Flan (Creme Caramel) a very popular dessert inherited from the Spaniards and common in all Latin America also deserved to be in our collection.
There is something about the delicate creaminess of flan that few people can resist. Flan will be a dessert option in most Dominican restaurants, and the one everyone wants to learn to make first.
What is flan?
Flan is a sweet dairy and egg-based custard usually flavored with vanilla. In the English-speaking world, this dessert is better known by its French name Crème Caramel (flan is also a word of French origin adopted into Spanish).
It has a characteristic caramel-colored topping and sauce, as it is cooked in a pan with the bottom covered in hard caramel that dissolves during the cooking process. The caramel prevents the flan from sticking to the bottom of the mold, gives its characteristic color, and gives it a faint taste of bitterness from the caramel.
After cooking, the flan is inverted onto a plate, and the caramel-colored base becomes the top.
Flan vs. quesillo
There is another very similar recipe in the Dominican repertoire (there are other quesillos in other countries, but I refer here to the Dominican one specifically). And, as we should have come to expect, this is not without confusion.
What's the difference betweeen flan and quesillo?
Depends on who you ask. And trust me, asked I have. The consensus, so far as there is one (there isn't) is that Flan is flavored with vanilla, whereas quesillo can be a more creative endeavor, and can be flavored with fruit extracts, fruit juices, coconut, etc.
When I have asked our followers on social media (my favorite way to crowdsource knowledge) most people agreed with the description above, but just by a slim margin.
Checking my collection of classic and antique Dominican cookbooks the answer is even less clear. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to the difference, and flavored flans turned up (I even have one), and pineapple-flavored quesillo appears in several of them.
So there, the answer is: who knows...
About this recipe
The inspiration for this recipe came from one shared by one of our regulars back when we had a membership forum (pre-social media). She went by "La Profesora", and her recipe, though I've re-written it many times over the years, was the basis for this one.
The reason why I like it so much is, first and foremost, because it uses egg yolks, which results in a spectacularly creamy, rich, and decadent flan. I would never do it any other way. And if you're afraid about wasting the egg whites, you can use them for something else (like suspiritos, or add extra egg white to a revoltillo).
Flan Recipe (Caramel cream)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon water (may not be used, see notes)
For the flan
- 4 large egg yolks (or 5 medium)
- 1 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Making caramel for flan: Mix sugar and water and cook in a heavy saucepan over low heat until thick dark caramel forms. Make sure it does not burn! Pour carefully into a 5-cup baking pan and spread all over. Cool to room temperature, by then the caramel should have hardened. A simpler way, if your mold allows for it, just heat the sugar directly in the mold, and once it melts and turns a dark color, remove from the heat and spread on the bottom and sides of the pan.
Making the flan mixture: Mix together egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and evaporated milk, stir to combine. Sieve to get rid of undissolved egg parts. Pour carefully into the baking pan, trying not to disturb the caramel layer.
Baking: Bake in a hot water bath (bain Marie) in preheated oven to 320 ºF [160ºC] for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serving: Remove from the oven and the water bath and cool to room temperature. Chill in the fridge. Loosen the edges of the flan with a toothpick. Place a serving plate on top of the mold (one which will retain the syrup) and invert. Serve still chilled.
Tips and Notes
So, if you're not confused enough, let me help: many other random flan-like desserts turn up with the name flan in them. I have seen "flan de batata" (sweet potato), "flan de auyama" (with and without eggs, see below), "flan de pan" (see below), etc. However, if you just say "flan" this recipe should be what you expect (or very close to it).
If you feel like experimenting try these ones: