The Catalan equivalent of a creme brulee
It is worth buying some of the individual terracotta dishes traditionally used for crema Catalana.The wide, shallow shape ensures the right ratio of burnt sugar to custard.
570ml full fat milk
2 tbsp cornflour
Zest of ½ lemon, pared
1 cinnamon stick
4 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp sugar to caramelise the top of the custard
First mix the cornflour to a paste with a spot of milk, then put it to one side. Now heat the rest of the milk with the cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Once the milk has reached the boil, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks with the sugar and corn flour and then pour in the hot milk, stirring all the time.
Rinse the milk pan before pouring in the custard and cooking over a medium heat, stirring constantly. I find a square bottomed wooden spoon very useful for this, allowing me to scrape the bottom of the pan at the same time, giving nothing a chance to stick. The mixture will thicken in about 5 mins; it should be creamy enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and keep stirring for a minute or two. Straining the custard as you pour it into shallow terracotta dishes or ramekins will ensure a silky smooth texture. Place the custards in the fridge until ready to serve.
Just before serving, cover the custards with a thin layer of sugar and caramelise until deep brown using a kitchen blowtorch or a very quick flash under your hottest grill. Lovers of kitchen gadgetry can pick up a caramelising tool designed specifically for the job; a type of branding iron that you place in the gas flame until fiercely hot and then sear the sugar with.
ALTERNATIVE: I love to serve a bowl of seasonal fruit salad alongside: apricots, nectarines and flat white peaches.