Crema Catalana with Bay Leaf Buñuelos (Catalan Flan with Bay Leaf Fritters)

In this match-up, buñuelos, what Spaniards call doughnuts or fritters, provide Catalan-inspired flan with a crunchy, sweet sidekick. Andy Nusser, chef and co-owner of Casa Mono, New York City, has chosen to form his buñuelos around fresh bay leaves, which turn crackly when fried—an ingenious touch.


The crunchy sweetness of the bunuelos pair well with the delicate flavor and the unctuous mouthfeel of a Moscatel-based sweet wine from southern Spain; recommended wines include Jorge Ordoñez & Co. Old Vines and Vinos de Telmo Rodríguez Molino Real Mountain Wine.

  • For the custard
  • 1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 sheets gelatin
  • For the batter
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
  • For the fritters
  • 2 quarts extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 dozen fresh bay leaves
  • 2 cups sugar, for dusting

To make the custard: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place 8 individual dessert-sized cazuelas or ovenproof ramekins in a cake pan large enough to hold them without touching.

In a saucepan, heat the cream with the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean over medium heat until it is almost at a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until smooth.

When the cream is almost at the boiling point, add the gelatin, a sheet at a time, directly to the cream, stirring constantly. Pour half the hot cream into the large bowl with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, whisking together. Pour the yolk-cream mixture back into the saucepan of remaining heated cream and “cook” while stirring with a wooden spoon. At this point you should be achieving a nap, where the back of the spoon is coated with the custard. Do not overcook; turn the heat off if necessary. (At this stage you are only melding the cream, egg yolks, sugar, and gelatin together.)

Strain the mixture through a chinois (a fine-mesh strainer), pressing the vanilla bean against the strainer for full flavor. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, then fill each baking dish three-quarters full. Carefully add cold water to the cake pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dishes, then cover the cake pan with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil to check for a skin layer on the custards, which indicates that the custard has set. Remove the baking dishes to a rack and let cool. When cool, dust with sugar and using a household blowtorch caramelize the sugar.

To make the batter for the fritters: In a large bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Whisk in the milk until combined. Fold in egg whites.

To make the fritters: In a large, deep-sided pot, heat the olive oil to 360 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer. Dip the bay leaves in the batter and coat liberally. Delicately place the battered leaves in the hot oil and fry until golden all over. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain and cool. When cool, dust with sugar. Serve 6 buñeulos with each custard.

Published on December 18, 2009