Aside from over-the-top telenovelas, Filipinos and Mexicans share the love of flan, that sweet, smooth caramel custard goodness.
Filipinos call it leche flan, which is typically richer and denser than its Mexican counterpart. When I think of leche flan I think of Christmas. I think of holidays and birthdays. My mom makes leche flan only on select special occasions. But scorching hot summers come to mind as well. A big bowl of halo halo topped with ube and leche flan is perfect on a hot summer day.
Leche flan is traditionally made using a llanera, an oval tin pan that is filled with a mixture of eggs and milk and steamed. Over the past weekend, I was in a frantic hunt for llaneras in the city. Manila Oriental Market doesn’t carry them. Sur La Table in the Ferry Building doesn’t carry them either, which was surprising. If I were in Manila, I knew exactly were to get these elusive tin pans, I told myself. But I wasn’t and so I opted to use my beautiful ramekins instead, the ones that aren’t fluted. I actually loved how a 6-ounce ramekin makes an individual serving of flan. This recipe makes around 6 to 8 servings.
My mom’s recipe uses a dozen egg yolks. Everyone does flan differently. Using only yolks gives a denser and richer flan similar to tocino del cielo, another classic dessert. Adding whites makes the flan lighter. My mom uses both evaporated and condensed milk but whole milk can be used as well. Candied lime peels are a wonderful garnish for leche flan. In fact, lime zest is sometimes added to the custard mixture to give it that pleasant citrus aroma.
Leche Flan Recipe, makes six servings
For the Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
For the Custard
12 egg yolks
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Candied Lime Peels
1 to 2 limes
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Making the Caramel
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, mix sugar and water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil using medium to high heat until the color of the mixture becomes golden brown. Carefully pour the hot caramel into the ramekins and swirl it around until it completely covers the bottom of the mold. Set aside to cool.
Making the Custard
In a large bowl, beat the yolks. Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract until well blended. Using a fine strainer or cheesecloth, strain the egg-milk mixture to remove any egg solids. Straining the mixture is key to making a really smooth custard. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan. Add hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes until the flan is firm. Let the ramekins cool and then let them chill in the refrigerator.
Making Candied Lime Peels
The best way to remove the peels from limes and other citrus fruits is to use a peeler. Carefully remove any thick white pith from the lime peel using a paring knife.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a bowl of ice-water bath. Blanch the lime peels for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lime peels to the ice-water bath to cool. Repeat the process another time.
In a small saucepan, mix sugar and water, heat over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Drain the lime peels and add them to the saucepan. Stir the lime peels while cooking until they become translucent, around ten minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lime peels to a wire rack set over parchment paper to drain and let them dry overnight. The next day toss the strips of candied peel with granulated sugar in a mixing bowl. Separate any strips that stick together. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Serving Leche Flan
Run a knife or spatula around the flan. Turn the ramekin upside down and carefully pat the flan down on to a serving plate. Garnish with candied lime peels.