.

I've taken over leche flan duties for the holidays early in my high school years, but I've continued to tweak the recipe and method to get it perfect. The best leche flans have the texture of a solid creme brulĂ©e that does not jiggle like Spanish flan, with no air bubbles. The air bubbles can make the leche flan taste like overcooked, curdled custard. To me, this element is the hardest to master. I've always used the open-steaming method, but I've discovered that the best way to achieve the desired texture is to bake it in a bain-marie, or a water bath. 

You want this.

Not this bubbly business. 
For this year's Thanksgiving, I baked three leche flans this way and hoped for the best. The result was divine - and I'm so pleased to have finally perfected my recipe. 

Leche Flan

1 can evaporated milk 
1 can condensed milk 
10 egg yolks at room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

For the caramel: 
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and boil some water in a kettle.
  2. This step takes some patience and babysitting. In a medium sized saucepan, add the sugar and water over low heat. Make sure all the sugar is dissolved by the water. Do not let the sugar water boil vigorously. Do not mix the sugar water. Leave it alone, moving the pan by its handle to see if the sugar has thickened and lightly browned - a light amber color. When it's done, remove from heat. Even if it's a little lighter than you want, it'll continue to cook from the residual heat in the pot. *Some recipes call to boil the sugar which is such a mistake! 
  3. Pour the caramelized sugar into aluminum molds and spread to evenly cover the bottoms. 
  4. Mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and egg yolks slowly with a rubber spatula. Many recipes call for a mixer, but this only contributes to more bubbles. Blend the vanilla. 
  5. Gently pour the mixture in the molds, on top of the caramel. Fill the molds to about an inch thick. 
  6. Place molds in a deep flat pan - I use a roasting pan because the handles come in handy in carrying the pan with the hot water to cool on the counter. Place pan in the oven's middle rack. Carefully pour hot water into the pan, filling up halfway to the molds. 
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes. They're done when an inserted knife comes out clean. 
  8. Remove the pan very carefully from the oven. Some of the water should have evaporated. Remove the molds from the pan and let cool to room temperature. 
  9. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. 
  10. When you're ready to serve, fill the sink with some warm water. Place the molds there for a few seconds. Using a sharp knife, separate the sides of the flan from the mold. Invert quickly onto a plate. 
My late grandfather used to call this dish my specialty. I wish he were alive to taste it now! Oh, Lolo - how far I've come since then. 

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmmmm leche flan. You know, I didn't like flan back in the States? It's only since I came to the Philippines that I've realized what a treat it is. Nothing beats Filipino-style leche flan.