Like a lot of people, I love crema Catalana. I have tried to make it several times before, with limited success. The first time, I curdled the custard when caramelising the sugar under the grill. The second time, I curdled the custard by overcooking it on the stovetop (see here). The third time, I curdled the custard by having the oven temperature too high. Thankfully, it was a case of fourth time lucky. My most recently attempted crema Catalanas were perfectly rich and creamy on the inside with a thick crackle of caramelised sugar on top.
Here follows my recipe, with all my tips so that you can all make it at home on the first try!
These quantities will fill four 150mL cazuelas. One word of warning: these take a few days to make so think forward…
375mL cream, pure with about 45 percent milk fat
125mL full fat milk
Rind of ½ a lemon
Rind of ½ an orange
1 cinnamon quill, hit with a pestle to shatter
4 large egg yolks
90g caster sugar
Demerara sugar, for dusting
- Combine the cream, milk, rinds and cinnamon in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly, and then take off the heat.
- Pour the mixture into a separate bowl and place a piece of baking paper on the surface to avoid a skin forming. Let the mixture cool, then leave it overnight in the fridge for the flavours to infuse. The mixture can be left for a short time, but the flavours will be less pronounced.
- When you are ready to make the custard, preheat the oven to 130°C. Use a strainer to remove the rind and cinnamon from the cream mixture.
- Slowly warm up the cream mixture, but keep it well below simmering point. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and caster sugar for several minutes until they are thoroughly creamy (see picture below). Gradually whisk in the warm milk mixture.
- Pour into a saucepan and stir continuously over a low to medium heat. If you have a thermometer, let the mixture reach about 80°C. It should thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon as in the picture below. Do not let it get to simmering or boiling point or it will curdle!
- Pour the mixture into a separate jug to stop it cooking and allow for easy pouring.
- Line a baking tray with a tea towel and place the ramekins on top. Pour the custard into four separate 150mL ramekins or cazuelas.
- Pour hot water into the tray until it reaches most of the way up the ramekins. This keeps the custards below boiling point in the oven. (You can pour the water in the tray when it is in the oven to avoid spillage, but I found that this meant that the oven was open for too long and lost too much heat.)
- Put the tray in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes until the custard is just set but not browned on top. Monitor closely to ensure that the custards do not overcook.
- When the custard is just set, take the cazuelas out of the oven and let them cool. Place the ramekins in the fridge overnight to set.
- When custard is fully set, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of demerara sugar evenly over the top. Using a blowtorch, caramelise the sugar without blackening it. Sprinkle and caramelise a second layer of sugar to make the crust extra thick. (If you don’t have a blowtorch, you can use a hot grill. Simply place the ramekins in an icy water bath or the freezer for about 15 minutes beforehand to cool them down. Next, sprinkle the sugar evenly on the custards and then place under a very hot grill for a few minutes. Monitor closely to avoid the custards overheating and curdling.)
- Wait a few minutes for the sugar to harden, serve and enjoy!!