Fruit flans can be as casual or fancy as you like but they are easy to make and can be made with minimum time in the kitchen which is great if you are having weekend guests. This past weekend was a holiday weekend and we had 5 adults plus a 2-year old for the weekend which of course meant that we had to have kid friendly food as well. Fortunately, our granddaughter loves fruit, so a fruit flan was a perfect choice for dessert along with trifle and other classic desserts.
The basis of the flan is a sweet short crust pastry, baked blind, in a pan with a removable base. I have a jar full of dried peas that I use as a weight for the pastry while it cooks but there are many other options on the market. The pastry is cooled and filled with a custard and decorated with fresh fruit. I tend to use fruit with different colors and this weekend we had a few strawberries from the garden and blueberries in the middle. Black and green grapes work well as do sweet cherries (take the pip out and cut in half). In summer raspberries are a good option too.
To Make a Fruit Flan
For the pastry:
4 oz/1 stick butter
6 oz flour
1 tbs sugar
1 egg beaten
¼ cup milk
For the Custard:
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
2 oz sugar (a scant ¼ cup)
2 cups milk
2 tbs cornstarch
Dash vanilla flavoring (optional)
To make the Pastry
1: Cut the butter into small cubes;*
2: Add the flour to a mixer and pulse once or twice;
3: Add the sugar;
4: Add the butter cubes and pulse a few times to break them up – the fat should be about the size of peas and incorporated into the flour;
5: Add the beaten egg;
6: Add the milk drop by drop until the pastry comes together;
7: Knead lightly then place the pastry in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for 30 mins;
8: Put the pastry ball onto a floured surface, knead lightly and roll out to about ¼” thick and wide enough to cover the flan base;**
9: Line the pie flan base and sides with pastry;
10: Cover the base with parchment paper and add weights;
11: Bake about 20 mins in a 375 oven;
12: Remove the weights and return to the oven for 5 more minutes to dry;
13: Cool the pie case in the pan, then gently raise the base and slide the pastry onto a plate.
To Make the Custard
1: Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are pale in color;
2: Put cornstarch/flour into a small bowl and make a paste with a little milk;
3: Add more milk to make a liquid and add to the pan with the rest of the milk;
4: Add vanilla or flavoring;
5: Add to the eggs and sugar;
6: Slowly bring to a slow boil;
7: Simmer while stirring until the mix thickens (which it does suddenly, so stir slowly but constantly while it simmers);
8: Cool the custard by putting into a cold, wide dish and stir every few minutes to stop a skin forming;
9: Add the custard to the pastry base and put into fridge to completely cool;
10: Decorate. And keep cool until served.
* if using a lactose free butter for the pastry, take the stick and cut into small cubes, put into the freezer for 10 minutes to get solid again. Lactose free butter gets soft very quickly and short crust pastry needs the fat to be in small lumps to create the pockets of air that makes the pastry light.
** If using gluten free flour for pastry, make it slightly more moist than with regular flour, before putting in the fridge. Rolling out, the pastry still tends to crack and this can take a couple of attempts. Roll the pastry a little thicker so that it can be lifted on the rolling pin and placed over the pastry pan.