I’m in Christmas overdrive, baby! I lined up my goodies and made my cookie boxes and trays for Kurt and Ken to deliver, as well as take-home boxes for the family after tomorrow’s meal.
I lucked out and bought those Martha Stewart Christmas treat box kits for 60% a few weeks ago; they are a nice addition to my trays and bags.
Tonight I start the prep for tomorrow’s meal. That means baking leche flan, one of the most traditional desserts for any festive occasion in a Filipino home. It’s basically a version of the French creme caramel— a custard base that is cooked in bain marie (water bath) in a pan that has been lined with caramelized sugar. The cooked flan, when unmolded, has a built in caramel sauce– so good! The flan is definitely richer than the French version, and is usually served in very thin slices. I planned the flan as the main dessert for our Christmas meal, along with two cookie trays that I assembled this afternoon.
The ingredient list for the flan custard base is easy: condensed milk (e.g., Eagle brand), evaporated whole milk (e.g., Pet milk), egg yolks and vanilla. I used 12 extra large egg yolks last time and Kurt thought it was a little eggy, so I’m reducing it to 10. My mother always used 12, but I think she bought medium or large eggs.
The tricky part for the flan is actually making the caramel for the pan. Unlike my mother, I start with a sugar and water combination (the “sand” method); my mother caramelizes sugar by itself, but I end up with burnt sugar, not caramel! I’m too impatient to become a perfect caramelized sugar maker, but mine’s good enough to coat the flan pan!
You must also bake the custard in a water bath to maintain even cooking. I use a 9-inch cake pan for my flan and use a roasting pan for the water bath. I find it’s easier to add the boiling water once you’ve put the pan into the oven, but I know there are others who fill the pan first, then lift the entire assembly into the oven. Do whatever works for you.
for the custard:
- 10 extra large egg yolks (save the whites for angel food cake or even better, amaretti cookies)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
for the caramel:
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1/4 c water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin to boil a kettle of water for the water bath.
Place the custard ingredients (egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla) in a mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture until yolks are completely mixed in the milks. Set aside.
Pour the sugar into a metal 9 inch round cake pan then slowly pour the water onto the sugar. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Do not stir.
Eventually the water will evaporate and the sugar will begin to caramelize. At this point, I grab a pair of tongs and begin tilting the caramel from side to side so it doesn’t burn. When the sugar is a light brown (you’ve waited too long if it smells burnt), take the pan off the heat. Using oven mitts or pot holders, tilt the pan so the caramel lines the sides of the pan as well– I try for about 1/2 way up the sides. Don’t worry if there is some uneven areas; everything melts down during the long bake/steam process. Let the pan cool for about 5 minutes.
Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the pan. Seal the top of the pan with aluminum foil, making sure to crimp along the pan edge. Place the pan into the roaster (or whatever pan you’re using) and then put the assembly into the oven. Add the hot kettle water. Bake for 1 hour or until flan is firm (I test with a thin knife inserted into the middle; the blade should be clean or just have the slightest coating). Remove the flan from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
My flan is currently chilling in the fridge. I’ll unmold it tomorrow, but if you don’t want to wait for the pics, the directions on how to unmold are below.
To unmold, fill a large bowl with very hot water. Take a thin sharp knife and run it around the edge of the pan to loosen the flan from the sides. Holding the rim of the pan, dip the flan pan in the water until you can see the flan move from the sides and the caramel thins. Take a rimmed plate or platter and place it over the flan. Quickly invert the pan; the flan should slip out along with all the caramel. If this doesn’t happen, try shaking the pan gently (you don’t want to break the flan) and/or rapping the bottom of the pan with a spoon. If there is still no movement (not even any caramel dripping out, start again with the hot water dip. Once molded, serve cold or at room temperature.