19 November 2017

A custard tart called « flan pâtissier »

So this has turned out to be a food weekend. In other words, cooking has taken up much of my time. I figure all the leaves that need to be raked up out in the yard can just wait. No rain is predicted for the coming week, and the temperature on Thanksgiving Day, this coming Thursday, is predicted to be in the mid- to upper 60s in ºF (about 18 ºC). That'll be perfect weather for raking up leaves and carrying them out to the vegetable garden plot as mulch.

So what did I cook yesterday? Dessert. A pastry concoction that's called a flan pâtissier. It's not like a Mexican flan, which is called a crème caramel in France. It's more like a custard tart or a chess pie.

The cream custard is thickened with cornstarch and eggs, and flavored with a touch of vanilla. Cornstarch is an American term, I think, and it French it's called fécule de maïs or amidon de maïs and often goes by the best-known brand name, Maïzena. In the U.K., it might be called corn or maize flour.

Here's the recipe for the flan, which is a standard item in French pâtisseries (pastry shops). You often by it buy it by the slice (une part, deux parts, etc. de flan), and if you've ever spent much time in France you must know it. Okay, here are two recipes, actually, if you want to make your own crust.

Flan pâtissier

1 pre-cooked pie crust
1 liter of crème fraîche liquide (heavy cream)
150 g sugar (⅔ cup)
100 g cornstarch (1 scant cup)
3 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the cornstarch into ¾ cup of cold cream, stirring well. Bring the rest of the cream to a simmer in a large saucepan. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Separately, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add in the cold cream and cornstarch mixture. Then gradually pour in the hot cream, stirring constantly. Be careful not to add it too fast because you might curdle the eggs.

Pour the egg and cream mixture back into the saucepan and set it on low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until it's well thickened and close to starting to boil.

Line a pie pan with the crust. Pour in the thickened custard mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 325ºF (160ºC). Keep an eye on the flan for the last 10 minutes of cooking to make sure it doesn't get too brown on top. Serve cold.

I thought the flan would be good with a crust called pâte sablée, which might be described as a cookie-dough crust, rather than with a standard pie crust ("shortcrust" or pâte brisée). Here's the recipe I followed.

Pâte sablée
250 g of flour (2 cups)
130 g sugar (4 or 5 fl. oz.)
1 egg
100 g butter (7 Tbsp.)
1 pinch salt

First, melt the butter and let it cool slightly.

Next, stir the sugar and egg together. Add a pinch of salt and stir in the flour (I used a stand mixer).  Finally, pour in the melted butter and mix well to form a smooth dough.

Put the ball of dough into a pie pan and spread it using your fingers to cover the bottom and sides of the dish. Prick the crust with a fork and bake it for 10 minutes at 375ºF (190ºC).

You could let this "sugar-crust" dough rest in the refrigerator for a while and then roll it out, but I think it's quicker and easier to press it into the pie plate using your hands. Patch as needed.


  1. That's better than any you see in the shops!!

    1. Well, probably not, but I'm glad you think it looks good.

  2. Love this kind of flan which I've never seen anywhere in the USA. I'll be making one as soon as I get rid of a few extra pounds that I've recently accumulated.

  3. I'm going to learn how to make cream fraiche soon.

    1. Evelyn, hi, I don't think you need French-style crème fraîche to make a good custard tart. In fact, I hear British people here complaining that the only cream they can get here in France is already soured, and not fresh. I don't really agree, but then I've never really tasted British cream, and I'm sure it's good. Anyway, there's a web page here about how to make crème fraîche very simply. Basically, you add some buttermilk or plain yogurt to whipping cream and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Easy-peasy. I wonder how it could compare to the crème fraîche we get here.

  4. One of these days, I, too, will make this :)

    1. I admire people who work full-time and still find the time to do cooking from scratch. I hope that when you do make a flan you'll like it. Do you remember eating flan from boulangeries and pâtisseries in France?


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