Soraya de Diego is a Panameña who makes an incredibly delicious flan. When she brings one to a party in the Azuero or in Panamá City she is all but mobbed. Naturally I asked her to show me how to make it. Here’s the recipe from this fantastic cooking instructor.
(That means Flan Made at Home.)
1 can Leche Ideal (brand name)
1 can Leche Condensada La Lechera (brand name)
Canela (cinnamon) to taste (about a teaspoon)
1 cup white sugar
Queso Crema ( also optional; use an entire container, if a cheesecake flavor is desired)
You will also need
- A liquadora (blender)
- A knife or a can opener
- A small dish into which to break the eggs
- A pan in which to prepare the caramel
- A shallow Pyrex dish in which to bake the flan
- A pan slightly larger than the Pyrex dish to provide a water bath (Baño Maria) for the flan in the Pyrex dish
- A platter, also slightly larger than the Pyrex dish
Soraya took the knife, pierced the lid of the Leche Ideal and sawed it open. I was already in awe. How many times have I played helpless because I had no can opener at hand? She then poured the entire can of milk into the blender.
She repeated the process for the Leche Condensada, making sure to scrape every drop from the can into the blender.
Taking the small dish, she broke an egg into it, then poured the egg into the blender before cracking another into the dish. She explained to me she was checking the eggs to make sure they were good before putting them into the blender with the other ingredients. It’s easy to see how that could prevent problems.
She flicked the blender into life and let it whir while she put the cup of white sugar into the second pan, an old one that no longer had handles. This was to make the caramelo, the caramel for the topping. Once I understood what she was doing, I appreciated why she used an old pan. Flipping the blender switch off with one hand, she turned the flame on high beneath the sugar pan with the other, and waited a bit. The sugar began to look slightly lumpy. With her hand protected by a serious-looking pot holder, she grabbed the edge of the pan and shook sugar around, then replaced it on the flame. “Never,” she emphasized, “NEVER stir the sugar. Only shake it. And shake it often. If you stir it, the caramel will become very hard and chewy and your flan will be spoiled.”
While the caramel heated, she prepared the Baño Maria, putting water in the bath pan, and making sure the flan dish was clean and dry. A quick turn to the stove, another shake for the melting sugar. A flip on and then off for the contents of the blender. Then she lit the oven. I asked her what temperature to use. She shrugged and replied, “El maximo.” I take that to mean about 450 degrees F.
Back to the sugar. As more of it melted, she shook it more frequently, ensuring that all the sugar was in contact with the hottest part so all would melt. Now we basically stood guard over it as it heated. She emphasized once again that it should NEVER be stirred. Suddenly, without warning, the sugar burst into a full boil and began foaming up the sides of the pan. She quickly removed it from the heat and poured it into the bottom of the waiting Pyrex dish.
With the skill of long practice, she tilted her wrist back and forth until the caramel had spread evenly across the bottom of the Pyrex dish. Immediately thereafter she put the caramel pan in the sink and ran water into it. Since she had basically just made hard candy, I could see the point of this. Left to harden, the caramelized sugar would be next to impossible to get out of the pot.
Now she briefly flicked the blender into life once again to ensure her mix had not settled. Then, careful not to disturb the caramel, she poured the egg and milk mixture over it. The Pyrex dish was gently settled into position in its water bath and the now complete Baño Maria unit slid into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes.
“It is ready when you put a knife into it and it comes out clean,” she told me. “Not before. So you must test it, not time it.”
When it was ready, she let it cool for about half an hour. Then she took a straight blade and ran it around the edge between the flan and the Pyrex to loosen it. “When you can shake the pan and the flan moves, it is ready to come out.”
Soraya has a special platter she uses for flan presentation. Her Pyrex baking dish is long and oval. The platter is long and rectangular, but about an inch and a half larger in each direction. She placed the platter over the top of the Pyrex and, holding them firmly together with both hands, flipped the unit.
The flan slid smoothly onto the platter and she removed the Pyrex baking dish. It was a beautiful thing. I could hardly wait to eat it.
“You see,” was her final comment, “how simple it is. Flan is a very simple dish to make.”
I believe that might fall into the “easy for you” category. But it is indeed easy to eat. Sooooo delicious.