I returned from a blissful, 11 day trip to Barcelona (with a two night detour to Budapest, of which I could write a hefty article about) where I ate and danced and lived like a Catalan princess, and skipped almost all the touristic activities that I’d be expected to partake, all in favor of getting a real feel for the city and surrounding towns. Being me, I researched a bit about Catalan food, and as I found myself in excess of 18 egg yolks one day, I sought out various versions of flan and creme brulee and…well, I stumbled on Tocino de Cielo, which, as far as I can tell, is very similar to Creme de Catalana, except it does not have the sugared, flame torched top similar to creme brulee. If you were to add it to this recipe, I believe you’d find yourself with Creme de Catalana.
A pile of packages awaited me when I got back to San Francisco–among them these amazing creme brulee dishes I ordered from Edith at Art & Manufacture a few months back–telling her there was no hurry at all. I had almost forgotten they were coming and was delighted to unpack them. They made their way into a water bath the very next day, and I’ve used them for yogurt with rose jam and pistachios, Mato y mel and other dairy delights over the last week or so.
Tocino de Cielo / Creme de Catalana Recipe
Makes five 5oz dishes
1/2 C granulated sugar
In a small pan, heat 1/2 cup sugar over medium-low heat and stirring regularly, until it comes to a medium amber color. It will clump and begin looking moist, and turn fairly quickly to syrup from there. Ensure no grains remain so that it will not crystalize. Remove from heat and divide immediately into one large dish that will hold 25 oz, or into five 6-8oz ramekins.
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 C water
one large strip orange peel
one large strip lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
hot water, for water bath
In another small pan, combine sugar, water, and citrus peels. Bring to a boil. Using a thermometer, cook until sugar reaches 220F. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove zest strips and stir in vanilla extract.
When syrup is mostly cool, preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, whisk yolks well until color lightens a bit. Whisk in cooled sugar syrup, then strain the mixture into something with a spout or that is easy to pour from. Divide the custard into the ramekins, on top of the cooled (and probably hardened) sugar syrup, leaving a bit of room at the top so you can move the container around easily.
Place ramekins into a shallow baking dish, and place into the oven. Carefully pour hot/just boiled water into the baking pan, until about 2/3rds up the ramekins or container with the custard.
If using small ramekins, less than 6 oz, bake for about 30 minutes. If using one large, shallow container, bake for 40-45 minutes. A sharp knife inserted gently into the center of one of the custards should come out clean, and they should jiggle only very slightly when moved. Do not overcook or they will crack when cooling.
Carefully remove ramekins from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature– do not shock by putting directly into the refrigerator. The slow cooling allows the mixture to maintain a creamy texture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until cold, before serving. If you used a smooth, easy container, you can invert when serving by moving a warm knife around the edges and inverting the container. I like to serve them as is.