If you don’t have cane sugar on hand, you can make this delicious Colombian natilla with brown sugar, milk and cornstarch.
Without exaggerating, the Christmas season in Colombia is absolutely insane. Throughout the entire month of December you cannot miss the parties, the music, the novena, and the food, especially natilla. Did you know that natilla is the most popular dessert in Colombia during this time of year? Every home starts making their own natilla and buñuelos at the very beginning of the month, not only to share at home but also to share with their neighbors, friends and family. By New Year’s you’ve shared and eaten all kinds of natilla.
In the past, the natilla was made after cooking and grinding the corn, with panela, and cooked on a wood stove. Today, everything is so much easier because you can find ready to make natilla mixes at naby grocery stores. But what happens if we don’t want to make something that comes out of a box? Or if we live abroad and can’t find a mix to make natilla? That’s where my idea was born to make make it using sugar and other ingredients you can easily find anywhere.
Now, the original natilla contains panela, which is what gives it a caramel color, however it is very hard to find abroad. In many places you can find Mexican piloncillo, which is kind of similar to the panela, however, it really doesn’t have the same flavor we find in Colombia. So, in this recipe we will be using brown sugar which gives it the same color and flavor found in the Colombian natilla. If you’re not a big fan of panela or brown sugar, you can use regular granulated sugar.
YOU WILL NEED:
- Milk: I always use whole milk to give it a better flavor.
- Sugar: In this version we will be using brown and white sugar to give it color and flavor.
- Cinnamon and cloves: These two ingredients are key to give it flavor, you can use them whole or ground.
- Cornstarch: Use any brand you can find.
- Shredded coconut: Completely optional. I love to use it to add more texture. You can also add raisins.
HOW TO MAKE IT?
- Bring part of the milk, cinnamon, cloves and sugar to a boil. This lets the milk absorb really well the flavor of each ingredient. Once it is boiling, remove it from the heat and let it rest a for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, dissolve really well the cornstarch with the rest of the milk. Make sure you stir it really well so it doesn’t go to the bottom.
- Place the pot on the stove once again, carefully remove the cinnamon and cloves, if you’re using them whole. You can also add the shredded coconut or raisins and lastly, the dissolved cornstarch.
- Now all you have to do is stir while the heat from the milk activates the cornstarch. You will notice that the milk will start to slowly thicken and in the last few minutes, you will begin to see the bottom of the pot, which means that it is ready.
- Pour the mixture into a large baking dish, let it cool and sprinkle with ground cinnamon, if you want.
- 4 ½ cups (1080 ml or 1 liter) of whole milk (Divided)
- ¼ cup (50g) white sugar
- ½ cup (107g) packed brown sugar
- 1 dash ground cloves (Optional)
- 3–4 cinnamon sticks
- ¾ cup (45g) shredded coconut (Optional)
- 1 cup (120g) cornstarch
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (Optional)
- Pour 3½ cups (840 ml) of milk into a big pot and over medium low heat.
- Now add the white sugar, brown sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Stir really well and let milk come to a boil.
- Once the milk is boiling, remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix the cornstarch with the remaining cup (240 ml) of milk until it is completely dissolved.
- Once the 5 minutes have passed, put the pot back on the stove over medium low heat.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the shredded coconut.
- Now you can add the dissolved cornstarch into the hot milk. Stir continuously until it thickens and you can see the bottom of the pot.
- Immediately pour the mixture into a serving or baking dish and let it cool for at least an hour before decorating with the ground cinnamon.
You can refrigerate the natilla for up to 5-7 days.