Leite Creme (Portuguese Milk Custard)

Crème Brûlée in France, Crema Catalana in Spain, Trinity Cream or Cambridge Burnt Cream in England and Leite Creme in Portugal. Historical dessert and traditional in so many European households and beyond, the origins date back to the seventeenth century. It is known that the dessert was first recorded in the Chef Francois Massaliot’s cookbook, but others claim its creation, including some voices that attributed the origins to the Romans. The same basic concept on each of the mentioned countries, yet different ways to prepare this delicacy. And on top of this, the varieties are innumerable.

The ingredients are the most simple one can find: milk or cream, eggs, sugar and infused spices. However, to transform this simplicity into a fancy marvel, it is crucial to choose the best products. Today I bring to you the classic Leite Creme. It differs from the Crème Brûlée because it uses milk instead of cream (yay for fewer calories!) and some corn starch to help the thickness. The infused flavors are cinnamon and lemon peel. It took me three attempts to achieve perfection in the right creaminess, so this is how I like it. Certainly, if you ask ten people for their own recipe they’ll give you ten different preparation methods.

The advantage of the Portuguese recipe compared to the French, is that it’s made in the stove very quickly instead of a long baking time. From my childhood, I remember how easy it was to put it together, therefore so many times was made. Sometimes, we used to do an even faster version of this sweet, omitting the eggs and the lemon peel. It was common to eat it right out of the stove, still warm, sprinkled with ground cinnamon. So basic that a child could do it. I did it as a child for myself time and again.

Appreciated worldwide, the velvety cream has a strong presence in the Minho Region in Portugal where each family keeps the secret of its confection. Independently of its origin, truth is the original recipe has evolved. The silky texture remains the most important feature, but some innovative gastronomes introduced ingredients like coconut or Porto wine. The rest is history. Me? I like the diversity of the recipes, but the traditional aroma of cinnamon and lemon allied to the luscious milky cream is a keeper. Forevermore.

Leite Creme (Portuguese Milk Custard)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10-12 minutes

Serves 4-5

 

6 egg yolks

3 Tbsp corn starch

3/4 cup (170 grams) pure cane sugar

4 cups (1 liter) whole milk

4 lemon peels of 1 organic lemon

1 cinnamon stick

turbinado, demerara, muscovado or pure granulated cane sugar for the burnt sugar caramel.

 

In a large bowl of a stand or hand mixer, whisk the egg yolks with the corn starch until creamy. Add the sugar and whisk until pale yellow. Gradually, add the milk and whisk until well combined (with a spatula scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and whisk again).

Transfer the milk mixture into a sauce pan, add the lemon peels and cinnamon stick and put on the stove over medium-low heat. Let the mixture thicken, stirring constantly, for about 10 to 12 minutes, until very creamy.

Remove from heat, discard the lemon peels and cinnamon stick, and pour into 7 oz ramekins or other serving bowls of your preference. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before serving, sprinkle some sugar on top and burn the sugar with a kitchen torch (traditionally, it would be burnt with a very hot iron or a salamander) until caramelized. Serve immediately.

If you prefer the top of the custard with more liquid caramel instead of crispy, burn the sugar on top in advance and set a while in the fridge until the caramel custard starts to soften.

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10 Responses to Leite Creme (Portuguese Milk Custard)

  1. HeatherChristo June 28, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    What gorgeous photographs! and a delicious looking dessert!

  2. sippitysup June 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Custards done well are perfection. This is a beauty. GREG

  3. carolinaheartstrings June 28, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    That looks so yummy. This was a wonderful post. I really enjoyed learning about this dish. Great pictures.

  4. thatshowiroll June 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Thank you and thank you! :)

  5. Belinda @zomppa June 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    It is perfect – thanks for sharing a bit more of the history!

  6. Carla June 29, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Again and again you amaze me… for me, leite creme means midnight, warm on the sofa, on cold winter nights, when you need that extra silky and sweet confort. I can’t have enough of your blog!

  7. Christine @knapkins_com June 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Great post! I really like that this is a quicker recipe then the French version. Thanks for sharing. Do you have any other recipes that are quicker versions of another? At Knapkins, we battle two food photos together and let people vote for their favorite. It would be an interesting to see if we battle two recipes (one quick, one slow bake) and see how people vote! Let me know if you are interested in submitting your food photography entry. Love your photos…

    cheers

    Christine

  8. Reese@SeasonwithSpice July 1, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Teresa, this is a wonderful write-up. Thanks for sharing the bits of history of milk custard amongst different countries. Really enjoyed the post and the recipe. Quick baking time means less waiting time for dessert. For the impatient baker like me, your Portuguese version is a keeper.

  9. EA-The Spicy RD July 1, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Hi! Just found your blog on Kitchen Artistry. I love your photos of Leite Creme! Looks so delicious, and fun history lesson too!

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