A Flan of Cream and Eggs

Flans, spelt flathons or flawns, were always made with cream and eggs, and go back at least to the fifteenth century, and probably earlier. Two recipes are given in the Harleian MSS., which translate, with almost no adaptation, as follows. The resulting flan is excellent.


  • about ½ lb. (240 g.) short pastry
  • 1 tablespoon jam
  • ½ pint (3 dl.) milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz. (90 g.) sugar
  • ¼ pint ( dl.) double cream
  • almond essence or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • caster sugar


Line a tin with pastry. Put a piece of greased paper in the centre, with a few haricot beans or crusts to weight it down and prevent the pastry rising. Bake blind in a hot oven (400° F., gas mark 6) for 10 minutes. Take the pastry case out of the oven, remove the paper, and spread a thin layer of strawberry or apricot jam on the bottom.

Warm the milk. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Pour the warmed milk slowly on to the egg mixture, stirring carefully while pouring. Mix in the cream, and flavour with almond essence or lemon juice. Pour this into the pastry and sprinkle the butter, cut into little pieces, over the top. Replace in the oven turned down to 300° F., gas mark 2, until the custard is set (about 40 minutes). Remove and allow to get cold. When cold make the grill as hot as possible, sprinkle the tart about inch ( cm.) thick with caster sugar and place under the grill until the sugar begins to colour and bubble. This only takes a minute and should not burn the pastry edge, but for safety this can be protected by a ring of foil placed over it. When cold again, the flan will have a crisp sugar top.