Leche flan, a favorite Filipino dessert, is similar to creme caramel; both are creamy, oven-baked custards coated with caramel sauce. The difference between the two involves the use of eggs and milk. Some versions of leche flan incorporate up to a dozen egg yolks rather than the two to four whole eggs used in creme caramel. Leche flan is usually made with condensed milk and evaporated milk, making it denser and sweeter than creme caramel. Lighter variations may replace high-fat milk and cream with low-fat milk and fruit puree. Leche flan is baked in a large oval pan; individual ramekins or cake pans also work.
Pour the water into a saucepan and pile sugar in the center of the water. Traditional caramel sauce is made with white sugar; however, you can also use brown sugar. Set the burner to "Medium High" heat.
Allow the sugar to dissolve in the boiling water; do not stir. Continue cooking while the water evaporates leaving behind pure sugar syrup. The sugar temperature will rise beyond the boiling point and turn light golden brown; brown sugar will turn deep golden brown.
Lift the saucepan and gently swirl the syrup over the heat until it reaches a deep golden-brown color; brown sugar will reach a dark brown color. Pour the syrup into a large baking dish. Swirl to coat the bottom of the dish.
Preparing the Custard
Crack eggs. Use whole eggs and or egg yolks. To separate the egg yolk, pass the yolk back and forth while working over a small bowl between the two shell halves. Allow the egg white to fall into the bowl and discard it.
Whisk eggs, condensed and evaporated milk for a traditional leche flan; if you prefer, use cream, whole milk, coconut milk or low-fat milk. Whisk in vanilla, or change the flavor profile by adding rum, instant coffee, fruit juice or pumpkin puree. Strain custard through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl, preferably one with a pouring spout. Use the back of a ladle to push the custard through the strainer.
Pour the strained custard into the caramel-coated baking dish. Place the baking dish into a large roasting pan. Fill the surrounding area with hot water, about two-thirds full.
Baking the Flan
Cover the roasting pan with tin foil to steam flan, or bake it uncovered in a water bath. Both methods work. Place the roasting pan into the oven preheated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the flan for 45 to 60 minutes. Insert a skewer into the center of the flan; if the skewer comes out clean, remove the flan from the oven.
Set the flan aside to cool. Lift the cooled flan from the roasting pan and cover it with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for two to three hours or overnight.
Run a thin knife around the edge of flan. Invert the flan onto a dessert plate wide enough and deep enough to hold the pooled caramel sauce. Shake the flan to release.