tocinillo de cielo, a traditional Spanish custard

“Tocinillo de cielo” translates to something like “little bacon from heaven.” I’m not sure how “bacon-y” it is, but it’s definitely a heavenly dessert.

This is probably one of those recipes that came about long ago when egg whites were used to clarify wine. You can’t throw away all those extra yolks, certainly not in a thrifty and egg-loving Spanish kitchen, so somebody whipped up tocinillo with the extra yolks. Tocinillo is not as popular as flan outside of Spain, but it’s a favorite in my house.

If you’re lactose intolerant, this is a great alternative to flan without any need for milk substitutes.

tocinillo de cielo, a traditional Spanish custard
Here is a serving of tocinillo de cielo that I made in a baking dish. If you’re feeling fancy, you can use ramekins for individual servings.

The recipe is simple and very similar to flan. I left it in the metric measurements. For the most part when it comes to baking I really prefer the metric system!

tocinillo de cielo

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 400 g sugar
  • 250 ml water
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan, cook 100 g sugar and 1 Tbsp water over medium-low heat and stir regularly until it comes to a medium amber color. Remove from heat and divide evenly into eight flan ramekins. Set aside. If ramekins are too fussy for you, you can use a single baking dish and it works equally well.

In another small saucepan, combine remaining sugar with water. Bring to a boil. Using a candy thermometer, cook until sugar reaches 220°-225°F. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the syrup should coat the back of a spoon after it has cool down. If not, cook it for a few more minutes.

At this point, traditional recipes call for a little vanilla extract, lemon zest, or orange juice. Instead, I kept my recipe very plain to enjoy the rich flavor of the yolks.

In a large bowl, whisk yolks and whole eggs to combine. Whisk in cooled sugar syrup until well combined. Strain mixture into a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout so you can pour neatly into the prepared ramekins.

Pour egg yolk mixture into prepared ramekins, dividing mixture evenly between them. Ramekins may not be completely full.

Place ramekins into a shallow baking dish (I use a 9×9-inch pan) and place into the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the baking dish, making sure that the hot water comes about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Make sure no water gets in the ramekins.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until custards are set. A sharp knife inserted gently into the center of one of the custards should come out clean, and they should jiggle only very slightly when moved.

Carefully remove ramekins from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until cold, before serving.
To serve, slide a sharp knife around the edge of the custard and invert onto a serving dish.

Buen provecho!

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