- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 250g cream cheese, softened
- 5 eggs
- 440g can sweetened condensed milk
- 375g can evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
- In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, heat sugar, stirring, until melted and golden. Pour into a round 25cm baking dish, tilting to coat the bottom and sides with caramel. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Add condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla, beating until smooth. Pour into caramel-coated dish. Line a roasting pan with a damp tea towel. Place baking dish on tea towel, inside roasting pan, and place roasting pan on oven rack. Fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
- Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until centre of flan is just set. Cool for 1 hour on a wire rack, then chill in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. To unmould, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a rimmed serving platter.
The history of flans dates back all the way to the Ancient Romans. During Roman times, domesticated chickens were kept for laying eggs for the first time. The Romans, with eggs in surplus, developed new recipes, one of which turned out to be a custard concoction known as flan. The Romans invented many dishes that we might find fascinating, such as eel flan. They also had a very nice sweet flan that was flavored with honey.
Both sweet and savory flans, such as almonds, cheese, curd, spinach, fish, were very popular in Europe during the Middle Age. The recipe for flan survived the demise of the Roman Empire and spread to countries such as Spain, England and France, and the recipe adapted to the different cultures.
In Spain it became a sweet custard generally made with caramelized sugar. The Moors introduced citrus and almonds, which are commonly found to flavor flan. England, with its love for pastry crusts, developed a different kind of flan. This one makes use of a pastry shell with an open top filled with custard and often mixed with nuts or fruit.
Eventually, flans made their way to the New World and took on the taste and flavor that we know today.