Sunday, February 12, 2012

Not Flan

I love the discovery process that goes on whenever people from different countries talk about food. When a Brazilian friend invited us to his family's house for Christmas, I asked him what the typical Brazilian Christmas meal is like. He told me that they always have rabanada and that they often have pudim.

          -What is rabanada
          -It's like, slices of bread that you put with milk and eggs and cinnamon and then fry...
          -Oh, French toast? 
          -What's that? 
          -Slices of bread that you soak in milk and eggs and cinnamon and then fry...
          -What's pudim
          -It's like, a cold dessert with milk and eggs that's creamy and has like a caramel syrup...
          -Like flan? 
          -What's flan? (this is where Google comes in handy) 
          -Yeah, it looks like the same thing.

Come Christmas, I dutifully tried (as if it really took a lot of convincing) both the rabanada and the pudim, and though they are both similar to what I imagined, they aren't quite the same either. Rabanada is a good deal richer than what I normally think of as French toast (it's dessert, after all, not breakfast), and the pudim has much less egg-y taste than flan normally does (I should say that I love flan just as it is, it's not that I'm looking for an improvement). My roommate's grandmother, who is a powerhouse of a cook, told me how to make pudim as she served me a large portion, and as far as I'm concerned it's definitely not flan. What it is is plenty delicious, and I think probably a bit more problem-free to make than flan tends to be. The large amount of sweetened condensed milk both gives it a really creamy consistency and I would imagine helps stabilize the mixture as well. The recipe is dead easy to remember as cooks normally use the cans of sweetened condensed milk, which are typically 395 ml., to measure out the milk. You can halve the recipe and make it in a loaf pan, as we did, and it will come out perfectly nicely, though Brazilians will tell you it's "weird" to make pudim in something other than what in the U.S. we call...a flan ring.

Two notes here: first, you could certainly add vanilla or any other flavoring (almond, cinnamon, cardamom etc.) here, and I would certainly be tempted to normally; I frankly don't think it needs it, but that's not to say that you could produce some wonderful variations. Second, when you make the caramel, you can either make a light amber one or you can make a slightly...overcooked (burnt) Just a little bit-- when it starts to reach a pretty dark amber color. I actually really like both-- with the darker caramel, you get a bit of a dark bitter flavor that contrasts really nicely with the sweet custard. Both ways are delicious.


     adapted from my friend Nico's grandmother-- although this seems to be a pretty common recipe here 
6 eggs
26.7 oz. (3 1/3 c. or 790 ml.) sweetened condensed milk
26.7 oz (3 1/3 c. or 790 ml.) whole milk
1 1/2 c. white sugar
6 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Have a flan ring ready (or a loaf pan if halving the recipe). Make a caramel with the sugar: in a sauce pan over low heat, melt the sugar with the water. Use a pastry brush to brush the sides down with water to prevent crystallization (this was never an issue for me until I moved to Brazil, I have no idea why. Now I know: crystallization in caramel sucks, and if it happens you will have to start over unless you want big chunks of sugar floating around in your caramel). Let it boil until amber colored (see note above.) Immediately pour into the flan ring, rotating it to cover the inside walls (be careful as the ring will get hot very quickly).

In a blender, pulse the eggs, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk together until well combined. (Alternately, whisk the eggs and milks together and then pass the mixture through a sieve.) Pour the mixture into the caramel-lined flan ring, then carefully transfer the ring to a deep-sided roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and then add water (a teapot is useful for this) 1 inch deep to the roasting pan (you can add boiling water instead of cold water, and the custard will cook faster), being careful not to get water into the flan ring (and being careful not to burn yourself). Bake for 45 min.-1 hour, until a knife stuck into the pudim 1 in. from the sides comes out clean. (The center will still be jiggly.) Let chill in the fridge several hours to set, covered, preferably overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the perifery of the pan. Flip the pudim out onto a serving dish, letting the caramel run out over the top. (Or, if it's not for company, you can always leave it in the pan and cut slices as you go.) Any leftovers will keep for several days, covered, in the fridge.

     receta adaptada de la abuela de mi amigo Nico-- aunque parece ser una receta bastante común aquí     
6 huevos
790 ml. (aquí son dos latas) de leche condensada 
790 ml. de leche entera (puedes usar las latas de leche condensada para medir)
1 1/2 tazas de azúcar blanca
6 cucharadas de agua

Precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Ten un molde de flan listo (o un molde de pan si queres hacer la mitad de la receta). Prepara un caramelo con el azúcar: en una olla pequeña sobre fuego bajo, calienta el azúcar y el agua para hacer un jarabe. Deja el jarabe a hervir hasta que tenga un color entre oro y cafe (más claro y el postre queda más dulce, más oscurito y el postre queda con un sabor más amarguito pero en mi opinion, agradable), ten cuidado porque el jarabe va a empezar a oscurecer muy rápido y no quieres que se queme. Inmediatamente echa el jarabe al molde, rotandolo para que el jarabe se unta los lados interiores (ten cuidado que el molde se va a calentar muy rápido por el jarabe).
En una licuadora, procesa los huevos, leche condensada y leche entera hasta que estén bien combinados. (Si no tenes licuadora, bate los huevos y las leches juntos y después pasa la mezcla por un colador.) Echa la mezcla al molde que ya tiene el caramelo y, con cuidado, lleva el molde a una bandeja onda. Vas a hornear el molde con baño maria, así que coloca la bandeja en el horno y echale 3 cm. de agua (puedes echarle agua herviendo en vez de agua fria, así se hornea más rápido), teniendo cuidado de no salpicar agua al dentro del molde (y de no quemarte). Hornea durante 45 minutos-1 hora, hasta que un cuchillo metido al pudim 2 cm. de un lado salga limpio (el centro todavía estaría flojo). Sacalo del horno y colocalo en la nevera, tapado, a enfriar un par de horas o por la noche.    
Para servir, pasa un cuchillo por el periferio del molde. Voltea el pudim a una bandeja para servir, dejando que el caramelo chorree encima. (O, si no es para una visita, lo puedes dejar en el molde e ir cortando tajadas.) Se puede guardar sobras por un par de días, tapadas, en la nevera. 


  1. You (by 'you', I mean you Americans) call it "Flan"? It looks a lot like something that we (us English) call Crème Caramel (presumably the French call it that too). I LOVE it! My granny used to make Crème Caramel and I was so happy to see it when I got to Brazil.

    When I hear "Flan" I think of quiche. When I told my Brazilian family that we (British) use "pudding" to mean *any* dessert they looked confused. Language and food eh? Constant sources of confusion! :)

  2. That´s funny, in college I worked at a French restaurant in the states that served creme caramel and whenever anyone would ask what is was we would say "it's like flan". Flan is considered Mexican food but it's so pervasive at this point that everyone knows what it is, even if it's not something most people make at home.
    The British pudding thing really threw me for a loop the first couple of times I heard it-- also because don't you guys have some things specifically called pudding that aren't dessert? Confusing all around :)