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The 3 secrets of Parisian flan

The 3 secrets of Parisian flan
A flan Parisien, or boulanger, is a simple yet delicious cake. A cream, a mixture of milk, eggs and sugar, is poured into a raw pastry base and baked in the oven until the pastry and cream are cooked.

This is the simplest version of the recipe, probably the original one, but nowadays the cream has changed, and the flan has become a slightly more sophisticated cake, but still delicious, if well made.

Well, here are 3 important points to help you make a good flan.
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Last modified on: July 21th 2023

Keywords for this post:FlanPastryBakeryParisianDoughApplianceMilkCreamEgg
The 3 secrets of Parisian flan
I'll admit it, I'm passionate about flan - I love making it, eating it and talking about it :-).
And to try and get to the bottom of the flan recipe, we're going to look at 3 aspects of it: the dough, the cream to be poured into it (or apparatus), and the cooking.

1) The pastry

pâte du flan

The presence of a dough is what differentiates a french custard tart from a pastry flan, which has no dough at all. There are no hard and fast rules: you can use any of the following doughs: pâte brisée, sablée, feuilletée or even croissant dough.
Traditionally, shortcrust pastry is used, but nowadays we don't hesitate to use sweetcrust pastry (sweeter), puff pastry (crispier) or croissant pastry (crunchier and more delicious).
A flan needs to be thick, much thicker than a tart, and you leave it in the fridge while you work on the mixture.
If you choose puff pastry or croissant dough, I recommend sprinkling a little sugar (about 1 tablespoon) in the bottom of the mold before the dough, as it will caramelize during baking and further enhance the crispness of the pastry.

2) The mixture

appareil à flan

The milk, egg and sugar mixture of the beginning now gives way to more gourmet appliances: eggs, milk, cream and sugar, and above all cornflour, which thickens the flan to a creamy texture.
Proceed in much the same way as for a crème pâtissière: once all the ingredients have been mixed, put on a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly to reduce baking time and avoid soaking the pastry base with a too-liquid mixture.
To finish, add a little butter and smooth with a mixer. You can find the recipe for the flan maker here.

The basic recipe is a classic vanilla flavor, but you can adapt the recipe to your taste: chocolate, pistachio, lemon, apple, sesame... among others.

3) Baking

pré-cuisson pâte 1pré-cuisson pâte 2

Once you've darkened the mold and prepared the pastry, you might think that all you have to do is pour the pastry into the mold and bake it. This is the case, but there's a trick I strongly recommend: pre-bake the pastry base on its own, with a protective layer inside (lentils, marbles, etc.) to keep the base even, for 15-20 minutes.
A flan should always be placed low in the oven, so that the underside cooks more thoroughly.
If you've pre-cooked both the pastry and the appliance, the cooking time for the two together will be shorter, so keep an eye on the color of the pastry to know, and don't be overly influenced by the shaky texture of the appliance, which is already cooked and will solidify as it cools.

The flan and its aberrations

As you can see, it's not a very complicated recipe, but what a result! And above all, what a difference in taste and texture, compared with those poor-quality industrial flans that are unfortunately to be found just about everywhere.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to find frozen custards in poor bakeries and other shops, or custards prepared from "mix", i.e. a powder to which milk, or worse, water, is added, to obtain a mediocre mixture which will fill an equally mediocre dough, sometimes made from palm oil...
Of course, these flans are not expensive, which is always suspect, but what a pity for the taste and quality of the products.

To a lesser extent this time, some bakers tend to neglect, or botch up a little, their flan apparatus for economic reasons, and therefore rather top their pastry base with custard than with an apparatus. It's understandable (economically speaking), but it's a shame, because a good bakery should have a good flan.

In a nutshell

To make a good flan, you need :
  • The pastry of your choice (no obligation)
  • A round mold with high sides (mine is 20 cm long and 4.5 cm high)
  • A small amount of powdered sugar
  • Pre-bake the pastry on its own
  • Pre-bake apparatus
  • Bake at the bottom of the oven

It's up to you!

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