Monday, 9 March 2009

Crema Catalana

A lot of countries lay claim to the invention of crème brûlée, the French claim it as their own while the English say they got there first with the Cambridge burnt cream, and the Spanish? well they say it was their creation in the form of crema catalana.

Although I perhaps should have been patriotic and made the English version I just couldn't resist the charms of the Spanish crema catalana which is delicately flavoured with orange, lemon and cinnamon. Unlike it's French and English counterparts which are baked in a bain marie, crema catalana is cooked on the stove and set in the fridge.
The caramel topping is made using a blow torch, if you don't have a blow torch you can use a very hot grill, it just won't be as fun! It is crucial here that you don't do this more than half an hour before you serve if you want the caramel to stay hard and crack satisfyingly as you break in.
I used a recipe by Rick Stein, taken from his book, Mediterranean Escapes. I've recommended this book before and I'll do it again, it's one of my favourite cookbooks, if your at all interested in Mediterranean cookery this book is a must.
Crema catalana recipe

Serves 4

  • 10fl oz/300ml single cream
  • 10fl oz/300ml full-cream milk
  • Finely grated zest 1/2 orange
  • Finely grated zest 1/2 large lemon
  • 3in/7.5cm cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 24oz/75g caster sugar, plus 4 tbsp 2 tbsp cornflour

Bring the cream, milk, orange zest, lemon zest and the cinnamon stick halves to the boil in a non-stick pan. Set aside for one hour for the milk to become infused with the flavourings.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the 2½oz/75g sugar and beat with a hand-held electric mixer until pale and creamy. Beat in the cornflour. Bring the milk back to the boil and strain into a jug. Mix a few tablespoons into the egg yolk mixture to loosen it slightly, then stir in the remainder.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the wooden spoon. But don't let the mixture boil.

Pour the mixture into four wide shallow dishes (terracotta if possible), measuring about 5in/12cm across. Leave to cool, then chill for 4-6 hours, or overnight. Shortly before serving, sprinkle the surface of each custard with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar and caramelise under a hot grill. Serve immediately - the sugar will stay hard for only about 30 minutes.


Anne said...

That looks delicious Sam! I am really funny with hard caramel though and pick it all off, just love the filling! A friend bought me a cute typhoon blow torch 2 years ago but have never used it!

Like the idea of being scented with the cinnamon and citrus additions

Beth said...

Yum - I would love one of these right now. I must get a blow torch!

James said...

I remember these being all over Barcelona, everywhere you looked. It's a winner.

Tried bruleeing with the grill at home one night when I'd left the blow torch at work. The cream underneath was hot and bubbling by the time the sugar had bruleed. Not so nice. Blow torches win the day. Anyone who hasn't got one should put them on Santa's list - it's never too early.....

Amanda said...


I'm another one that doesn't care much for the hard caramel topping, so just the custard sounds great to me!

Foodycat said...

Pretty bowls!

I don't care where it came from, I adore these custardy desserts. Another brilliant dish, Sam!

Next time you are feeling like osso bucco, try Wellhung - they do British high-welfare veal

Christina said...

That sounds delicious, especially the combination of flavors. A mini blow torch is on my list of kitchen gadgets to buy.

Pam said...

Mmmm. This looks amazing Sam. I will be on the lookout for that cookbook.

Margaret said...

I love breaking through the caramel!
An excellent recipe.

pigpigscorner said...

Love the 2nd pic! Looks realy delicious with the hard caramel shell and soft creamy filling...yum yum

Hopie said...

Yum, yum! I have to admit, using a blow torch does sound like the fun part ;-) I'll have to get me one of those!

onlinepastrychef said...

Dear lord that looks good! I have never met a custard I didn't like, and this one looks amazing!

Sophie said...

I didn't know the spanish had their version of this, I've yet to use a blowtorch like this, I'm so intimidated by them :).

Karen said...

This looks amazing. You don't tell us how much cornflour to use. What's cornflour? I'm in the U.S. :) I love the crackle of the sugar... bring it on!

Joie de vivre said...

This looks amazing! I don't have that Rick Stein book, I'll put it on my wish list!

Jo said...

I can vouch for these being amazing - and at least as good, if not better, than any I have had in Spain - and I have had a lot! It's good to get to eat all Sam's delicacies!

The Caked Crusader said...

Yum - I love this dish whatever it's called. A big bowl of custard with a crunchy topping can never fail to delight!