Chrystal and I began another “vegan” challenge at the beginning of 2013 with a few of our friends. I like to think of it as an exercise in disciplined and thoughtful eating. Each one of us, however, built in a few of our own separate dietary modifications this time around–which is why “vegan” rightfully is in quotations. For me, I’m giving myself the okay to consume honey, as one example. But all in all, we’re committed to 90 days of meatless, non-dairy eating.
This Christmas I was gifted a culinary blow torch. I was itching to fire up my new kitchen toy the moment I opened the box. Of course, the first dish that comes to mind that utilizes a torch is the popular dessert crème brûlée, or “burned cream.” It’s made up of very few ingredients, but the main players of the dish are always eggs and cream. No bueno! That doesn’t work with our new break on dairy. Nevertheless, I was determined to have my crème brûlée and eat it too!
I scoured the web in search of a worthy non-dairy crème brûlée recipe, and one from Vegan Good Eats caught my attention. I had some lavender in my spice cabinet and thought it would make for be a wonderful addition to the silky dessert. My version of of the recipe, though non-dairy, technically is not vegan. I used leftover gelatin I already had on the shelf, which is derived from animal by-products. Simply replace the gelatin with agar powder–which is easy to score in many Asian food or specialty markets–and your crème brûlée is strictly vegan. Additionally, agar doesn’t need to be refrigerated in order to set. Leave the ramekins at room temperature and in about an hour the crème with be ready to brûlée. You can also try equal parts cornstarch if you can’t find arrowroot powder, which is also in the recipe.
The execution of this dish couldn’t have been easier. Don’t be worried about the texture either. The finished product of this dessert was as soft and silky as any standard variety of crème brûlée I’ve tasted. And the lavender added a subtle brightness in every spoonful. My torch was happy to make its debut in my kitchen, and my taste buds were happy with this sweet indulgent. Fire away!
Lavender Non-Dairy Crème Brûlée – serves 6
Adapted from Vegan Good Eats
1 cup unsalted cashews
1 teaspoon lavender buds
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to brûlée
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
3 cups almond milk, original flavor
In a food processor, grind the cashews into a smooth spread, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
In a blender, pulse lavender buds a couple times to help ground fine. Add one tablespoon of sugar and pulse again. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Using a metal sieve, strain mixture into a large saucepan. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. When ready, heat pan over medium-high heat until the mixtures begins to boil–be sure to whisk frequently. Reduce heat to low and continue to whisk non-stop for five minutes, being sure the pot does not boil over.
Remove from heat and carefully pour into 6 ramekins. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for 3 hours to set.
When ready to brûlée the crème, let ramekins sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over each ramekin. Using a kitchen torch, heat the tops of each serving until browned and crispy. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Note: If you do not have a kitchen torch, you can burn the sugar in the oven broiler. Be sure to crack open the oven door while the sugar is browning as to help keep the custard from recooking.
Click HERE for printable recipe.