Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine
Many confuse “crema catalana” with the French “crème brulée.” The main difference is by the distinctive spicing used in crema catalana of citrus peel and cinnamon and allowing the custard to set by chilling. The history archives tend to confirm that this recipe is an authentic Spanish sweet. The crema catalana, in its category, is Europe’s oldest desert, and appears in several medieval Catalan recipes books.
According to Confectionery Guild of Barcelona, the origins of crema catalana were created by the Jewish inhabitants of Catalonia. As lovers of sweets, they are said to have develop this custard using a combination of milk and eggs. This classic grouping was perfumed by its Moorish influence of cinnamon and lemon, and therefore, has its own specificity of ingredients and flavor to finish. Eating crema catalana quickly spread beyond its Catalonia roots to the rest of Spain, and was designated to be served on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day (Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day).
The Catalan Institute of Cooking declared this simple specialty as the national dessert of Catalonia and it is now a specialty served in restaurants and homes on many a summer evening.
It is an easy dessert to prepare and serve during the hot days of summer. The best part is that you can arrange this dessert a day ahead of when you want to serve it. It is quick to make, and you’ll notice that the ingredients are very much what you are likely to have at home already. A variation to utilize is to cook the custard as indicated and pour it in pastry shells instead. Top it off with fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or any of your favorite offered during the summer season.
• 1 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on top to caramelize
• 8 egg yolks
• 1 tbsp corn flour
• 1/2 lemon zest
• 1/2 orange zest
• 1 vanilla bean
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 liter of milk
1. Heat the milk with orange peel and lemon, vanilla bean and cinnamon in a saucepan.
2. Mix the egg yolks with sugar and corn flour until the mixture turns to a light yellow color and slightly frothy.
3. Once the milk has boiled add it to the mixture and then pass the mixture through a strainer and place back in the pan.
4. Simmer, constantly stirring with a spatula until the mixture thickens and remove the pan at once.
5. Place in individual clay pots or heat proof custard plates and placed in the fridge covered with plastic wrap to set for at least 4 hours.
6. When serving, place sugar on top and burn the surface subsequently in an oven with an upper grill on or with a kitchen blowtorch to caramelize the sugar.