Crema Catalana is a classic Spanish dessert similar to a French crème brûlée – it’s a smooth Spanish custard with a hint of citrus and spice, topped with a hardened caramel. A traditional Catalana is not as rich as a crème brûlée and the Spanish use cinnamon rather than vanilla to flavour the custard. Originally from Catalonia, the dessert is popular throughout Spain and I definitely enjoyed a couple while in Seville and Granada. Although not traditional, you can top with some fresh seasonal fruit, if you like – I like to serve mine with raspberries or figs.
Put a heavy-based saucepan over a low–medium heat and add the milk, pared zests and cinnamon stick. Gently bring to the boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.
Meanwhile, beat or whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until pale, thick and creamy.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the cinnamon stick and pared zests from the infused milk and place the pan back over a very low heat. Slowly add the egg mixture to the warm milk, whisking continuously for 8–10 minutes until the cream begins to thicken. When the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into six shallow serving dishes or four ramekins.
Cover the dishes and let cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.
To serve, sprinkle a layer of brown sugar on top of each dessert and caramelise using a blowtorch or by placing under a hot grill until the sugar bubbles and turns golden brown. Allow the sugar to harden, then serve immediately, scattered with raspberries and fresh mint, if using.
- 500ml whole milk
- pared zest of 1 large lemon, pith removed
- pared zest of ½ orange, pith removed
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 6 egg yolks
- 60g caster sugar
- 1½ heaped tbsp cornflour (you can use less if you prefer a runnier consistency)
- 4-6 tbsp light brown sugar
- fresh raspberries and mint sprigs, to serve (optional)