In one of the tastiest tussles to date, this week Le petit crème brûlée and feisty flan are coming head to head, plate to plate, to see who reigns supreme when it comes to desserts of cream.
Maybe you assumed the two were one in the same. Maybe you scoff at the idea that they could even be considered comparable. Nevertheless, we’re diving straight into the facts to determine who’s the king of custard.
Texture and Consistency
Flan: Also known as crème caramel or caramel pudding, the body of a typical flan is eggy and gelatin-like, with plenty of jiggle room. Or is it wiggle room? It’s essentially baked custard—eggs, gelatin, vanilla, and cream or milk.
Nuances will vary subtly or not so subtly depending on if you’re enjoying, say, a Spanish flan versus a Mexican one. For instance, your flan will most likely be drenched in a sweet milky caramel syrup if it’s Latin-style, like dulce de leche. Or, it might be presented with a layer of burnt or caramelized sugar on the bottom—almost like an upside-down creme brulee (almost)—if it’s European.
Crème Brûlée: For the crème brûlée cream, eggs, and vanilla extract, are all whisked up and boiled into a pudding-like custard base. After the base has been refrigerated and is nice and chilled, sugar is sprinkled on top and browned using a torch to create a delicate layer of crispy caramelized goodness (crème brûlée translates to “burnt cream” in French).
Where You’ll Find It
Flan: Flan’s roots trace way back to Europe (the ancient Romans considered it a “health food”). Today the dish is most popular amongst Latin American countries, as well as the Philippines and the U.S. – which explains why you can find it throughout independent, specialty, and chain restaurants.
Crème Brûlée: This custard treat can also trace its origins back to Europe, specifically France. While brûlée is a household name, more often than not it’s the households where chefs or eager-to-learn foodies live. It’s not likely you’ll come across a crème brûlée labeled for individual sale per se, but there have been crème brûlée findings at dessert bars of various buffets (like in Vegas, baby).
What’s Working For You
Both: The flan and the creme brulee are not for the amateur chef. Both require patience, dedication, expertise, and, a lot of your time. A decent crème brûlée might take you about three to four hours from start to finish, whereas a flan might set you back six.
It’s probable you won’t be able to master either of them on the first try, and that’s the beauty of it all. If you want it, you need to work on it. Follow your dreams. Follow your creams.
What’s Working Against You
Both: Besides being made with lots of eggs and cream, both desserts are undeniably complicated in more ways than one, their essence can still be too easily captured, reformulated, and ultimately, cheapened for the masses.
To put things in perspective: Starbucks has already tapped both desserts to create the Crème Brûlée Latte and Frappuccino, and the Caramel Flan Latte and Frappuccino, within the last few years.
Though, it’s also worth mentioning that one is more likely to come across mass-produced flan than dollar-crème brûlée.
Winner: Crème Brûlée
For this round, we’re calling crème brûlée the custard champ. It’s sophisticated, refined, and exquisite—not that the flan isn’t, but did we mention you need a torch to complete the crème brûlée? Things that use a kitchen torch tend to take the “torch.” This winner is definitely the crème (brûlée) of the crop.