Andorra is a tiny country, with the population of 76,246, situated between Spain and France. Consequently, there is really no typical Andorran cuisine, let alone Andorran desserts. The cuisine in Andorra is therefore mainly Catalan, combined with French and Italian, but in a small proportion. In the northern region of Andorra, the French and Italian cuisine is prevailing, while in the southern region Catalan cuisine influences were adapted.
With so many influences, the list of typical Andorran, or Catalan, sweets is very long and my decision for what to prepare was definitely not easy this time. There are desserts such as:
- Carquinyolis: almond biscuits.
- Catànies: almonds covered with white chocolate and powdered black chocolate.
- Crema catalana: the Catalan version of crème brulée.
- Mató de Pedralbes or mató de monja: a cream similar to crema catalana.
- Mel i mató: literally honey and mató cheese.
- Menjablanc or menjar blanc: a kind of white cream.
- Mona de Pasqua: a pastry richly covered with almonds, yolk jam, chocolate eggs and colored decoration. The godfather and godmother give this as a present every year to their godchildren on Easter.
- Neules: a very thin sheet of a mixture of egg whites, butter, sugar and flour, flavored with lemon and rolled, typically eaten at Christmas.
- Orelletes: thin fried pastries covered with sugar and eaten during Carnival.
- Panellets: small pastries made of pine nuts, almonds and sugar, eaten during la Castanyada, which Catalans celebrate on 1 November instead of Halloween.
- Pastissets: pastries stuffed with cabell d’àngel (a sort of marrow jam).
- Pets de monja: small nipple-shaped and -sized biscuits. The name literally means “nuns’ farts”.
- Tortell: an O-shaped pastry, eaten on January 6, at the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
- Torró: a typical Christmas dessert.
- Xuixos: fried pastries stuffed with crema catalane.
Yet with all this choice, I decided to make the simplest dessert. My decision was influenced by the following factors – the first one is that it’s really, really hot and I don’t feel like baking or eating a lot right now, and the second one is the fact that I have always been quite curious about how much different from its French counterpart this is. I am talking, of course, about Crema catalana, which is used as the filling for many other national pastries (Xuixos, Bunyols, Tortell), but is delicious all on its own as well. Crema Catalana or Catalan Cream is the Catalan name and version of the French dessert, crème brulée. In fact, many regions lay claim to the origin of the dessert. But whatever its actual origin may be, it still tastes delicious. So here is the recipe I used:
Ingredients (4 servings):
- 200g sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 240ml milk
Beat together the egg yolks and 3/4 of sugar until thoroughly blended and the mixture turns frothy. Add the cinnamon stick. Pour in the milk and cornstarch. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly, just until thickened. Remove pot from heat immediately.
Remove the cinnamon stick and ladle the milk mixture into 4-6 ramekins (depending on size). Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. I did it overnight.
Before serving, preheat the broiler. Remove ramekins with the crema catalana from refrigerator and sprinkle the rest of the sugar over each ramekin. When broiler is hot, place the ramekins under the broiler on the top shelf and allow the sugar to caramelize, turning gold and brown. This may take 10 minutes or so, depending on your broiler. Remove and serve immediately.
If you’d like, you can also serve the crema catalana chilled. I actually tried it both ways – hot and cold. It tasted delicious either way, so if you ask me, it depends on the weather. If it’s summer, eat it cold and during the cold winter, it probably feels quite nice to eat it hot.
Crema catalana was really easy and quick to make – which was my goal to start with. But I do regret this decision a bit, since the cream was so delicious, I would love to try it out as a filling. Maybe in the near future… The lesson lerned? Well, there was not much time or energy invested in this, yet I still managed to learn something – sometimes, it’s worth going the extra mile.