In other countries in Latin America in general and in Cuba in particular, Flan is always an attractive dessert. It is made from sugar, milk and eggs – the simple ingredients but the combination among them will make you amazed.
The history of flan begins with the ancient Spanish. Eggs figured prominently in many Spanish recipes. The flan prepared by the ancient Spanish was quite different from the food eaten today. It was often served as a savory dish, as in “eel flan”, although sweet flans, made with honey and pepper, were also enjoyed. In the Middle Ages, both sweet and savory flans (almonds, cinnamon & sugar; cheese, curd, spinach, fish) were very popular in Europe, especially during Lent, when meat was forbidden. According to Platina’s De Honesta Voluptate [On Right Pleasure and Good Health], an Italian cookery text published in approximately 1475, custard-type dishes were considered health food. In addition to being nourishing, they were thought to soothe the chest, aid the kidneys and liver, increase fertility, and eliminate certain vaginal urinary problems. Caramel evolved in France.
How to make it
- 3/4 cup (170 g) Sugar
- 1 can (12oz) Evaporated milk
- 4 eggs
- 1 can (14oz) Condensed milk
- 1 Tablespoon Pure vanilla extract
Making the Caramel Topping
Pick only one of the following methods, using whatever is easiest for you:
1 – Make your caramel and pour it into your baking dish before making the flan. The caramel needs time to set before the flan is poured in, so it should be made first. Choose any of the three caramel methods below and then, while the caramel is still hot, pour it into the bottom of your baking dish(s). You can then move on to the actual flan.
2- Craft a basic caramel by melting white sugar on the stovetop. This is perhaps the most common method, as all it requires is granulated sugar and a heavy-bottomed pan. Simply place the 3/4 cup sugar in the bottom of the pan and turn the heat on medium. Stir occasionally, breaking up any clumps, until the sugar is the color of a bright copper penny. Immediately remove from heat.
- A thick-bottomed pan is essential here — as it will hold and distribute heat well to prevent parts of the sugar from burning.
- Lighter-colored pans make it easier to see when the sugar is done cooking.
3 – Get a smoother stovetop caramel by making a “wet caramel” with water. This method is a little more fickle, but it makes a smoother caramel by a long shot. To make it, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan (off the heat). Once mixed, heat on medium-high heat until it boils, stirring throughout. Once it boils, stop stirring completely. Just wait and watch until it gets a copper penny color, then remove from the heat and let cool.
- Stirring agitates the sugars and creates a simple crystal — AKA, sugar cubes, not liquid caramel. Once it boils, stop stirring.
- Use a wet rubber spatula if you need to scrape some sugar off the sides of the pan back into the mixture.
Making the Flans
Move on to the flan as soon as you finish the caramel
- Caution: This sugar will be extremely hot.
- Want a perfectly smooth caramel? Pour this syrup through a fine mesh strainer as it goes into the baking dishes.
– Whip the 4 eggs together until frothy, then add the two cans of milk and whip together. You want a completely smooth, well-mixed liquid. Use a nice large mixing bowl so that you can really whip it together without spilling.
- Some cooks actually boil the water before pouring it in, getting the water near cooking temperature as soon as it goes in the oven. This can lead to a slightly firmer flan.
- If you can’t make a water bath for whatever reason, cover the flans with aluminum foil as they cook. This will help retain moisture and prevent the tops from burning.
– Cook for 1 hour, or until the flans are set and barely jiggle when shook. To test even further, stab a flan with a toothpick. When you remove it, it should come up relatively clean — not covered in chunks or liquid. Take the flans carefully out of their hot water bath, but don’t let them cool just yet
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