This French Chocolate Flan is a baked chocolate custard tart that is popular in Paris, France. Creamy, smooth, and full of chocolate flavor, it's a decadent dessert for chocolate lovers!
I first discovered 'Flan Patissier au Chocolat' in a sunny little cafe in Paris while visiting my sister. My first thought was 'What?! You can get CHOCOLATE FLAN?!' We ordered one up and it did not disappoint. The silky, creamy, smooth dessert has such a luxurious mouthfeel and is intensely chocolatey.
Ever since that trip, I have been daydreaming about that deliciously baked chocolate custard and I just had to develop my own chocolate flan recipe and make it at home. It has definitely become one of my favorite desserts!
In any case, it is a wonderful addition to my collection of chocolate recipes for satisfying your chocoholic cravings!
What is Chocolate Flan?
When you think of flan, you are probably picturing a custard dessert baked with dulce de leche in the bottom of the bundt pan, so when it turns out it is swimming in a sea of hot caramel sauce. This is a traditional flan, and it's delicious. But we are looking at a Parisian Flan, which is instead baked in a pastry shell and is more like a custard tart. The full official name for this dessert is 'Flan Patissier au Chocolat' which translates to 'custard pastry with chocolate'. It is basically custard with dark chocolate melted into it, poured into a pastry case, and then baked and left to chill overnight to make a wonderful dessert.
The best way I can think to describe it is that it's like my Baked Chocolate Cheesecake, but without the tang of cream cheese and with more of a creamy flavor. It's also similar to Creme Brulee, but it's a chocolate version and doesn't have the crunchy top. It's difficult to describe exactly so you'll just have to try it for yourself! If you come up with a better description though, do let me know!
For more information on custard and different kinds of flan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this informative article from the Washington Post entitled: 'Custard - In Preparation Lies Perfection'. It's quite dramatic given the subject matter and makes for an entertaining read.
Chocolate Flan Ingredients:
- Egg Yolks - The egg yolks provide richness and flavour. Use large eggs and always free-range if you can.
- Eggs - We use some whole eggs as the little bit of egg white will help to make the chocolate custard firm when it is baked so that it will hold its shape nicely. In my regular creme patissiere (custard) recipe I use only egg yolks for flavour, but here we want the extra stability.
- Milk - Make sure you use Whole Milk when making pastry cream/custard, we need the high-fat content to carry the flavour. Low-fat custard is sad custard.
- Whipping Cream - To make the custard even more rich and creamy. This may be called something different wherever you are, but it's full fat cream we want here, not half and half. Also known as heavy cream or double cream.
- Sugar - Regular white sugar is good here, try to find extra fine sugar (caster sugar).
- Cornflour - The cornflour acts as a thickening agent in the custard. Make sure you whisk out all the lumps of cornflour once it is added.
- Dark Chocolate - You really want to use high-quality dark chocolate for this chocolate flan as the flavour of the chocolate really shines through. Try to find chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content.
Chocolate Pastry Base Ingredients:
- All-purpose Flour - Regular all-purpose flour is fine for this pastry base.
- Icing Sugar - Icing sugar dissolves into your dough much more easily than regular sugar would and makes for a nice easy pastry dough.
- Cocoa Powder - The chocolate flavour in this pastry comes entirely from the cocoa powder. Look for Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder if you can find it.
- Salt - Don't skip the salt! It really compliments the chocolate flavour.
- Butter - Use room temperature butter - salted or unsalted will be fine.
- Vanilla Extract - The vanilla extract just brings a little touch of flavour to the pastry base. You can skip it if you like, but it's a nice touch.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Prepare the Chocolate Custard
The chocolate custard for this flan starts off like any other custard recipe.
- Start by cracking and separating your eggs so you have 3 egg yolks and two whole eggs in a large bowl. You can discard the extra two egg whites or keep them for another recipe. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds to a minute. The mixture should look lighter in colour and be slightly foamy.
- Add the cornflour and salt and whisk everything together until it is smooth and there are no more lumps of cornflour. Set aside while you prepare the milk and cream.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and cream on medium heat.
- Once the milk starts to heat up and you can see steam starting to rise from it, pour a little amount into the egg mixture and whisk. Then add more gradually, whisking as you go. Don't rush this step, we are trying to temper the eggs, which means bringing the temperature up very slowly so it can incorporate into the warm mixture without the eggs scrambling.
- PRO TIP: If you are confident with your cooking/pot juggling abilities, you can pour from the saucepan in a slow, steady stream with one hand and whisk with the other hand. But if this sounds too tricky then it's absolutely not neccessary, just add the milk bit by bit and whisk in between.
- Once all the milk is incorporated into the eggs, add the whole lot back into the saucepan and turn the stovetop down to a medium-low heat. Whisk CONSTANTLY as your custard thickens. And I mean constantly, don't stop and start, just keep going - switch hands if you have to - but you want this to be smooth and we definitely don't want scrambled eggs in our chocolate flan!
- You'll feel the custard starting to thicken after a minute or two. You'll know it is ready when you can coat the back of a spoon and run your finger through it, and it will leave a trail on the spoon (see picture below).
- Now for the chocolate part! Once the custard has reached this stage, remove it from the heat and add in your chocolate. Chop the chocolate into small pieces first to make it easier to melt.
- Whisk until everything is incorporated and smooth and then transfer into a separate bowl to cool down. Cover with plastic wrap which touches the surface of the chocolate custard - this will prevent it from forming a skin. Let cool for about two hours or at least until lukewarm in temperature.
Tip: If you do end up with a few lumps in your custard while it is thickening, it's okay, you don't have to start again - just pass the creme patisserie through a sieve before adding the chocolate!
How to Make the Chocolate Pastry Base
The chocolate pastry base is ridiculously easy to make and comes together super fast. If you want to you can make this before your custard, but I just find it easier to make while the custard is cooling as I have time to kill anyway.
- Add the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt to a bowl and mix together.
- Melt the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds and then add to the dry ingredients along with the vanilla.
- Mix everything together until it forms a dough. Knead gently with your hands a couple of times and then flatten it out onto your lined cookie sheet. You can use your hands or a rolling pin to shape it into a flat circle, slightly larger than your pastry ring.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry loses the glossy sheen, then remove from the oven and immediately press the pastry ring into the pastry, like a giant cookie cutter. Leave it there while the pastry cools. Doing it this way will ensure that your pastry base fits the ring perfectly and doesn't shrink in the oven.
- Once the pastry cools, you can break off the excess around the outside of the ring. We don't need it for the recipe but don't throw it out, it makes a great crunchy snack or a crumbly topping for ice cream or yoghurt!
- Leave the pastry ring on the pastry, we will be pouring our chocolate mixture on top of it once it has cooled.
How to Make the Chocolate Flan
- Once your flan mixture has cooled, grease your pastry ring very lightly with butter or flavourless cooking spray.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes. The baking process is different from something like a baked cheesecake (which is basically a cream cheese flan) because we don't need a water bath to get a great texture, you can bake it just like you would a regular cake batter without having to faff around with a large roasting pan full of hot water. You can just put your baking sheet right onto the oven rack and bake like you would anything else.
- If you want to be extra sure that your chocolate flan is properly baked, there is a trick to testing it. You can't just insert a cake tester in the centre like you would with a regular cake. This is because a skewer inserted into the centre should still be gooey and wet when you take it out of the oven. The flan continues to bake after it is removed from the oven and so you need to time it perfectly so that it won't overbake and give you a rubbery custard. If you want a perfectly baked, creamy chocolate flan, test it by inserting your cake tester 1 inch from the edge of the flan, if it comes out clean there then your flan is ready!
- Let the chocolate flan cool on the countertop until the sides of the cake pan feel completely cool, then cover and transfer to the fridge. If your baking sheet doesn't fit in your fridge (like mine didn't) you can gently use the baking paper under your flan to carefully lift the flan onto a smaller plate that will fit in the fridge.
- Chill overnight. Do not try to unmold or slice your chocolate flan before it has had time to chill. It will still be too soft and gooey to support itself in the middle and you will end up with a big chocolatey mess.
- Unmold the chocolate flan by gently lifting the pastry ring off. If it is stuck or you are having some trouble, you can run a sharp small knife around the inside of the cake pan to release it. Alternatively, you can gently heat the outside of the pastry ring to loosen it slightly.
- A classic flan patissier has a thin layer of apricot jam painted on top to give it a nice shine. I didn't have apricot jam so I just used strawberry jam. You really don't get the flavour of the jam, it's purely for aesthetics, so you can use whatever kind of jam you have or just skip this extra step entirely if you like. Melt the jam in the microwave or a small saucepan and then brush it on top of the flan with a pastry brush.
Because it is a baked custard, you want to store your chocolate flan in the fridge. Make sure it is covered under some kind of cake plate or plastic wrap to keep it fresh. However, chocolate flan is best served at room temperature as it will unlock all the chocolate flavor in there, so I recommend removing it from the fridge about one hour before serving for maximum flavor.
French Chocolate Flan - Chocolate Custard Tart
- Large saucepan
For the Chocolate Custard
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup White Sugar
- ½ cup Corn starch
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 ½ cups Whole Milk
- 1 ¾ cups Whipping Cream
- 200 g Dark Chocolate
- 1 tablespoon Jam for brushing on top
For the Chocolate Tart Base
- 1 cup All-purpose Flour
- ⅓ cup Icing Sugar
- ¼ cup Cocoa Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 1 stick Butter
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Make the Chocolate Custard
- Put the eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and whisk together with the sugar. Whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds - the eggs should lighten slightly in colour3 Egg Yolks, 2 Eggs, 1 cup White Sugar
- Add the cornflour and salt and whisk until smooth½ cup Corn starch, ½ teaspoon Salt
- Put the milk and the cream in a large saucepan and heat over a medium heat2 ½ cups Whole Milk, 1 ¾ cups Whipping Cream
- Once the milk/cream mixture starts to get hot (steam is starting to rise from it), add a small amount to the egg/sugar mixture and whisk in. Then gradually add more, bit by bit, whisking as you go. Be sure not to add the hot milk too quickly as we are trying to slowly bring the eggs up to temperature to stop them from scrambling
- Once all the milk is incorporated, pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Whisk constantly as the custard thickens
- You'll know the custard is ready when you can coat the back of a spoon, run your finger through it and it leaves a trail on the spoon (see images in above post for examples)
- Remove the custard from the heat, if you have gotten any lumps in the custard while cooking, you can pass it through a sieve to remove any lumps. If it looks smooth then go ahead to the next step
- Add the chocolate to the hot custard and continue whisking until all the chocolate has melted and it is smooth and silky200 g Dark Chocolate
- Transfer the chocolate custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the custard to stop a skin from forming. Let cool for a couple hours until the custard is lukewarm.
Make the Chocolate Pastry Base
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Put the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and mix together1 cup All-purpose Flour, ⅓ cup Icing Sugar, ¼ cup Cocoa Powder, ¼ teaspoon Salt
- Melt the butter in the microwave and pour into the dry ingredients along with the vanilla extract1 stick Butter, ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Mix everything together until a smooth, thick paste is formed
- Knead the paste into a dough with your hands - just 3 or 4 times, don't overwork it
- Flatten the pastry onto the lined baking sheet, use a small rolling pin or just your hands to work it into a large flat circle, slightly larger than your pastry ring. Try to make it as flat as possible, but don't worry about the sides being neat as they will be cut off
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the pastry no longer looks shiny
- Remove from the oven and immediately press the pastry ring into the pastry like a giant cookie cutter. Do not remove the pastry ring, let the pastry cool until your custard is at the right temperature to use
Make the flan
- Once the chocolate custard is cooled to about a lukewarm temperature, preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C
- Your pastry ring should still be sitting in the chocolate pastry. Leave it there and break off all the outside excess pastry
- Lightly grease the inside of your pastry ring with butter
- Pour the chocolate custard into the pastry ring, on top of what should now be a perfect circle of pastry. Smooth out the top of the custard as much as possible using a palette knife
- Bake for 50 - 60 minutes. When it's done it will still be very jiggly as it will continue to bake after it comes out of the oven.
- Allow to cool on the countertop completely and then transfer to the fridge, covering in plastic wrap. Let chill overnight. Do not attempt to cut into the flan before you have let it chill!
- Once the flan has completely chilled, remove from the pastry ring. If it doesn't lift easily, try running a sharp knife around the outside of the flan, or even apply heat to the outside to soften it up a little
- If you'd like the shiny finish, melt 1 tablespoon of jam in the microwave for 20 seconds and then brush a thin layer all over the flan with a pastry brush. It is traditional to use apricot jam, but I didn't have any so I used strawberry - you really don't taste the flavour of the jam so it's not important what kind you use.1 tablespoon Jam