[T]he crème de la crème, it seems possible that this expression refers to the luxuriously famous dessert, crème brulee. Put simply, crème brulee is an egg custard dessert with a crunchy caramelized sugar crust. While the name implies French origins, there are similar sweet cream puddings in English and Spanish cuisine. In fact, Trinity College in Cambridge, England claims to be the birthplace of the “brunt cream” dessert.
Crème brulee is deceptively simple—a sweet custard made of milk, eggs, and sugar—but it is difficult to perfect the sweet and create the iconic burnt sugar top. While it may seem beyond the reach of ordinary chefs, crème brulee perfection is achievable in any kitchen. In order to prove a point, the following crème brulee recipe rejects the traditional eggs and cream base and does not require a pastry blowtorch. Remember to allow at least one hour for the crème brulee to chill and set before caramelizing the top.
The following recipe for vegan crème brulee has been modified from Vegan Yack Attack and The Guardian and the caramelizing techniques have been adapted from The Kitchn and Serious Eats. Try garnishing with orange peel and adding 2 teaspoons of orange extract. Or, finish with colored or flavored sugar, such as lemon or cocoa sugar.
Vegan Crème Brulee
1 can (about 14 ounces) coconut cream (or full-fat coconut milk)
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
Roughly a 1 inch piece of grated fresh ginger (about 1 tablespoon of powdered ginger)
1 teaspoon of salt
About 3 tablespoons white sugar (for caramelizing top)
Fresh mint (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Blend all ingredients until smooth
Simmer mixture in a saucepan, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken to a pudding-like consistency
Pour crème into four 4-oz ramekins or one casserole dish
Bake for 25-35 minutes. Crème should have a jell-o like jiggle
Allow crème brulee to set in refrigerator until set (at least 1-2 hours)
Sprinkle with a fine layer of white sugar
Broil (in oven or toaster oven) for 10-15 minutes until tops caramelize
Optional: burn sugar with a lighter
Cool crème brulee before serving
Garnish with fresh mint