Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kitchen Casualties: The Flan's the Plan

I love leche flan. Though I’m not exactly sure what it’s called in English (probably custard cake or something), I would love to taste other versions of this delicious pastry.

When I was still in Cagayan de Oro, I had a semi-kitchen all to myself and without anyone to look over my shoulder and laugh at what I was doing I took the opportunity to experiment on one of my favorite foods of all time.

Here are the ingredients:

1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
4 eggs

That’s basically it. Proportion your condensed and evaporated milk accordingly: if your condensed is 300ml then evaporated milk should be the next size (I forgot how many ml it is). You can put as many as eight eggs in the flan, I think.

Anyway, with all these ingredients, the first thing to be done would be to pour all of them in a container for mixing.

Here I used rice cooker for a mixing bowl because I don’t have the kitchen utensils needed for such a spontaneous task. And I lived in a boarding house with an indefinite duration of residency. So this is going back to basic kitchen wares and making good use of all of them.

Anyway, after everything’s in the bowl, you just mix it. Now I know mixing can be faster with that electric mixer thing but remember that we don’t want air to get into our concoction and make it fluffy and full of holes. We want the mixture to be smooth and perfect (whatever perfect entails). Mixing is actually fun, especially if you keep in mind that you want to kill or dissolve the egg whites completely. Some people prefer to remove the egg whites and I guess that will make the flan smoother and fuller but as I said, this is an experiment. So on and on the spoon or fork goes, round and round the mixing bowl. You can imagine the number of things you can think of doing while mixing the ingredients. You can sing, although it’s not a very good idea if you don’t plan on serving saliva encrusted flans. You can also think about that weird friend of yours and how funny they’ve been when they discovered that you were actually planning to cook something other than hotdog. Also, you can think of writing down everything that you’ve been thinking about while mixing, which is basically what I’m doing. This would have been a very different post if I had found the discipline to write down my thoughts right after I finished my project but, you know, I’m a procrastinator.

So enough of that and let’s look at what we have done so far.

Okay, so as we all can see, there are splotches of weird looking blobs in the mixture. Those are probably egg whites and some yolks. We’ll need to keep stirring until they eventually dissolve or disappear or whichever comes first. Some people sift the mixture to get rid of the whites. They cause holes in the flan and holes mean the flan isn’t smooth and people are going to be disappointed. Oh well.

So, now that we have them in containers we can actually start the cooking process. I used small microwavable platters to store the mixture since I'm going to use the rice cooker as a steamer later on. Like I said, low on the kitchen paraphernalia equals reusable items. Your mixture should be smooth but if it isn't...oh well. 

Also, the proportion in the ingredients list will make up 4 servings of leche flan if you use the same containers I have. 

Tada! On to the steamer! Now, the trick here is to fill up the rice cooker with water until it's half full. That will give you the steam you need until it's fully cooked. If you put a smaller amount of water, you're going to have problems because water evaporates and you'll end up burning the rice cooker. Sniff. Anyway, there's no need to preheat as we commonly do with ovens. Just place the mixture on the steamer and close the lid.

I transferred the leche flan mix into another bowl because I didn't realize the microwavable containers could actually survive being steamed. Hehe. Oh well.

This usually takes about 30 minutes so you can read a book, draw some rabbits or even watch a movie while you wait. Just don't forget to check it once in a while. I could have actually written down this post while waiting but I was too caught up listening to myself think that I forgot to write all my thoughts down. 

Ting! 30 minutes is up! There will be bubbles because of the heat and I don't exactly know if that's normal but I'm just giving you my observation. You can use a toothpick to check if the flan's inner parts are cooked. There shouldn't be anything sticking to the toothpick when you puncture the flan. I used floss, you know, the ones that have toothpicks on the other end. This is just being innovative, even if I do say so myself.

Now, the next picture can look very graphic. For a first try, the product doesn't seem to agree with my methods. There were holes and craters and well, see for yourself.

I covered up the large piece missing with the container picture. Hehe. Doesn't that look scrumptuous? Yum!

Some parts got stuck in the bowl because I didn't have a spatula or even a bread knife to scrape it cleanly off. So the parts in the bowl got eaten by moi and the flan I got to transfer in a tupperware for critic purposes effectively concealed the missing parts.

Here's what my critics had to say:

"Yummy. Good job." - I'm not sure if this is exactly what she meant but she was smiling and hmm she ate it all up in the end.
"Smooth and..." - Really, I don't think this is what my dad said but it's close enough.
"Too sweet." - Hmm, well sweetness is subjective.
"You can live off of this." - I think I said that to myself because this recipe adds to my short list of food I can actually cook.

So anyway, leche flan is a delicious custard cake that I soooo love. I've also tried cooking it in an oven and I'll be posting that in about a month so everyone can forget about this first flan.

I hope the recipe helped anyone. It's really pretty easy and you can search online for other ways to cook it. I just did what I did so I could get rid of the eggs living in my refrigerator. Happy experimenting!

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