Leche Flan, our Filipino version of Creme Caramel is traditional with duck egg yolks. Most recent versions use chicken egg yolks. Mine uses the whole chicken eggs just to be more practical and reasonable. Condensed milk and evaporated milk are a staple in numerous Filipino desserts that it is quite impossible to picture a Filipino flan without these.
I would reserve the use of duck eggs for very special occasions because it’s so decadent and so rich especially with its signature overflow of liquid caramel. This is probably one of the easiest yet impressive desserts to make.
VARIATIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
I’ve always associated our own Leche Flan with Spain’s Crema Catalaña (from Catalunya) and the French’s Creme Brûlée. Except that those two have the elegant crispy torched sugar while our flan has the distinctive syrupy caramel that you would want to scoop because it is liquid gold.
The Crema Catalan is relatively lighter as it just uses milk with lemon and cinnamon as aromatics. While the Creme Brûlée uses cream and vanilla. I have read about the Mexican flan (Flan Napolitano in other countries) and I think this is the closest version to the Filipino Leche Flan.
Other variations include adding cream cheese, different aromatics. But my favorite variation is adding a citrus hint to it by adding a squeeze of lime or lemon before serving. It just cuts through the richness of it and it gives it a more balanced flavor. In the future, I would like to try adding lactose-free milk so my husband and I can enjoy it more.
This dessert is traditionally steamed and not baked. BUT, I have included both procedures for your convenience. Baking is not a typical way to cook in the Philippines unless the elemental oven called pugon (firestone with coal of plates set atop the dish) is used. And even though the pugon is available, steaming would be the preferred method of cooking.
In the Philippines, we use the llanera (lyanera), an oval-shaped aluminum pan as its cooking vessel. The sugar is directly melted into the aluminum relieving you of an extra step. That extra step is done if you have no llanera. Caramelizing sugar on a pot and then pouring it into a ceramic dish or a non-stick baking pan.
Another option is to microwave the sugar in a heatproof pyrex measuring glass with a spout for safer and easier pouring onto the dish. Microwave for 4 minutes but in increments of 30 seconds. Check every thirty seconds. When it becomes bubbly and turns brown amber, quickly pour it into the ceramic dish. This is the hardest part of making the flan.
THE TEST OF A GOOD FLAN
Whatever eggs or milk you use, the test of a good flan is that it does not have bubbles. It should feel like silken tofu, not the spongy texture. Smooth and melts in your mouth. When I feel air pockets in each bite, I feel like there was some slack or a bit of thoughtlessness while preparing it. But then again, that’s just me.
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Leche Flan Using Whole Eggs
- Steamer or Roasting Pan that where flan vessels can fit
- Flan Vessels: Llanera (aluminum baking pans) or Ramekins
- Strainer, Sieve, or cheese cloth
- Large mixing bowls
- Aluminum Foil
- 9 large eggs
- 2 cans (14 fl oz) condensed milk
- 2 cans (12 fl oz) evaporated milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 6 tbps water
For Serving / Garnish
- 2 limes sliced thinly
- mint leaves
Caramel Glaze Stovetop Method:
- This procedure is quick, so make sure your ramekins are near—mix sugar and water in a saucepan. Without stirring, let it simmer until it turns golden brown. Pour evenly on the vessels quickly before the caramel hardens.
Caramel Glaze Direct to Llanera Method:
- Put 3 tbsps sugar in each llanera and put it over the stovetop. Use tongs to hold the llanera and swirl the sugar as it melts to have an even coating.
- Don't worry if you don't have an even coating, and this will melt when it steams/bakes.
Caramel Glaze Microwave Method
- Put sugar and water in Pyrex measuring glass. Microwave for about 4 1/2 minutes. I suggest you check after every 30 seconds because our microwaves work differently. When it starts to smell like caramel, it will turn brown and bubbly. It's ready. Pour onto the flan vessels.
Making the Custard
- Put nine eggs, condensed milk and blend for about 40 seconds until everything is incorporated.
- In another mixing bowl, pour the evaporated milk and vanilla. Mix with a spatula.
- Using a sieve, pour the egg mixture into the mixing bowl with milk. Pour slowly so as not to create too many bubbles.
- MIx and pass through the sieve two more times.
- Pour the custard onto the ramekins or llanera. Let it sit for about 15-30 minutes to allow the bubbles to surface. Cover with aluminum foil.
Cooking the Flan: Steam/Stovetop Method (Traditional)
- Let the water boil. Once it boils, lower the fire to medium to simmer. Stack the llaneras onto the steamer. Extra-large llaneras will cook in an hour. Use a toothpick to stick to the flan. If it comes out with the custard stuck on the toothpick, cook in increments of 5-10 minutes more. If it comes out clean, the flan is already cooked. Please turn off the fire, remove the llaneras and let it cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Cooking the Flan: Waterbath/Oven Method
- In a large roasting pan, put the ramekins or baking dishes. Pour hot water about halfway 2/3 up to the side of the flan vessels—Bake at 350F for about an hour. Use a toothpick to stick to the flan. If it comes out clean, remove it from the oven. Remove the vessels from the roasting pan and let it cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Serving the Flan
- Slide a paring knife around the container to loosen. Put a serving plate on top of the container. Flip and set it on the counter. Wiggle the container to loosen. Liquid caramel will be on top and will spill beautifully on the sides.
- Serve with very thin lime or lemon slices. Any citrus will do. This cuts through the creaminess of the flan.
- Garnish with lime slices on top and a few peppermint leaves.