Leche flan (creme caramel) always evoke memories of town fiestas. Although the ingredients are just eggs, milk and sugar, it is always part of the array of special fiesta fare. I don't really know if you can make just one leche flan as the recipe always makes at least two. Thinking about it brings a flashback of kitchen memories: stacks of flaneras (flan molds) being lined with caramel syrup in readiness for the egg custard, steamers billowing steam clouds ready to be loaded with the uncooked flans, and the best pressed glass platters being prepared to serve the flans. As a child, I always wanted to be in the hub of the preparations. I loved watching people cook. I loved being handed little morsels to taste. What I loved most was to sneak out a prepared flanera, crack the caramel at the bottom and eat the shards. What joy!
I have never lost my taste for leche flan but never got to eat a lot of it. It is because I want to reserve it for special occasions. The Kulinarya Cooking Club's theme for April is a memorable and decadent Filipino food. The theme in itself is one mouthful. So I decided to bring to the table a concoction that embodies everything I like. I injected a touch of decadence to the classic leche flan by adding cream cheese to the flan mixture and using a sponge cake as a base. It is cross between a cheesecake and a custard cake. It has all the goodness and creaminess of an all egg yolk leche flan, mixed with cream cheese instead of just pure milk and flavoured with lime zest and vanilla. The base is soft and light vanilla sponge cake instead of biscuit crumb. The two together has an uninterrupted creamy and voluptuous texture. Caramel syrup contrasts with the cheese cake and crowns the dessert. It gives a toasty accent to this creamy concoction.
The sponge is not as moist as regular sponge. I have tried other cake bases but this is the lightest one so far and is the only one that floats on the cheesecake base. I have seen similar cakes (called flancocho) that uses yellow cake mix as one of the ingredient for the base but I didn't use that because it comes with a warning that the cake mixture may sink into the cheesecake mixture.
This is the recipe for the above cheesecake shown in the picture and I hope you give it a try.
Ingredients for the cream cheese leche flan:
3/4 c. sugar
3 tbsps. water
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. cream cheese (about a cup)
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
grated zest of 1 lime
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F /170° C. Prepare a 9" diameter cake pan.
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan. On low heat, melt the sugar while stirring. When the sugar melts, stop stirring, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook on medium heat until the syrup is a deep golden brown. Do not overcook.
Brush the sides of the pan downwards with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
When ready, pour into a greased 9" diameter cake tin and swirl to coat the bottom. Set aside.
Whisk the rest of the ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.
Prepare the cake batter.
Ingredients for the sponge cake:
3 whole eggs, room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and light coloured. The mixture should leave a trail when drizzled on its surface. Sift the flour over it and fold with a metal spoon.
Pour the cream cheese flan mixture into the caramel syrup coated pan. This step is important so that the cake batter doesn't sink: pour the cake batter on the back of a big spoon into the flan mixture. The batter will float on top of the flan mixture. Do not stir.
Bake au baine marie: Fill a baking tray that's big enough to accommodate the cake pan and fill with water to reach up to a quarter of its side. Make sure that your cake pan is tight. Wrap the bottom and sides with foil to be sure. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Test with a cocktail stick. The cocktail stick should feel sticky when the flan at the bottom is cooked.
Leave to cool in the pan. Refrigerate. Run a sharp knife around the sides of the cake pan before inverting into a serving dish to serve. If you find it difficult to unmold. Sit the bottom of the cake pan in pan of hot water.
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