Traditionally, crema catalana (“Catalan cream”) or crema cremada (“Burnt cream”) was made only on St Joseph’s Day (the Catalan equivalent of Father’s Day), on 19 March, by grannies and maiden aunts. These days, there are lots of powdered, just-add-milk custard preparations on the market, me, I prefer the traditional version.
While crema catalana and the French crème brûlée are different in some respects, the two desserts are very similar. Though of course crema catalana is more delicious! It is made from a mixture of milk and egg and is set by chilling, while crème brûlée is made with cream and is set by baking in the oven, often in a bain-marie. The effect on people is the same: this dessert is always on the menu because it is hugely popular. Crema catalana is often served alongside carquinyolis although I ring the changes by serving it with caramelised figs.
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
Prep: 1 hr 0 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 quart whole milk
- Peel of 1 lemon, left in 1 or 2 pieces
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for caramelizing
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk, and stir to dissolve cornstarch. In a medium saucepan, heat remaining milk with the lemon peel, vanilla bean and seeds, and cinnamon stick, stirring. Just before milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover pan and set aside.
- In a large, heavy saucepan whisk together the eggs, sugar and reserved cornstarch mixture. Remove lemon peel from the milk, and slowly add the milk (and cinnamon stick) to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Place pan over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.
- Strain the custard into a large measuring cup or bowl with a pouring spout, then pour the strained custard into 6 ovenproof ramekins. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, heat a flat metal spatula over a hot gas flame. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar over each custard, and then touch the surface of the sugar with the hot spatula just long enough to caramelize it. (Alternative methods for caramelizing are to place ramekins under a broiler, or use a small blow-torch).
Video: © infocatalan