Monday, March 28, 2011

Natilla : Creamy Custard - serves 6

I have recently been hired to do a cooking class this week using Cuban flavors.  I don't cook much Cuban food but when I do, I go all out.  I decided to invite some friends who referred me the business to use them as guinea pigs to try the entire menu I'm preparing.  Apparently, after a little research, this dessert is quite common at the end of such a meal.  It reminded me of my grandmothers "boiled custard", a concoction she would only fix during Christmas that you could drink.  It was one of my favorite things to eat as a kid.  This, however, is a little different in that it uses lemon zest and cinnamon and is more of a custard. Natilla in Spain is also a common holiday dessert.  So, I took on this recipe knowing that it's not Christmas, but once the cold front hit on Saturday evening, it was the perfect ending to a great dinner, I must say.  In fact, it was so good, that my husband fell asleep after eating his portion of the dessert and I couldn't resist the calmness and serenity of the picture as he snored into a sweet Cuban dream-state.

    1. 4 cups whole milk
    2. One 2-inch strip of lemon zest
    3. 1 cinnamon stick
    4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
    5. 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    6. 8 large egg yolks
    7. 1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
    8. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    9. Ground cinnamon, for garnish
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the milk with the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and salt and bring to a simmer. In a large heatproof bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the egg yolks at medium speed until they are pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in the cornstarch slurry. At low speed, gradually beat in half of the hot milk.
  2. Pour the egg-and-milk mixture into the saucepan and cook the custard over moderate heat, whisking constantly for 18 minutes, until very thick. Whisk in the vanilla. Transfer the custard to a large bowl and discard the cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Spoon the custard into 6 bowls, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve.

Make Ahead
The egg custard can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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