Visiting Catalonia and not trying Crema Catalana is like going to Austria and not tasting Sacher. Crema Catalana is the most typical and popular dessert in Catalonia. It’s sweet, creamy and topped with a layer of caramelized sugar. It has many names: Crema Cremada, Crema de Sant Josep, Crème Brûlée in French and, in English, it can be translated as Catalan Cream or Burnt Cream.
Originally, it was typical to eat it on Saint Joseph’s Day (19th March) but now it has become a very common dessert on Sundays, celebrations or the grand finalé of any traditional Catalan meal. It is a home-made dish but you can find it in almost every menu of any kind of restaurant. So, you have no excuse for not tasting our most traditional dessert.
It is a very simple recipe based on milk and eggs. They are boiled, mixed and cooked together while stirring and then put aside to let the cream cool. Then, it is topped with sugar, which is burnt under an iron broiler or with a specially made iron, not with a flame.
There are records of recipes of Crema Catalana in Catalan Middle Age Recipe Books and it is considered one of the oldest desserts in Europe. It is widely documented in the Catalan Literature from the XIV Century to nowadays.
The legend says that during a visit of a bishop to a Catalan convent, the nuns wanted to honor him with crème caramel for dessert. But, apparently, the result was too liquid, so they decided to add some ingredients to thicken it and they finished it burning some sugar on top. When the bishop tasted it, the sugar was still hot, so the clergyman shouted “Crema!” (It’s burning!). Thus, the new recipe was named.
Although it is typical to eat it as a single dish, this cream is also used as the filling for other desserts and sweet dishes like cakes, pies. For Christmas, the Crema Catalana turron is among the most popular and you can also find its flavor in liqueurs and even in ice creams.
As it is so easy to make, and it is made of basic ingredients, anywhere you go, you will have the chance to taste a home-made Crema Catalana. The attempts to industrialize it haven’t been fruitful so, when you order it in a restaurant, you can be 90% sure that it will be home-made. Now that you know that, while you are in Catalonia, don’t just order a plain custard, but a typical and delicious artisan Catalan Cream!