Whenever someone mentions flan, this scene from Friends pops up in my mind:
Phoebe: Ok, here are the birthday candles. Where’s the birthday cake?
Monica: Ok, we’re not having birthday cake, we’re having birthday flan.
Chandler: Excuse me?
Monica: It’s a traditional Mexican custard dessert.
Joey: Oh that’s nice, Happy birthday Rachel, here’s some goo.
To call flan “goo” is such an offence. Flan is also known as Crème caramel to the French, or Purin to the Japanese. It’s another one of my favourite simple desserts (like the Basque Burnt Cheesecake here) that takes zero effort to make but is so decadent and definitely a show-stopper… well the part when you try to flip it over to remove from the mould.
In hindsight, I would have named this blog post as “What to do with old milk and eggs”, because that was exactly the situation I had a couple of months ago. The supermarkets only had milk per pint which I struggled to finish – totally overestimated how much milk I consume living alone. I didn’t want to make a boring cake or French toast, and the Canelés (here) seemed to be way too much effort.
Traditionally, a flan requires a mixture of condensed milk and evapourated milk, additional egg yolks, corn starch and double cream in some versions. I have simplified it to eggs, sugar, whole milk and vanilla, and you can replace the dairy milk with alternative milks if you prefer.
I make mine in single portions in those ceramic ramekins that comes with the ready-made desserts in the supermarket. This makes it quicker and easier to cook, and you can have them one at a time!
The key to a silky flan is making sure that the custard mixture does not overcook in the oven. Otherwise it turns into a fairly tough and rubbery solid!
4 Ingredient Flan
- In a small saucepan, add the caster sugar and cold water. Turn up the heat to medium-low and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, stop stirring, turn up the heat to medium and let the sugar syrup boil. Keep a close eye on it, and once the sugar syrup reduces and turns into a toffee colour, remove from the heat and divide into the ramekins. Set aside for the caramel to cool down and solidify.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C.
- In another pot, warm up the milk until it is warm to touch.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Pour in the warm milk while whisking at the same time. Add the vanilla extract and stir. Run the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any lumps.
- Place the ramekins into a roasting tin. Divide the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins. Cover each ramekin with aluminium foil and add boiling water up to half the height of the ramekins.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins. The custard should have set and be slightly jiggly. Set aside to cool down.
- Cover the ramekins with cling film and let them sit in the fridge overnight. This allows the custard to soak up the caramel at the bottom.
- To serve, slide a small sharp knife along the side of the ramekin. Cover with a plate and flip upside down. Give it a strong shake (like shaking a cocktail shaker), remove the ramekin and enjoy!