Crema Catalana – Gluten free naturally!

I am a crème brulee addict. There. I’ve said it. I’m out of the closet.

There almost nothing as lovely as a crème brulee with a few raspberries on top at the end of a delectable meal. *Almost* nothing, that is, except for Crema Catalana (Cray-mah Cah-tah-lah-nah). Catalan Cream is the Catalan version of Crème Brulee. (Cataluña’s capital is Barcelona. The region is in the northeast of Spain, close enough to be influenced by French cooking and proud enough to have a host of their own delicacies to make your heart flutter.)

The fundamental difference between Crema Catalana and Crème Brulee is in the basic cooking of the same ingredients. I refer you to Mary France’s site (Gluten Free Cooking School) for the Crème Brulee that got my taste buds in an uproar and craving this dessert. She’s got a great recipe there for the basic Crème Brulee… and it’s my delight to introduce a spin to you.

Crème Brulee is baked in a water bath. That is to say that the individual ramekins are placed in a large pan of water while baking to keep a more even temperature for the custard to develop. Crema Catalana is made on the stove without the water-bath baking. They are both finished the same – cooled and then a burnt sugar topping.

Since my love is not big on sweets (just fruits and me :) ), I’ve had to find help to eat these fabulous treats when the craving hits. Thank goodness for neighbors we love and adore! Mrs. H. next door is my elderly neighbor who is always willing to help out when I have some crème brulee or other goodies laying about. It’s delightful to have people to cook for. Now I can make it more often! Sadly, she’s on vacation this week. I will have to suffer and make a smaller batch. That way the dress will still fit me for Open House/Meet the Teacher night at school. :)

So, come on! Your turn. Who can you share a treat with? Maybe you should just have a taste-testing? Make some Crème Brulee AND some Crema Catalana. Then let me know which you prefer!

Crema Catalana (for 4 persons)
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup low fat milk
4 egg yolks (save the whites for a Popeye Egg-white Omelet)
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3-4 drops of lemon extract
3-4 drops of orange extract
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick

  1. Combine 1/4 cup of milk with cornstarch. Blend until there are no lumps. Set aside.
  2. Combine the cream, milk (minus 1/4 cup), vanilla bean, lemon and orange extracts and cinnamon stick in a sauce pan.
  3. Bring to *almost* a simmer – DO NOT BOIL – over low heat. Remove from heat.
  4. Whisk together egg yolks until well blended and creamy-colored.
  5. Add sugar to egg yolks and blend well.
  6. Strain heated milk mixture into egg yolks/sugar to remove cinnamon stick/vanilla beans.
  7. Add milk/cornstarch mixture.  Whisk to mix all ingredients well.
  8. Return saucepan to low-medium heat, whisking steadily.
  9. Gently simmer for 2 minutes or until the mixture thickens. (Take care neither to stop stirring nor to let the mixture boil.)
  10. Divide among 4 ramekins and cool to room temperature.
  11. Once at room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until well chilled (5-6 hours).
  12. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of sugar. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. If you don’t have a torch, you can put the sugared custards under the broiler with a close eye for about 3 minutes or until browned.
  13. Serve immediately.

Oh. Don’t forget the raspberry garnish. Even a little mint leaf with that raspberry just adds a little touch too.



  1. Mmmm. that looks great! Good job on the sugar too – mine always seems to burn around the edges. I can’t wait to see how it tastes with the orange, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon. Thanks for the link too!

  2. ooh this looks fantastic, I love creme brulee and make it all winter long but haven’t lately (all the cream gets used for ice cream) but I think I’ll try this tonight since it doesn’t need anything I don’t have!

  3. I hope it works (worked?) out great, Jill! =)
    It’s a tasty treat, to be sure!

  4. I was reading thru your blog thinking about dinner and came back to this post, and wanted to come back and say that they were delicious! Not as much like creme brulee as I thought but still really good, I made them in bigger ramekins so I only got 3 out of the recipe (which was fine) and my boyfriend and roommate LOVED them! Thanks!

    Oh yum! I’m so glad you enjoyed them and were kind enough to return and comment. You’re the best! – Kate

  5. When does the cornstarch/milk go in? At #7, after straining and before it goes back on the stove to thicken?

    • oh my…now there’s a little detail left out! I put it in in #7, before it goes back on the stove to thicken.
      But thanks for pointing out my boo-boo!

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