Leche Flan

by Kiko Matsing

A favorite Filipino desert that is a hit-or-miss to make, but not if you follow these directions (thanks to my friend Monica). I made it for the first time last weekend, and it turned out just right.

Put 3 tbsp of sugar into a llanera–an oval aluminum pan, specifically for the Filipino leche flan. Heat the bottom of the llanera with a low stove fire, continuously swirling the sugar until it melts, and turns deep brown. (Caution! Use tongs!) Once the sugar is dark and syrupy, set the llanera aside to let it cool and re-solidify. The term llanera is actually the feminine of llanero, a South American herder or cowboy. Why the leche flan pan is called this escapes me.

In a mixing bowl, put 1 can of condensed milk, 1½ can of evaporated milk, ½ cup sugar, and yolks from a dozen eggs. Separate the yolk from the white albumin by hand. Crack an egg and pour the contents in one hand. Proceed to roll the yolk back and forth between your two hands, letting the white drip between your fingers into a waste bowl, until only the yolk is left. Homogenize everything gently with a whisker, taking care not to vigorously mix the batter to keep it from being fluffy. This recipe is good for two llaneras.

Pour the batter mix into a llanera until it is almost full (e.g., a quarter inch from the top). Cover with aluminum foil and place in a steam cooker for about 40 minutes or until the batter is cured. Check after 30 min or so. You can tell when it is cooked by inserting a small knife and observing that it comes out clean, or by shaking it and seeing that it is no longer runny.

Remove the flan and let it sit on the countertop until it cools down to room temperature. Place in the fridge (overnight if possible) until it turns cold and becomes more fixed. Take a knife and loosen the edges from the llanera and carefully invert onto a plate. Reheat the llanera on the stove until the remaining caramel melts and pour on top of the flan.

Notes: The perfect flan should have a smooth, custard-like texture. The first batch we made had some bubble issues and was on the firm/brittle side; the second batch was perfect. I thought it was because I did not fill the llanera nearly to the top (see pic) in the first one and so it became over-cured. The second batch also had to sit while the first was in the steamer. I thought this allowed the air bubbles from the mixing to escape, which produced a smoother batter. Just sayin’.