Crema Catalana is a rich custard dessert with a crisp caramelized crust - something like a Spanish crème brûlée. Visit Catalunya and you might hear the opposite - that the French learned this recipe from their Catalan neighbors. Either way, this creamy dessert is fun to make and delightful to eat.
The best way to create this classic dessert requires a red-hot heating iron to caramelize the sugary surface. However, before we get to the fun part, first make a simple vanilla and lemon custard using the terra cotta cazuela dishes (see recipe below).
This gift packed kit includes six terra cotta rustic cazuelas and a burner (called a salamander) made to fit them just right. The packaging also has instructions and a recipe.
Note: The heating iron comes with a thin, non-toxic protective coating to prevent rust. Before its first use, heat the round end of the iron over an open flame and burn off the coating in a well-ventilated area. Wash the cazuelas in soap and water before first use.
After each use, lightly oil the iron as you would a cast iron skillet, before storing.
Crema Catalana Recipe:
6 egg yolks
4 1/4 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean
In a pot, mix the milk with the vanilla bean, lemon zest and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain the mixture, setting aside the vanilla bean and lemon zest. Add the egg yolks to the hot milk mixture and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir and place back on the heat once again and bring to a boil, removing immediately just when boiling begins again. Pour the cream into the ceramic cazuelas, allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Heat the included iron (called a salamander in Spanish!) on a stove burner until the disk is red hot, as hot as possible. This is critical to ensuring that the crisp sugary glaze is created.
Sprinkle each crema catalana with sugar, raw sugar is particularly good, and hold the iron very close to the surface, but not touching. This will caramelize the sugar, thereby creating a crunchy, sweet crust on top.
How caramelized you want the sugar to be is a matter of personal taste. Some people like the sugar toasted dark brown, others a lighter tan color.
The process may create some smoke, so do this in a well ventilated area! Now you are ready to serve.