Leche asada, meaning “roasted milk” in Spanish, is a rustic form of flan popular all over the region due to its simplicity (milk, eggs, and sugar) and ease of preparation. Cooks aromatize the milk and infuse different flavors, ranging from vanilla in Peru to cinnamon and lemon peel in Chile, or rich dulce de leche in Argentina. Use whole milk for a creamy texture. Free-range eggs also increase the flavor, texture, and nutritional value. To make the caramel, try cane sugar to achieve amber-colored syrup quickly and consistently. Prepare in a large pan, or divide into ovenproof ramekins. This flan is served inverted with the juicy caramel around it.
In a deep skillet, distribute 1¼ cups sugar evenly over medium heat; melt to form a rich caramel.
In a saucepan, steep milk with lemon zest and cinnamon stick for 5 minutes; let cool and strain.
Beat eggs with 1 cup sugar until glossy and pale yellow. Whisk into cooled milk mixture, mixing well.
Pour caramel into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Cover with milk mixture. Bake in 350ºF oven in a bain-marie 30 to 40 minutes until top is slightly browned. Chill before serving inverted.
Tips for Making the Caramel
As the sugar caramelizes, pull the melted sugar towards the center to avoid burn marks.* If the sugar looks grainy, lower the heat and continue to stir. When the caramel has completely melted and is a deep amber color, it is ready.* Handle hot caramel with precaution, as it can cause burns.* Coat the dish with the caramel. Then add the milk-egg mixture to the baking dish, filling to 3⁄4 full.* Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and fill with hot water up to the halfway point. This protects the custard as it bakes (see the photo below). To test for doneness, the custard should slightly jiggle in the center; or test with a toothpick that should come out clean.* Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.MAKE IT EASY!Don’t be afraid to try making caramel at home. It is simple and fun. Use a heavy pan with a clear bottom — this way you can observe as the caramel changes color to know when it is ready. Also keep in mind that because the pan is so hot, once the caramel begins to change to golden, it goes very quickly. Turn off the heat just before it reaches dark amber, as the residual heat will finish the coloring.For a recipe variation, try sinful Dulce de Leche Flan!In a skillet, distribute 1¼ cups sugar evenly; melt to form caramel. Coat 8 ramekins with caramel. In a saucepan, whisk 1 cup milk, 1½ cups cream, 1½ cups dulce de leche, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean. Remove; let cool. Beat in 4 large whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. Place ramekins in roasting dish and bake.