This is what every Cuban child of my generation grew up eating for dessert and what I made for my American children when they were growing up. The original natilla is very simple to make and is rather a common dessert just like custard is in this country. I would say natilla is softer and this recipe is somewhere in consistency between American custard and creme anglaise. As to flavor, the combination of lemon rind and cinnamon gives it an addictive taste that keeps you coming back for more, sometimes in the middle of the night!
The only problem you have when you make the classic natilla is what to do with all the leftover egg whites. You can either freeze them or make baked meringues. I did this for awhile until I wisened up and decided to incorporate them into the dessert. The ladyfingers were a natural addition and once the dessert cools completely they become as soft as cake.
I usually make the chocolate variation which I encourage you to try and only requires the additional step of melting some chocolate on the stove or microwave. It is very rich and very, very good!
A new generation of grandbabies will definitely grow up on this if Lindaraxa has any say in the matter!
1 quart milk
1 piece of lime or lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of salt
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4 TB corn starch
8-10 ladyfingers (optional)
Add salt, lemon rind and cinnamon stick to milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from the stove and let cool. Remove cinnamon and lemon peel.
Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until they are fluffy. Continue beating and gradually add the cornstarch mixed with the water and the sugar until it is completely mixed. Gradually add milk to mixture until you have a smooth consistency. Pass through a sieve into a pan and cook in low heat, stirring occasionally until it's thick and begins to bubble. Add vanilla and stir. Pour into individual serving bowls or one big bowl. . Chill completely in refrigerator. Sprinkle cinnamon on the top just before serving.
This is where the traditional natilla stops and mine begins.
Submerge about 8-10 ladyfingers in the natilla. They will come back to the top but don't worry. You will be covering with meringue.
Make a meringue with the 8 leftover egg whites a dash of salt and about 3TB sugar per egg white. With a big serving spoon drop in dollops over the custard. Return to refrigerator and serve well chilled!
Chocolate Variation: Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and add to egg yolks and sugar. Proceed as with rest of recipe..
Adapted from Nitza Villapol