• While a French crème caramel uses whole eggs, the Pudim do Abade de Priscos only uses the yolks. (Bibo Wine Bar )Source: Bibo Wine Bar
Crème caramel, with its wobbly custard centre and syrupy sauce, is just one of many forms of flan
Renata Gortan

20 Sep 2019 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2019 - 10:36 AM

When we think of flan, most of us think of the French version. Crème caramel, with its wobbly custard centre and syrupy sauce is the most recognisable type of this kind of dessert.

But flan isn't native to France.

The French are fanatics for only using milk, not cream, in their flan. But other cultures have their own take. The secret ingredient in the Portuguese version is lardo, the Filipino variety opts for two kinds of milk and the original Danish flan was more savoury than sweet.

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Pudim do Abade de Priscos

The key ingredient in this Portuguese flan is lard says Jose Silva, head chef and co-owner of Bibo Wine Bar and Sweet Belem Cake Boutique in Sydney's Double Bay and Petersham.

"Some people are put off by it, but you can't really taste it. It just gives it body, adds a little extra fat to it for mouthfeel," he says.

"I grew up eating it, my aunties used to make that for me all the time."

While a French crème caramel uses whole eggs, this only uses yolks.

"It's just egg yolks, sugar and lardo," Silva says.

The key ingredient in this Portuguese flan is lard

The dessert is named after a priest named Father Manuel Joaquim Machado Rebelo, the Abbot of Prisco, who came up with the recipe, and there's a reason that so many Portuguese desserts are based on egg yolks.

"The nuns in the convent used the egg whites to starch their habits, so there were a lot of yolks left over and they had to find a use for them," Silva says.

"A lot of traditional Portuguese desserts don't have dairy, they get their creaminess from the egg yolks."

"They came up with all these different sweets and it's why we have so many custard-based desserts. A lot of traditional Portuguese desserts don't have dairy, they get their creaminess from the egg yolks.

"That's how Portuguese tarts started too. It’s the same story, they found out the puff pastry recipe from French nuns and the very first Portuguese tarts were egg-yolk based."

If you want to make it at home, Silva says it's safe to use a little less sugar.

"Basically, they only ate desserts at special occasions, so people just indulged."

"The Portuguese love their sugar, a lot of traditional recipes have a lot of sugar but I've cut down on it in mine," he says.

"Basically, they only ate desserts at special occasions, so people just indulged."

Leche flan 

What started out as a Christmas Eve treat has become one of the most popular dessert in the Philippines according to Nico Madrangca, chef at Rey's Place in Darlinghurst, NSW.

"At every feast, birthday, wedding and fiesta leche flan is the number one dessert," he says.  

"It's a historical dessert of the Philippines, ever since the Spanish ancestors it's been there and it is in the hearts of the Filipino people."

The key ingredients are egg yolk, sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Desiccated coconut sprinkled on top is also an option.

Leche Flan from Rey's Place.

"The milks make it different and it's really soft compared to a French flan," Madrangca says.

"It's like a jelly, it has a really wobbly texture to it. It's like a jelly flan and it's super sweet."

While it may not be traditional, Madrangca adds lemon juice to his version. 

"I got the idea from my aunt, she makes the best one. The lemon juice doesn't make it sour, it helps balance it so it's not overly sweet," he says.

"Otherwise, you're just eating sugar and it can be too much."

Leche flan makes the specials dessert menu at Rey's Place about once a month.

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"It's easy to make, you can do it in 45 minutes. You just mix together yolks and whole eggs in the milks and add a bit of lemon and then just put it in the steamer," he says.

"You can make it a lot of ways. You can add more egg yolk to make it very filling, more whole eggs with whites makes it lighter and less condensed milk makes it lighter.  

"Some people want it well done, they want the tough flan so it's not too wobbly. But I think the perfect one is like jelly and has a bitter burn on top so it's not too sweet."


According to chef Bente Grysbaek, who runs Off The Grid catering across Victoria, this is a "very, very old-school dessert in Denmark". 

"People started making it as early as the 1700s," she says. 

"It's really just egg, cream and a tiny bit of sugar. Some people only use cream, some use just yolks and some use whole eggs.

"It's sort of like the Danish version of a creme brulee, it's the same flavours." 

Karamellbudding came about because of the ingredients that were available. 

"There are so many dairy farms in Denmark, so you always had cream or a nearby farm," Ms Grysbaek says.

"Some of the versions you do these days have more sugar in them, but the original recipe was just a little bit. About 50 grams of sugar for 500ml of cream. The sugar was really just to cut that savoury part out, maybe because back then sugar was not easy to come by. And plus, you have the sweetness from the caramel."

Melbourne-based Grysbaek says she grew up eating karamellbudding. 

"It’s just what you would do if you had people coming over."

"It’s just what you would do if you had people coming over," she says. 

"My grandparents used to serve it when it was a bit of an occasion and what they used to do sometimes was leave out the caramel. They would do the flan and serve it with a berry coulis, that was the upscale stuff.

"Sometimes they would do it in a bundt ring shape so looks like a big doughnut when it had to be more fancy. It was called karamelrand, the rand is the mould. Karamelbudding is exactly the same, but in a plain round mould that you then flip out and serve in the middle of the table."

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Photographs by Bibo Wine Bar, Rey's Place.

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