Crème Catalane from the South of France – A Beloved Dessert

Some desserts are world-class but when it comes to French pastries and sweets, the French excel in this arena. In the south of France along the Riviera and coastal towns, there are especially some renowned sweets. The beauty of these recipes is how simple they can be. And the taste of southern France can be recreated in the comfort of your home kitchen.

Creme Catalane

Creme Catalane

There is no doubt that Spain and France have long argued about this popular dessert that is very similar to the Spanish version. Near the disputed border of Spain and France and southern regions that hug Catalonia, many French people enjoy this dessert. Often called Crema Catalan in Spain, this version of their recipe is similar.
The difference is the French version has a lemon zest with raw unrefined sugar rather than burnt white sugar. This rich caramel taste gives the Creme  Catalane a distinct flavor. It also uses cornflour instead of corn starch. Check it out:


  • 6 Eggs (these should be farm fresh brown eggs)
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 250 gm Sugar (should be caster sugar)
  • 50 gm Corn flour
  • Half of one lemon’s zest (use a fine grater for this)
  • Raw natural sugar (unrefined cane sugar)


In two separate bowls, start by separating the egg whites from the yolks. This is easily done if you use a clean and empty soda bottle to suck up the yolk. The suction from the empty bottle sucks the yolk without damage. Then put your sugar into the egg yolk and beat it with a whisk until it gets white and frothy. You will then set this to the side. It should also be mentioned that the egg whites aren’t used in this recipe. They can be used for other recipe dishes instead.

Prepping the milk and cornflour mixture:

In a separate bowl, you add 1 cup of milk and slowly add the cornflour using a whisk to mix this together. Be careful to remove any lumps by whisking it further. It can then be put to the side.

Prepping the saucepan milk:

In a medium-sized saucepan set to medium-high, add the remaining three cups of milk. Into this mix, you add the cinnamon stick and lemon zest shavings. You will stir this until it boils, but then lower this so it reaches a nice simmering point. This is when you can start to pour the egg yolk and sugar mixture. This will make the temperature drop considerably, so it will take time to warm back up. Once it gets to a simmering stage, you can add the second bowl of milk and cornflour.

This is the perfect time to remove the cinnamon stick. Now add the milk and flour mixture and watch the simmering get cooler again. Keep stirring the whole time to keep the milk from burning. When the mixture starts getting thicker like custard, it’s ready to pour.

Pouring into ramekins:

Now you pour the thickened mixture into each ramekin and put these into the fridge to chill. Once these are cold they are ready to serve.

Final preparation:

The very last step is sprinkling raw sugar on top of the custard. This should be heated with a portable flame torch or under a very hot heating element for a few seconds. It can be served right away or if the heating was too hot, you put it back to the fridge for a minute or two. What makes these different is that they aren’t flipped upside down and the caramelized crust stays in the ramekin.


Nougat (Nougat de Montélimar)

One of the finer delicacies of southern France that has many variations. Mostly due to the kind of nuts and goodies that go into the final mix. These often include almonds, pistachios, hard chocolates, lemon or orange zest, and plenty of other types of nuts. In reality, two types are made in Provence. There are a light and a dark version that’s made with caramelized sugar. You can make this at home but you will need some essential equipment to pull it off correctly.


  • Kitchen Aid stand mixer
  • Adjustable temperature deep fryer (controls temperatures between 200-300 Fahrenheit)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Wafer paper (aka rice paper sold in confectionery supply, it’s an edible paper)
  • 9 x 13-inch pan
  • Silicone spatula
  • Non-stick cooking spray (Pam or similar sprays)


  • 400 gm Sugar (can be white or raw unprocessed sugar)
  • 500 gm Honey
  • 4 Egg whites
  • 100 gm Powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 kg Almonds (but you can add your favorite nuts instead)
  • 100 gm Pistachios (these can even be roasted hazelnuts)

Prepping the honey and sugar:

It’s easier to have a deep fryer that lets you take out the metal vessel inside. Don’t bother with using any kind of double boiler since warming anything around steam is bad news. This is especially the case with sugar or honey and isn’t going to make your nougat easier to deal with. You will also want to avoid any kind of steam burns. If you have two of these deep fryers it’s a win-win situation.

Start by warming up your honey in one fryer and the sugar in another. Both need constant stirring, so it will be good to have two people doing this in tandem. The sugar needs to reach a temperature of at least 250-265 Fahrenheit before it’s ready to add to the honey. Your honey should be a minimum of 220-250 degrees Fahrenheit. When this mixture is totally mixed it’s ready to add to the egg white foam.

Prepping the egg whites:

While your honey and sugar are warming up you can start to ready your Kitchen Aid mixer. It should be a strong mixer like Kitchen Aid because it’s made with a strong motor and can mix thick bread dough. For this reason, it has a very high torque for tough jobs like this. Whipping up your egg whites will take a few minutes so this shouldn’t be until the last few minutes before your honey and sugar are hot enough.

When your foam is ready, slowly add the honey and sugar in a steady stream close to one side. You will see that it will immediately start to thicken but is still very hot. Make sure to wear heavy-duty kitchen mitts when holding the deep fryer vessel. Or a towel on one edge of the pouring pot. As the egg white foam, honey, and sugar mixture starts to mix, you want to reduce the speed to half, so it can begin making a fluffy and chewy texture.

When it reaches the thickness of sticky cookie dough, then it’s time to add your roasted nuts. These nuts should be warm but not entirely hot, so if they’re being roasted, they are fine to add at this point. Cold nuts will cool off your mixture too soon. This is when you can scrape off the mixture using powdered sugar to keep your hands from sticking too much. It won’t be too hot at this point, but you might want to wear rubber gloves.

Have your baking pan ready with the rice paper (wafer paper) and the sides sprayed with Pam. Get that nougat into the pan as soon as possible and get it pushed into the corners. The very top part can have a layer of silicone wax paper on top so you can use a roller. This will help to smooth it out and fill the entire tray. When you are done you peel the silicone baking paper right off.

Now you let it cool for no more than 3-4 hours at room temperature. It doesn’t need to go into the fridge for cooling. After that your nougat is complete.


Empty the tray carefully and it should slide out with little effort. The sides may stick a little but not much if you used a spray release. Then the nougat can be sliced into square chunks to your liking. Here’s a few other related dishes you may enjoy!

Next up:

Gateau des Rois (the cake of kings)

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