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Catalan Caramel Cream (Crema Catalana)

This classic Catalan dish has become famous all over Spain. It is similar to the French creme brulee, but in Spain cornflour is usually added. It is served in small cazuelas designed to be filled right to the top so the surface can be burnt with a branding iron (quemadoro) that has been heated over a gas flame until smoking hot. This instantly caramelizes the sugared surface. In the absence of this handy tool, use a blowtorch - household grills aren't usually hot enough.

ingredients

serves 6
200 g caster sugar
4 teaspoons cornflour
6 large egg yolks
600 ml double cream
400 ml full cream milk
freshly grated zest from 1 unwaxed lemon
1/2 cinnamon stick
6 shallow 200 ml dishes or cazuelas, 70.5 cm diameter x 2.5 cm deep
a cook's blowtorch

method

1. Mix 150 g of the sugar and the cornflour in a bowl. Stir in the egg yolks until smooth, but do not whisk or the mixture will form a froth.

2. Put the cream, milk, lemon zest and cinnamon in a saucepan and heat gently until it just reaches boiling point. Pour onto the egg yolk mixture and stir well. Rinse out the pan and add the mixture.

3. Stir over a low heat with a wooden spoon until it thickens enough to coat the spoon. Remove from the heat, leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then strain into a jug. Pour into the 6 dishes and chill for about 12 hours.

4. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar and caramelize the sugar with a blowtorch. As the caramel cools, it will harden. The dishes can be left for up to 1 hour, but don't put them in the refrigerator or the caramel may soften if left too long.


Note Traditional mini-cazuelas are made of terracotta, and widely available in kitchen shops, Spanish delis and by mail order.

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