I still cant believe it, but I had no idea my mom had this recipe in her back pocket until I started dating my husband. Nathan is a lover of custard, so naturally, he asked my mother if she would make him flan. And guess what? She did. I took one bite of it and I couldn’t believe that this recipe had been tucked away in her mental library all this time.
Flan would be the dessert of choice that our friends started requesting from me regularly. I’d ask my mom to make it countless times, giving her all the credit. Now that I have moved across the country, I found that I needed to learn how to recreate it myself.
Bain-marie, a water bath, helps this custard to cook evenly. Keep your eyes peeled for that signature jiggle that lets you know when it is ready to come out of the oven.
Though the ingredient list is small, the technique behind mastering a free standing custard takes time. The custard continues to cook after being removed from the oven, so learning the visual cues of when you should take it out is what this recipe is all about.
My struggle with this flan has always been overcooking it, but please do not feel defeated. After many failed attempts I started to understand my pans, my oven and my custard so much better. It takes time, attention to detail and repeated attempts to get it right- that is what the kitchen is all about.
Family Table Talk
Here is some fun information about this recipe that can be used to spur on loving and open conversations between family and friends!
Custard vs. Curd
Custard is a mixture of milk/cream, sugar, and egg.
Curd is created through acid being added to milk which clumps the proteins together.
Both can be infused with flavors from sweet or savory ingredients such as fruit or herbs.
1. What is your favorite fruit infusion?
2. Just like flan, what else has a signature jiggle!?
3. Is flan, like Jell-O, most appreciated by swishing it through your teeth, or by mushing it with your tongue on the roof of your mouth?
4. What dessert is most nostalgic to you when you were growing up?
A Traditional Favorite, Flan
3/4 cup of white sugar
8 large eggs, room temperature
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
14 oz of whole milk, room temperature
1 tsp of vanilla extract
pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grab a roasting pan (for the water bath) and a 9×5 loaf pan (you can use a different sized dish, just know your cook time will differ).
- Caramel: Pour the sugar into a sauce pan and place it over medium heat. Swirl your pan so that the sugar is all even. Melt the sugar to an amber color, this can take about 10-13 minutes depending on your pan. Do not stir your sugar in the beginning stage. This will prevent the sugar from clumping but do help it along by gently moving it around when it has almost completely melted. BE CAREFUL as melted sugar can cause severe burns. Have your custard pan ready.
- When your sugar has reached the desired color (see photo above), immediately pour it into your custard dish. Tip and swirl your pan to evenly distribute the melted sugar. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool while you make the custard.
- Custard: Place the eggs, a pinch of salt and the vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk together but gently as to not create too many bubbles. Add in the condensed milk, whole milk (after pouring in the condensed milk, I use the same can and fill it up with whole milk to get the same measurement) and gently whisk again.
- Once your loaf pan has cooled to the touch, place a sieve over the pan and pour in your custard. This will remove any large bits of egg that did not incorporate well during your whisking.
- Place your custard pan into your roasting pan. Fill your roasting pan with cold water until its half way up your custard pan. Place in the oven and cook for about 2 hours.
- To check for doneness, give your custard pan a shake and it should look like jiggly Jell-O NOT like ripples of water. You want to remove it before it is completely cooked because it will finish cooking outside of the oven.
- Remove your custard from the oven and out of the roasting pan. Place it on a wire rack and let it cool until it reaches room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
- When you are ready to serve, run a knife along the edges to release the custard. Place your serving dish atop the custard and flip, your custard will release easily and make sure you allow all that caramel to drip on top.
- Serve cold or at room temperature. Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
*Do not stir your sugar while it is melting or else it will clump. Instead, wait till it is almost all melted and use a spatula to slowly push it around. If it is melting too fast, move it off of the heat and the heat of the pan will help it finish melting.
*The jiggle is what really takes practice. Every dish and oven is different so if you feel like yours is ready sooner than what I have stated then take it out. Vice versa, keep it in longer if you need.
*If you have overcooked your flan, you will notice that the custard will taste eggy and will have larger holes throughout.
*If your custard is having a hard time releasing, let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes to start bringing the sugar to room temperature.