Friday, April 02, 2010

Crème Brûlée

This Easter, finish a traditional supper with small servings of rich, creamy Crème Brûlée.

I kind of suspect there are some of you out there, you lovely salt-of-the-earth people, who think it would be great to be vegan (nice for the animals, good for your health, and so on), and quite manageable, actually. Except for one thing.

Crème Brûlée.

Yes, this dastardly custard is the culprit. Sure, you love animals and you care about the environment. And sure, there are Crème Brûlées made with silken tofu or almond milk. But come on.

You want the real thing. Silky, vanilla-flecked cream with just the right amount of heaviness. Coy in its ramekin, waiting for your spoon to take a swat.

So, this is me, standing here and inviting you into all things vegan. Imagine I'm extending my hand, and smiling with a little wink, and saying, "Come on over. We've got Crème Brûlée."

Crème Brûlée
8 servings
This recipe makes a classic custard flavored richly with vanilla beans. If you wish to add the flavors of herbs or liqueur, see the instructions for Flavoring Ganache. For more on kitchen torches and brûléeing, see my Lavender Rice Pudding Brûlée with Blueberries.

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 13-ounce can coconut milk (full fat)
1/3 cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
generous pinch sea salt
1/4 cup cooked sweet potato, or sweet potato puree
about 8 teaspoons sugar or evaporated cane juice, for brûléeing

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a bain marie: Place eight small ramekins in one or two large pans (the ramekins should not touch), and put some water on to boil. Set everything aside.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold water until completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a blender, along with coconut milk, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and sea salt. Blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add sweet potato, and blend again.

Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins, and add boiling water to the pan (be careful not to get water into the ramekins), bringing the water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully transfer to oven.

Bake the custard 40-45 minutes, until they appear mostly set. A bit of jiggle in the center is fine; you don't want to cook it to the point of curdling. Cool the ramekins slightly on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours, and up to overnight.

To serve, sprinkle each pudding evenly with a scant teaspoon sugar or evaporated cane juice. Heat a torch to medium heat, and hold the torch about one inch from the surface. Make small circles, and caramelize the sugar. It will bubble, melt, and go golden brown. Don’t allow the sugar to burn past a medium brown color, but do be sure there aren't too many pale bits. Serve immediately.

Miss Two, who looks oddly sophisticated enjoying the satisfying crack of a good Crème Brûlée.


livingslowly said...

Mmmm, this sounds fantastic!

Cynthia said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE you for posting this! I was just lusting for a Creme Brulee last week and now I can have it! I never thought I would be able to find a dairy free recipe for this.

dreaminitvegan said...

This brulee looks perfect! This is something I must try. My husband loves creme brulee.

Joy said...

I hope you enjoy it!

For a denser, more firm custard, increase the cornstarch from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup. My Mr. prefers it this way (I like it a bit looser), and you might, too.

Oh! And I also like to put the finished, chilled custards in the freezer for about 10 minutes before torching. This ensures that the creme stays very cold while burning the sugar.

Ryan, said...

Hi - Rad vegan site! I'm planning to feature it on a browser bar for vegetarians. We are a group of vegan volunteers connecting people with veg resources like yours. Our goal is a world with greater compassion. It seems like we share that. If you can squeeze it into your schedule I'd love to chat. Ryan, president ( or 215-589-2437)

Mithuna said...

Hi, I just tried the brulee and it didn't come out so well :'(
It was hard at the bottom but not set at the top. one thing I didn't do according to the recipe is I used standard size ramekins, but filled them very shallowly (about 1/3 of the way up). Also I made the water bath only come up to half way up the custard level. Maybe that's why the custard got very cooked on the bottom but not at all at the top? What do you think?

Joy said...

Hi Mithuna, I'm sorry to hear how it went for you; I know how frustrating it can be to try a recipe and not have it turn out right.

There are two things I can think of here (providing your oven isn't wonky with temperature or something):

1) The combination of water level and ramekin size just didn't work.

or, 2) The cornstarch wasn't properly dissolved and sunk to the bottom in clumps, cooking firm there and leaving the top liquidy. You mentioned that the bottom part was hard, and the only thing I can think of that would produce this is a significant concentration of cornstarch at the bottom of the ramekins. Could this be it? Let me know and I can do some more troubleshooting.

I hope others will post when they try this, and I'll be sure to give an update the next time I make it.

Lisa said...

Joy! I have been Vegan for 1 1/2 years and Creme Brulee is something I have pined for!! A local restaurant made Strawberries Gratinee, which had a lighter pudding-like filling with Grand Marnier soaked strawberries...with the crunchy torched sugar coating on top. This gives me hope...

Lisa said...
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