Monday, 3 December 2012

Crema Catalana - and a review

Time seems to be racing ahead again. I have been stomping round thinking that it's very cold for the time of year - the time that I'm thinking of being early October perhaps - but no, actually, it's December. With all that brings with it. I am not ready. Time to bury my head a little further in the sand, safe in the knowledge that I may not have any presents ready, but I have a Christmas Cake in the tin, some mincemeat in a jar and a turkey on order. I've also now turned some cranberries that I found at the bottom of the freezer into cranberry and orange sauce.That'll do nicely.

My friends at Baytree Cookware on the other hand, seem to be much more geared up for Christmas. They asked me if I'd care to test drive this pretty little French porcelain dish by Pillivuyt, and I was happy to oblige. 

In an attempt to dispel the cold, and thoughts of that for which I am not prepared, I wanted to capture something with a little warmth in it, with a nod to sunnier climes, so I put together a crema catalana, a version of creme brulee from Northern Spain. Orange and cinnamon scented custard under a crisp sugar top. For a moment, I was transported to a Catalan restaurant in the French town of Perpignan where I celebrated my 21st birthday with a similar dish... 

We had this for pudding after roasted duck breasts and plums

Now, an exercise in 'fessing up. I've never made this before, and I was a little rushed, and didn't leave the custard long enough in the fridge - a bare 4 hours - before scorching the sugar for the topping, and so the custard wasn't as solid as it should have been. My sugar topping was crisp, and cracked satisfyingly, but as you can see from the picture, not all of it melted, so it didn't give the clear brown stained glass effect. That said, it was totally delicious - and the combination of the shards of the burnt sugar against the soft, slightly warm fragrant custard was divine. Definitely something I need to practise again - and indeed the Husband reckoned it was worth getting a kitchen blowtorch for. Any excuse for a new gadget.

This little dish is perfect for a double serving of this gorgeous dessert.

Creme Catalana

serves 2

300ml double cream
1/2 cinammon stick
zest of an orange
2 large egg yolks
40g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour

demerara sugar for the crunchy topping (or perhaps caster sugar...)

Pour the cream into a pan, add the cinammon stick and the orange zest, bring the boil then take off the heat and leave to infuse for an hour or so.

 Separate the eggs and do something clever with the whites like freeze them, clearly labelled of course, for another time. Beat the yolks with the sugar till pale and thick, then sift in the cornflour and beat till there are no lumps. If the cream mixture is still warm, strain it into another bowl. If it's been infusing a bit longer than an hour and is quite cool, warm it up again before straining. Beat a couple of tablespoons' worth of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, followed by the rest of the cream, then return to the pan and cook over as low a heat as possible, stirring all the time, till it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, and you can leave a finger trace through it.

of course, then you'll just have to lick the orangey custard off your finger...

When the custard has thickened, pour it into your dish (or individual ramekins) cool and then chill in the fridge, overnight if possible. When it's time to serve, and if you don't have a blowtorch, pre-heat your grill as hot as possible. Sprinkle the top of the custard with a thin layer of sugar, and blast under the grill till the sugar has melted and caramelised. You have to watch it like a hawk. Remove from the grill and allow to cool so that the sugar top hardens.

Share graciously with your dining partner

Baytree stock a wide range of Pillivuyt, including this rather lovely cow cream jug

... and a 'fat and lean sauceboat' which looks pretty cool and incredibly useful.

They also, rather helpfully, stock blow torches. Guess what's on my Christmas list...

The views expressed in this review are my own – I was not required to provide a positive review, nor was I paid to write the review.


  1. I know... where does the time go? loving the creme catalan... never made it before but i've seen it twice in the past week so am very tempted!

    1. It's delicious - it was one of your Randomers that reminded me of it - I bet you do a better job of the top though!

  2. That crema catalana looks delicious!


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