[review + recipe + giveaway] Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom

As soon as I saw “flan” in the title, my mouth began to water and I smiled at the little girl’s joyous face as she peeked into the oven with her grandmother.

What could be nicer than spending the day with a loved one making a family recipe? What  could possibly go wrong? Well . . .

Most of us know that without some sort of conflict there really wouldn’t be a story worth telling, and in Abuelita and I Make Flan, author-illustrator Adriana Hernández Bergstrom cooked up a truly engaging, suspenseful, heartwarming tale that will likely resonate with everyone – unless you happen to be absolutely perfect and have never made a mistake. 😇

Young Anita is excited that her abuela is going to teach her how to make flan for Abuelo’s birthday. Not just any flan, mind you, but the best flan!

Before they even get started, Anita accidentally breaks Abuelita’s crystal flan serving plate – it’s from Cuba and she’s had it forever, before Anita was born.

OH NO.

 Anita has already ruined Abuelo’s birthday. 😦

“Maybe no one will notice?”

Anita knows she should tell Abuelita, but worries about angering or disappointing her, so she decides she will instead strive to be the best helper. After all, she’s usually good at helping Abuelita with things she has difficulty doing because of her arthritis (threading needles, opening jars, undoing knots).

When it’s time to start, Anita skips around the kitchen gathering all the ingredients. Abuelita reminds her that making flan takes time and patience, and that the eggs must be cracked very carefully. 

Anita readies the water bath they’ll need to bake the flan. After Abuelita makes the caramel and combines the rest of the ingredients, they pour the mix into the mold. Once the flan is in the oven, it’s time to dance!

Now the waiting begins. Abuelita starts to tell the story of how Anita’s great-grandmother Catalina gave her and Abuelo the crystal plate for their fifth anniversary, but Abuelo interrupts her. He says he has a better story, describing how he was a judo master in Cuba. 

Anita is impressed and asks Abuelo to teach her some judo moves. Distractions aside, Anita grows more and more anxious as the flan is almost done. Then they’ll need the crystal plate – the one that’s now broken into “a million pieces.” Oh, the agony! She cannot keep her secret any longer.

Just as the timer goes off, Anita tearfully confesses her misdeed. Abuelita lovingly comforts Anita, reassuring her that Abuelo will appreciate the flan anyway because it was made with love. Besides, “A plate is a plate, but YOU are irreplaceable.”

As the flan cools, Abuelita finishes her plate story. Anita is surprised to learn Abuelo actually broke the original plate, which they’d received as a wedding gift from his mother. What’s more, he broke it at the wedding in front of everyone! So the plate Anita broke was a replacement.

What to do? Anita has a great idea. Why not use the plate she had made for Grandparent’s Day? Will the flan fit? Abuelita carefully flips the flan onto Anita’s plate. Perfect!! Happy Birthday, Abuelo!!

Abuelita and I Make Flan is Adriana’s debut as both author and illustrator, and I love the creative ways she combined text and art to tell this truly relatable story. 

She did an outstanding job of tracing Anita’s emotional arc from beginning to end. Her voice rings true and her feelings are intensely childlike and believable. 

As the story progresses, first person narration is interspersed with speech balloon dialogue. This not only creates a sense of immediacy as certain scenes are dramatized, but gives the reader a good sense of the characters’ personalities. Both Abuelo and Abuelita mix English with Spanish, enabling non-Spanish speaking readers to puzzle out word meanings through context.

Each page turn is interesting because of how Bergstrom alternated full bleed spreads with panels and spot illos. Hand-lettered interjections effectively heighten the drama and suspense, while lots of fun details will keep eager eyes busy.

Anita is adorable and endearing; readers will root for her from page one. Her facial expressions run the gamut from sweet and coy to utter dismay and worry, to earnest concentration and sheer bliss. The word-laden spread where she confesses how the plate crashed to the floor is especially effective as all her pent-up guilt and worry comes flooding out with such remorse. You can’t help but feel for her.

A delectable celebration of food, culture, family traditions, and togetherness, Abuelita and I Make Flan will get kids thinking about the importance of honesty and forgiveness, and accepting that accidents happen to everyone. The love between Anita and her grandparents is especially palpable and comforting, and of course it’s always fun to master new cooking skills. 

Backmatter includes a Recipe for Cheese Flan, a glossary of Spanish-English translations, and photos of Adriana and her grandparents.

Hungry?

*

🥚 Abuelita’s Cheese Flan 🍮

Once again, a children’s picture book gave us a chance to make something for the first time. We love custard here at Alphabet Soup, so naturally, after reading Adriana’s mouthwatering story, all the furry kitchen helpers were starving for Abuelita’s flan. They were particularly intrigued with the prospect of caramelizing the sugar.

The addition of cream cheese promised to make this custard even richer and we weren’t disappointed. Just like Abuelita tells Anita, flan takes a little time and patience. Mr Cornelius was happy to stir the granulated sugar on medium heat for about 7 minutes before it turned into an amber syrup.

After we coated the bottom of our 9″ pan with the caramel, we blended the two milks, vanilla and eggs, then added this filling to the pan. We baked the flan in our bain-marie (water bath) till the center was jiggly. Though the recipe estimated baking time at 45 minutes to an hour, we baked ours for 1 hour + 15 minutes to get the desired consistency.

After we chilled the flan in the fridge overnight, it was drama time. There is always some suspense whenever you have to flip something over and unmold it (fingers crossed it would come out in one piece with no breaks)!

We did it! Phew!! *thunderous applause broke out among the ranks*

Then it was time to taste. Rich, creamy, and oh-so-smooth. We wished Abuelo a Happy Birthday, thanked Anita and Abuelita for showing us how to make the flan, and congratulated Adriana for creating this tasty tale. Would you like another piece? 🙂

Cheese Flan

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

Directions

    *Please get adult assistance and supervision when cooking with a hot stove.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Have an adult make the caramel: Heat the sugar in a pan, stirring frequently, until it turns amber. Pour the caramel in the baking mold (we used a 9″ round cake pan), rotating to coat the bottom evenly.
  3. In a blender, add the eggs, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. Add the cream cheese in pieces. Blend until smooth. Pour into the baking mold and cover with foil.
  4. Prep the bain-marie by filling it with 1 inch of water, and place it in the oven. Next, place the baking mold (foil side up), into the water bath. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the batter is jiggly, not runny.
  5. Remove from the oven and let rest for 25 minutes. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. Flip the flan by removing the foil, running a knife along the edge of the mold, and inverting the mold onto a bigger serving dish. Spoon the remaining caramel sauce from the mold onto the flan. Serve and enjoy!
    Notes:
  1. The recipe in the book specified a 14 oz can of evaporated milk and a 12 oz can of sweetened condensed milk. This was likely a typo, since evaporated milk comes in 12 oz cans, and sweetened condensed milk comes in 14 oz cans. I took the liberty of correcting this here.
  2. I used a standard 9″ cake pan and there was a little extra batter. Unless you have a deeper mold, I suggest halving the sweetened condensed milk to 7 oz.
  3. A bain-marie is an oven-safe pan large enough to hold the flan’s baking pan and water.

~ adapted from Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom, as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

*

ABUELITA AND I MAKE FLAN
written and illustrated by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom
published by Charlesbridge, August 9, 2022
Picture Book for ages 5-8, 32 pp.

*Includes a Recipe for Cheese Flan and a Glossary of Spanish terms

♥️ Visit the publisher’s website for an Activity Kit that includes a Guava Flan variation.

Amazon || Bookshop || Charlesbridge

*

🎉 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 📙

The publisher is generously offering a brand new copy for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Friday, September 30, 2022. You may also enter by sending an email to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com with “FLAN” in the subject line. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!

*

🥭 HAPPY HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH! 🥑


*Interior spreads from Abuelita and I Make Flan, text and illustrations copyright © 2022 Adriana Hernández Bergstrom, published by Charlesbridge. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “[review + recipe + giveaway] Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom

  1. Just yesterday, a teacher asked about books for students of Hispanic heritage that showed the variety of Spanish-speaking nations…this is a title I can give to her! Thank you for this review. I love the whole message of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this book, because being a grandmother allows you to bond with the little ones in a special way. I could see that her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was very special to her grands and great grands just by the looks on their faces. Very special no matter what culture you call your own. We are more alike than different! Thanks Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve made flan & it does take time but oh, it is yummy! This book looks so nice, Jama. I love the mix of English & Spanish & of course, wonderful to have a new grandmother tale. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks like such an adorable book — and I love that it’s more than a cooking story, but one about mistakes and forgiveness. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a tasty tale and a real-life story of human mistakes that are forgiven. I love flan, but haven’t had it in years. What a combination of senses-pleasing stimuli! I am an abuela, and I can identify with doing a project with my granddaughters, although with us it’s often painting and drawing. It’s always so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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