This just might be the quintessential Brazilian dessert: pudim de leite, better known in the US as flan. In Brazil, pudim de leite is made in a family-sized ring (unlike flan, which is usually made in individual ramekins).
Just so you know, I have a bit of history with this recipe.
My mom would make pudim de leite, but I never really learned the recipe. My boys missed vovó’s recipe after she was gone. They asked me to make some. I tried. I really did. But I could NOT get the darn caramel sauce to work no matter what! See, mom used to melt the sugar directly in the tube pan. My sister Karen told me she makes it the same way. Well, I felt like a total failure because I tried to replicate mom’s technique and I kept getting it totally wrong. So, I gave up.
I’m not always the most patient person…ok, those who know me well…stop rolling your eyes! I recognize that opportunity for self-improvement 😀
Fast forward to Father’s Day 2017. My brother Mike told me he wanted me to cook him something yummy for his dad’s day, and of course, I was all in. I love my baby brother and his family.
We were thrilled to have Mike, Catherine and the boys over last Sunday. I thought I would treat him to a childhood memory by making pudim de leite as a dessert (in addition to brigadeiros, which my older nephew specifically requested from Aunt Lori). But that meant I had to research that darn caramel sauce. Well, gosh darn it, I did! And I delivered a pudim de leite that my Sam told me tasted just like vovó’s.
But here’s the deal. The tube pan I used was wide enough that a single portion recipe produced a very short pudim de leite. AND, I sincerely felt that although the taste reminded everyone of mom’s version, the texture was a little thin and lacking.
So ok, it’s not my mom’s recipe. But this pudim de leite is the bomb. Ask Steve. As he ate his wedge, he grabbed me, turned me to face him, made eye contact, and stated, “Lori, this is YUM! I mean like, SO GOOD. No seriously, Lori! This is a 10!”
so let’s make this brazilian-style flan, guys!
Can you believe something so decadent, so luscious, so AMAZING can be made with five little ingredients? Well, it’s true! Please note that the whole milk and half & half are combined in the picture.
Disclaimer: you need a bit of patience. This is easy, but takes time. I find it easier to manage the time by making it the day before.
You’ll want to start with the caramel sauce.
Melt sugar in a large heavy pan (I use my porcelain-coated Dutch oven). Keep stirring. It will start to liquefy, create chunks of browned sugar, and then fully melt.
Once all the sugar has melted (which was shortly after this photo), cook it for a bit to get a rich, mahogany caramel color.
Then carefully add water. Don’t be alarmed when the cooler water, mixed with the caramel liquid, bubbles and blisters, creating solids again.
Just keep stirring and dissolve the solids once more.
Allow the mixture to cook for a bit until it has thickened to a syrup. Make sure to keep stirring. Caramel can very easily burn.
Once thickened, pour the caramel sauce into the bottom of a solid tube pan. DO NOT USE a spring form pan. Caramel will leak out and that will be a disaster.
Be sure to turn the pan around so that the caramel coats about half-way up the sides. The coating helps release the custard when the flan is done.
Set the coated pan aside and preheat the oven.
Time to make the custard.
Put the custard ingredients into a blender and process just until blended. You don’t want too many air bubbles.
Pour the mixture into the tube pan, over the caramel sauce.
HERE’S A TIP! To reduce the number of bubbles in the finished custard, and to keep the caramel sauce and custard as separate as possible, pour the custard mixture in by deflecting it off the top of the tube. Since mine has a hole, I covered it with plastic wrap.
Then cover the tube pan with tin foil, place it in a bigger oven-safe dish, and pour in hot water up to the halfway mark of the tube pan. This is called a bain-marie. Where you bake something in a liquid bath to ensure a slow, even bake.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours. I know, it’s a while. But that’s how long it takes.
When done, remove the tube pan from the bain-marie, take off the tin foil, and allow it to cool. Then put it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, pull the pan out of the refrigerator and use a thin, long blade to work around the edges of the pan and the tube. This will help loosen the custard for serving. Careful not to cut into the custard or it will break when flipped out of the pan.
Center a serving platter over the tube pan.
Place one hand under the tube pan and another over the serving platter and FLIP the two over quickly.
Most of the caramel sauce will come off with the custard, but you may need to use a spatula to release any still stuck to the pan.
After the flip, you have this FABULOUS ring!
Oh, oh, oh. Seriously pretty. Seriously amazing. We’re talking OMG stuff, people!
Cut a wedge, spoon some caramel sauce over it, and then embrace the hedonistic pleasure.
Steve’s right. It is YUM! And it is also SO GOOD! And finally, it is a 10!
I know you’ll think so too.
Pudim de Leite (Brazilian-Style Flan)
- FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- FOR THE CUSTARD
- 2 cans 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1 measure of the empty can of whole milk
- 1 measure of the empty can of half and half
- 4 eggs
- Start by making the caramel sauce.
- In a heavy, wide-bottom pan, melt the sugar over medium heat.
- Stir the sugar frequently so it does not burn.
- Once the sugar has melted into a liquid and all solids have dissolved, cook it for a minute more, stirring constantly, until it is the color of mahogany.
- Carefully add the water. The caramel may blister into crunchy skins. Keep stirring until all the solids have melted back down and the mixture becomes thick and syrupy.
- Pour the caramel syrup into the bottom of a solid tube pan.
- Tilt the pan and work the caramel up the sides about halfway, leaving a caramel coating on the sides of the pan. This will help the custard to release after cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk, half and half, milk, and eggs into a blender.
- Blend just until fully mixed.
- Pour the milk and egg mixture into the tube pan, aiming the flow directly over the tube. Pouring the custard mixture over the tube first will help prevent over-mixing of the caramel and the custard, as well as reduce the number of bubbles in the custard after baking.
- NOTE: If your tube pan has a hole in the tube, seal it with plastic wrap for this step, and then remove the plastic wrap after pouring.
- Place the tube pan in a large, oven-safe dish with raised sides (such as a roasting pan).
- Seal the top of the tube pan with tin foil.
- Fill the roasting pan with hot water to half the height of the tube pan to create a bain-marie.
- Bake on the center rack for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Lift the tube pan from the bain-marie and carefully remove the tin foil so as not to burn yourself in the trapped steam.
- Allow the contents of the pan to cool.
- Once cooled, refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Before serving, use a long, thin, sharp knife to work the edges of the pan, both on the sides and around the tube. Carefully keep to the edge of the pan. The custard is very soft and will be easy to cut into, which may make it break when flipping.
- Place a large serving dish with raised sides upside down and centered on top of the tube pan.
- With one hand under the tube pan and one hand over the upside down serving dish, flip the two so that the serving dish is on the bottom and the tube pan on top.
- The custard should now be transferred to the serving dish, as well as a large amount of caramel sauce.
- Use a spatula to remove any caramel sauce still in the tube pan and pour it over the custard ring.
- Serve cold.