Light and creamy, the French flan is an easy recipe that makes the perfect dessert. Or as an afternoon snack. It is not too sugary, but still sufficiently filling with a sweet note of vanilla. The flan is a dish you will regularly see on restaurant and brasserie menus in Paris.
No one knows how old the recipe is, with flans dating back to at least Roman times. The word flan comes from old French for “flaon” meaning flat cake.
Difference between a flan and crème caramel
When is a flan not a flan? When it is a French flan, of course. It can be a bit confusing but when most people when they hear the word flan, are actually thinking of a crème caramel.
Both are french desserts and are made with eggs, sugar, and milk. But the difference between crème caramel and flan is that a French flan has cornflour (maizena) in it and usually has a pastry pie base.
Crème Brûlée and custard are also variations of crème caramel, not of a flan. On the other hand, a Far Breton from Bretagne and the Clafoutis are types of flan with dried fruit or cherries added.
A flan also doesn’t usually have the sweet caramel syrup on it. It is heartier and less sweet than a crème caramel. If France, it is eaten not just as a dessert, but also as a light after-school snack.
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
Frequently asked Questions
What type of crust to use?
Along with cornflour in the mixture, the French flan has a pie base. In France we have 2 main types of pie crusts, pâte brisée which is shortcrust type dough, and pâte feuilletée which is more of a puff pastry. It doesn’t matter which type you use for the French flan, but the more common is the shortcrust dough type.
What to serve with it?
If you want to add some interest to your flan you can always add some vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. If you prefer fruit to chocolate, try a fruit sorbet or some berries like raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. Top off with and some whipped cream and decorate with a mint leaf.
What drinks to serve with it?
For drinks, if you are having the flan is a dessert, serve the flan with a digestif like Calvados or a Cognac.
The Calvados might be a bit much if you are having it as an afternoon snack, so try a light tea like Earl Grey instead. (Or just go with the Calvados if you are having a hard day!)
Can you freeze a flan?
I wouldn’t recommend it, as it results in a lot of water. If you do intend to make it in advance, I would recommend baking it a few days before and leaving it on the countertop.
Use a cake cover to cover the top and it should last beautifully.
- 1 pastry pie crust
- 4 eggs
- 1L (33oz) of milk
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 3/4cup of maizena (cornflour)
- 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- Heat the milk and the vanilla extract in a pan, and bring it to a boil.
- Mix the cornflour with sugar in a separate bowl.
- Beat the eggs separately and then add to the cornflour mixture.
- Reduce the heat of the stove and add the cornflour mixture to the boiling milk and mix everything well.
- Cook the mixture on the stove at a low temperature for 1-2 minutes.
- Start preheating the oven at 200C (400F)
- Unroll the pastry pie crust on a rectangular or round dish.
- Lightly butter the pie crust and lightly prick the bottom.
- Roll out the pie crust in the baking dish and add the cornflour and milk mixture on top.
- Cook in the oven at 200C (400F) for around 40 minutes until the top look firm and lightly browned.
- Serve at room temperature or from the fridge.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 244Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 189mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 18gProtein: 9g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French dessert recipes that are easy to prepare.
Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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