Smooth, creamy Leche Flan, every spoonful is 100% sinfully delicious! Today I am sharing with you a recipe that we Filipinos love so much. Leche Flan or flan is a common dessert served in most Filipino gathering and made even on a regular days in many household. It is not an original Filipino dessert, but we have adopted this recipe and made our take on it. However you call it where you are, I bet we can both agree that this is a dessert worth making. Guaranteed to please your friends and family, just don’t count the calories 🙂
If you are new to Filipino cooking, welcome. I do not post as much Filipino desserts and dishes in my website but one of my goal is to feature some of our Filipino desserts or adopted Filipino desserts one step at a time. I want this to be a part of me that I can share with you. Some of you may find it unique, some my find it interesting and some maybe will not be into it. If you are open to trying new food, then I encourage you to step into our Filipino cuisine world and give it a try.
What is Leche Flan?
Leche Flan, Crème Caramel, Flan, or Caramel Custard is a custard dessert with a layer of clear caramel sauce on top made with caramelized sugar and a smooth and creamy custard base made with milk and eggs. The dessert originated from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal but has been widely adapted in different countries with their own take and variations.
Depending on location, this dessert could be called differently. Often in United States or most English speaking countries, this is known as flan. In the Philippines, we call this Leche (meaning milk) Flan a version on Spanish ‘flan de leche‘. Regardless of how it is called in different places, one thing is common is that this they are all a custard based dessert, smooth, creamy and dangerously delicious.
How to Make Leche Flan?
Making the flan requires very easy and minimal steps. The time consumed in making flan is the steaming part, but the making of the caramel sauce and custard base is quite easy.
Start by making the caramel sauce. The caramel sauce is a combination of granulated sugar and water. Transfer these 2 ingredients in a stove top safe tin pan and melt in low heat. It will take about 10 minutes (more or less) to get to the deep brown caramel color. I used an oval-shaped tin mold known as llanera in the Philippines. I bought this in an Asian store and it comes in different sizes. They have mini, small and large. For this recipe, I used the small size which is good for 2-3 servings. If you do not have one, you can make the caramel in any stove top safe pan and transfer it in the mold/tin that you are going to use to make the flan. The key thing in this step is to make sure to melt the sugar mixture in low heat, and really pay close attention to it. The first 5 minutes will be just the melting process, after 5 minutes the sugar will start to change color. This is the stage that you have to stand by, do not leave it unattended. Move the tin pan so evenly brown the sugar. Go for a light brown color, the darker it gets, the bitter it will be. Once this step is done, you can set aside the pan, or transfer the caramel to the pan you are using and let it cool. The caramel will solidify as it cools.
Now, make the custard base. There are quite a few variations on how to make the custard base. Some recipe use full eggs, some uses a combination of egg yolks and full egg and some uses pure egg yolk (like this recipe). Why? Because egg yolk have high fat content, and fat in custard produces creamy end product. You can set aside the egg whites for future use. I have few recipes HERE that uses only egg whites.
The recipe measurements here are specific to using egg yolks only, if you decide to use the whole egg it will not have the same result as shown in the photo. You can certainly do it but do not expect to get the same result. You have to make adjustments in the amount of milk you use. There is no need to add any sugar as the condensed milk itself is quite sweet to begin with.
Simply mix the milk and stir then add the egg yolks and gently mix. A very important tip when making the custard base is to pass the mixture into a sieve. This removes extra egg whites in the mixture and produces a silky smooth custard. I used a clean fine cloth I have dedicated just when I am making flan. You can use cheese cloth as well. I used layers of filtering, fine cloth and fine sieve. Pass the mixture at least 2 times before pouring it in the pan where you are cooking it.
No steamer? No problem. Let’s improvise
Now, the final step, cook the flan. Once the mixture is done, time to transfer it in give pan, then transfer the pan in a steamer. Flan is usually cooked in a bain-marie on a stove top or in the oven in a water bath. I do not have a steamer so I used a simple work around and it works perfectly every time. So what I did was I used a large wide wok, then I poured water in it, bring the water to a boil and then I lowered the heat so the water stops boiling but keeps getting heated to release steam. I then placed a wire rack on top of the wok, halfway through the pan but making sure the bottom of llanera is not touching the water. Then I placed the flan pan on top and cover the pan with slight indent so it is not 100% covered. Make sure to have the heat on low, if you start hearing the water boiling, that’s a queue that the heat is too high.
How to know when it is done?
You will know that it is done if you move the llanera/pan and the mixture doesn’t wiggle anymore. This will take about 1 hour but not more. The side will be set, while the center is still slightly soft and wiggling when you push the pan. Do not wait for the center to fully settled before turning off the heat.
What happen when you over cook/steam the leche flan?
You wouldn’t like it. The texture of a perfect flan is smooth, creamy, and just about the right softness. Over cooked flan will result the opposite way in terms of texture. It will still be smooth and creamy but it will be quite more hard. If you’ve tried creme brûlée, the texture of a flan is as smooth as that but a bit more solid so it holds its shape when it is flipped. The edge of the flan will be the part that will settle first, then it will gradually move to the center. The center is the test if the flan is already cooked or need more time. You want me to I have it still slightly soft, a bit moving when you push the pan. The center will continue to cook as it cools and set. Do not wait for it to be totally set before you turn of the heat.
Tips in making the leche flan
- Add water when making the caramel. This produces a more even consistency of caramel. I had tried making this with the sugar only, not only that it takes more time, but the consistency was not as even as I would want it to be
- Use a sieve and pass the custard mixture at least twice to remove any egg whites. This helps produces smooth and creamy texture.
- Cook in low heat to achieve a smooth texture. High heat will make the water boil and boiling water produces more heat that could cause the custard mixture to boil as well. This could result in a flan with air pockets in it.
- If not using a steamer, and instead using the method that I did, do not completely cover the pan. Filly covered pan will not allow the steam to come out, and this could make the custard texture rough
- 2/3 cup Condensed Milk
- 2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract
- 3 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Water
- Make the Caramel Sauce: Transfer the sugar and water in a stove top safe pan. Melt the caramel in medium low heat, about 10 minutes. Do not leave unattended as the sugar can burn fast. At 5 minutes mark, you should start seeing the sugar change color. When half of it is nicely golden brown, move the mixture by tilting the pan around to distribute the meting sugar. Stop as soon as all sugar turned golden brown. Do not go beyond golden brown, as the longer you cook the caramel and the darker it gets, the bitter it will be. Set aside the pan while you make the custard base. The caramel will solidify as it cools.
- Make the Custard Base: Separate the egg yolk and egg white. In a pan, transfer the evaporated milk, condensed milk and vanilla extract (if using) and stir until combined. Add the egg yolks and gently stir until combined. Do not stir vigorously as you do not want to incorporate air into the mixture. The less bubbles forming, the better it is. Pass the mixture into a sieve or cheese cloth at least twice.
- Cook the Custard: Transfer in the steamer or on top of the pan with hot water and wire ack. Place llanera on the center of the wire rack, the position the sieve on top and pour the mixture. Cover the pan and steam in medium low heat for about 1 hr. Leave some gap when you cover the pan, you do not want it 100% cover. Small gap to allow the steam to come out is what you should aim for. Make sure the heat is not too high that will cause the water to boil. If you hear the water boiling, open the cover to let the steam out and lower the heat. If using my improvised method, wipe the cover from time to time to lessen the water dripping on the custard. You can also wrap a cloth on how cover itself so it catches the water. To test if already cooked, lightly push the pan back and forth. The mixture should not wiggle as much, the sides should be settled while the center is still slightly soft. The remaining heat will cook the center. Do not wait for the center to be fully stable, if you reach that stage, you have over cooked the flan
- Cool: Remove the flan from stove or steamer and let cook completely before transferring in a serving plate. Do NOT attempt to remove from the pan while hot. Cooling will help the custard to settle and hold its shape. If you have time, I highly recommend to keep it refrigerated at least 1 hour before serving. You can make this ahead of time which is what I recommend.
- Serve: Once completely cooled, run a spatula or knife around the sides. Put the serving plate on top of the pan and flip.
- Storage: Keep refrigerated for better texture. I find that it is even better to serve this the following day as it have plenty of time to chill on the fridge. If you are storing the flan in the pan, you might want to put the pan on top of the stove top for at least 5 minutes on low heat to melt the caramel. This way, you get the caramel out easily.
Serves 2 – 3
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