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Flan with Dulce de Leche – a family-favourite cold dessert

Flan served with dulce de leche is a simple, naturally gluten-free dessert that is a family-favourite in most Spanish, South American & Mexican households. My Argentine grandmother often served up a huge portion with a dollop of dulce de leche next to it, which is a very traditional addition in Spain too.

Flan is well-received on a hot day. The cold custard is not super sweet, but the caramel sauce adds that extra sweetness to balance the flavours. Without the dulce de leche, flan is quite a light dessert, in fact refreshing.

Can I add some extra flavours to the flan?

If you want to be a bit more adventurous with the flavours, try adding 2 teaspoons of orange, coffee or chocolate liqueur. The last two liqueurs will darken the appearance of the flan, plus taste richer.

Key Ingredients needed
Eggs

Try to use the freshest, organic eggs in this recipe, especially as the eggs are the main ingredient.

Milk & Cream

Using organic will give a superior flavour, but using normal milk and cream is fine. If you are lactose-intolerant, I know from experience that lactose-free milk and cream work well in this recipe.

Vanilla

Choosing between vanilla extract, pods or just seeds is up to you and its availability. If you really like the flavour of vanilla, perhaps mix it up. The pods can be cut in half, so don’t waste a whole vanilla pod as I know they are expensive.

Dulce de Leche

If you are lucky to find a jar of Argentine Dulce de Leche, like Havanna, San Ignacio or La Serenisima, in your home country, I would buy this in a shot as every spoonful is magical. In Europe, I have bought two very good versions by Bonne Maman labelled as “Caramel” and Chimbote, both made in France.

Alternatively, if you are game to make your own, it’s not that complicated. All you need is a tin of condensed milk, a slow cooker or a pot and 9 hours! It will convert from condensed milk to a rewarding and equally delicious dulce de leche for the fraction of the cost. Here is the link to my step-by-step recipe for homemade dulce de leche.

homemade dulce de leche finished cooking in a the condensed tim
How long does the flan take to set?

Flan is simple, but like most cold desserts, it needs time to set 100%. Plan ahead and make it the day before or in the morning to serve later on the same day. Most cookbooks suggest chilling it for 8 hours. I tend to agree unless you are serving it directly from the ramekin pot, then reduce the time to 3 hours.

How to remove the flan

When you are ready to serve the flan, simply use the same water bath tray used during cooking and fill it with hot water to about 2 cm high. Place the flan tray in the water and leave it there for 2 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the flan, tap the base and sides.

Place a serving plate over the top and flip it over onto it. The flan should slide out easily. Drizzle the caramel over the flan. If any hard caramel is leftover in the pan and you need more to drizzle, place the flan tray back into the hot water to melt it down again.

a side view of flan with serving of fresh fruit in the centre

Flan with Dulce de Leche

by Sandra, Fun Without Gluten
Flan is a simple and naturally gluten-free dessert, popular in most Spanish, South American and Mexican homes. This refreshing cold custard is baked in a water bath together with a bottom layer of thick caramel sauce.
Serve with a dollop of Dulce de Leche and some fresh fruit.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Chilling Time 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican, South American, Spanish
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Flan ring pan, or
  • Several small ceramic ramekins pots
  • Deep baking or roasting tray to act as a water bath

Ingredients
  

FLAN CARAMEL SAUCE

  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 100 ml water

FLAN CUSTARD

  • 4 eggs, organic if possible
  • 4 egg yolks, organic if possible
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean pod seeds
  • 250 ml milk
  • 250 ml cream

TO SERVE

Instructions
 

FLAN CARAMEL SAUCE

  • In a small pot, thoroughly mix the water and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the liquid is clear.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and allow it to cook down without stirring. The steam will that builds up will wash any crystals off the sides of the pot.
    Covering the pot with a lid and allowing it to cook down without stirring.
  • Swirl the pot every now when checking, making sure the caramel does not burn.
    Swirling the pot every now when checking, making sure the caramel does not burn.
  • As soon as the caramel starts to brown, remove the pot as it will continue to darken even off the heat. The whole process should take between 6 to 8 minutes.
    removing the pot as it will continue to darken even off the heat. 
  • Pour the caramel over the base of a flan ring pan or several ramekin pots.
    Pouring the caramel over the base of a flan ring pan or several ramekin pots.

FLAN CUSTARD

  • Add the milk and cream into a measuring jug and heat up in the microwave on HIGH for 1.5 minutes or heat gently in a pot over the stove. Do not boil the milk and cream.
  • Add the vanilla extract, pod or seeds to the milk and cream. Stand for 5 minutes. This will allow the vanilla to infuse.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla, using a balloon whisk, until well combined and frothy.
  • Strain the milk mixture to remove any vanilla seeds or milk skin.
    Strain the milk mixture to remove any vanilla seeds or milk skin
  • Pour the strained warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time.
    Pouring the strained warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time.
  • Pour the flan mixture into the flan ring pan or into several ramekin pots
    Pouring the flan mixture into the flan ring pan.
  • Place the pan into a larger deep baking dish with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pan or ramekin pots.
    Placing the pan into a larger deep baking dish with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pan or ramekin pots.
  • Bake on the middle shelf for 35 minutes. Wiggle the pan slightly to see if the flan has set. Allow 25 to 30 minutes if using ramekin pots.
    Baking on the middle shelf for 35 minutes. Wiggle the pan slightly to see if the flan has set.
  • Remove the ring pan from the oven together with the water bath pan below. Allow the flan to cool down in the water bath for 15 minutes before removing the ring pan to chill for at least 8 hours. This gradual method ensures that the flan does not get “shocked” and crack from the temperature extremes.
    Removing the ring pan from the oven together with the water bath pan below.
  • If using ramekin pots, the setting time will take 3 hours.

SERVING

  • Remove the flan from the fridge and sit the flan in some warm water for 2 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the flan, tap the base and sides.
    Running a knife around the edge of the flan, tap the base and sides to release the flan after chilling
  • Place a serving plate over the top and flip it over onto it. Serve with fresh strawberries and dulce de leche.
    Serving the flan with fresh strawberries and dulce de leche.

Notes

  • Keeps for 3 days chilled
  • Unsuitable to freeze
Keyword dulce de leche, gluten-free cold dessert, gluten-free dessert, gluten-free flan
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