Crema Catalana is a Spanish custard dessert that’s rich, indulgent and so easy to make! This recipe creates Spain’s version of creme brulee, and it is SO delicious!
In the world of custard desserts, there are plenty to choose from. With choices like flan, creme brulee, pot de crème and crème caramel, you could fill up quickly. But don’t pass over the Spanish custard known as catalana!
Spain and France both claim ownership of this delicious custard dessert, but there are arguments over who made it first.
Apparently, each country claims that the other stole the original and then changed the name. While both custards are similar, there are some notable differences.
- Flavor– While many custards have a vanilla flavor, crema catalana is infused with cinnamon and citrus flavor; typically orange or lemon.
- Dairy products– The Spanish custard is generally made with whole milk, while France’s version calls for heavy cream. As a result, creme brulee has a thicker consistency, but it also has more calories and fat.
- Cooking method– Crema catalana cooks in a saucepan over a double boiler on the stove top. It takes less time to cook than some other custards, so it’s a winner right there!
- Best time to serve it– In Spain, the custard is traditionally served on March 19th, in honor of San Jose (Saint Joseph). It’s a big holiday in Spain – equivalent to Fathers Day in the United States.
Creating the burnt sugar top
Using a traditional circular iron (known as a Catalana iron) to sear the sugar on top is really simple. Don’t be intimidated; it takes 3 minutes over a flame to heat the iron up.
Once it’s hot, it takes about 20 seconds with it being held on top of the dish to melt the sugar.
Alternatively, use a kitchen torch or place the custards on a sheet pan under an oven broiler. Watch them carefully so the sugar doesn’t get too dark and you should be good to go!
Crema catalana recipe notes
Here are a few tips and notes to help you make the dessert
Adjusting the Consistency
The original recipe was a little too loose for my liking, so I increased the amount of egg yolks from 8 up to 10. This gives the dessert a wonderful texture and extra richness.
Strain if desired.
Strain the mixture if you’d like to remove any lumps or skin that may build up on the sides of the pan.
To do this, place a strainer and bowl in your sink and pour the custard into it. Stir using a spoon to press threw and divide into ramekins.
Don’t skip the chill time!
After the catalana finishes baking, it’s important to chill the dessert for at least 4 hours. If you skip this step, the custard will be too loose.
As a result, the heat from the iron or kitchen torch will melt the sugar into the custard rather than burning it.
Without the burnt sugar on top, the dessert will keep well in the refrigerator for about 4 days. If you’d like to make the custards ahead of time, place a layer of plastic wrap against the surface. This prevents a skin from forming.
Storing crema catalana
If there are any of the desserts left over, cover them with a layer of plastic wrap or foil and store them in the refrigerator. Although the burnt sugar won’t have the same crackly texture, they can still be eaten.
Crema Catalana (Spanish Custard)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 1 orange (4 strips orange peel)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 egg yolks (save egg whites for other use)
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- ½ cup turbinado sugar (finishing sugar)
- Using a paring knife make a slit down the middle of the vanilla bean, keeping the ends intact. Peel 4 strips of the orange, being careful not to cut any of the white pith, which is bitter.
- Bring the milk, cream, vanilla, orange rind and cinnamon (if using) to a boil over low heat.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
- Strain the milk and cream mixture to remove the vanilla bean, orange peel strips and cinnamon stick and discard them.
- Using a whisk, mix the egg yolks and sugar until you obtain a thick creamy mixture.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 cup of the cooled milk mixture, the stir it back into the remaining milk mixture.
- Mix the milk in with the egg yolks and sugar, place it in a double boiler (See Note 1) over medium heat, and stir constantly until the cream thickens, do not let it boil.
- Cool the cream and pour into the ramekins or cazuelas. Place them on a tray or baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in refrigerator.
- When ready to serve sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the turbinado sugar over each ramekin or cazuela. Heat a Catalana iron on an electric stove top burner or has flame, then press it against the sugar until burns. Repeat for remaining custards. You can also use a kitchen torch or place them under an oven broiler. Serve immediately.
- A double boiler is a pan that is constructed in two parts. The lower half of a double boiler contains the boiling water, the upper half holds the food being cooked and fits above the water. The upper part of the double boiler which holds the food does not touch the water, cooking occurs because of the steam heat generated by the boiling water. (source: Grammarist.com)
- Adapted from Laylita’s Recipes.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.