Flans are creamy, soft, and melt in the mouth as you eat them… what’s not to love? Today, we honour one of the oldest desserts in the world by bringing you its different iterations around the globe. From classic traditional flans to more creative contemporary ones, you are sure to find a flan to titillate your taste buds!
Flan has a travel history that could put even the most well-traveled of us to shame… Did you know that the dessert’s origins go back to the Roman Empire? The creation of the flan is actually quite by coincidence: when they domesticated chickens, the Romans found themselves with too many eggs! Not knowing what to do with them, they turned to the Greeks, and learned egg-based recipes from them. Flan was one of those… and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
As a matter of fact, the dessert gets its name from the French word “flaon”, which itself comes from the Latin “flado”, meaning a flat cake. Before its fall, the Roman Empire brought flan to European countries. In the 1500s, Spanish settlers then brought the dessert to Mexico during the Spanish conquest and occupation. Flan continues to be a beloved Latin American delicacy today.
Originally, flans were savory dishes that cooks served with meat or fish… Fortunately, the Romans soon experimented with a sweet version flavored with honey. This led to the popular dessert as we know it. Yes, the basic ingredients and process for making sweet flan remain pretty much the same as they were centuries ago!
Today, most flans consist of a custard base with eggs, sugar, milk, and sometimes cream cheese. Depending on the variety, the milk can be cow’s, goat’s, evaporated, or condensed milk for extra sweetness. Often, bakers add bourbon vanilla, which particularly brings out the flavors in any flan. French and British flan varieties can also feature shortcrust dough and bear the name of custard tart, or flan Parisien in French.
Because flan is a world-traveled dessert on top of being one of the oldest ones, there are many varieties and flavors. From crème caramel in France to lucuma flan in Peru… There really is a flan for each palate. Let’s take a look at only some of the examples!
Despite custard being traditionally known as a pastry filling, the love for flans shows that if the world agrees on one thing… it sure is that custard can be a dessert on its own! With so many delicious flavors, we have yet to discuss caramel-orange flan, Brazilian coconut flan, pumpkin flan… and the decadent chocolate espresso flan! After this virtual world tour, which of these creamy desserts is your flan-vorite? Whether you choose to have a classic custard pie, a flan napolitano, or a mango flan, we got you! Look here for flans near you.