Vanilla flan is one of the most beloved desserts in Latin America. It’s super easy to make and only requires simple ingredients. The result is a decadent, breathtaking dessert, and you’ll always crave one more slice.
Flan is a custardy dessert, similar to créme caramel. It’s typically served cool. It has a silky texture, a dairy flavor, and the perfect sweetness. It is topped with a layer of caramel which is part of its distinctive flavor. I’ve perfected my vanilla flan recipe over the years, and today I want to share it with you, paired with a homemade dulce de leche sauce. The combination is beyond perfect.
How do you make vanilla flan with dulce de leche sauce?
These are the steps to follow to make this recipe:
- Make the caramel and cover the inside of the pan with it.
- Mix all the flan ingredients and strain them into the pan with caramel.
- Bake in a bain-marie and let cool.
- Mix the dulce de leche sauce, let it cool, and serve.
How to avoid caramel from burning?
One of the best tips I can give you about caramel is to keep the temperature under control. Cooking the caramel at a low temperature is ideal so that the caramel doesn’t get too hot too fast. I also like to remove the caramel from the heat or turn off the burner when the caramel is slightly golden. The caramel will continue to cook with the remaining heat as the seconds go by, and it will get an intense caramel color on its own. Otherwise, if you turn off the burner when it is already dark, it will continue to cook and end up burning. Burned caramel can give a bitter and unpleasant taste to the flan.
Temperature and bain-marie: why are they important for a flan?
The bain-marie helps the flan’s baking temperature to maintain low throughout cooking time. At the same time, it helps create a humid environment so it doesn’t dry out in the oven. Eggs in the mixture have to cook to get structure to the flan. But also, we don’t want them to overcook and curdle. To avoid that, low oven temperature and a water bath are essential. As a result, we’ll get a creamy and soft flan instead of a lumpy and curdled one.
Do I need to heat the pan before unmolding the flan?
Technically you shouldn’t have to heat the base of the pan to unmold your flan. The reason being the caramel becomes more liquid as the hours go by, which makes the flan detach from the pan on its own. The edges should also detach from the pan on its own, especially if we previously poured caramel on them. If that doesn’t happen, you can run a fine knife or spatula around the edges to ensure easy unmolding without breakage. After you flip the pan, I recommend giving a firm shake in the air, holding the dish and pan. You will hear the flan fall onto the plate in one fell swoop.
Other pairings for vanilla flan
The dulce de leche sauce is the ideal complement to vanilla flan, as it brings a more elaborate flavor and a different consistency to this simple dessert. If you are looking for another combination, here are some options:
- Dulce de leche, a spoonful straight from the jar
- Chantilly or whipped cream
- Liquid caramel: I make it by adding a splash of hot water to caramel while it’s still hot and then combine.
- Salted caramel: it’s not very common in Latin America, but it’s a great combination!
How to store vanilla flan?
Store the flan in the refrigerator well covered for up to a week. It is better to serve it cold. Keep the dulce de leche sauce in the fridge for up to 7 days, as well.
Mix the flan with an immersion blender
If you have a hand blender at home, you can use it! The original flan recipe is to mix the ingredients with a whisk and then strain it. Some people like mixing the flan ingredients with a food processor or an immersion blender. That’s very convenient since if you blend your flan, it won’t be necessary to run it through a sieve. I don’t recommend the use of a regular blender, since we risk incorporating too much air into the mixture.
Be careful when handling hot caramel
It is crucial that once the caramel is ready, you use oven gloves to work with it to avoid burns on the skin. Caramel can reach temperatures above 200°C. Therefore you must be extremely careful with it. When covering the inside of the pan with caramel, hold it with gloves since the metallic pan can transfer heat to your hands.
Cool down before unmolding
The flan is a fragile dessert before cooling. I recommend cooling down the flan completely to avoid breakage and ensure smooth unmolding.
Vanilla flan with dulce de leche sauce
- 7-inch pan
- 150 g Sugar
- 80 ml Water
- 10 Eggs
- 350 g Sugar
- 30 g Vanilla extract
- 600 ml Whole milk
Dulce de leche sauce:
- 150 g Dulce de leche
- 30 ml Milk
- For the caramel, place the water and sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the syrup starts boiling, then turn the heat down. Wait until a very light caramel forms and turn off the stove. The caramel will turn darker after a few seconds. Pour the caramel and immediately spread over the base and edges of the pan. Use oven gloves to avoid burning yourself.
- For the flan, mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla with a hand whisk. Add the milk and finish mixing until all the ingredients are combined.
- Strain the egg mixture straight into the pan with a fine mesh sieve.
- Cover the pan tightly with tin foil. Set the pan onto a deep baking dish. Once in the oven fill out the baking dish with hot water.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 160ºC for 50 min-1 hour. The flan will be ready when it jiggles in the center while shaking the pan, but it shouldn’t be liquid. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before unmolding.
- For the dulce de leche sauce, heat the dulce de leche with the milk for 40-45 seconds in the microwave or on a bain-marie. Mix well with a whisk and let cool before serving.
- Serve with the dulce de leche sauce and/or whipped cream.