When I was younger, I always looked forward to my mother’s leche flan at every family gathering and special event. Since I’m so impatient, I always ate it as soon as it was out of the pan. This classic filipino dessert is super simple, takes almost no time to prepare, and is the ideal solution for left over egg yolks. Even though I’m the one who makes it these days, it still makes me nostalgic. This sweet treat — also known as “crème caramel” — has velvety smooth custard with a layer of soft caramel, and can be eaten alone, or even used as a topping for halo-halo (pronounced hAH-low hAH-low), which is another well-loved dessert in the Philippines.
One 8-inch (20cm) cake pan serves 8-10 people
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
50mL (1/4 cup) water
9 egg yolks
1 can (10 oz/300 mL) sweetened, condensed milk
1 can (12 oz/354 mL) evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure lemon extract, or the zest of 1 lemon
- Preheat your oven to 350F (180C).
- Put your sugar and water in a small saucepan. Over high heat, bring the sugar to a boil and watch carefully. Do not stir. Let the sugar caramelize until it becomes deep amber. Carefully pour the caramel into an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan. Set aside to cool and set at room temperature.
- In a medium mixing bowl, gently whisk together egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, being careful not to incorporate air. It should be smooth and runny, with very few air bubbles.
- Strain the yolk mixture through a sieve into another bowl, then transfer to the cake pan when the caramel is set.
- Make a bain marie (water bath) to bake the custard in, by placing the cake pan in the centre of a high-sided roasting pan. Slowly pour just boiled water into the roasting pan, to reach halfway up the side of the cake pan.
- Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until the top jiggles slightly when gently shaken and custard is just set.
- Transfer the cake pan to a cooling rack, set aside to cool for about an hour.
- When cooled, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the custard. Grip a platter to the top of the cake pan and quickly invert so that the caramel is on top and cascades down the sides of the custard.
- Refrigerate and serve cold (or eat it as soon as it’s plated, like I do). Enjoy!