Crema catalana (or crema cremada) is a traditional Spanish dessert – particularly from the region of Catalonia – similar in appearance to créme brûlée, but different in some preparation details. The great success of this ancient dessert is due on one hand to the simplicity of preparation, on the other hand to the perfect union between a crunchy surface layer – caramelized sugar – and the smooth and aromatic layer of the cream.
Furthermore, if you serve the freshly made crema catalana, you will also have a surprising contrast in temperatures between the still hot sugar and the pleasantly fresh creme. Authentic crema catalana recipe is very easy, but you will need to equip yourself with a caramelizer to burn the sugar layer. This is the simplest and most immediate way to prepare crema catalana, but if you don’t have a caramelizer you can use the oven grill at maximum power.
- CostVery cheap
- Preparation time10 Minutes
- Rest time3 Hours
- Cooking time10 Minutes
- Serving4 servings
- Cooking methodStove
Ingredients for crema catalana (4 servings)
For the custard
For the crispy caramel crust
Authentic crema catalana recipe
To prepare crema catalana, start by taking the zest of half a lemon: cut it with a knife into large pieces, being careful not to take the white part which is bitter.
Set aside half a glass of the milk required by the recipe; pour the rest into a saucepan and add the lemon zest and cinnamon. Put the pot on the stove and bring the milk to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let it cool.
When the milk has cooled, remove the lemon zest and add the egg yolks, always mixing with an electric whisk.
Pour it into 4 single-portion bowls with a capacity of 1/2 cup each. Use ceramic bowls, which are heat resistant. And, if you are not going to use the caramelizer but the oven grill, be sure to use bowls suitable for the oven.
Let crema catalana cool completely to room temperature, then place it in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Before serving, sprinkle each portion of crema catalana with about a teaspoon of brown sugar.
How to store crema catalana
You can keep crema catalana in the fridge for about 3 days. However, I advise you to add and caramelize the sugar on the surface just before serving it, to obtain a nice hot-cold effect.
What is the difference between crema catalana and crème brûlée?
Crema catalana is often confused with French crème brûlée; although crème brûlée also has a crunchy caramel surface, the recipe is quite different. In the crème brûlée cream is used instead of milk and the mixture is not cooked on the stove but in the oven in a bain-marie.
Tips and variation
In some crema catalana recipes, orange zest is used instead of lemon zest.
You can add cold milk mixed with cornstarch even before putting the cream on the stove, but it will take a little longer to thicken.
If you prefer, you can use white sugar for caramel crust too.
In Catalonia a special tool is used to caramelize the sugar of crema catalana, which is basically a circular iron that is placed on the fire until it becomes hot and then rests on the surface of the cream to caramelize the sugar.