This is a simple, naturally gluten-free dessert that is a family-favourite in most Spanish and South American households. My Argentine grandmother often served up a huge portion with a dollop of dulce de leche next to it, which is traditional in Spain too.
Flan is well-received on a hot day. The cold custard is not super sweet, but the caramel sauce adds that extra sweetness to balance the flavours. Without the dulce de leche, flan is quite a light dessert, in fact refreshing. If you want to be a bit more adventurous with the flavours, try adding 2 teaspoons of orange, coffee or chocolate liqueur. The last two liqueurs will darken the appearance of the flan, plus taste richer.
EGGS: I would suggest using the freshest, organic eggs in this recipe, especially as the eggs are the main ingredient.
MILK & CREAM: Organic will give a superior flavour, but using normal milk and cream is fine. If you are lactose-intolerant, I know from experience that lactose-free milk and cream work well in this recipe.
VANILLA: Choosing between vanilla extract, pods or just seeds is up to you and availability. If you really like the flavour of vanilla, perhaps mix it up. The pods can be cut in half, so don’t waste a whole vanilla pod as I know they are expensive.
DULCE DE LECHE: If you are lucky to find a jar of Argentine Dulce de Leche, like Havanna, San Ignacio or La Serenisima, in your home country, I would buy this in a shot as every spoonful is magical. In Europe, I have bought two very good versions by Bonne Maman labelled as “Caramel” and Chimbote, both made in France.
Alternatively, if you are game to make your own, it’s not that complicated. All you need is a tin of condensed milk, a slow cooker or a pot and 12 hours! It will convert from condensed milk to a rewarding and equally delicious dulce de leche for the fraction of the cost. Here is the link to my step-by-step recipe for homemade dulce de leche.
How long does flan take to set?
Flan is simple, but like most cold desserts, it needs time to set 100%. Plan ahead and make it the day before or in the morning for later on in the day. Most cookbooks suggest chilling it for 8 hours. I tend to agree unless you are serving it directly from the ramekin pot, then reduce that to 3 hours.
How to remove flan:
When you are ready to serve flan, simply use the same water bath tray used during cooking and fill it with hot water to about 2 cm high. Place the flan tray in the water and leave it there for 2 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the flan, tap the base and sides. Place a serving plate over the top and flip it over onto it. The flan should slide out easily. Drizzle the caramel over the flan. If any hard caramel is leftover in the pan and you need more to drizzle, place the flan tray back into the hot water to melt it.
Flan with Dulce de Leche
For the caramel sauce:
- 150g caster sugar
- 100ml water
For the flan:
- 4 eggs, organic if possible
- 4 egg yolks, organic if possible
- 75g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean pod seeds
- 250ml milk
- 250ml cream
- Store-bought or homemade dulce de leche, to serve
- Fresh strawberries, to garnish
1. In a small pot, thoroughly mix the water and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the liquid is clear.
2. Cover the pot with a lid and allow it to cook down without stirring. The steam will that builds up will wash any crystals off the sides of the pot.
3. Swirl the pot every now when checking, making sure the caramel does not burn. As soon as the caramel starts to brown, remove the pot as it will continue to darken even off the heat. The whole process should take between 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Pour the caramel over the base of a flan ring pan or several ramekin pots.
5. Start preparing the flan by adding the milk and cream into a measuring jug and heat up in the microwave on HIGH for 1.5 minutes or heat gently in a pot over the stove. Do not boil the milk and cream.
6. Add the vanilla extract, pod or seeds to the milk and cream. Stand for 5 minutes. This will allow the vanilla to infuse.
7. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F.
8. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla, using a balloon whisk, until well combined and frothy.
9. Strain the milk mixture to remove any vanilla seeds or milk skin. Pour the strained warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time.
10. Pour the flan mixture into the flan ring pan or several ramekin pots.
11. Place the pan into a larger deep baking dish with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pan or ramekin pots.
12. Bake on the middle shelf for 35 minutes. Wiggle the pan slightly to see if the flan has set. Allow 25 to 30 minutes if using ramekin pots.
13. Remove the ring pan from the oven with the water bath pan below. Allow the flan to cool down in the water bath for 15 minutes before removing the ring pan to chill for several hours. This gradual method ensures that the flan does not get “shocked” and crack from the temperature extremes.
14. When serving, sit the flan in some warm water for 2 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the flan, tap the base and sides. Place a serving plate over the top and flip it over onto it.
15. Serve with fresh strawberries and dulce de leche.
- Makes 8 servings
- Keeps for 3 days
- Unsuitable to freeze