My most memorable leche flan experience was at a fiesta. The custard was made with duck eggs and coconut milk, according to the father of my husband’s officemate. It was something I always dreamed of doing at home but the few times that we were able to buy fresh duck eggs, my coconut leche flan did not turn out too well. I probably wouldn’t have made the attempt again anytime soon had not Kai e-mailed me about Lasang Pinoy 24: Loco over coco. It was a pleasant coincidence too that just a week before the e-mail hit my inbox, I did make coconut custard based on a recipe from a Vietnamese cookbook.
My first attempt though was not very successful. The custard had far too many bubbles and I couldn’t really make out the flavor of the coconut cream. I tried again today, tweaking the recipe by using more coconut cream than cow’s milk and radically changing everything I ever knew about leche flan and cooking custards in a baine marie. The result was amazing.
Almost every recipe I have come across where the use of a baine marie was included always specified that hot (some say boiling) water should be poured into the pan. Not one ever mentioned that during baking, the water should not be allowed to reach boiling point. I had to learn the hard way. The water should be hot but not boiling.
Secondly, the inclusion of egg whites (don’t most leche flan recipes specify egg yolks only?) does not mean that the custard will not be smooth and creamy.
That said, let me go to the recipe for this wonderful dessert.
2 whole eggs (chicken or duck)
3/4 c. of coconut cream (the first extraction or kakang gata)
1/4 c. of fresh milk (the ready-to-drink kind)
4 heaping tablespoonfuls of white sugar
a few drops of pandan essence
a few drops of lemon essence
a tiny pinch of salt
For the caramel glaze:
3 tbsps. of brown sugar
2 tbsps. of water
In the pan (mold or ramekin) in which you intend to cook the custard, place the brown sugar and water. Melt the sugar and water (on the stove top or in the oven) over medium-low heat, without stirring, until the sugar is melted. Stir to blend, tilting the pan to coat the bottom evenly.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar.
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut cream and milk without bringing to a boil. Pour about half a cup of the milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir until blended. Pour in the rest of the cream mixture, pandan and lemon essences, and stir well. Pour the custard into the prepared pan. Use a fine strainer to get rid of large bubbles. Don’t worry if you still see tiny bubbles in the mixture. They will go away as the custard bakes.
Place the pan in a larger pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan until it reaches up to about half the height of the smaller pan. Place in a preheated 160oC oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Cool the custard — chill, if there is time. Run a knife around the custard to loosen it, place a plate upside down over the pan then invert.