(Prepared in the 10 oz. Ramekins)
This is probably the most popular dessert in all of Spain. It resembles the French Crème Brule. Either one is delicious, but the Spanish version is a little less work.
Serve this "as is," or make the optional crunchy sugar topping. Serve it alone or with small chunks or slices of the freshest fruit you can find on the side.
2 cups half and half
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Peel of 1/2 lemon
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup for the topping if desired
In a small, heavy saucepan mix 1 3/4 cups of the half and half, the cinnamon, vanilla, and the lemon peel.
Mix remaining 1/4 cup of half and half with the cornstarch, blending well. Set aside.
Place the saucepan on medium heat and bring the mixture just to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel.
Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix them with 1/4 cup of sugar until they are light and lemon colored. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the bowl to temper the eggs. Then whisk this egg mixture into the contents of the saucepan along with the cornstarch mixture.
Place the pan back on low heat and, stirring constantly, cook about 5 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool slightly, and then evenly divide the contents between 4 Le Creuset Ramekins. Cool. Refrigerate until serving time.
If you wish to make a crunchy sugar surface for the custards, line a cookie sheet with foil and butter well. Trace four circles the same diameter as the ramekins on the sheet. (An empty ramekin will facilitate this.) Sprinkle 1/4 of the remaining 1/2 cup sugar evenly inside each circle.
Place the sheet under the broiler for about 4 to 5 minutes until the sugar is a deep amber color. Allow the sugar to cool, then carefully peel it from the foil and set a circle on each ramekin for serving.