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The dessert at the end of the world

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Leche flan is one of my favorite things to eat (and cook). Anyone serious about surviving the apocalypse should know how to make it. Because when electricity becomes hard, if not impossible, to come by, you’ll need something to do with all the damn eggs before they go bad.

The good news is that leche flan is ridiculously easy to make. All you need are four ingredients — one of which is water. I use my mom’s recipe, but occasionally I change up the proportions a bit depending on how rich or sweet I want it.

My mom is a great cook, but she didn’t actually teach me how to cook. I was really interested in baking, and she did the best thing to inspire me to learn — kicked me and my sisters out of the kitchen every time she baked. I like to think she thought we were smart enough to figure it out on our own. I loved all the good things that came out of her oven, so I always took it for granted I’d learn to do it when I grew up. She did send me to a summer baking class for kids when I was about 11 years old. We made super simple recipes like Cornflake Kisses (meringue but with crushed cornflakes mixed in with the egg whites, baked in the shape of large Hershey Kisses), Pinwheel Cookies (basic cookie recipe, but made with a chocolate and vanilla swirl pattern), Coconut Fingers (sliced bread dipped in condensed milk and coconut, and baked). I don’t make those anymore, but I learned then that baking could be fun.

Leche flan isn’t traditionally baked, though. But it was one of the things my mom made that I loved. And even though leche flan is supposed to be steamed, you can actually use an oven to cook it. Which is what I did yesterday because I was too lazy to borrow the steamer from the housekeeper. I did have to find my ceramic ramekins in the storage and scrub them clean because they’d gathered so much dust since I last used them, which was more than a year ago. (Leche flan is traditionally cooked in thin metal molds called llanera but all my molds tend to rust or get bent out of shape, so I prefer to use ramekins.)

So, yes, oven-cooked leche flan. I half-filled a 3-inch-high baking pan with water, popped it in the oven, and put the ramekins with the leche flan in them inside the pan. Steaming is a better way of cooking flan, but this will work in a pinch.

To serve leche flan, you’re supposed to loosen the flan from the mold/ramekin, place the serving plate upside-down over the opening, and turn the whole thing over and let the flan slide out of the mold and onto the plate. This one, however, I ate right out of the ramekin.

Leche Flan

This is one I put on a plate. Well, half of one.

Leche flan

I tend to use too much sugar for the caramel sauce. Before pouring the milk-and-egg mixture into the mold, you melt sugar in the mold and allow it to harden. It melts while you’re cooking the flan, and turns into a yummy caramel sauce. The hardened sugar was too thick, so most of it didn’t melt and stayed stuck in the ramekins.

Leche Flan

Mommy’s Leche Flan

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cans condensed milk (I use Liberty)
  • 1 1/2 condensed milk cans of water (which means, use one of the cans of the condensed milk to measure out the water, after you’ve poured out the milk)
  • white sugar

Directions:
If you’re using an oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Celsius. Half fill a large baking pan with water and put it in the oven.

If you’re using a steamer: Let the water boil.

Put enough sugar in each mold or ramekin to cover the bottom completely. Add more if you like a lot of caramel sauce in your leche flan. If you’re using a llanera, you can heat the sugar over the stove until it melts. If you’re using a ramekin and don’t want to expose the bottom to fire, put the sugar in and pop it in an oven toaster — t will take 10 minutes or so for the sugar to melt and the bottoms of your ramekin will remain pristine. Let the melted sugar cool. They will harden after a minute, and will make crackling sounds when you pour the flan mixture later, but that’s ok.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, condensed milk and water. Add a teaspoon of vanilla if you like. Don’t beat the eggs or the mixture! Just mix them, lovingly, if possible. Learn to separate the egg yolks from the whites using just the egg shells, because (1) it’s easy, and (2) egg separators are for pussies. If you hate wasting food, like I do, you can keep the discarded egg whites and make scrambled egg whites with it and have it for dinner. Or make Cornflake Kisses.

Strain the egg-and-milk mixture and pour it into the prepared molds. Don’t fill them up to the brim, because you don’t want the mixture to spill while you move them.

Place the molds gently into the water bath in the oven or in the steamer. Cook for 40 minutes in the oven, or 20-30 minutes in the steamer. Or until they firm up nicely. You may need to occasionally keep adding water to the baking pan every half hour, depending on how much of the water has evaporated. I noticed that the flan looked a bit too soft when I took them out of the oven and cooled them a bit, but they firmed up well after chilling them in the refrigerator overnight.

When the flan is done, take them out of the steamer or oven and let them cool over racks. You may chill them in the ref for a few hours before serving (remember to cover the top of the molds with cling-wrap to protect your precious flan while they’re in the ref). Again, here’s how to serve the flan: loosen the sides of the flan using a narrow knife. Place serving plate upside-down over the opening and then turn over the whole thing and let the flan slide out of the mold and into the plate. The sugar which was previously melted and then hardened would’ve melted again while you cooked the flan, and become a nice brown caramel sauce that will drip all over your flan . Make sure to take all the remaining sauce from the mold and spoon it over your flan.

If you find this recipe is too sweet for you, then use 2 or 2 1/2 cans of water, instead of 1 1/2. If you want it creamier and egg-ier (that’s now a word!), replace two of the eggs with four egg yolks.

I made this last night because it’s been really hot in the Metro recently, and I wanted a nice cold dessert. However, it started to rain when I went to bed (around 4 or 5am) and when I woke up, it was also raining, the street outside the house was flooded. It was raining so hard, classes were later called off. We had the leche flan for dessert anyway.

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