Orange-scented leche flan

Wow, was one of my New Year’s resolutions really to tend to my blog more? Well, I guess that one was over before it started!

So my first post of the year is for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge: your favorite birthday food.

orange-scented leche flan

Since my birthday is in the summer, I would probably narrow it to barbecue skewers. But this is January, so I’m not going to be standing out in front of the grill in my winter coat (although I have been known to do that in the past). That said, I would have to go for one of my favorite desserts: leche flan. This is total pinoy party food because:

a) It’s super rich. The only way it would ever become richer is if you figured out a way to add pork. (Which I don’t think I would recommend, even though I am in fact, Filipina.)
b) It’s kind of a pain to make. It’s not difficult, but there are a couple of annoying steps. And you have to wait before eating it.

I used to make leche flan with a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks, but I prefer the super creamy texture that all egg yolks bring to the table. (You can see my older recipe here — I made a video with my daughter outlining the steps.)

Filipino leche flan contains condensed milk, which adds to the creamy texture. I heat the milk mixture first, although this is something I wasn’t taught, it’s a fairly important step. The trick to making a flan is tempering the eggs. When you add hot liquid to the egg yolks, the egg yolks acclimate to the hot temperature, thus preventing them from curdling when you put the flan in the oven. (I’m sorry to say I’ve tasted a fair share of rubbery homemade flans, and this has to do with the eggs curdling, among other things.) Also important: make sure to bake it in a bain-marie (water bath).

I love the taste of citrus in flan, so I use orange zest. Lemon zest is also great, and adds a little bit of a fresh, light flavor. (You’ll like it if you’re a fan of lemon curd.) If you prefer a non-citrusy flavor, just replace the orange zest with one scraped vanilla bean.

Orange-scented leche flan
makes one 8-inch flan
I just use a baking dish, but a fluted brioche pan makes it look extra pretty. If I spotted a flan that was baked in a fluted mould, I’m sure it would whisk me back to being a 7-year-old at my grandma’s house, celebrating my summer birthday.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce (400 g) can of sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups (350 ml) whole milk
zest from a small orange (or, if not using, 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch salt
For the caramel:

  1. Have your 8-inch baking dish next to the stove — you’ll need is as soon as the sugar is done.
  2. Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and pour the caramel into your baking dish. Swirl the caramel around the pan before it sets (you’ll have to do this really quickly.) Set the pan aside.

For the custard:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Have a kettle of boiling water ready to go for the water bath.
  2. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, condensed milk, orange zest and a pinch of salt. Bring to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t come to a rolling boil.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk lightly.
  4. Whisk in the warm milk mixture. Make sure to add the milk in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly, otherwise the eggs will curdle.
  5. Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the baking dish.
  6. Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan until halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the flan is still jiggly in the dish (you don’t want it to be totally firm, otherwise the edges will be curdled).
  8. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. To unmould: Place the baking dish in a roasting pan filled with warm water, then loosen the edges of the custard. Turn the flan out onto a large plate. The caramel will pool around the custard.