“No dessert is as satisfyingly delicious, than a Flan or Crème Brûlée.
The smooth texture of these two paired with the right amount of sweetness and that touch of vanilla brings back childhood memories of fun times.
Although completely different yet similar, Crème Brûlée share the exact same ingredients with flan, just in different proportions with a slightly different method to prepare.
The Origin of Flan
Flan – mid VII century: from French (originally denoting a round cake) from Old French flaon, from medieval Latin flado, fladon-, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch vlade ‘custard’; originally named “Tyropatinam” in Ancient Rome.
The origin of Flan can be traced all the way back to Ancient Rome. The mixture of cream and eggs to make a flat custard cake was called “Tyropatinam”.
The ancient original recipe was recorded by Marco Gavio Apicious, great culinary writer famous during Tiberius Caesar Augustus ruling (year 14 through 37 AD).
“Accipies lac, adversus quod patinam aestimabis, temperabis lac cun melle quasi ad lactantia, ova quinque ad sextarium mittis, si ad eminam, ova tría. In lacte disolvis ita ut unum corpus facias, in cumana colas et igni lento coques. Cun duxerit ad se, piper aspargis et inferes”.
This original recipe roughly translates to “Take the milk, the amount you will need for this dish, and mix with the honey until sweet. Put five eggs for half a litter, or a quarter of a litter if three eggs. Dissolve the eggs in the milk until homogeneous. Pour it in a clay bowl and cook it on low heat. Once it firms, sprinkle with pepper and serve”.
In medieval time Europe, the dish became popular. The name “flan”, was given to the dish by French cooks in the VII century. Flan meaning “flat cake”.
Although the recipe has had slight variations throughout millennia, the main ingredients and preparation remain the same.
In Spain, caramelized sugar additionally to the new exotic flavor of Vanilla from Asia, were added to the mix of cream and eggs evolving into the Flan of today we know and love. France, on the other hand changing the proportions of the same ingredients and with a slight variation of the method created Crème Brûlée, a softer, creamier and crunchier version of the traditional Flan.
This dish might be known with many other names around the world, but when compared, they’re all one and the same.
The recipe I share below is my family’s recipe. It takes the guesswork out of the equation, rendering an easy to follow recipe with consistent results.
Easy Vanilla Flan Recipe.Course: Food, Manuela’s JournalCuisine: French, Spaniard, Ancient RomeDifficulty: Medium
Flan should be cooked in a Bain Marie pan. If you don’t have a Bain Marie pan you will need a tall sauce pan with a removable handle or a tall cake pan or mold that can be heated on the stove, and a larger sauce pan that can sit the sauce pan or cake mold in with at least an inch of space all around.
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of whole milk (use the empty can of condensed milk as your measuring cup)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
- In a sauce pan large enough with a removable handle, a tall cake pan, or the insert of the bain Marie pan, add the 2 cups of sugar and the 2 tablespoons of water. Do not mix. Place the pan on the stove at a medium heat. Caramelize the sugar until it develops a nice golden caramel color, not too light nor too dark. Once the right color is achieved turn the heat off and coat the walls of the pan 2/3ths up with the caramel by tilting the pan slightly until walls and bottom are completely coated with caramel. Set aside.
- In a blender add all the rest of ingredients, the condensed milk, eggs, milk and vanilla. Put the lid on and turn the blender to high. Mix until all the ingredients are completely incorporated and it looks smooth, (2-3 minutes).
- Slowly add the mixture to the caramel covered pan.
- Cover the pan with a lid and place inside the bain Marie. Fill the space in between the two pans with water, half way through.
- Place on stove and heat to high until water begins to boil. Once boiling turn the heat to medium/medium-low. Water should soft rolling boil. Check for water evaporation and replace if needed making sure no water accidentally falls into the cooking flan. Do not leave the Bain Marie pan without water. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Check the flan is fully cooked, by piercing it with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the flan is fully cooked.
- After the flan is fully cooked, it needs to be unmoulded right away. Carefully remove the pan with the flan in it from the Bain Marie. Take the lid off the pan and with a knife gently detach the flan from the walls. Place a large plate, serving tray or cake pan upside down on top of the pan containing the flan. To unmould the flan from the pan, with a hand holding the plate on top of the pan and your other hand holding the bottom of the pan with the flan, in a fast movement turn over and flip upside down. Place on top of the countertop. Carefully remove the pan until the flan completely detaches from it, being careful not to splatter the caramel. Scrape all the caramel left on the pan if any. Leave out covered if you prefer until it cools down to room temperature. Refrigerate for about 1 hour prior to serving. Store in the refrigerator. Consume within 5-7 days.
Happy 4th of July!