Sunday, 27 November 2011

Crema Catalana

So this has been on my to-do list for a while now. Ever since I got a blow torch I was dying to try my hands on a crème brûlée. I have made lemon curd before so I figured it shouldn't be too far out of my comfort zone. The original recipe for creme brûlée most likely originates from France and here in the UK it's known as burnt cream but essentially it's the same: custard flavoured with vanilla and a hard caramel on top, served cold. You don't have to stick to vanilla though. The Catalan version Crema Catalana incorporates cinnamon and lemon or orange zest. Then last week I got the Donna Hay subscription through and to my surprise I found a 'how to do custard' in there with tips and tricks. So then I really had to give it a go. And here is what happened. It is a lot more complicated and temperature is key. I miserably failed twice. First I tried a recipe where the egg-cream mixture is to set in a water bath in the oven. Maybe it was in there too long or the temperature still too hot, not sure, but it split and curdled. My next attempt was a version where you bring the egg-cream/milk-cornflour mixture back to the boil in a pot but I was a bit too eager and the temperature was too hot again and it separated again. There is no way to bring it back. In my last attempt on that day I tried to cheat with a store bought custard but the consistency was all wrong (too liquid so the sugar melted on the surface) and didn't get a crunchy caramel crust.
No to be defeated I revisited the second recipe again this weekend and paid more attention to the temperature and voilà, it worked. Silky custard with a hint of orange and cinnamon and a crunchy caramel top. The recipe is for 2 large or 3 small ramekins.


3 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
200ml double cream
100ml milk
2 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
orange zest
sugar for the caramel

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the corn flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon until pale and fluffy. Meanwhile gently heat the cream, milk and add the orange zest to infuse. When it reaches 140°F take off the heat. Slowly pour into the egg mixture and whisk continuously. Place back on the heat and very slowly reheat again. When it starts to thicken take off the heat immediately and pour into ramekins and let cool completely. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar evenly over the custard and caramelise with a chefs' blow-torch.

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