Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking cakes for dessert. Among my favorites are: rich chocolate almost flourless cake served with ice-cream or fresh whipped cream, the Al Di La pear, brown butter and chocolate cake, and apple cakes. All of these are delicious for the winter, but as the weather grows warmer, I find them to be a little heavy, and often fairly time-consuming. In my search for a simple dessert for the summer, I asked my grandmother for advice. She gave me a recipe for œufs au lait (eggs with milk), which is very similar to a flan. We cooked it together one Saturday morning and I was astonished by the perfect result. The recipe is as simple as can be, the ingredients cheap and often ones I already have in the fridge (milk and eggs), and the flan itself is not too sweet, with a creamy and firm texture, and a hint of vanilla. This is an ideal dessert for a warm day, or the perfect snack for a mid-afternoon nibble.
My grandmother grew up in the countryside in France, during the Second World War. There was almost no food, aside from food tickets for rice, reserved for families with many children. My great grandparents, who were fortunate to live on a farm, always had milk, eggs and butter, which they shared with other families. My great grandmother was an extremely resourceful woman, always making do with simple and cheap ingredients, turning them easily into delectable meals. One of the common sweet dishes was this flan, her signature dessert, made with milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla. This was the dessert my great-grandmother cooked the most often,
I like to eat the flan by itself, with a spoon, but I believe it would pair nicely with fresh berries, a small dollop of cream or a scoop of ice cream. Please feel free to play around with accompaniments!
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Boil milk with sugar and vanilla, turn off heat
3. Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy and add the milk, in a thin stream, and continue to beat. Don’t pour the milk in one go – pour it slowly, in a steady stream, while beating the mix without stopping.
4. Prepare a bain marie. You can do this with two pans, one smaller than the other. Fill the bottom of the big pan with water. Pour the flan mix into the smaller pan, and place the smaller pan into the big pan with the water. Don’t put too much water, otherwise the water will overflow when you place the smaller pan in the bigger pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Make sure the flan doesn’t boil as the cream will decompose otherwise. Remove from oven and serve cold. You can refrigerate the flan for 2 to 3 hours before serving.