Vietnamese Flan (Bánh Flan)

I call it Vietnamese Flan to distinguish with the French/ European (?) one that is made with some heavy cream, and the Brazilian one that is made with lots of condensed milk. I know some Vietnamese use a little bit of condensed milk as well, but I’m all for reducing the number of ingredients to as few as possible. I made flan a couple times before and always failed – the texture wasn’t smooth, the surface (or bottom after flipping) was dried up, too sweet, too jiggly… A few weeks ago I visited a friend in Boston and had some killer good flan his mom made.  It was so good that I had to ask for the recipe! She used the steaming method, but I don’t have a big enough pot for steaming so I bake in a water bath, and it seems to work well.

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INGREDIENTS: For one 6-cup rectangular Pyrex container & one 2-cup round Pyrex container.

For the custard:
750ml whole milk
6 eggs
6 tbsp granulated sugar
0.5 tsp vanilla extract

For the caramel:

  • 13 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3.5 tbsp water.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Make the caramel: Use a heavy-bottom stainless steel ( or any pot that you can watch the color change) pot, put 13 tbsp granulated sugar + 3tbsp water on medium heat. Don’t stir, just gently shake the pot once in a while. Mixture will turn clear soon and then the sugar is beginning to color. It will go from golden to a mahogany brown to dark brown. Once it gets to the desired level (1), quickly take off the stove and pour the 0.5 tbsp water in, shake around a bit to stop the browning process. Pour into the greased ramekins/ whatever container you use.
  2. Set the oven at 310F. Heat the milk  on medium, until it’s slightly warm (like the temperature you shower at…). Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, whisk gently. Whisk in 5tbps granulated sugar to mix. When the milk is slightly warm, pour in the mixing bowl and stir gently with the whisk to mix thoroughly. Stir in vanilla extract. Strain through a sieve.
  3. Boil some water (I used around 4-5 cups). Make sure the layer of caramel is completely hardened. Use a large enough cake pan, put a layer of towel to cover the bottom. Place the ramekins/ containers in the cake pan. Pour the milk & egg mixture gently into the containers. Use a spoon to scoop/ break all the bubbles on the surface.
  4. When the oven is ready, put the whole cake pan on a middle rack, then pour the boiling water into the cake pan to create the water bath. Pour until maybe a bit over 1/2 the height of the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes (2), then check by inserting a toothpick: no liquid should ooze up, the toothpick should comes up slightly moist but not soaking wet. The surface should still be slightly jiggling.
  5. Take out of the oven, let cool for about 20-30 mins, then put in the refrigerator for a few hours or over night. Best to flip it: run a toothpick along the edge to release, flip it to a DEEP dish. Enjoy!

NOTES:

(1) I like my caramel a little darker, like it’s almost burnt, hence the dark color. You can adjust to your taste. Note that when it’s just golden brown, it’s very sweet though so you might have to adjust the amount of caramel.
(2) If you use smaller containers/ ramekins, start checking at 25 minutes.

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