Perfect Flan Article -
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Perfect Flan

Take a tip from Latin America and finish a meal with cool, creamy flan.

Flan is a vanilla-infused custard with a sweet caramel top layer, but--like all custards--it easily embraces other flavors. Chocolate, coffee, orange, and coconut are all delicious variations.

    Making the Caramel

    Sugar can be cooked two ways: "wet" or "dry." Wet cooking is the easier method, because it gives you greater control over the degree of caramelization.

    • Sugar and water are brought to a boil; the water boils away and the sugar changes from pale gold to amber to brown.
    • You can stir the pan to help dissolve the sugar, but stop stirring once the mixture boils.

    Dry cooking usually involves adding an acid, such as lemon juice, to keep the sugar from crystallizing.

    • Toss the lemon juice with the sugar until it's the consistency of wet sand.
    • Heat the sugar until it melts. Don't stir, which promotes crystallization--the caramel will seize up and be grainy, not clear--but you may swirl the pan slightly to help redistribute any sugar that's starting to brown.

    For either method, as soon as the caramel reaches a deep golden brown, remove it from the heat and pour it into the dish or dishes in which you will be baking the flan. (It will continue to cook once you pull it off the heat, so don't let it get too dark or the caramel will taste bitter and burnt.) Be very careful to avoid burns.

    Making the Custard

    Some recipes call for sweetened condensed milk while others use cream or whole milk. A flan made with sweetened condensed milk will be slightly denser than one made with milk or cream. Likewise, flan made with milk rather than cream will be slightly lighter than a cream-based custard. Experiment with different ingredients and recipes to find the one that suits your tastes.

    • Place the milk, solid flavoring--vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, citrus zest--and sugar into a large saucepan. (Liqueurs and extracts are added after the mixture cooks).
    • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    • While the milk mixture heats, whisk the eggs until pale yellow. Don't over-mix the eggs: you don't want the eggs to become foamy, because the air bubbles affect the texture of the finished product.
    • In a slow stream, pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl of eggs, whisking constantly.
    • Pour the custard base through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl to ensure a silky smooth texture in your flan.
    • Stir in extract or other flavorings.
    • Divide the custard equally between your caramel-coated dish or ramekins.

      Baking the Flan

      Baking custards in a water bath is crucial, due to their delicate nature. The water insulates the custard and keeps it from cooking too fast, which causes cracks in the finished flan and a rubbery texture. Lay a dishtowel on the bottom of a roasting pan, place the flan dish or dishes on top of the towel, and then fill the pan with boiling water about halfway up the sides of the custard cups.

      Out of the oven

      The flan is ready to be removed from the oven when it has begun to set. Gently shake the pan: the centers of the custard should jiggle slightly. You can also insert the tip of a knife into the custard near the center; if the flan is still liquid, it needs more time in the oven. When the flan has begun to set, remove the roasting pan from the oven, being very careful not to spill the hot water. Let the flan cool while sitting in the water bath, until the ramekins are cool enough to handle. Refrigerate before serving.

      Serving the dessert

      The caramel, which set up hard in the bottom of the dish, will have softened due to the moisture in the custard. You should be able to slip each custard out of its cup with ease: run a butter knife or the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the ramekin to release the flan.  Invert a small dessert plate over the ramekin, turn it over, and gently remove the dish. You should have a creamy, picture-perfect flan crowned with a syrupy golden caramel.


      Flan is a perfect canvas for a dessert-lover who enjoys experimenting with flavors!

      • Vanilla flan can be made marvelous by using a vanilla bean in place of the extract.
        • Slice the bean in half, scraping out the seeds with the tip of the paring knife.
        • Add the vanilla bean and seeds into the warming milk and let it infuse; remove it before whisking the hot milk into the eggs
      • Mixing approximately 1/4 cup of ground coffee into the warming milk mixture makes coffee-flavored flan--but be sure to strain the coffee grounds out of the flan before baking.
      • To make chocolate flan, use the same method as you would for chocolate ganache: pour about a third to half a cup of chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.
        • Pour the boiling milk mixture (you may wish to reduce the sugar in your recipe) over the chocolate.
        • Cover, and let soften for about five minutes.
        • Whisk until smooth. Whisk chocolate mixture into eggs, and continue as above.

        Jul. 8, 2009 12:56 am
        the trick was the towl
        Jul. 8, 2009 8:32 am
        Instant coffee or espresso crystals added just before baking are an easier way to get coffee-flavoured flan. Any extract you can find in the baking aisle can make a good variation, too. I especially like almond; I then garnish the finished flan with some whole raw almonds.
        oma kranz 
        Jul. 15, 2009 1:06 pm
        thanks for the tip of the mesh strainer this prevented my custard from having holes.
        Lisa G 
        Jul. 15, 2009 1:59 pm
        I sure would like to see a video making the flan. I have never been able to make this. Not even from a box. WHAT WENT WRONG???
        Aug. 12, 2009 2:58 pm
        I agree with Lisa G.,a video would be so helpful!
        Aug. 23, 2009 10:23 am
        is there any way to make the box version of flan better or give it a little kick?
        Sep. 26, 2009 5:38 am
        To Montana, if you add a bit more vanilla, and use half and half rather than milk, top off with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg it will be better, but there are so many flan recipes, find an easy one and you won't use the box any more.
        Dec. 16, 2009 10:45 am
        I'm going to bake a flan for Christmas this year. I've been reading a lot about the process of making it. So, I hope it comes out delicious! =)
        Dec. 17, 2009 9:17 pm
        flan is awsome use five eggs cristalize suger add to hot greased pan . beat eggs milk , condensed last then pour over hot carmal in hot pan . cover cook for one hour . chill then turn over . wala!
        Dec. 23, 2009 11:07 pm
        I have the Roland brand of Flan - has anyone used it before? I've never made flan before and thought I'd try this. I have oven issues so I'm looking for stove-top recipes or refrigerator recipes. This is my first comment. :) Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas! :)
        Jan. 2, 2010 1:30 pm
        If you put in your blender 1 can condensed milk, one can evaporated milk, 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 tsp. vanilla, pinch of salt, and 5 eggs,mix until is blended about 30 secons, after you have your pan prepared with the caramel, put the mixed flan in the pan in a water bath and bake at 350 for 1 hour. you will never fail. yum yum
        Jan. 2, 2010 1:34 pm
        to wfe-- you can make de flan in the presure cooker, make sure is cover well, put about 1 1/2 cup of water and cook for 20 minutes, make sure to refrig. good before take it out of the pan
        Apr. 27, 2010 7:45 pm
        OK i've been cooking for 40 plus years, even owned a catering company... and I finally made Flan properly with the help of this page. THANK YOU! Any ideas for a diabetic version?
        Apr. 28, 2010 4:49 am
        Flan is quite popular in Latin American countries, but its origin is French. Even though the article starts with a comment about Latin America, they did not say that flan came from there. English is like a map when you read it correctly.
        Apr. 28, 2010 4:35 pm
        i love flan. even if you dont strain it, it still tastes good
        Apr. 28, 2010 5:32 pm
        I also want to know if you can show a video of the making of the flan?
        Apr. 29, 2010 8:19 pm
        I have made flan -- and loved it. But I have given up because the pan the sugar sets in is almost impossible to clean afterwards! Any idea how best to clean up when done???
        May 21, 2010 7:22 pm
        I hope someone can help me out there! For some reason my flan is turning out watery. Is it because I used 2% milk instead of whole milk?
        May 21, 2010 7:25 pm
        To Ray-Al, Flan was NOT originated in France, it originated in Rome!
        May 21, 2010 7:30 pm
        To StMorgan, Just let it soak in hot water and refresh the hot water until it's disolved. Hope that helps.
        Jul. 9, 2010 11:48 am
        the name "creme caramel" could be either french or spanish.I tried it first in Spain,then Mexico. The sugar,if browned in the pan you plan on baking it in is a n easy clean-up.After you turn the flan out onto the serving dish,let that pan SOAK. After all,you gotta eat that flan,so it will soak away.
        Jul. 28, 2010 4:09 pm
        First of all, who cares where it came from. We all agree that it is delicious!! As far as clean-up, even when I've turned the caramel rock hard before pouring in the flan, it is liquid by the time it cools. Sugar dissolves so just soak the pan if you have to. As far as using a box mix, I say the real recipe is not that hard. Don't be intimidated! You can do it!! : )
        Sep. 11, 2010 9:24 am
        Regardless of the origin of the dish itself, the origin of the name "creme caramel" is not Spanish. I speak Spanish. Anyway, I definitely need to try making this sometime!
        Sep. 20, 2010 10:14 am
        Hi All, Flan is so simple once you make it you'll see. 1 can condensed milk, one can evaporated milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, pinch of salt, and 5 (small or medium) eggs, mix until is all ingredients are blended. Prepare your caramel by using regular white sugar about 1 cup melted on your pan. Pour mixture through strainer to pan cover and Cook on stove top in water bath about 1 hour or in oven by baking at 350 for 1 hour. Make sure it's covered and water doesn't dry out. Refrigerate about 2 hours or more. Flip on a serving plate and voila.
        Oct. 9, 2010 8:08 pm
        the sugar that hardens in the saucepan you used to make caramel? just boil water in it, it will dissolve easily. Sophie: as long as the water from your water bath did not get in the custard, it's watery because it didn't set up properly. you may need another egg in your recipe or a longer cooking time.
        Oct. 29, 2010 2:21 pm
        Flan is simply egg custard. If you use enough egg and don't overdo the milk it will set. It does take about an hour and 15 minutes. I usually make custard pie. But today I will do a flan. I overcooked my carmel I used a light weight metal pan. I did these things out of anxiousness. I have two pies in the oven. You always have too much custard. But you should be able to cook your custard without the carmel top. Then try with the top. If it doesnt set it was mixed wrong, not enough egg to much milk. I usually do 5 to 7 eggs to a quart of milk( may a quart and a half). Add sugar to taste. Too much sugar will make it burn fast. Good luck.
        Nov. 7, 2010 2:52 pm
        I'm from Puerto Rico (where flan is a staple, just like in many other latin american countries) and I make flan very very often. I used to make the caramel in a saucepan but years ago I started to make it in the microwave. Use a pyrex measuring cup, add 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and heat (on HIGH) until it is a medium amber color. It usually takes about 7-10 minutes but it depends on your microwave oven so pay attention! Never EVER touch the caramel or try to taste it when making it. Do not let it get too dark or it will taste bitter. As far as clean-up goes, it will dissolve in water, so just let it soak for a while. It is no biggie at all.
        Feb. 21, 2011 10:30 pm
        My family and I had never heard of flan BUT they know what it is now and I'm a god for cooking it for them they said!
        Feb. 24, 2011 5:53 am
        I've been reading flan recipes... in India however, flan, which is usually called Caramel Custard is steamed not baked. So either it's put in a closed steel box and put over a small upturned plate, placed inside a large saucepan which is filled with a little water and covered for about 20 mins or longer. Or it's steamed in a preassure cooker without the whistle
        Mar. 21, 2011 7:16 pm
        I made the flan according to one of the recipe on this site. However, when I try to flip the flan on a serving plate, the caramel on the bottom is too hard and won't come out. What can I do? or what did I do wrong there?
        Apr. 21, 2011 7:28 am
        I have a great flan recipe from a friend who is from Cuba and it's her mother's recipe from Spain. In a blender: 2 whole eggs, 7 egg yolks, 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can evaporated milk, fill the evaporated milk can with 2% milk, 1 tbs vanilla and blend. Pour into baking pan that already has the caramel. To make caramel: melt 1.5 cups of sugar. Bake in water bath at 400 degrees for one hour or until your knife comes out clean. Place in refrigerator overnight. Flip onto serving dish. Comes out perfect every time and it's a hit with my friends and family.
        Jun. 28, 2011 6:46 pm
        Stacy3364 has the right recipe!!! My mom was also from Cuba and grandparents from Spain. Recipe is almost identical and the cream cheese does make a big difference! Always a hit with this family. :)
        Aug. 19, 2011 11:09 pm
        My father-in-law made the best Puerto Rican flan and I tried to learn it but found other ideas helping to improve. In a blender put 5 eggs, 2 cans evaporated milk, 1 can sweeten condensed milk, 3/4 bar of cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla. I believe I cooked for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a double boiler and let set in the hot water for an hour afterwards (like we do for cheesecake). Then chill overnight. My carmel glaze tends to stick to the pan even after softening by dipping the pan in hot water before turning it out. I'm trying the towel under the pan in the water idea tonight. Tryig it tonight. Hope it turns out great for my reunion next week! I've also used whole milk rather than evapororated and believe I like the texture too. That was a friend's recipe.
        Nov. 22, 2011 2:33 pm
        This is one of the best-loved desserts in the Philippines :)
        Dec. 22, 2011 11:45 am
        can NOT find our how to save a recipe is it expected that I pay to save?
        Feb. 24, 2012 1:02 am
        I have made about 50 different versions of the flan recipe but I am looking for a gelatine version which is very lean definitely no milk or cream is used. It used to be available in our SA shops many years ago but I cannot seem to find it. Please can someone post some gelatine versions. Thx
        Mar. 9, 2012 9:16 pm
        After reading al the recipe and comments I can't wait to try it out. I can't eat a lot of it seeing I'm diabetic. Going to try and make it with Splenda, and as caramel going to try and use the brown Splenda
        Jul. 11, 2012 12:25 pm
        I have a different way to make the flan .
        Nov. 21, 2012 10:44 am
        This different from our recipe in philippines!
        Dec. 9, 2012 9:17 pm
        What should the texture of Flan be? I've only eaten it once...and the one I just made has a texture more like scrambled eggs...did I bake it too long?
        Apr. 29, 2013 9:47 pm
        Watery Flan is due to being overcooked. Check at 20 minutes, if you can touch and it feels slightly firm and does not wet your finger turn off oven and remove. If it's still wet in center like a semicooked pancake leave 5 more minutes with stove turned off. Ten minutes max...if it's like scrambled eggs, it cooked too long, or egg beaten too much or milk was warmed too hot got too thick before pouring into mold.
        May 2, 2013 2:13 pm
        May 4, 2014 9:55 am
        Charlotte: Look for recipes for Crema Catalana. It does use milk, but it turns out beautifully with 1% milk. Without any milk at all, it can't properly be considered a flan or a crema catalana at all.
        Jul. 7, 2014 11:19 am
        During baking, the carmel rose to the top in some places, what did I do wrong
        Sep. 4, 2014 7:54 am
        FYI: In regards to where "flan" was first invented... As a traveler, I know for a fact that there is a local form of flan (using different names) in "all" countries in the world. Think of it! Milk, eggs & sweetener... What an obvious mixture! They are all good and easy to make. I believe Mcintron is best.
        Sep. 4, 2014 8:01 am
        BTW: To avoid the caramel from sticking to the pan cook it like this: 1 cup of sugar to 2 TBSP of water and a few drips of fresh lemon (or lime) juice. This avoids sugar from hardening. Cook slowly until right color.
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