If you like Creme Brulee, you will LOVE Crema Catalana. Crema catalana (Catalan 'Catalan cream') or crema de Sant Josep, is the Catalan version of crème brûlée. It is usually served on Saint Joseph's Day March 19. The custard is flavoured with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon.
Catalans claim that their crema catalana is the predecessor of France's crème brûlée, though many regions lay claim to the origin of the dessert. The chief difference between the two is that crema catalana is not baked in a bain-marie as crème brûlée is.
I frankly prefer it over creme brulee but I think you owe it to yourself to try it before you make such an important decision. If you have a tapas party, this is the dessert to have at the end of the table.
For 4 servings in casuelas
or 8 servings in ramekins
- 4 small, shallow heat-proof dishes, preferably cazuelas
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Rind of 1/2 lemon
- Rind of 1/2 orange
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 medium egg yolks
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/2 cup (3 oz) brown sugar to caramelize
In a saucepan, gently heat 250 ml (1 cup) milk; infuse the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar; blend in the cornstarch dissolved in 750 ml (3 cups) cold milk, and the zests.
Pour into the hot milk. Heat gently, stirring briskly.
When the mixture thickens, immediately remove the pan from the heat; remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.
Pour the cream into individual ramekins and let cool.
Just before serving, caramelize with a torch or under the broiler (see chef's notes).
Catalan cream is served cold. To caramelize the cream, ideally use a torch. If you want to caramelize the cream under the broiler, put the ramekins into a shallow pan containing ice cubes so that the custard doesn't heat up. Afterwards, stick it back in the refrigerator so it will remain cold until you serve it. I usually caramelize it in the afternoon, and stick it back in the fridge until dinner time. This will ensure a hard caramel crust on the top and a very cold cream underneath.