Traditionally, crema catalana was made only on St Joseph’s Day (the Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day), on 19 March, however today (27th August) is “National Pots de Crème Day” so now there is no excuse not to make these delicious desserts.
Spanish crema catalana and the French crème brûlée are different in some respects however the two are very similar. 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 not only is it hugely popular, it is delicious!
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.
Scatter the soft brown sugar over 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
4 tablespoons soft brown sugar