Enjoyed all over the world, caramel custard has many delicious variations — from the crème caramel or flan topped with soft caramel, to the crème brûleè or crema catalana topped with hard caramel. But this Peruvian crema volteada, like all Peruvian desserts, has a special touch. And its unique ingredient is quinoa, or kinwa in Quechua, which originated in Peru and was called “the mother grain” by the Incas.
This was my first time making this dessert and I wanted it to be special, so I used Teresa Izquierdo’s recipe from the Larousse de los Postres Peruanos; however, I modified the cooking time, measurements, and serving size. I also improvised on the decoration and experimented with the caramel, trying both white sugar and turbinado sugar. Since I like small portions, I used two mini muffin pans to make 24 servings.
To make the caramel, I used a small butter melter, thick enough to prevent the sugar from burning as it dissolved. I cooked the quinoa ahead of time, similar to how I make steamed rice. And I used an immersion blender to pureé the quinoa with evaporated milk. This was also the first time I used a bain-marie at home for cooking, and after all the pureeing, mixing, melting, steaming, cooling, and baking, I could not wait to try it.
The first thing I noticed was the smell — they say memories are strongly connected to scent, and the aroma of crema volteada was no exception — it smelled just like I remembered. Then, I noticed the color, a deep amber on top, that gradually changes to different shades of orange. The quinoa gave it a nice creamy consistency, and I was very happy with how it turned out — specially after so many firsts for one dessert!
- 1 cup sugar for making caramel
- 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
- 14 oz. can of sweet and 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
In addition to the ingredients above, 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.
- Wash the quinoa and cook with water in a pot, approximately 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- 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.
- In a separate bowl, beat the 7 eggs, mix in the sweet and condensed milk, and add the vanilla extract.
- Combine the quinoa pureé with the egg mixture and set aside.
- Make the caramel by melting the sugar in a small pot over medium heat.
- Pour the caramel into the muffin tin, enough to just coat the bottom.
- Wait a few minutes for the caramel to cool and pour the quinoa pureé and egg mixture into the muffin tin.
- Place the muffin tin into a pan and add some water to the pan to a level half the height of the muffin tin.
- Cover the muffin tin with aluminum foil and place in oven, bake until the custard has set and is cooked, approximately between 30 minutes and 1 hour depending on the size of the muffin tin.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of hours at room temperature.
- 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.
- Serve on small plates and garnish with mint leafs and edible flowers.
12 or more servings depending on the size of the muffin tin.
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 melter 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 onto the tin.