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This May be the Richest, Creamiest Leche Flan You’ll Ever Make

The perfect leche flan (literally translated as milk flan) should be a dense and creamy custard, boasting a sweeter profile than its French cousin, the crème caramel. Unfortunately, recipes call for high-protein canned milks that make leche flan a bit elastic, even rubbery. It can bake unevenly, and the caramel tends to stick to the pan rather than pour out when you unmold the custard. To solve these challenges, I went back to the drawing board and reengineered this wonderful dessert. 

To solve the sticky caramel dilemma, I swirled a few tablespoons of hot water to the finished caramel to thin it out ever so slightly. This allows the caramel to still set the way it’s supposed to, but lets it melt into a more liquid state after baking the flan, creating more sauce to pour over the custard once it is unmolded. Then, to create a silkier texture, I lowered the overall protein content of the dessert by introducing a little fresh whole milk to the recipe. This technique produces a flan that is still luxuriously dense and creamy, with a superior mouthfeel. 

This recipe reminds me of another Mexican-inspired dessert that makes use of three different kinds of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. Hence, its name, Tres Leches Flan or “three-milk flan.”

 

Tres Leches Flan

Makes one 8-inch round flan to serve 10

  • 9 medium egg yolks
  • 2 medium whole eggs
  • 1 370-ml can evaporated milk
  • 1 300-ml can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup fresh whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or seeds of 1 vanilla bean

1. Whisk egg yolks and whole eggs in a large mixing bowl just until combined. Add the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and fresh whole milk. Whisk gently just until incorporated. Whisk in the pure vanilla extract or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean.

2. Strain the mixture using a fine mesh sieve into the prepared cake pan with caramel (recipe below). Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Line the bottom of a large roasting pan with a clean dish towel, folding it to fit smoothly. Place the cake pan containing the flan mixture inside the prepared roasting pan. Place in oven, and then carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan containing the flan mixture. 

4. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until flan is barely jiggly in the center. Cool flan to room temperature, and then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5. To unmold the flan, run a paring knife around the inside edge of the cake pan. Place a large, rimmed serving plate, upside down over the cake pan, and in one swift motion, turn the whole thing over. Lift the cake pan to release the flan, and then scrape any caramel sauce sticking to the pan onto the flan.

 

CARAMEL:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons hot tap water

1. Combine caster sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan set over medium heat. Cook without stirring until caramel turns deep golden brown.

2. Remove from heat and continue to swirl the saucepan for another 30 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Mixture will bubble and steam. Continue swirling the saucepan until water is incorporated and caramel is nice and fluid.

2. Pour the caramel into a round cake pan, 8 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep. Allow caramel to set while you prepare the flan mixture.

 

This article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 2, 2015

Photography by Justin de Jesus

Styling by Tina Concepcion Diaz