Crema catalana is Catalonia’s most renowned dessert; made with an egg custard base and caramelised sugar topping, find it on the menu of almost any restaurant in the region and you won’t be disappointed.
Traditionally served in a clay dish, this dessert steeped in history and legend is will tickle both your curiosity and your taste buds. So what is the story behind crema catalana?
The chances are you’ve tried France’s crème brûlée or Portugal’s creme caramel – two desserts that are similar to crema catalana – however today we’re going to delve into the history of this sweet treat and explain to you step by step how to make it at home.
As far back as we can remember, crema catalana has been associated with Catalonia’s local holidays, being above all the typical dessert served on the day of Sant Josep in early spring (19 March). Yet, legend has it that the dessert became so popular in the region of Catalonia in the 18th century when the monks of a Catalan monastery served this dessert to a visiting bishop.
As the story goes, the flans the monks were going to serve to the bishop didn’t set, so instead the monks served crema catalana. When the bishop tried a spoonful of the dessert, which he expected to be cold, he cried: “Crema!” – which in Catalan means, “it’s burning hot!” And this is where this curious dessert gets its name “Crema Catalana”.
So now it’s your turn. Today we bring you a homemade recipe that uses basic ingredients you can find at any supermarket. What’s more it’s simple enough for everyone at home to join in and help.
So, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in: it’s time to make your very own Crema Catalana.
Crema Catalana recipe step by step
- 1 litre of whole milk
- 8 medium-sized egg yolks
- 25 g of cornstarch
- 250 g of white sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest of half a lemon
- First of all, wash your hands and all surfaces you are going to use thoroughly before starting to prepare this delicious homemade dessert. Now let’s get to work!
- Wash the lemon well and peel it. Be sure to remove all the white part from the zest, as it can give your crema catalana a bitter taste.
- Pour a glass of milk and add the cornstarch. Stir well to ensure the cornstarch dissolves.
- Pour the remaining milk into a large saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and the lemon zest.
- Slowly bring the milk to boil on a low heat. Be sure to stir regularly and make sure the milk does not burn.
- When the milk reaches boiling point, take it off the heat and cover with a lid for the cinnamon and lemon to release their flavours. Leave to one side to infuse and cool.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with 200 g of white sugar until combined.
- When the milk has cooled, add the egg and sugar mixture to the saucepan and combine well. Then, add the glass of milk with cornstarch and mix.
- Next, leave the mixture to heat slowly on a low heat. Stir for approximately five minutes with a wooden spoon always in the same direction (for example always clockwise) until the milk slowly begins to thicken into cream. It’s important not to let the mixture boil and to remove all lumps.
- Take the cream off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Pour the cream into a large ovenproof dish or individual dishes, depending on how you are going to serve it.
- Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature. When it has cooled, you can store it in the fridge if you don’t plan on eating it immediately.
- Before serving, sprinkle the crema catalana with the remaining sugar. Lightly burn the sugar topping with a cooking torch until it begins to turn golden brown and caramelise.
Now, grab a spoon and dig in to your very own homemade Crema Catalana!
- If you’re not a fan of cinnamon and lemon, remove them before leaving the milk to cool down in step 6. This will give the Crema Catalana a milder flavour.
- Why not try infusing your crema catalana with something different? We suggest citrus fruits, lavender or even rosemary. Let’s get creative!
- You can buy cooking torches from any hardware stores or specialist cooking stores.
- It’s important you caramelize the sugar topping immediately after adding it, before the cream base absorbs it. This will ensure you get a solid caramel topping.
We hope you enjoy this traditional Catalan dessert! Bon profit!