Crema catalana is a traditional Catalan custard dish, very similar to crème brûlée. The custard is flavored with lemon and/or orange zest, and cinnamon. The sugar in crema catalana is traditionally caramelized under an iron broiler or with a specially made iron, not with a flame.
The amazing thing about this particular recipe, is that it is not baked! The custard is cooked on low heat on the stove top, and thickened with a bit of corn starch before pouring into ramekins to set in the fridge. It should be watched with an eagle eye while cooking on the stove, otherwise it might split. If done correctly, this is one of my absolute favourite flavours and textures for a dessert! Creamy, yet not too rich, subtly hinting at lemon and orange flavours, with just a touch of cinnamon. Add the crispy layer of caramelised sugar on top and you’ll be completely hooked.
- 1 litre (4 cups) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest of 1 small lemon, peeled
- 2 strips of orange zest (about 4 cm long each)
- 8 egg yolks
- 115 g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
- 40 g (1/3 cup) corn starch
- 45 g (1/4 cup) soft brown sugar
- Put the milk, scraped vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon stick, lemon and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat to very low, simmer for 5 minutes, then strain and set aside.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a separate bowl until pale and creamy. Add the cornstarch and mix well.
- Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the egg yolks while whisking continuously. Return to the saucepan and cook carefully over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. DO NOT LET IT BOIL as it will curdle.
- Pour into 6 ramekins and refrigerate for 6 hours, or overnight.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle the top evenly with brown sugar and grill for 3 minutes until the sugar caramelises. Serve immediately.