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Recipe Development: Leche Flan

Mark takes you through the key ingredients to make filipino leche flan, a dessert that travelled from Spain to different Spanish colonies around the world including the Philippines. The filipino version varies from the Spanish 'milk flan' as there is an added richness and indulgence with the addition of condensed and evaporated milk which came about when the Americans introduced canned dairy goods into the country which played to the filipino sweet tooth.

Development Stages

Key Components:

Caramel - Mark uses a combination of sugar and water to make a wet caramel, which is generally more straight forward to make than dry caramels as it's less likely to burn. Dry caramel just uses sugar whereas with a wet caramel, you also add water which creates a caramel with a stronger flavour since the water needs more time to evaporate giving the caramelisation process more time to take place.

Condensed & evaporated milks - these two canned milks have similar production techniques but condensed milk has sugar added to it as part of the process which makes it thicker and sweeter and it also lasts longer as sugar helps with preservation. You can make the leche flan completely from condensed milk but cutting in some the evaporated milk makes it a little less indulgent and helps to lighten the dish overall.

Egg yolks - egg whites can be a useful ingredient for building mortar as a binding ingredient as it makes it more durable. When the Spanish colonists came to all these different countries and converted them to catholicism, they went on a big building spree of churches and monasteries which required a lot of mortar and egg white. So with the leftover yolks people were able to make desserts like leche flan.

Latik - tagalog term for coconut curds, when you boil coconut milk it'll at some point separate out into the solids (the curds) and oil but if you allow the coconut cuds to cook in that oil it becomes brown and crispy and that's latik. Take it out and dry it becomes crumbly and crunchy. Adds texture to the top of the flan and philippinises the dish more


  1. 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).
  2. Latik - Discover the technique behind making burnt coconut curds. Latik can be used across a variety of sweet dishes and also yields coconut oil.
  3. 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.

Make It Your Own:

  1. Textural crunch - the latik adds extra texture to this dessert but you can play around with different toppings for example, you can add caramelised roasted peanuts and cashews or if you can find them, pili nuts native to the Philippines. You can also have some fun with sugar craft to create different decorations to go on top for extra bite - try sugar spun spirals, cages or shards.
  2. Balancing the sweetness - one way of balancing this rich, sweet dessert is to serve it with a tart ingredient alongside, like a green mango sorbet, a fruit salad, some calamansi or a topping of coffee granules instead of the latik. One way Mark does this is with the caramel, by taking it to a higher temperature to create a darker, more bitter caramel.
  3. Pandan  - Mark uses pandan to add a sweet, floral aromatic flavour to his leche flan. You can make your own pandan extract by chopping the pandan leaves into small pieces, blending with water, straining and then leaving to settle overnight in a jar. It'll separate out and then what you're then left with is pandan water on top and the more concentrated extract at the bottom which you can get to by pouring off the watery layer. Other flavours you can use include vanilla extract, banana flavouring or if you can get ahold of ube, it has a mellow flavour that's often described as vanilla- or coconut-like and it would also give your leche flan a distinctive colour.
  4. Vegan/dairy free - if you want to make your leche flan suitable for vegans, you can use egg substitutes and instead of the condensed and evaporated milks you can use condensed and evaporated coconut milk which brings a slight nutty creaminess to the dish.
  5. Shape - also don't be afraid to play around with the shape of your dessert. Traditionally, leche flan is made in a llanera (oval shaped dish) but you can use a loaf tin, ramekin or whatever you have on hand.
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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.