Flan de Abuelita

Country: Europe, Asia, Latin america, North America

Story: Nearly every part of the world has a version of flan. The earliest version of flan was more of a savory dish in the roman culture. The ability to make the dish ahead of time and keep until needed is most likely a good reason why it became so popular. Also, many cultures have sugar, eggs and milk readily available.

There are so many varieties of flan that it would take pages to get through all of the differences. In an effort to keep things simple we can just say that Costa Rica is one of the countries where you also find coconut milk in the base recipe. Also, like so many other countries, a caramel is made and poured at the bottom of the container that flan will be cooked in. The milk mixture is added and then all of the containers are put in a Bain-Marie. After the flan is cooked, the container is turned upside down onto a plate to serve and the caramel which was cooked on the bottom becomes the top giving the flan its very famous dark brown color.

The Bain-Marie traditionally is a wide and usually metal container that holds hot water. Then, a smaller container that fits inside the outer one which holds the material to be cooked is placed inside. Typically, the inner (smaller) container is immersed about halfway into the hot water. When the water and the bain-marie is used the maximum temperature of the water in the lower container will not exceed 100 degrees Celsius (212 °F), the boiling point of water as long as there is a cover on top to catch the steam. Because the temperature can not exceed 100 degrees Celsius it is a very secure and gentle way to cook certain foods, especially custards that use eggs that get scrambled with high heat.

Preparation: A caramel is poured into a container that will cook the flan and left to set and get hard. The milk mixture is then poured on top and the container holding the caramel and flan mix is placed into a Bain-Marie filled with water. The flan is cooked until barley sets and then removed to cool. Once ready, the flan is turned onto a plate and garnished with toasted coconut.


Aztec Molten Chocolate Cake

Country: Mexico, USA

Notes: The United States-based chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten claims to have invented molten chocolate cake in New York City in 1987, but the French chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres disputes this, arguing that such a dish already existed in France. Regardless of who invented the dish, Vongerichten has been credited with popularizing it in the United States, and it became almost a de rigueur inclusion on high-end restaurant dessert menus around the world.

Mayan and Aztec chocolate was very different than the chocolate we know today. It was a liquid made from crushed cocoa beans, chili peppers, and water. (There was no sugar yet in Central America.) They poured the liquid from one cup to another until a frothy foam appeared on top. In fact, the word ‘chocolate’ is said to come from the Mayan word ‘xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water. Cocoa was often consumed during religious ceremonies and marriage celebrations. Eventually Cocoa got to Spain and eventually lost the chiles and spices in place of the addition of sugar.

For our chocolate we give a nod back to the origins of chocolate with the addition of spices. We add just a small amount of cayenne and cinnamon to our molten chocolate cake.

Preparation: The chocolate batter is placed in the oven and cooked until the outside is cooked but the inside is still liquid and just warm. A compote of uchuva is made to add an ingredient local to Costa Rica and then the cake is finished with ice cream.


Churros

Country: China —- > Spain and Portugal and eventually all of Latin America

Story: Invented in China, eventually Churros moved to Spain and Portugal, who brought the recipe to Latin America. Churros can either be thin and sometimes knotted, or long and thick, where they are known as porras in some regions. They are normally eaten for breakfast, dipped in champurrado, hot chocolate, dulce de leche or café con leche. Sugar is often sprinkled on top. Churros are fried until they become crunchy. The surface of a churro is ridged due to having been piped from a churrera, a syringe-like tool with a star-shaped nozzle.

Preparation: The churros are fried to order and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mixture. They are served with blackberry sauce, dulce de leche and chocolate sauce.