January 2, 2016

Lola’s Leche Flan

Ever since I was young, I have always looked forward to the Leche Flan of my Lola (grandmother) on special occasions.  For some reason my mother never made it.  So when Lola visited me and my sister in New York City, I asked Lola, a Kapampangan, to teach me how.

Done after Knife Test
Leche is Spanish for milk and Flan comes from Old Latin “flado” which means “flat cake”.  Although Leche Flan certainly contains milk and eggs and sugar, it is really a custard, not a cake in the modern sense.

There is something unique in my Lola’s recipe:
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  •   6 egg yolks – use the whites for another purpose. e.g. meringue.  To me the inclusion of some egg whites waters down the rich taste of the flan to the point of sweet blandness.
  • Rind or Zest of 1 lime (lemon is an option but lime imparts more flavor and fragrance) – closer to the “dayap” available in the Philippines.  Dayap is loosely considered as a cousin of Key Limes.
Don’t worry about the bitterness of the rind.  The sugar in the condensed milk will mask it.
BTW Lola never added vanilla extract (often mentioned in other takes) which can be overpowering.
Mix everything in a bowl and then
Caramelize 1 cup of white sugar – I tried brown sugar which tastes just as good but aesthetically became brown-black when heated (see picture), instead of  a yellowish gold outcome with white sugar.

Tip the golden liquid sugar to flan mold or llanera, and then pour flan mixture.  Note: the caramelized sugar will harden quickly once it hits the mold and you may not be able to cover the entire bottom.  Don’t worry, once cooked with the flan mixture on top, it will magically transform and spread into a thin yet firm layer all over.

Steam the flan molds for 40 minutes or so until knife or toothpick test comes out clean.  You can also cook in a Bain Marie stove top or in an oven (around 400˚F to 450˚F) for an hour – again testing with a knife or toothpick pulling out clean when done.  Easier with a steamer or a make-shift one.

Cool and refrigerate (best served cold).

When ready, invert on a plate or platter and loosen from mold.  Out comes a jewel!

One wintry evening in Boulder, Colorado I was invited to a party where Vanessa Aponte, a Puerto Rican college student brought her flan.  It had a great texture my Lola’s version did not have.  Vanessa.aponte@colorado.edu e-mailed me her recipe which included a texturizing element:

½ cup sugar for   caramel
·       3 eggs (whole)
·       1 can condensed milk (carnation)
·       1 can evaporated milk (eagle brand)
·       4 drops vanilla extract
·       lime zest
·       1 small Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese 3 lb. also sold as Neufchatel Cream Cheese – softened in room temperature.  (Me, not Vanessa: I tried the Original Phily Cream Cheese and the effect was not as good as the Light version.  I have to find out why).

Mix all of the above in blender except sugar.
Steam bath for 20 min in a deep pan with caramelized sugar at the bottom.
Sprinkle toasted coconut when done.

At one point, I experimented with using whole milk and coconut milk instead of evaporated milk but the flan tasted meh meh.  
Next time, I will try bottled Dulce de Leche to replace the white or brown sugar for the caramelized layer.  I will tell you about it when this happens.
A local bakery substitutes duck eggs for chicken.  To my taste buds, the difference if any is subtle. Any tips you may want to share?

For the history of Flan, see http://flan.holidaycook.com/history.shtml

Here are other online recipes:
http://salu-salo.com/leche-flan-cream-cheese/  (similar to the Puerto Rican Flan with the use of cream cheese)


I was sorting out a box of recipes when I re-encountered a Philippine tabloid called Bomba Balita.  I got it a few years ago from my neighbor upstairs.   Bomba Balita is akin to the sensational sheets you see in newsstands all over the world.

On the December 30th, 2012 issue, page 5, there was a box column Tips Sa Kusina, so here is the recipe similar to my Lola’s who happens to be a Pampagueña living in Bulacan.  My Lola only uses 6 egg yolks, and no sugar.  Dayap is key lime.  Also no water in the caramelized sugar.  Which do you think tastes better?

December 21, 2016

The NY Times today published a recipe similar to my Lola's, see  Flan de Leche

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