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Crema Catalana

Pushing the culinary envelope is the de facto approach of Spain's leading chefs, who blend traditional flavors with food science. A case in point is the crema catalana served at Barcelona's Cal Pep restaurant. Made with a thermal whipper, the witty, lighter-than-air version is a heavenly blend of old and new.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 4 tsp. sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cream, cinnamon stick, lemon zest and the 1/4 cup sugar. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves and small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Whisk a small amount of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, then pour into the remaining cream mixture in the pan. Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Chill an iSi thermo whipper and fit with the gray gasket according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pour the cream mixture into the whipper. Charge the whipper with an iSi cream charger, invert the bottle and shake 6 to 10 times. Remove the charger and replace with a decorative tip. Test if the consistency is firm by dispensing a small amount of the cream mixture into a bowl. If it is too runny, shake the bottle 2 or 3 more times. Dispense the cream mixture into eight 7-oz. glasses, dividing equally.

Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. sugar over each crema catalana. Using a culinary torch according to the manufacturer's instructions, melt the sugar until golden brown. The tops of the crema catalana will melt a bit. Serve immediately. Serves 8.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.