nWho hasn’t come across flan as one of the dessert options on a menú del peregrino or a menú del día on the Camino de Santiago?

Flan is a very popular postre (dessert), and it is in fact an ancient dessert. Its origins go back to the times of the Roman Empire, although the old recipe was little different: there was no sugar back then, so miel (honey) was used instead.

Another difference was that the old version was sprinkled with pimienta (pepper). Today, flan is covered in liquid caramel.

The name flan first appeared in the Middle Ages and it could both a sweet and a savoury dish. In those days, people ate flan during Cuaresma (Lent), when carne (meat) was not allowed.

So, as you can see, flan has been around for a very long time and it’s always been popular, either as a dessert or as part of the main meal.

You can buy ready-made flan in any Spanish supermarket but a homemade one always tastes better.

It’s actually quite easy to make and it only needs basic ingredients that you can find anywhere. In fact, you only need 3 ingredients for the basic recipe: huevos (eggs), leche (milk) and azúcar (sugar). However, it is common to infuse the milk with vainilla (vanilla), canela (cinnamon) or limón (lemon).

 

Let’s make flan!

You will need:
  • 4 huevos (eggs)
  • 1/2 litre leche (milk)
  • 4 tablespoons azúcar (sugar)
  • vanilla, a cinnamon stick, lemon peel
  • caramelo líquido (liquid caramel). In Spain, you can buy this, ready-made, in any supermarket, but you can also make your own. You just need sugar, water and a pan. Two parts sugar, 1 part water.
So, put 6 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a heavy-based pan and place over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. When it starts bubbling up and taking a golden colour, reduce the heat and stir. Keep stirring until it becomes the colour of honey. If you like it more runny, you can add at this point 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot water. But be careful! The caramel is extremely hot and it can spit when you add the water.
 
 
 
Let it cool down for a couple of minutes and then pour on your flan mould(s), making sure you cover the base and the sides.
 
 
Now you can prepare the rest:

– Preheat the oven at 180ºC

– Infuse the milk with the flavour of your choice: bring the milk to the boil with a cinnamon stick and some lemon peel. When it starts boiling, remove it from the heat and let it cool down.

If you’re using vanilla extract, you can simply add a teaspoon to your mixture.

For a classic flan de huevo, skip this step.

– Combine the eggs and the sugar together until the sugar dissolves. The final result should have a jelly-like texture, wobbly and smooth. That’s why you should simply stir the eggs and the sugar together, not beat them. Beating them would add air to the mix, which would result in your flan being full of little ‘holes’ or air bubbles. Not what we’re looking for.

– Add the milk to the egg and sugar mixture and pour everything into your mould. You can use 6 individual moulds or 1 bigger one.

– Place your mould(s) on a baking tray with hot water (bain-marie). The water should not cover more than half of your moulds. Cover with foil and put into the oven.

Cooking time will depend on the size of your mould. If you’re using a bigger one, your flan will need around 45 minutes. If you’re using individual moulds, 30 minutes might be enough. Just check that the mixture is set.

– Take them out of the oven, remove them from the hot water and let them cool down at room temperature. Once they’re cold, you can put them in the fridge.

– When you’re ready to eat them, run a knife around the edge of the mould and flip it onto a plate. Your flan is ready!

 

Flan variations

You can also make the classic recipe with condensed milk. In that case, you won’t need sugar. For a 4-egg flan, you will need a small tin of condensed milk. You can use the tin to measure the milk: you will need 2.5 tins of milk.

 

Apart from being delicious, this is also a very versatile recipe. You may come across many different variations: chocolate, coffee, cheese, coconut, berries…

 

I like to make flan de manzana (with apple). You peel and cut 4 apples in pieces and place them in a pan with a very small amount of water, a cinnamon stick and lemon peel. You let them cook until the apples are soft (I like to find apple chunks but if you don’t, you can let the apples cook longer). You then add this apple compote to the egg, sugar and milk mixture and follow the rest of the instructions for the classic flan.

If you prefer a chocolate one, you warm up the milk and melt some dark chocolate into it. For a coffee one, add a couple of espressos. You get the idea…

 

So, which one are you going to make?

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of huevos, azúcar, canela and limón, check Tarta de Santiago.

For the pronunciation of menú del día and menú del peregrino, check Eating on the Camino.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!