Flan Parisien is as classically French as pastries come. With a sturdy puff pastry crust, a silky, egg-laden custard, and a burnished top, the dessert – also known as flan pâtissier — is similar to the Mexican flan familiar to New Yorkers – except that, somehow, it’s all but unknown in the U.S. In France, however, and in much of Europe, it’s in every single pastry shop – even the most unrefined ones, explained Chef Christophe Toury, pâtissier at Brooklyn Heights’ Ebb & Flow bakery.
Chef Toury rolled out his iteration of flan Parisien at the beginning of July in honor of Bastille Day on July 14th, and it’ll stay on the menu indefinitely. Though not necessarily a traditional Bastille Day treat, Flan Parisien is deeply nostalgic to many French people – especially Chef Toury, who gets nearly verklempt recounting how often he ate it as a child — making it an ideal pastry to roll out on the French national holiday.
Typically made with a mixture of whole eggs, vanilla, sugar, and cornstarch, the latter of which is used to thicken the custard filling, flan Parisien is a bit like a Crème Brulee – except that the deep brown top forms naturally in a very hot oven, rather than by blowtorch. Chef Toury makes a few tweaks, adding extra Tahitian vanilla bean. Vanilla is one of his favorite flavors, he said – “It’s beautiful.”
It’s a simple pastry, eaten almost literally any time of day – with coffee in the afternoon, as an after-lunch treat, or as dessert. It’s ubiquitous, and something most French bakeries manage to do extremely well, Chef Toury explained. The appeal, he said, lies mainly in the huge mouthful of custard you get when you take a bite. It doesn’t need anything else on the plate – in fact, very little could match the pastry itself.
“You just grab the flan and enjoy it the way it is,” Chef Toury said.
Flan Parisien hasn’t reached mainstream popularity yet, and that’s mainly because there just aren’t as many French bakeries in the U.S. as there are in Europe, Chef Toury believes. That’ll change, he hopes. It’s starting to sell pretty well, at least, at Ebb & Flow. “I’m pretty excited,” he said, laughing.
See Chef Toury’s recipe for Flan Parisien below.
Flan Parisien (by Chef Christophe Toury, Ebb & Flow)
Flan Parisien Without Crust:
Ingredients: 2 1⁄3 cups milk 1⁄2 cup sugar 7 egg yolks 1⁄3 cup corn starch 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter 2 1⁄4 Tbsp salted butter 6 vanilla beans 2⁄3 cup heavy cream
- Place the milk and the vanilla beans in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Keeping an eye on the milk, whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl. Gradually add the cornstarch, and mix until smooth.
- Slowly add about 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking rapidly. Combine the tempered egg mixture with the remaining milk.
- Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Boil for a few seconds longer.
- Remove the heavy-bottomed saucepan from the heat, add both salted and unsalted butter and heavy cream. Mix well.
- Pour the custard into a flexipan mold (9-inch) and freeze for 30 minutes.
- Bake at 340 degrees for 30 minutes. Add an additional 5-8 minutes at 380 degrees for color.
- Remove the Flan Parisien from oven, and set on a rack to cool. Once flan is cooled, refrigerate it, covered, at least 2 hours before serving.
Flan Parisien With Crust:
Coat a 9-inch tart or pie dish with a small amount of butter, then lightly dust with flour (to avoid the pastry sticking). Then, lay down a puff pastry or shortcrust in the tart or pie dish. When the filling is ready, fill the dish (frozen is better) with all the custard mixture. Flatten the top with a spatula to even the surface. Bake 340 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Ebb & Flow is located at Pier 5 Brooklyn Bridge Park, near the One°15 Brooklyn Marina.