Spanish Week – #5: Crema Catalana

There is much bickering between France and Spain as to ownership of this dessert. Each claiming its heritage as theirs, each country insisting their version reigns supreme. In the great scheme of things, It would appear that France’s version “crème brûlée” wins the people’s vote as it’s the one everyone knows. However, the Spanish dish “Crema Catalana” is mightily tasty in it’s own right – Unlike crème brûlée, it’s flavoured with lemon, orange and cinnamon, and the cooking technique is easier too – dispensing of the fussy “bain marie”. I like crème brûlée, but I like crema catalana more. Whatever the truth, Crema Catalana is a beautiful, rich creamy dessert – perfect for any Spanish dinner party. It’s a new top pudding!

500ml milk
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
4 pieces lemon peel
2 pieces orange peel
55g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
40g cornflour
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Slice the vanilla bean down the centre and scrape out the beans. Put the beans and the remaining skin into a small saucepan together with the milk, cinnamon, orange peel and lemon peel. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 5 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve and discard the solids.

Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for 5 minutes until light and creamy. Whisk in the cornflour until smooth then gradually pour in the hot milk whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan and warm over a medium/low heat whisking continually. Do not let the mixture boil as it will split, so remove from the heat now and again, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Taste the sauce as if it is undercooked will taste too ‘eggy’. Remove from the heat when the sauce resembles a semi-thick cake mixture.

Spoon the mixture into small ramekins or tea cups and leave to cool slightly. Cover with cplastic wrap and refridgerate for 6 hours or better still overnight.

Remove from the fridge and bring up to room temperature then cover with a layer of brown sugar. Place under a hot, preheated grill for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has caramalised. Leave for 1 minute to harden then serve!

Serve as is or with some kind of crunchy sweet biscuit on the the side.

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