Chef Martin Lopez shows us hot to make Natillas, a rich dessert popular in many of the Spanish speaking cultures around the world.
INGREDIENTS: Makes 6 servings
4 cups whole milk
2-inch strip lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)
Ground nutmeg, for garnish (optional)
Shortbread cookies or fruit (optional)
Combine 1/2 cup milk with the egg yolks and cornstarch. Pour 1/2 cup of milk into a medium mixing bowl.
Add the egg yolks and cornstarch to the same bowl and whisk well.
Continue whisking until the mixture seems smooth and the contents are evenly distributed.
Mix together the seasonings and remaining milk. Pour the remaining milk in a medium saucepan. Add the
lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon stick, and salt to the same saucepan, then set the pan on your stove over
Mix the contents of the saucepan slowly and continuously as they heat up and do not use a higher heat
setting. Milk burns and sticks to pans easily, so continuous motion and low heat are both necessities.
Continue heating and stirring until the mixture becomes hot but do not allow it to reach a boil yet. This step
should take several minutes.
Add the egg yolk mixture. Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, mixing the two
together constantly to combine them.
Heat until the mixture boils. Continue stirring and heating the mixture over medium-low heat until it boils.
After it begins to boil, continue whisking it for 2 minutes or longer.
Test the taste of the Natillas after the first 2 minutes. If you can detect the taste of cornstarch, you'll need to
continue heating the mixture for another minute or so. If the cornstarch taste is gone, you can proceed to
the next step.
Add the vanilla but remove the cinnamon and lemon. Remove the saucepan from the stove. Take out the
lemon zest and cinnamon stick, then add the vanilla extract, stirring it in until evenly distributed.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites using an electric mixer set
to low speed, continuing until stiff peaks form.
When the egg whites are ready, stiff peaks should form when you lift the mixer out. These peaks should
stand sharply without drooping.
Note that the addition of egg whites is mostly found in Mexican versions of Natillas. Many traditional
Spanish versions do not use egg whites, and the result is a much denser custard. As such, you may omit the
egg whites altogether if desired.
Fold the egg whites into the custard. Top the custard in your saucepan with the stiff egg whites. Carefully
fold the egg white into the custard with a spatula until no visible streaks of white remain.
Fold carefully, applying as little pressure as possible to the egg whites during the process. Working too
quickly or with too much force can cause the egg whites to lose most of the air you just beat into them.
Chill for a minimum of 3 hours. Carefully press a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface of the natillas, then
place the saucepan in your refrigerator until the custard is cool and semi-set.
If you want to serve the Natillas in individual custard cups, you should pour the mixture into the cups while it
is still warm.
Serve when ready. After the Natillas have cooled and set, scoop the custard into individual serving dishes
and sprinkle each one with ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg.
Alternatively, you could top each helping of Natillas with a shortbread cookie or brulee fruit.
You should be able to store Natillas in sealed containers for 3 days inside your refrigerator.