Crema volteada is the Peruvian version of the Spanish flan or the French crème caramel, but one of its ingredients gives it a very unique flavor and texture — quinoa. The Incas of Peru called quinoa “the mother grain,” and though I have enjoyed quinoa in many savory dishes or salads, I was very excited to be adding quinoa to a dessert for the first time. Not the least because it somehow made the dessert a little bit healthier.
Starting with the Incas, Peruvian cuisine is a 500 year fusion of techniques and ingredients from Europe, Africa, China, and Japan. And crema volteada is a wonderful example of what happens when you combine the European caramel custard with the Peruvian quinoa — a true fusion of two worlds can be a very sweet combination indeed.
The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favorite Afro-Peruvian cooks, Teresa Izquierdo, who passed away on July 27 of this year, just one day before Peruvian independence day. When I saw this dessert for the first time in the Larousse of Peruvian Desserts, I could not wait to make it. And when I finally did, I was very grateful that Teresa was able to share the traditional recipes she loved.
This was also the first time I was using a bain-marie — or baño maria, as my mom calls it — and after all the pureeing, mixing, melting, steaming, cooling, and baking, I was delighted to enjoy my first home made crema volteada — beautifully garnished with edible flowers and mint leafs. Here’s how you can make your own Peruvian crema volteada at home, and taste the fusion of two worlds in each sweet and creamy bite.
Crema Volteada, or Peruvian Caramel Custard
Summary: Crema volteada, the Peruvian version of creme caramel, is a smooth, sweet dessert that uses the Incan grain quinoa as its base. It’s almost healthy!
In addition to the ingredients below, you’ll need a pot for cooking the quinoa, a pot for melting the sugar, 2 bowls, a muffin tin, a pan for the bain-marie, an immersion blender, non-stick baking spray for the muffin tin, and aluminum foil to cover the muffin tin.
Yield: 12 or more servings, depending on the size of the muffin tin
- 1 cup sugar for making caramel
- 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
- 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 7 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup of quinoa
- 2 cups of water for cooking the quinoa
- Water for the bain-marie
- Mint leafs and edible flowers for garnish
1. Wash the quinoa well to remove the bitter saponin, and cook with water in a pot, approximately 30 minutes.* Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Measure 2 cups of cooked quinoa into a bowl, and use the immersion blender to pureé the quinoa by adding the evaporated milk a little bit at a time. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the 7 eggs, mix in the sweetened condensed milk, and add the vanilla extract.
4. Combine the quinoa pureé with the egg mixture and set aside.
5. Make the caramel by melting the sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Make sure not to let the sugar burn.**
6. Pour the caramel into the muffin tin, enough to just coat the bottom.
7. Wait a few minutes for the caramel to cool and pour the quinoa pureé and egg mixture into the muffin tin.
8. Place the muffin tin into a deep pan and add some water to the pan to a level half the height of the muffin tin.
9. Cover the muffin tin with aluminum foil and place in oven, baking until the custard has set and is cooked, approximately between 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the muffin tin.***
10. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of hours at room temperature.
11. Turn muffin tins upside down over a baking sheet to remove the cooked custard from the tins, use a spatula to loosen the custard if needed.****
12. Serve on small plates and garnish with mint leafs and edible flowers.
- *If you’ve never cooked quinoa before, take a look at my recipe for cooking steamed rice. Cooking quinoa is similar, but simpler, since you only need to use water, and not any oil, garlic, or salt.
- **Since my butter melting pot is pretty small, I made the caramel in batches, 1/4 cup sugar at a time, and was very careful to swirl the pot occasionally to prevent the sugar from burning.
- ***Depending on the size of your muffin tin, you may have 12 or more servings and you may need to make more caramel. If you have leftover quinoa and egg mixture, you can refrigerate it for later use as well. Since I only had one pan to make a bain-marie, I made the caramel custard in two batches and ended up with 24 servings.
- ****After removing the cooked custard from the muffin tin, I added hot water to the muffin tin in order to loosen the caramel that was left behind. Using a baking spray such as Spectrum’s Canola Oil may help prevent the caramel from getting stuck in the tin.