So silky smooth and not overly sweet. This Banh Flan recipe checks all the boxes for my perfect Egg Pudding.
Bánh Flan is the Vietnamese version of French Crème Caramel. Adapted by the Vietnamese during the French colonization of the19th century, Banh Flan has become a beloved dessert in Vietnam.
If you're not familiar with Banh Flan, it's a delicate, silky smooth, eggy custard that gets most of its sweetness from a caramel sauce. The texture is similar to that of silken tofu. The custard is rich without being heavy and the caramel is sweet with just a touch of bitterness. It's a harmonious pairing few can resist.
Depending on which region you're in, there are many names to this egg pudding dessert. In France where it originated, it's called Creme Caramel. In Vietnam and in my home, my parents called it Banh Flan or just Flan. While my wife's Taiwanese household call it Egg Pudding or Pudding (布丁). And in Japanese, it's called Purin. To me, it doesn’t matter what you call it, just give me at least two of them!
Making this Banh Flan recipe can be broken up into two parts: 1) making the caramel; and, 2) making the custard. Always make the caramel first so that it has time to harden before the custard is poured over it.
How To Make the Caramel for Flan
1) In a small saucepan, pour the sugar in the center and the water along the edge. Do not stir. Stirring the sugar will cause it to crystalize and clump up. Allow the sugar to slowly soak up the water.
2) Turn the heat to medium and allow the sugar to dissolve completely. Do not be tempted to stir the sugar. If it's caramelizing unevenly, gently swirl the saucepan to mix the sugar.
3) Once the sugar has melted, it'll begin to bubble and caramelize. Turn off the heat once it reaches a dark amber color.
4) The caramel will continue to darken in the hot saucepan. Immediately transfer the caramel into the ramekins.
How to Make the Custard for Flan
5) In a separate saucepan, heat the milk, sugar and salt over medium heat until it starts to steam. In a mixing bowl, gently mix the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. To prevent bubbles in the custard, avoid whipping air into the eggs.
6) Temper the eggs by slowly incorporating the hot milk with the eggs. While continuously stirring, spoon in a ladle of milk at a time. This will prevent the hot milk from cooking the eggs.
7) Once half of the milk has been mixed in, pour in the rest. Stir gently but mix thoroughly.
8) Strain the custard mixture through a sieve and pop any remaining bubbles at the surface. This will result in a smooth and silky Egg Pudding.
9) Pour the custard into the ramekins. Create a water bath (bain-marie) for gentle cooking. Place a folded towel in a deep baking dish and set the ramekins on top, evenly spaced apart. The baking dish should be nearly the height of the ramekins.
10) Transfer the baking dish to the center rack of your oven, preheated to 325°F. Fill the baking dish with hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Be very careful not to get water in the custard.
11) To protect the delicate custard, set a sheet of aluminum foil over the baking dish but don't wrap it. This will keep the surface from browning and drying out while also allowing steam to escape. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your ramekins. Insert a sharp knife into the center of the custard. If it comes out clean, it's finished.
12) Transfer the Banh Flan to a wire rack. For a longer shelf life, allow it to cool completely before refrigerating. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least overnight and up to 5 days. To serve, run a sharp knife along the edge of the ramekin to loosen the Banh Flan then invert it onto a plate. Give it a small shake until it falls.
Tips and Tricks for a Foolproof Banh Flan
- To avoid burning the sugar when making the caramel, turn off the heat when the caramel reaches a golden honey color. The residual heat will continue to darken the caramel. Transfer into ramekins once it reaches a dark amber color.
- Be careful not to scald the milk. We want to heat the milk just until it starts to steam (about 160°F) but before it boils.
- You may find hardened caramel still remaining at the bottom of the ramekin. The longer the Banh Flan sits in the fridge, the more the caramel will melt. By the second night, all the caramel should be melted.
Baking Dishes for Banh Flan
In this recipe, I used five 10 ounce ramekins, which I think provides the perfect height for Egg Pudding. It might seem too deep at first, but once it's inverted onto a plate, it settles and becomes the perfect thickness.
Banh Flan can be baked in various dishes. I prefer ceramic ramekins but if you don't have them, small drinking glasses or mason jars will work. Pyrex glass storage containers are also a good option. If you prefer one large Banh Flan to cut into slices to share, a metal cake pan will work. Although, keep in mind that the cook time will be longer for one large, single Egg Pudding (about 1 hour). As long as the baking dish is oven safe and at least 2" deep, anything is fair game.
This recipe yields 5 cups of custard so it's a good idea to measure out the volume of your baking dishes prior to filling. Just remember that there will be about ¼" of caramel at the bottom.
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3 egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Making the Caramel
- In a small stainless steel saucepan, add the sugar and pour water around the edge of the pot. Do not stir.
- Melt the sugar over medium heat and allow the sugar to caramelize. It's very important that you do not stir. If it's caramelizing unevenly, gently swirl the saucepan to mix the sugar.
- Once the caramel reaches a dark amber color remove from the heat and immediately divide into the ramekins. Work quickly as the caramel will continue to darken in the hot saucepan.
Making the Custard
- In a separate saucepan, heat the milk, sugar and salt over medium heat until it starts to steam, but not boiling (about 160°F). Stir occasionally.
- In a mixing bowl, gently mix the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla together. Be careful not to beat air into the eggs.
- Temper the eggs by slowly incorporating the hot milk into the egg mixture, one ladle at a time. Once half the milk has been combined, pour in the rest and stir gently.
- By now, the caramel should've hardened. If it hasn't, put the ramekins in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
- Strain the custard through a sieve and pour the custard into the ramekins.
- Create a water bath by putting the ramekins, evenly spaced apart, in a deep baking dish, lined with a folded towel.
- Put the baking dish on the center rack of the preheated oven. Pour hot water into the baking dish until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Be careful not to get water in the custard.
- Loosely cover by setting a sheet of foil over the baking dish. We want to protect the surface of the custard but allow steam to escape.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the ramekins. Insert a sharp knife into the center of the custard. It's finished if it comes out clean.
- Transfer the Bahn Flan to a wire rack and allow it to cool to room temperature. Then chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the Banh Flan. Invert the ramekin onto a dessert plate and give it a gentle shake until the Flan falls.