Sweet of the Week: Crema Quemada at Mercat a la Planxa
I've opined on many occasions about my general apathy towards crème brûlée. It's just difficult to get excited about custard with crunchy sugar on top. I'd much rather eat a bowl of vanilla pudding. But that being said, when chefs use crème brûlée as a blank canvas launching pad for layering and highlighting various flavors and textures, the end result can be out of this world. Such is the case at Mercat a la Planxa, where their crema quemada proves to be several notches above the standard crème brûlée.
Crema quemada, quite simply, is Spain's answer to the classic crème brûlée. It basically follows the same recipe trajectory, melding cool, smooth custard with a finishing layer of torched sugar. The difference, as proven at Mercat, is in the fine details. The burnt Catalan custard itself is rich and satisfying, woven with notes of caramel; I'd happily scarf down a mixing bowl full of this stuff. What really sets it apart though, is something so simple and straightforward, it seems silly that this doesn't happen more often. The custard gets a finishing smattering of apple butter, made with fruits from local Klug Farm. Heady with warm autumnal spice, the apple butter imbues new components of aroma and seasonal notes to the dessert. When stirred into the custard below it, the resulting bites are other-worldly.
- Matt Kirouac