Crema catalana - with orange and rosemary

Recipe by Neil Morris - 02 July 2012

crema catalana

Region: Catalonia

Preparation: 5 mins

Cooking time: 15-30 minutes

Oven temp: on the hob

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 4


Crema catalana is a classic dessert and is believed by many to be the original of all the Crème brûlée recipes. My version may horrify the purists as it replaces the traditional flavours of lemon and cinnamon with orange and rosemary to give the dish a refreshing twist. If you want to cook the original version you can do so by replacing those two ingredients as described below.

The Catalans have a special utensil called a quemadora which is used to burn the top of this dessert. It is basically a metal disc on a stick that is heated until red hot and then held just above the sugar to caramelize it. The more modern way is to use a hand-held gas blow-torch or to place under a very hot grill.

Shopping list

  • 475ml milk (leche)
  • rind of 1/2 an orange (naranja)
  • 1 sprig of rosemary (ramita de romero)
  • 4 large egg yolks (yemas de huevo)
  • 100ml caster sugar (azúcar fino)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornflour (harina de maíz)


Heat the milk in a saucepan with the orange rind and sprig of rosemary. Once it is just about to boil reduce the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes; you can keep it over a very low heat for longer if you want a more intense flavour.

Whisk half the sugar with the egg yolks until pale and then mix in the cornflour.

Add a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture and stir and then pour the mixture back into the milk pan. Heat very gently and keep stirring for 5 minutes or so until it has thickened but do not bring to the boil or it will go lumpy!

Carefully pour the mixture into 4 serving dishes and then allow to cool before refrigerating for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle a tbsp of sugar on each dessert and caramelize using a blow-torch or a very hot grill. Let the sugar cool and harden before serving.

Note: for a traditional version replace the orange rind for lemon rind and the rosemary for a cinnamon stick.

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