Flan is considered to be an hispanic dish but can be found in a variety of styles all over the world. In fact, the first to make a similar such dish were the Romans and it was often savory, not sweet (it is said they borrowed some baking concepts from the Greeks to create the dish). It was the Spaniards who first added the sugary, caramel sauce (supposedly influenced by the Moors). In the 1500’s, Spanish conquistadores introduced the treat when they arrived in Mexico. After that, the popularity of the dish spread and many other flavors like chocolate and coffee were added to the dish, including coconut.
The French make a similar dessert called Creme Caramel (apparently in Italy it is known as Creama Caramella). As far as I can see, the biggest difference between the two is the amount of eggs and egg yolks used. Also some, but not all, flan recipes contain sweetened condensed milk, which I have not found in Creme Caramel recipes. When I was in French cooking school, we made Creme Caramel and baked it small ramekins in a hot water bath, known as a Bain Marie (defined as a container holding hot water into which a pan is placed for slow cooking). Flan is baked the same way. This method slows the baking process, creates gentle and uniform heating, and reduces the amount of bubbles that can develop in the custard. A Bain Marie looks like this:
Today we will focus on Flan and add the delicate and fabulous flavor of coconut. This recipe has relatively few ingredients and most are below:
Also, instead of several small ramekins, I used one larger pan (both work equally well but baking time will vary). You may note that I used fat free Evaporated Milk. The original recipe called for regular Evaporated Milk; however, I found that the fat free worked perfectly well and cuts down, just a tad, on calories.