This mouth-watering Catalan-style dessert is a common sight on Languedoc-Roussillon's dessert menus! Because of its crisp and thin caramel coating, the traditional Crème Catalane - from the original Spanish Crema Catalana - is often compared to the French Crème Brûlée. Quick and easy to make, this gem of Southern France's gastronomy is indeed a perfect treat to end off a typical Languedoc-Roussillon meal!
The sweet Catalan Cream was originally a traditional Spanish dessert prepared for the Saint Joseph's Day on March 19. That is why this renowned treat is also referred to as "Saint Joseph' Day Cream". Nevertheless, the Crème Catalane dessert is today enjoyed all year long and highly appreciated amongst both Chefs and housewives in Spain as well as in Southern France.
The reason of Crema Catalana's success lies on its basic list of ingredients and easy-to-make recipe.
This tasty custard is simply made out with milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, lemon and orange zests and cinnamon stick - ingredients that are likely to be in every French housewife's kitchen!
The Crème Catalane is essentially a common sight in the South of France, considered to be a pleasant ending to a Mediterranean dinner. This delicious speciality from Languedoc-Roussillon is indeed renowned for being much lighter than its cousin the well-known Crème Brûlée.
There is actually a great debate regarding the origins of such baked custard, to know where the recipe first occured, in Spain or France - but even England and Germany now lay claim to their own creations! However, we must admit that anecdotal evidence suggests the Catalan cream had been the the predecessor of France's Crème Brûlée.
Despite their appetizing caramelized topping, the typical Crème Catalane and the French Crème Brûlée have in reality nothing in common. Proper to the Spanish gastronomy, the first custard recipe uses whole milk with a touch of cream - which creates a really light and fine dessert - whilst the Crème Brûlée is typically made with heavy cream.
The supreme touch consists then in adding lemon and/ or orange zest and cinnamon in the Catalan paste when the usual French-style custard includes vanilla.
Finally, as far as the cooking is concerned, the Crema Catalana is not baked in bain-marie (double boiler), as the Crème Brûlée is, but set by chilling.
Top Tip! Many chefs in France serve the Crème Catalane little warm, just after having made the caramelized topping, to emphasize the spices and flavours.
However, most of Languedoc-Roussillon's inhabitants prefer enjoying it chilled like the authentic recipe mentions, creating a wonderful contrast between the warm crisp coating and the cold cream beneath.