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International Flan Exchange
Flan is an elegant dessert that can be deceptively simple to prepare. Edith and I made flan last Friday evening when the Paraguayan Ambassador to the United States was in town. Ambassador Spalding was here for the annual meeting of the Kansas Paraguay Partners. This organization has promoted a variety of exchanges between Paraguay and Kansas for 40 years. This year's annual meeting coincided with an exquisite exhibition of Paraguayan art at the Mulvane Museum of Washburn University in Topeka. If you like art, drive over and take a look.Since our recipe was greatly modified through a Kansas Paraguay exchange, I began to reflect on its origins. According to Larousse Gastronomique the self proclaimed world's greatest culinary encyclopedia flan has been around almost forever. The Latin poet Fortunatus (530 690 AD) mentioned flan and recipes exist that go back to medieval cooking. The word flan comes from the Latin "flado" which is a flat cake. Thus it exists in forms that we would call a tart to the creamy rich custard dessert that many of us recognize. I have even seen recipes for asparagus or spinach flan. Most of us would call these quiche. Flan is often thought of as a difficult dish to make that has way too much fat from many eggs and cream or whole milk. While it can fit this description, this is where our Kansas Paraguay recipe exchange comes in. Our recipe started as a difficult to make overly fat confection. Then we had the pleasure of meeting Estelle Carrizosa from Asuncion Paraguay who shared her flan and recipe. Here is her recipe with our modifications.Preheat oven to 350 degrees (changed from Celsius)Melt Â¼ cup sugar in the dish that you will use to bake the flan.Put 6 eggs into a mixing bowl and beat (we use 3).Empty 1 can sweetened condensed milk into a mixing bowl (you can use the fat free variety).Fill the can with whole milk and add to the bowl (we changed this to skim milk).Add a little vanilla or even better try a liqueur such as Cointreau or Kahlua. Beat the mixture and pour into the baking dish that has the melted sugar.Bake in a water bath for 1 hour or until set.Let cool and turn out into a serving plate.Unbelievably this recipe loses none of its texture or richness if you use skim milk instead of whole or reduce the eggs. When we started reducing the number of eggs it maintained its custard texture and rich taste all the way down to 2 eggs. We settled on 3. You can also go one step further by using fat free sweetened condensed milk. The dessert flan seems to be a part of the culinary heritage of many countries around the world. What has been your international experience with flan?