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Latin Flan

4.5 stars based on 10 votes

latin-flan

Michael and I had dinner recently at a traditional Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria. While the open fire-roasted meat was wonderful, the South American flan we shared for dessert was our favorite part of the meal. Flan, also known as crème caramel, is a rich, sweet custard topped with caramel sauce. (It’s similar to crème brûlée, the creamy custard topped with a brittle layer of hard caramel.) In Latin America, flan is made with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, giving it an ultra-creamy, luxurious texture — like a cross between pudding and cheesecake. To recreate it at home, I tried at least a half dozen recipes. This one, adapted from from Cook’s Illustrated, was the clear winner. Since it’s prepared in a loaf pan rather than individual ramekins, and can be made up to four days ahead, it’s a perfect dinner party dessert.

ingredients

To begin, start the caramel by stirring together the sugar and a 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened.

sugar-and-water

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring.

cooking-caramel-1

Continue cooking until the mixture begins to turn golden. Gently swirling the pan, continue to cook until sugar is a pale honey color.

cooking-caramel-2

Remove from the heat and swirl the pan until sugar is reddish-amber and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.

cooking-caramel-3

Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons warm tap water until incorporated – be careful as the mixture will bubble and steam.

bubbling-caramel

Pour the caramel into 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan and set aside.

pouring-caramel-into-loaf-pan

As you can see, the color you’re going for is very close to a dark honey.

honey-comparison

Whisk the eggs and yolks in large bowl until combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla, Bourbon, and salt and whisk until incorporated.

custard

Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a larger bowl.

straining-custard

Pour the strained custard into the loaf pan over the caramel.

ready-to-bake

Place the loaf pan in the center of a 9×13-inch baking or roasting pan (preferably with high sides) to make a water bath. Place the nested pans in the oven; using a tea kettle or pitcher, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. (The water bath moderates the heat to ensure that the mixture cooks evenly into a smooth and creamy custard.) Bake for 75 – 90 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center. Remove the pans from the oven and leave the flan in water bath for 1 hour to cool.

baked-flan

Remove the loaf pan from water bath, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill overnight or up to 4 days.

ready-to-chill

To unmold, carefully slide a knife around the edges of the pan. Invert a platter with a raised rim on top of flan and turn the pan and platter over. If it doesn’t release immediately, let it sit inverted for a minute and it should eventually slide out.

unmolding

When the flan is released, remove the loaf pan. Using rubber spatula, scrape the residual caramel onto the flan. You won’t be able to release all of it – that’s okay.

Slice the flan and spoon the sauce over the individual servings. Enjoy!

flan

 

Latin Flan

Servings: 8-10
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes, plus an overnight chill in the refrigerator

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 5 yolks
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • ½ cup whole milk (half-and-half or 2% milk may be substituted but do not use skim milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. (This recipe should be made at least one day before serving.) Adjust a rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium heavy saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until the mixture begins to turn golden. Gently swirling the pan, continue to cook until sugar is a honey color. Remove from the heat and swirl the pan until the sugar is reddish-amber and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons of warm tap water until incorporated – be careful as the mixture will bubble and steam. This whole process should take less than 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the caramel into an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan; do not scrape out the saucepan. Set the loaf pan aside. (To clean the hardened caramel from the saucepan, fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil.)
  4. Whisk the eggs and yolks in large bowl until combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla, Bourbon, and salt and whisk until incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove any bits of egg; then pour the strained custard into the loaf pan over the caramel.
  5. Place the loaf pan in the center of a 9x13-inch baking or roasting pan (preferably with high sides) to make a water bath. Place the nested pans in the oven; then, using a tea kettle or pitcher, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for 75 - 90 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center. (Don’t worry that it seems undercooked. The custard will continue to cook as it cools, and the center will set completely -- I promise!) Carefully remove the pans from the oven and leave the flan in the water bath for 1 hour to cool.
  6. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and wipe the pan dry. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight or up to 4 days.
  7. To unmold the flan, carefully slide a sharp knife around the edges of the pan. Invert a platter with a raised rim (to contain the liquid caramel) on top of the flan and turn the pan and platter over. If the flan doesn’t release immediately, let it sit inverted for a minute and it should slide out. When the flan is released, remove the loaf pan. Using rubber spatula, scrape the residual caramel onto the platter. You won’t be able to release all of the caramel – that’s okay. Slice the flan and spoon the sauce over individual portions. (Leftover flan may be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated.)
  8. Note: If you would like to omit the Bourbon, replace with an additional 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (10 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 249
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 39 g
  • Sugar: 39 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 224 mg
  • Cholesterol: 61 mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Absolutely delicious! Made this for Christmas dessert and everyone raved over it. Will make it again for sure.

    - Alice on January 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this twice over the holidays, it is fantastic and exactly like I have had out at our favorite Brazilian restaurant.Easy to prepare and delicious!!Thank you for another hit!

    - Melissa on January 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just wanted to update – I googled “how to make caramel” and realized that I had been stirring, not swirling, too much. The site also suggested more sugar which I did, although I’m not sure that was the issue – I think it was the stirring. When I finally got it right (I would never give up on one of the Chef’s recipes!), it was super easy and the lightest, best flan I’ve ever had.

    - Bonnie on January 8, 2017 Reply
    • So glad it worked out, Bonnie!

      - Jenn on January 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is the real deal. Made for a dessert party. Everyone raved. Not one drop left. Super easy to make. Followed instructions exactly. Yummy

    - Jeany on January 2, 2017 Reply
  • 1 stars

    I have the same problem as Bonnie. My sugar remains colourless, not the honey coloured shown in your picture. Also felt that the condensed milk taste is too strong and overall too sweet. It’s like eating condensed milk in its solid form. Overall easy to make but taste not as good though. Thanks

    - Teresa on December 28, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Teresa, So sorry you had trouble with the caramel. It will eventually change color, you just need to give it more time.

      - Jenn on December 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Like many others, …I followed your recipe exactly (except I used rum instead of bourbon because that’s what I had) and ended up with the best flan I’ve ever eaten. I’ve made flan in the past following directions that were more difficult, less clear, and not as good. Thank you.

    - Richard Schinella on December 27, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Quite easy to prepare and love that it can be made days in advance!
    Really good! Not too heavy. Just the right sweetness.
    We served this on Christmas Eve to everyone’s delight.

    - Pam on December 24, 2016 Reply
  • Hi,
    I’m making this recipe to serve on Christmas day. Can you clarify the measurements of condensed and evaporated milks, please. Your picture shows a can of evaporated milk larger than the can of condensed milk. However, your written recipe calls for a 14 oz can of condensed milk and a 12 oz can of evaporated milk.
    Thanks!

    - Beatrice on December 24, 2016 Reply
    • Those are correct, Beatrice – sweetened condensed milk is much thicker (and heavier) than evaporated milk.

      - Jenn on December 24, 2016 Reply
  • I cooked it about 5-7 minutes, watching it so it so it wouldn’t burn but would turn.

    - Bonnie on December 23, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Bonnie, I’m guessing you need to increase the heat a bit and cook it longer. It will eventually turn color.

      - Jenn on December 24, 2016 Reply
  • just tried this and the sugar-water got hard but never turned golden. Advice?

    - Bonnie on December 23, 2016 Reply
    • Hmmm, not sure Bonnie. Anytime you cook sugar it should eventually change color — how long did you cook it?

      - Jenn on December 23, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My grandma uses the same recipe but she uses a bundt pan? Will that still work?

    - Jerrika on December 22, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Jerrika, I wouldn’t use a bundt pan for this recipe, as I don’t think you’ll have enough custard to fill it — and it would be tough to run a knife along the edges to unmold it without butchering it. Sorry!

      - Jenn on December 22, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve used the original Cook’s Illustrated version of this recipe several times now, and I am always amazed at how easy it is to make yet how impressive it turns out. The perfect crowd pleaser! I am looking forward to trying out your variation. What were the significant differences that you found in your version versus the original?

    - Rachel Lara on December 22, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Rachel, The Cooks Illustrated recipe is wonderful as is but I wanted a little more depth of flavor, so I reduced the vanilla extract and added Bourbon. A little booze in custard goes a long way :). I also simplified the instructions/process a bit – I love Cooks Illustrated but find some of their recipes to have unnecessary steps (such as lining the pan with a dishtowel). And I always add my own notes to recipes if adapting from another source, just to help people along where I think there might be some confusion.

      - Jenn on December 22, 2016 Reply
  • Greetings. I am Puerto Rican and here I send my own recipe for cheese flan. It is delicious.

    1 cup sugar, for caramel.
    5 eggs.
    1 can of condensed milk.
    1 can of evaporated milk.
    1 pack of cream cheese (Philadelphia).
    2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

    Follow Jenn Segal’s instructions. Enjoy!!!

    - Carlos on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Carlos, I have seen many flan recipes that call for cream cheese; I imagine it makes it more “cheesecake-y.” Look forward to trying your version!

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Very, very similar to my mom’s recipe… the only major difference is the water bath. My mom cooks her flan in a stovetop water bath instead of the oven. To my taste, the consistency of mom’s flan is a little silkier, not as heavy… is there really a difference, Jen? Nothing says Christmas in a Latin household more than a holiday flan! And BTW Jen, anything I make following your recipes is always 5-star!

    - MC on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi MC, So glad you’re enjoying the recipes. I’ve never tried cooking a flan on the stovetop so I can’t say for sure what the difference would be. Are the quantities of all the ingredients the same? Does she cook hers in a loaf pan?

      - Jenn on December 25, 2016 Reply
  • Jenn, this looks wonderful! Do you think that I could replace the bourbon with Grand Marnier?

    - Deb on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Definitely! Please let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • This recipe looks delicious. I’ve recently went to a churrascaria and I had Brazilian cheese bread. Do you have a recipe for that?

    - Evelyn K on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Evelyn, I also tried Brazilian cheese bread at a churrascaria and it was delish! Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe for one, but will keep it in mind as something to potentially develop in the future.

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • I sometimes add a little cocoa to my flan, as well. Not as traditional, but yummy

    - tmm on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • A little espresso powder is good too :)

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • Looks good. What size loaf pan?

    - Nancy on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Nancy, This requires an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • Can you substitute coconut milk for the milk as some of my family is lactose intolerant and cannot even have lactose free milk and if so how much
    thanks
    Yvette

    - Yvette on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • I haven’t tried this with coconut milk, but I think it should work; it would be the same amount as the milk. If you’re dealing with family members that are sensitive to lactose, though, this recipe does have a lot of dairy.

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply

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