Rainbow Flan Dessert (Banh Rau Cau Viet Nam)


flan agar

“It’s not too sweet,” they say. For us, those four words are music to our ears when it comes to Asian desserts.  We’re making gross generalizations here, but compared to the Western palate that loves the decadent and rich desserts (triple chocolate fudge cake, anyone?),  the Asian palate generally prefers a much lighter and subdued sweet taste. So when we hear guests say “it’s not too sweet” it actually means they really like it!

This is why agar-agar desserts are so popular in Asia, because it’s refreshing and typically not too sweet, like our three layer coconut pandan and coffee agar. But of course we love to put a spin on classic desserts, so in this dish we add a smooth and rich layer of flan on top of our three layer dessert.  We credit our cousin who made this dessert over the holidays for giving us this idea.  The contrast in textures and flavors is great..and despite the richness of the flan, having it with three layers of agar makes it not too sweet! Perfect!

Although it looks complicated, it’s quite simple but does requires several steps since you have to make each individual agar layar separately.  In this dessert, we just combining two separate recipes. If you have a favorite flan recipe, use that and incorporate our agar recipe.

flan agar dessert
We also served our dessert with some candied tangerines that our friend Kim from Rustic Garden Bistro sent us from her garden. To candy them, simply peel tangerines and cook to in equal parts water and sugar until skin becomes translucent.
Although there are several steps involved, this dessert makes for a great presentation and is well worth it! Add this twist the next time you make flan for a new taste and texture that it’s not too sweet but oh so good!

flan agar

Rau Cau Flan – Rainbow Flan

Ingredients:

Basic Flan
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 eggs or 5 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 ts vanilla extract

Agar Layers
pandan
1 cup water
2 tbs sugar
1/2 ts pandan extract
1/2 ts green food coloring
1 ts agar

coconut
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbs sugar
1 pinch salt
1 ts agar

coffee
1 cup water
2 small packets instant coffee
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs cream/milk
1 ts agar

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and heat a pot of water.

In sauce pan caramelize the sugar and water until golden brown and pour into a round 9 inch pan or several ramekins and coat evenly. Allow to cool and crystalize.

In large bowl, beat the eggs, condensed and evaporated milk, and vanilla until smooth. Be careful not introduce too much air into the mixture. Strain with new panty hose (wrapped around strainer) or cheese cloth. Allow mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes. Gently poor into pan and cover with foil and place in roasting pan. Carefully add to boil water into the roasting pan to cover at least 3/4 of pan and bake in oven for until set (about 60 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

After the flan has cooled (you can make the flan up to 1 day before) make your first agar layer. In medium sauce pan heat all the ingrediants for the pandan layer until agar dissolves and comes to gentle boil. Remove from heat and carefully ladle onto the flan. Allow to cool in fridge and begin to prep for next layer.

Repeat procedure for the coconut and pour over the pandan layer. To test when you can pour in the next layer, touch it with your fingers, it should be firm but still slightly sticky but not set completely. Repeat for coffee layer.

After all three agar layers have set and cooled completely. Use a butter knife to cut around the edges and invert onto serving plate. Served chilled.

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