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Versatile and internationally adapted flat cake (flan)

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Whether exotic and spicy or a sweet sensation is needed to complete your meal, flan offers an ideal solution in that it is an open cake ready for the filling of your choice.

Typically round and flat, flan (pronounced flahn) as a pastry or custard tart is known by several names throughout the culinary world. Earlier forms of the English word "flan" are "flaune" and "flawn," which come from French "flaon."

The origin of the custard is French where custard flans are widely known as crème caramel. French cooks include a layer of sugar to burn or carmelize on the bottom of flan in ramekins and then invert the ramekins so that the burnt sugar is on top, as in crème brûlée (burnt creme).

Most Latin American countries do not include the layer of burnt sugar. They have their regular flan and also a dulce de leche. Unlike the French crème caramel, the dulce de leche (caramel custard) is first baked as a creamy custard, inverted, and then dressed with a milk caramel sauce. Known worldwide as leche flan, it is found prominently in the Philippines as their most celebratory dessert.

Flan pan molds often have fluted rims and come in different diameters, usually 7 to 8 inches. They are ideal for the flat, delicate base which can hold pudding, pie filling, fresh fruit, or even substantial entrees such as chicken a la king.

Following is a simple and basic recipe that works well using the flan mold:

  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 C cake flour
  • 2 t baking powder, aluminum free
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t lemon extract
  • 1/2 C milk
  1. Beat together butter, sugar, and yolks until fluffy.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add lemon extract and milk.
  3. Beat until blended.
  4. Pour into greased, floured flan pan mold.
  5. Bake 350º for about 25 minutes.
  6. Let cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan onto serving plate.
  7. Add filling.

photo: leche flan, link back

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