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Flan-art - 1/8/15


A short article on the history of flan by Jim Chevallier.


NOTE: See also the files: flan-msg, custards-msg, Custard-Tarts-art, bread-pudding-msg, fd-Spain-msg, eggs-msg, pies-msg, cheesecake-msg, cheese-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2013 00:48:11 -0500 (EST)

From: JIMCHEVAL at aol.com

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: [Sca-cooks] LIBER DE COQUINA: A brief history of flan


A recent query has got me re-visiting the Liber de Coquina, which, tucked  away in its Latin, has a number of interesting finds, such as recipes for ravioli and what appears to be an ancestor of lasagne ("lasana"). It also includes an innocuous enough looking recipe for... flan.


Which is actually kind of a big deal. But first, a word about flan.


The first mention of flan seems to be in Fortunatus' hagiography of Queen Radegund, who hid her (suitably ascetic) barley bread *sub fladone* - that is, under the *flado* (flan). In later years, "fladone" would become "flaon", then "flan". At this point it is said to have been a flatcake ("flado" is related to "flat"; even today one meaning of "flan" is a flat surface used in minting).


Somewhere over time it evolved until by the late medieval period it was a cream (or cheese) flavored shell.


This was probably an incremental process. A 13th century Arab cookbook from Baghdad offers a recipe for *iflagun*, which is said to be a Frankish specialty: Take flour and knead it. Let it rise. Make a round base of it, raised on the sides. Then take an egg, break it in a terrine and put in it a little salt, crushed pepper, ginger, anise and a little cumin. Mix all this with the egg. Add fresh rue leaves and little bits of crushed cheese. Add saffron to it and spread it on the base. All this must be of a good thickness. Put in the oven.


In offering the French translation for this by Rodinson, the Belgian scholar Liliane Plouvier, calls this post-Crusades confection a "Carolingian flan". Plouvier is an excellent researcher, but she can be cavalier about periods; personally my guess (that's all it is) is that it was the Arabs who had the idea of adding cheese to the Frankish flatcake and raising the sides (pizza-style) to contain the filling.


By the late medieval period, the sides had risen into a bowl and the flan was common enough to be required in some cases as a rent. This may be why books like the Viandier, the Menagier and the Enseignemenz do not even bother to offer a plain recipe for it, only offering variations (for Lent) using eels or fish (apparently to - ! - imitate the taste of cheese); without bothering to offer one for plain old flan.


Now, here's this from the Liber de Coquina:


"Regarding a cup or small cake of milk, for a milk cup, take firm dough and make a cup like bread out of small pieces [?]; and put it a little in an oven, long enough to make it hard. Then, take milk mixed together with beaten eggs and saffron and put it in the said cup, but not too full. And cook properly and eat."


4. -- De copo sive de pastillo de lacte: ad copum de lacte, accipe pastam duram et fac copum sicut panem unius pastilli; et pone in furno  parum, ut aliquantulum dure fiat. Deinde, accipe lac cum ovis batutis simul mixtis et safranum et proice in dicto copo, sed non multum impleas. Et decoque competenter et comede.


No, it doesn't say (even in Latin) "flan", but really: does it need to?


If that wasn't cool enough, consider this: though numerous recipes say to put food in a pasty, none that I've seen actually say how to make the pasty itself. This recipe, summary as it is, does: use a firm ("hard", or not very hydrated) dough and bake it long enough to harden it.


Not much, but it's better than nothing, no?


Otherwise, it occurs to me that someone needing food for an event could have great fun making three eras of flan: the Frankish flatcake (probably a honey cake), the pizza-like "Carolingian flan" and the cream or cheese in a shell late medieval version.


If you really want to have fun, you could even make the version using fish or eels. :)


Jim Chevallier


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org