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Flan pâtissier

By Ann | February 26, 2013

flan 2

Last month in Paris, I was at a dinner party and a friend asked us: What’s your favorite pastry to buy at a boulangerie? Not, she clarified, the dainty cakes found at a pâtisserie, but the everyday workhorse treats: pains au chocolat, chaussons aux pommes, chouquettes, financiers, pains aux raisins. My own favorite is a good old éclair au chocolat, so imagine my surprise when almost half the guests answered: flan pâtissier.

First of all, what is flan pâtissier? It’s a wobbly, starchy, slightly singed custard encased in a pastry crust. It’s sold at most corner boulangeries in Paris, thick wedges that Parisians consume out of hand, one of the few things I’ve seen them eat on the street. In all my years of living in Paris, I’d never been tempted by a slice of flan pâtissier. But after all the raves, I went to Poîlane, bought a jiggly slice and brought it to the cinema (Zero Dark Thirty) to share with a Flan Lover.

What did it taste like? Well, flan pâtissier, mes amis, tastes exactly like it looks: sweet, vanilla-scented, eggy, a little stodgy, with a slightly damp pastry crust. It’s the Monsieur Milktoast of desserts — inoffensive and — dare I say it? — bland. Could it replace an éclair au chocolat in my affection and desires? In two words: HELL NO.

Want a more expert opinion? My friend, the Flan Lover, found the Poîlane version “Just okay. Not the best. It was too rubbery.”

I left Paris before I could sample more flan pâtissier and, to be honest, after Round 1, I had lost my zeal. But upon reflection, I think I have to chalk up the French Love of Flan to a souvenir d’enfance — much like those sugary chlorophyll-green syrups they use to flavor perfectly good mineral water, or their innate fondness for Barbapapa — they’re part of a sweet childhood nostalgia that I didn’t experience and, thus, cannot appreciate. Bring on the peanut butter.

flan 1

Martha Stewart makes flan pâtissier with prunes (and inexplicably suggests serving it as dessert for Easter dinner)

The best flan pâtissier in Paris (Figaroscope)

Another recipe for flan pâtissier (Zen Can Cook)

All about éclairs (Croque Camille)

Paris Pastry app (David Lebovitz)

Topics: Paris | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “Flan pâtissier”

  1. Lindy Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am

    You definitely need to find a reason why a perfectly atuned palate would eat those rubbery slices. I was never a fan.

    And why eat that when you can indulge in a religeuse au chocolat? More filling than an eclair and just the right size to really regret being greedy.

  2. Emma Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I remember these (they’re sort of like Australian custard tarts). I’ve only ever backpacked in Europe but did manage to scrape together enough money to have some baked goods in Paris.

    There are fancier, nicer pastries I admit but they were pretty good to a 19 year old student :D

    Agreed they don’t hold a candle to chocolate éclairs though, so naughty but so good!

  3. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write) Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Whoah – I cannot understand this at all! I have NEVER chosen a flan in a patisserie – though I have been served it and just try to be polite about it. The éclair wins every time for me too! And Emma is right – they are like Australian custard tarts of which I have horrible memories – my Nana (bless her) used to serve them (and not very good ones at that) not at Easter, but Christmas. Why? Why?

  4. Jill Colonna Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Ann, you’ve certainly hit the right note here with ‘rubbery’. I never buy them and each time I think of making one – to add something in there – I shy away and make the éclairs! On the other hand, they bring back nostalgia from my first family car holiday to France, gobbling it down with hot lemonade…

  5. CK Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    During my student days the chaussons aux pommes were No. 1; I even knew the boulangerie’s baking schedule and timed my visits to get ‘em while they were hot. But now, strangely, the financiers and madeleines are tops for me. Funny how palates change.

  6. Lil Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    On everyday pastry, I can eat bucketful of chouquettes. Love them! Financiers come next. :)

  7. Shaheen Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Surprising, indeed! I have never bought it before because they just don’t look appealing at all with all the other gorgeous treats surrounding them. And I don’t think I’m going to bother either. ; )

  8. Loulou in France Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Never understood the attraction either. Give me an éclair any day! Or a bag of chouquettes. :)

  9. Wini Moranville Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Agree with all here! Why would you have a Flan Patisseur when you could have a tart and tingly French Lemon tartlet?

  10. Camille Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    When I was working in a bakery here, my favorite things to steal nibbles of were the still-warm financiers. I’ve never really understood this type of flan, either.

  11. Voie de Vie Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    While I’m also a chocolate eclair fan (as well as a good Napolean), I do see the charm of the flan. There is, however, no rational explanation for comfort food – for each of us, it is what it is. :)

  12. Shannon Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Wouldn’t you know, even french nostalgia food is aesthetically miles above our own…our pop tarts and twinkies can’t hold a candle to this beautifully crusted french treat.

  13. Made With Pink Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks very much for clarifying why the French love this so much. I’ve never been able to understand it! I go to Paris a few times a year and have always seen these flan slices in patisseries but never purchased one until my last trip. After always opting for the more idyllic macaron or eclair, my curiosity got the best of me and I purchased a coconut flan slice (it sounded more appealing than the regular version). It was big and it was cheap – I was intrigued. Sadly, it was exactly as you deacribed. Bland and rubbery. In all the pastries I’ve ever bought in Paris, the flan slice was the only thing I had no desire to finish. Into the bin it went.

  14. Tiggicat Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Doesn’t hold a candle to the aptly named Portuguese ‘pudim’ how can you resist something that is pronounced ‘pudding’? Basically the custard is cooked then sliced and caramel sauce liberally poured over it all

  15. Pat Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    The filling looks like it might be similar to a Chinese egg tart or the German-style custard/quark cake? I don’t recall seeing flan pâtissier at any pastry shop I’ve visited in France (and I visited plenty!)but I was probably blinded by eclairs and pain au chocolat :). I totally agree with everyone else though, you can’t argue with comfort food, it is what it is–yay Spam!

  16. Ann Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Lindy — I love a réligeuse au chocolat, too, but they’re a little messy to eat on the street. :)

    Emma — But if an éclair and piece of flan cost the same (which they often do) why, oh why would you choose the flan?!

    Mardi — Such an odd (and heavy) dessert for a big meal… Especially in the heat of an Australian Christmas.

    Jill — Hot lemonade sounds just about as appealing as a piece of flan pâtissier, I have to admit!

    Lil — Ahhh, chouquettes were a huge discovery for me in the autumn of 2009. I think they made my whole year!

    Shaheen — I pride myself on keeping an open mind… but I probably won’t be trying the flan again either.

  17. Ann Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Loulou — Someone explained that they liked it because “it’s filling.” Which seems like an odd explanation from a French person?

    Wini — Oh, yes! A lemon tart is the essence of a spring afternoon!

    Camille — Financiers just out of the oven… heavenly. You’re making me want to bake my own (I need to get my hands on some of those adorable moules).

    Voie de Vie — You’re right, there’s no rationalizing comfort food. For example, French people are mystified by my addiction to spicy tofu!

    Shannon — But what about a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie? A thing of beauty.

    Made With Pink — I’m so glad I’m not the only one!

    Tiggicat — Puddin’ sounds incredible. Alas, flan pâtissier is leaden and pasty from flour or cornstarch. Nothing at all like glorious crème caramel, or Spanish flan.

    Pat — It *looks* like a Chinese egg tart… but without the gorgeous slippery custard and flaky crust. I read about German quark cake in My Berlin Kitchen and would love to try it one of these days.

  18. Andi Says:
    March 6th, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    One of my favorite “pastries” I used to eat this all the time when I lived in France!

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