My Venezuelan friends insist that quesillo is unique and nothing at all like flan. They especially point out that quesillo should have tiny holes in it (the way certain cheeses do), and that is probably where the name, which means something like "little cheese," comes from.
Personally, I can't find any difference between quesillo and flan beyond the normal variation in recipes, which can be considerable. For example, I have three recipes for quesillo. One calls for three eggs, another calls for six, and still another requires eight--all for the same amount of milk. Flan recipes are equally variable. So are we making flan or quesillo? Well, I have visited Venezuela and no other Latin-American country, and I love it. So out of devotion to my friends there, I will call this quesillo. I hope you enjoy it, no matter what you call it. And my recipe calls for four eggs. Go figure. (For a printer-friendly version of the recipe, with somewhat less detail than is given below, click here.)
To make quesillo, preheat the oven to 350* F. Stir together 1 cup granulated cane sugar with 1/4 cup water. Place in a small saucepan over high heat. Once it is combined, DO NOT STIR IT, or it will crystallize. (I learned this, as you might guess, from bitter experience. I stirred my first batch of caramel constantly and ended up with a geological formation in the pan.)
Remove the quesillo mold from the hot water and set it on a rack to cool.
|Finished quesillo, after we sampled it. Note the holes.|
The original recipe here came from my good friend Michele Lee, an American who lives in the lovely Venezuelan town of Merida. I made a few small changes (added an egg and reduced the amount of caramel), but it's basically hers. I made this for the first time several weeks ago, when another good friend, Noa Botello, was visiting from Venezuela.
One of the joys of this world is that there are wonderful things in all sorts of places. Take them where you find them, and use them if they work. Be willing to learn from others, and give credit where it's due. Then you can use good ideas (and good recipes) from all over. That's not stealing, it's appreciation.