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Leche Flan
Roots

This popular Filipino dessert came about in the Philippines during the period of Spanish colonisation which is when the country became an important gateway to the Chinese ports and the Moluccas ("Spice Islands") for the Spanish Empire. During this time local churches were built using egg whites as mortar and so, many historians have a theory that the yolks leftover were put to good use in desserts such as Leche Flan. This delicious dessert is traditionally oval-shaped from the llanera tin moulds they're baked in and is an absolute must on the feasting table.

Techniques

Bain-marie - you will learn to master the popular filipino leche flan, making a custard flavoured with pandan extract which you'll cook in a bain-marie (water bath).

Latik - Discover the technique behind making burnt coconut curds. Latik can be used across a variety of sweet dishes and also yields coconut oil.

Wet Caramels - Learn to make a wet caramel step by step with me. We are looking to achieve the perfect dark colour and even setting.

Ingredients
Serving Size
6 slices

Caramel

  • 5g (1/4 cup) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Leche Flan

  • 1/2 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon pandan extract

Latik

  • 400ml coconut milk
Equipment
Utensils

3x large mixing bowls, 1x sieve, 1x fine sieve, 1x bowl, 1x spatula, 1x heavy-based pan, 1x loaf tin, 1x large deep tray, 1x foil, 1x high sided pan, 1x wooden spoon, 1x kitchen paper, 1x small ramakin, 1x cranked pallet knife

Pre-Preparation

No pre-lesson preparation needed.

Cooking Method
Step 1

For the leche flan custard, we need to mix the condensed milk, evaporated milk and the eggs. What we really want here is a mixture that is really smooth and fully incorporated. The first thing to do is sort the eggs out. We need 5 egg yolks and 1 egg white. Separate the eggs into a bowl and mix (you can put aside the 4 leftover egg whites you don't need).

Now we want to add the condensed and evaporated milk to the eggs and mix gently. Into a clean second bowl, pour our mixture through a sieve scraping every drop from the bowl. If any lumps remain in our sieve, use your spatular to push them through. Now, we're going to sieve the mixture through a second sieve but one with a finer mesh (scrape the bowl well). At this point add the pandan extract and gently mix again.

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/356°F.

Step 2

Have a quick clean up of things we don't need anymore. Now let's make our caramel. Into a heavy pan add the water and sugar on a medium heat and leave to caramelise. We want to leave this alone to do its thing, whilst keeping an eye to watch how it's colouring. Once a golden colour has been achieved, pour the hot caramel into the loaf tin, carefully bang the tin against your work top to remove any of the air bubbles in the mixture and then leave it to set. While it's cooling down we can get our other bits ready.

Cut some foil so it covers the tin. Then, into your deep tray that will help us create our bain-marie, pour some water (enough to cover half your loaf tin). Now wait for the caramel to set and cool right down.

Step 3

Over the top of the caramel, pour the custard through the sieve one final time. Then as before, bang the dish against your work top to remove any air that has got trapped in the mix and to also settle the mixture. At this point we can wrap up our loaf tin with the foil and then place it into the bain-marie. Turn the oven down to 175°C/347°F and leave to cook for 45 - 50 minutes. Clean down once more.

Step 4

Now for the latik. Into a clean sauce pan, pour the coconut milk into the pot and get it on to a medium heat. Leave this for roughly 20 minutes. You will see the milk begin to split or separate into some solids and oil. Once you hear the oil beginning to fry the curds, continue to cook for a few minutes until it begins to really brown. Stir to ensure everything colours evenly. Once browned, remove from the pan and cool on a piece of kitchen paper to remove excess oil.

Step 5

After 40 - 45 minutes our leche flan should be set and can be removed from the oven carefully. Give the tin a jiggle, you're looking for the custard to move as one, still have a wobble to it and be firm to the touch. Leave to cool, while we work again on the latik. Once the latik has cooled, press and crumble the solids in your paper towel into a fine crumble.

Then, once you are able to touch the loaf tin, we are able to turn it out. With a small pallet knife or butter knife carefully remove the sides away from the tin. Once all sides have been released, place a large tray over your loaf tin and in one swift motion flip the tin, now we should be able to pull the tin away to reveal our leche flan.

Step 6

By now, we should have our latik ready and the leche flan flipped. Cut your leche flan into even portions using a pallet knife (or fish slice if you have one) and transfer to your plate. To finish it off, scatter your latik over the middle of you leché flan and serve!

Mark Corbyn
's Notes

Step 1

You don't necessarily need to sieve the custard in the recipe (if you are short on time perhaps) but I would really recommend taking the time to sieve the custard as it helps remove any lumps and air and gives us a really smooth leche flan.

Separate the eggs in whatever way you find easiest.

Don't throw away your leftover egg whites as you can use them in other dishes, such as omelettes, fried rices or meringues.

When mixing our leche flan, we want to mix fairly gently. We are looking for a smooth un-aerated custard so mixing vigorously will incorporate too much air.

Condensed Milk
Many different cultures have cooked milk down to a thick mixture to aid shelf life and portability. Condensed milk is made by cooking away roughly 60% of the milk's water content and then sugar is added to a high concentration (about 55%). Microbes are unable to grow at this osmotic pressure.

Evaporated Milk
The process of making evaporated milk is slightly more complex. The milk is heated in a partial vacuum which reduces the pressure and the boiling point of the liquid (43°C - 63°C/109°F - 145°F) until it has lost about half its water. This results in a creamy liquid that is then homogenised and canned.

Pandan or Screwpine
Pandan is an aromatic leaf that is related to the lily family. Used in much of Asia and India to flavour rice dishes and sweet/desserts. Its main flavour compound is the same as the ones found in basmati and jasmine rices (as well as popcorn) which is why it has a nutty aroma.

Soon as you add the pandan extract you should begin to smell its beautiful fragrance, you will also notice it potentially adding a slight green tint to your custard mixture. Don't worry when cooking it in the oven this disappears.

Step 2

Always keep an eye on the caramel but allow it to cook without touching it.

Caramelisation is the process of browning sugar in water until the water boils off and the sugar colours. The addition of water helps heat the mixture on high heat to start and stop us burning the sugar, it also prolongs the cooking process and allows us to achieve the desired colour.

When pouring the caramel into the tin, carefully bang against your work top to remove any of the air bubbles in the mixture.

We need our caramel to cool enough so when we pour over the custard mixture we don't cook or scramble the eggs, this is a good time to make a cup of tea, coffee or salabat (a ginger tea from the Philippines).

Step 3

Bain Marie
The bain-marie will allow us to cook the custard more delicately and control the temperature of our oven that bit more.

The foil will stop the exposed side of the leche flan from colouring and drying out, so we maintain that smooth texture.

Step 4

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is typically made by finely grinding the flesh of the nut into a paste and then combining with the milk (and sometimes additional water). It is then strained to remove any unwanted particles and left to stand for a couple of hours. In this time the milk will separate. One layer will be the fat rich cream and the other a thin "skim" layer.

Coconut oil
The way we make coconut oil is pretty similar to the process of our Latik. Once the oil has split away from the solids, drain this into a clean container and store in the fridge. Nearly 90% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated.

Until the coconut milk splits you can leave it to cook (roughly a few minutes). Once it has split you need to keep your eye on it.

Once fully split, you will also hear an audible change in the pan as the solids begin to fry.

The darker the latik the more bitter in flavour it will be.

Step 5

After 40 minutes our leche flan should have begun to set and we should be starting to regularly check how set it is.

Your flan when jiggled should move as one and should feel firm to the touch.

Once cool, our latik should have a slight snap to it - the latik at this point has a long shelf life and could keep for up to 2 months in the fridge.

It's widely accepted to have jagged edges on your leche flan in the Philippines, but if you did want to have smooth edges I'd recommend heating your pallet knife in some hot water before releasing the sides (heat multiple times if needed).

Feel free to leave the flan to cool slightly and firm up before serving (this will make portioning easier).

Get Creative

Garnish - A leche flan is the perfect dish to embellish as you wish. Try adding a mixture of toasted nuts such as peanuts and cashews. I often serve this with a sorbet in my supper clubs.

Dairy free & vegan - This recipe can be made dairy free and vegan if you wish. Swap the dairy milks with coconut condensed milk & evaporated milk and try using egg alternatives.

Flavouring - This flan has been known to have a variety of different flavourings. From vanilla pods to banana. Get creative and put your own spin on it.

Allergens
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Always check the packaging as allergens may vary depending on the supplier.
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Mark Corbyn
Chef & founder of Adobros, Mark loves the bold and unapologetic flavours of Filipino cuisine - the mix of salty, funky and sour flavours.