Magazine article Sunset

Central American Dessert Saga

Magazine article Sunset

Central American Dessert Saga

Article excerpt

Rich flan and crisp pastries have a touch of history

THESE DESSERTS TELL a tale of how recipes evolve as they move from country to country, from cook to cook. The story starts in Spain with two classics: caramel-coated flan and crisp fried bunuelos.

When the Spanish came to Central America, they brought these recipes. In Guatemala, a soft cheese was added to flan, giving it the delicate density of cheesecake. In Costa Rica, bunuelos acquired a local name: prestinos.

When two cooks from Central America moved to California, they modified their versions of these recipes. Marta Troche switched to cream cheese for her flan. Marlen Campain took a more daring step--her prestinos, made with fried won ton skins, are as tasty and crisp as those made with homemade dough, but faster to make.

Cream Cheese Flan (Flan con Queso)

1/2 cup sugar

8 large eggs

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, cut into chunks

Fresh pineapple slices (optional)

Place sugar in a deep 1 1/2- to 2-quart metal mold (plain or fluted) or bowl (not tin-lined; heat will damage). Over medium-high heat, shake mold frequently (protect hands with pot holders) until sugar melts and turns amber color. At once, rotate to coat bottom and sides of mold with the very hot melted sugar; set aside until cool and caramel hardens.

In a blender or food processor, whirl until smooth the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and cheese. Pour flan mixture into mold; cover tightly with foil.

Place a 1/4- to 1-inch-high rack in an 8- to 10-quart pan. …

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