This recipe was inspired by my friend Brent from SnackChatLive, who recently posted a story with a delicious looking Crema Catalana he had in Barcelona. I’ve had Creme Brulee on numerous occasions and enjoy it immensely, but I’ve never had the pleasure of Crema Catalana until now. Que Magnific!
The main differences between Crema Catalana and Creme Brulee are the types of milk and spices used. Crema Catalana is made with whole milk, cinnamon, and lemon peel (or orange peel, or both), whereas with Creme Brulee, it calls for heavy cream, vanilla bean, and is cooked in a water bath. Also Crema Catalana is traditionally a little more liquidy than it’s counterpart. It can all depend on the chef’s preference.
If you recall in my earlier post for Fried Milk, it also used whole milk, sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick. I really liked how the lemon peel and cinnamon flavored the milk. I was looking forward to that flavor combination again.
My favorite part of Creme Brulee and/or Crema Catalana is the crunchy caramelized sugar topping. Am I right? Come on, who doesn’t enjoy cracking their spoon into that hard sugary crust? Today most people use hand-held kitchen torches to make the topping but traditionally a hot iron or stamp, also called a salamander, was used. As luck would have it, I was able to find (ie., borrow from a friend’s kitchen cabinet) a cute little heart-shaped ramekin set that included a heart-shaped iron. Perfect for Valentine’s day but there was no way I was waiting till then…
I tried both white granulated sugar and brown turbinado sugar for the topping and the turbinado was the clear winner.
Serves: 3 to 4
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks **we buy small eggs, if you use large eggs you may just need 3 yolks**
- 1 small heaping tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 long slice of lemon peel (with as little of the white pith as possible)
- 1 long slice of orange peel (with as little of the white pith as possible)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- turbinado or raw sugar for caramelizing
Add the milk, cinnamon stick, lemon and orange peel to a small saucepan, preferable stainless steal. On medium-low heat, heat up milk to just beginning to boil. While milk is heating up, separate the egg yolks. In another bowl combine cornstarch in just enough water to dissolve it. Stir the sugar into the egg yolks than add the dissolved cornstarch, and stir until well combined.
When the milk is just beginning to boil, remove from heat and remove the cinnamon stick, lemon and orange peels. Place back on heat and slowly add the yolk mixture into the milk while continuously stirring. Stir continuously with energy until mixture gets to a slightly runny pudding consistency. It will thicken up a bit more once it cools down. Take off heat and pour into your ramekins. Let them sit out until they are room temp, than cover with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, 4 hours is better, and overnight is the best.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of turbinado or raw sugar on top of each ramekin. Use a hand-held culinary torch or if you’re lucky enough to have an old-fashioned iron or know someone you can borrow one from, use that instead. I’ve read mixed reviews on using the broiler method, some mentioning it can cause lumping and others just discouraging that method. It’s usually served cold or at room temp.
**If you are using an iron, here are some notes from my experience using one. I realize that not all irons are the same so this is just what I’ve experienced. Firstly, it appears that the iron is only hot long enough to caramelize one ramekin at a time. Once you’ve caramelized one ramekin put the iron in a bowl with water. Once it has cooled down and the burnt sugar easily falls off iron, dab dry it and put iron back on burner until hot than caramelize the next ramekin. And so on.
Now go get your favorite spoon and get to crackin’.