The first time I ever saw flan was on an episode of Ugly Betty, the colorful show with so much flair it makes you want to be part Mexican. Her father spent about fifty percent of his time in the kitchen, constantly cooking for the family and flan was something he’d offer when things weren’t going so great.
Today’s flan in the traditional sense is different from the origins of this Roman dish and it prompts me to ask the question, what do I consider traditional when making a foreign dish?
There are countless flan recipes that have sweetened condensed milk in them which is common place in most Mexican kitchens, however, Mexico also has one of the highest obesity rates on the planet so I don’t love the idea of using an ingredient that wasn’t traditionally found and has a large amount of sugar in it.
This is why the recipe used below does not include this ingredient and is closer to the traditional thing that what might me made in a typical Mexican kitchen. Which means Betty’s dad might not even make it this way, but the classic stays that way here with simple ingredients that you likely already have in your fridge and pantry.
This recipe being the first thing I made for a Mexican fiesta held over the weekend and due to the timing requirement of refrigeration, this dish meant I could happily get to making hand flattened tortillas, homemade salsa and guacamole and a first attempt at Empanadas. A wonderful way to end a satisfying meal was this light and creamy chilled flan.
Note: Images updated in early 2019.
Flan Mexicano – Traditional Mexican Flan
Adapted from Mexconnect.com
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
3 cups milk
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
Place the 1/2 cup brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until it is melted and a golden caramel color.
Pour immediately into the base of a baking dish and spread to coat as evenly as possible. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325F.
Place the milk, remaining sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan and heat on low-medium to simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool.
Place the eggs in a bowl and lightly beat until well combined.
Pour the cooled milk into the eggs, whisking as you combine.
Place the large baking dish with the caramelized sugar into a large dish.
Pour the custard mixture over the sugar. Pour boiled water into the large baking dish, ensuring the water comes half way up the outside of the custard dish.
Place carefully into the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Set aside to cool for 10 minutes then place in the refrigerator for a few hours until completely chilled.
Invert onto a serving plate.
Slice and serve.