(Note from El Equipo: Cynthia Carris Alonso is the author of A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine (Apollo Publishers, 2018), and a book of photography, Passage to Cuba, an Up-Close Look at the World’s Most Colorful Culture (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015).)
Since it’s still not easy to travel to Cuba due to U.S. policies and COVID-19 health risks and travel restrictions, it’s my pleasure to share some of the taste of Cuba with you here!
This flan recipe was shared with me by my friends at the family-run Finca Agroecologica El Paraíso, an organic farm and paladar run by Wilfredo García Correa and his daughters.
This flan recipe was shared with me by my friends at the family-run Finca Agroecologica El Paraíso, an organic farm and paladar run by Wilfredo García Correa and his daughters, Rachel and Rosalba, in the lush Viñales Valley in western Cuba. As its name suggests, this place is a little piece of paradise with fertile, nutrient- rich soil and spectacular landscape views of the valley’s famous mogotes—unique geomorphological formations.
Wilfredo’s arrangement with the government gives him permission to work this land by donating 10 percent of his crops to public beneficiaries such as maternity homes, hospitals, schools, and senior centers, while the other 90 percent of the farmed products are used by the paladar restaurant business on the farm, which is currently closed due to Covid-19.
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Beyond its impressive herb and vegetable gardens, the farm also has chickens, which laid the eggs used in this flan recipe. Perhaps as a response to the fact that (liquid) milk is not readily available to most adult households in Cuba, this recipe is unique in that it calls for powdered milk. If you’re looking for a more “Americanized” version of the recipe, see the note following the recipe.
At Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso’s restaurant, diners sit outdoors on the farmhouse porch enjoying the view. Meals are served family-style with an array of fresh food directly from the farm. All meals end with a traditional sweet and creamy caramel custard flan dessert which you can now try to cook in your own kitchens!
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup powdered milk
- 1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have ready a 9-inch loaf pan or 8-inch pie pan and a 10-inch or larger casserole dish that the loaf or pie pan will fit inside, to bake the flan in a baño María (water bath).
Heat 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water in a frying pan over medium heat. This will become the caramel. Do not stir this at any point; stirring will ruin the recipe. As the sugar heats, tilt the pan, sometimes aggressively, to keep the sugar melting. The caramel will become tan colored, then light amber, then dark amber. The heat can be turned to medium-high to cause the caramel to more quickly become dark amber. when the temperature reaches 350°F, remove the pan from the heat and pour the caramel into the prepared loaf or pie pan, coating the bottom completely. Set aside.
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Mix the powdered milk with 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the remaining 1 cup sugar. Heat until warm. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and then gradually add the milk mixture to it. The milk mixture should be warm, but not hot. Stir to combine well, then pour the egg-milk mixture into the loaf or pie pan, covering the caramel syrup, which should now be hardened.
Plan the pan in the middle of the larger casserole dish and place the dish on a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Slowly pour boiling hot water into the casserole dish to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf or pie pan so that the pan is sitting in the middle of a bath, not touching the sides of the larger pan. Bake up to 1 hour for the loaf pan or for 45 minutes for the pie pan, until the middle is no longer jiggly and the internal temperature is 175°F.
Remove the smaller pan from the water bath and let cool at room temperature on a wire rack for 2 hours. After 2 hours, invert the pan onto a serving platter. The caramel will run, so use a serving plate with a rim. Refrigerate for up to two days until ready to serve.
This recipe requires the powdered milk to offset the use of only one egg. We remain loyal to the chef’s vision and style and have faithfully reproduced the original recipe. If you wish to use liquid milk instead of powdered milk, this is not the recipe for you. However, the restaurant has since changed their recipe and they now make a more Americanized version, using 1 can (400g) each of condensed milk and evaporated milk, and 2 eggs. They cook the custard on the stove and then bake it in a pressure cooker.
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