Crèma Catalana and Caramelised Figs
Traditionally, crema catalana was made only on St Joseph’s Day (the Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day), on 19 March, by grannies and maiden aunts. These days, there are lots of powdered, just-add-milk custard preparations on the market – and my mother makes about a litre a day for my niece Marina and nephew Juan when they come to stay. They love it. Me, I prefer the traditional version.
While Spanish crema catalana and the French crème brûlée are different in some respects, the two desserts are very similar. Though of course crema catalana is more delicious! It is made from a mixture of milk and egg and is set by chilling, while crème brûlée is made with cream and is set by baking in the oven, often in a bain-marie. The effect on people is the same: this dessert is always on the menu because it is hugely popular. I ring the changes by serving it with caramelised figs.
- 1. Combine the milk, lemon and orange peel and cinnamon in a heavy-based saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring just to the boil, then remove and leave to infuse for an hour. Once cool, strain the milk through a fine sieve, discarding the solids.
- Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until thick and pale, followed by the cornflour, and then whisk in the infused milk. Return the custard to a clean heavy-based saucepan and cook, stirring continuously, for about 10 minutes over a medium heat, until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Cool slightly, then strain into a jug. Pour the custard into four shallow ramekins and refrigerate until set; this should take
2 to 3 hours.
- Slice the figs in quarters almost all the way through and place one on top of each crema catalana. Scatter the soft brown sugar over both the figs’ gooey centre and the custard. To caramelise the sugar, the easiest option is to use a blowtorch and blast the sugar until bubbling and golden; if you do not have one, place the custards under a very hot grill and keep an eye on them to make sure they do not burn. Eat immediately.
- 1 litre whole milk
- peel of ½ lemon, pith removed
- peel of ½ orange, pith removed
- 5cm cinnamon stick
- 6 large free-range egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 40g cornflour
- 4 black figs
- 4 tablespoons soft brown sugar