I am a sucker for vegan creme brulee and most any dessert that a.) involves a torch to finish off the process and b.) requires you to shatter through a thick layer of caramelized sugar to get into the vanilla cream center. In my pre-vegan days, I perfected my vegan creme brulee cooking process (32 minutes, in my parent’s convection oven) and could always coax my dad into eating 2 portions of it with me. Since I’ve had such a love for creme brulee in the past, I’m not really sure why it took me this long to try my hand at a vegan creme brulee., but I was pleasantly suprised at how easy it was, without the traditional egg and cream base. Even though I’m a through and through pudding hater, something about the warm, crunchy sugary top and the cold, vanilla filling of a creme brulee just speaks to me.
I received my first (and favorite) kitchen torch several years ago and immediately fell in love. Sure, you can use the broiler to caramelize your creme brulee tops, but really, isn’t firing up a flaming torch and burning the tops of your dessert so much more fun? Unfortunately, my canisters for my favorite kitchen torch ran out and I’m hard pressed to find refills, so I’m on the hunt for a new one (open to suggestions!), so I did have to go the broiler in the oven route this time. I set mine at high and had to keep an eye on them for about 3-5 minutes, but DON’T just set a timer and walk away from your broiler when you have something getting all crispy in your oven. I’ve spent too many times fanning smoke from an over broiled dish and cursing myself for walking away from the broiler for ‘just a minute’ and then find myself assuring the neighbors that ‘no, I didn’t start a fire’ and ‘yes, there are in fact 4 smoke alarms going off and screaming FIRE FIRE FIRE all at once’ (We have one that actually talks and yells FIRE). I also thought that finding the perfect texture for a non-dairy creme brulee would be hard, but it turns out, the combination of firm tofu and soaked cashews (my favorite) creates a perfect base for the custard-y filling of a vegan creme brulee. A few other recipes I came across used agar agar or other gums I didn’t really want to mess with, so this more whole foods approach was just the ticket for me. Scrape a vanilla bean into the filling for an even better flavor and to balance out the grapefruit notes in these. I only thought about adding vanilla beans after I chilled my batch, or I would have gladly made the addition too.
- 1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours and drained (If you have a Vitamix, you might be able to skip this step)
- 2 oz. firm tofu
- 1 cup almond milk
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons potato starch or cornstarch
- ¾ cup grapefruit juice (Juice from ½ of a large grapefruit)
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar, for topping/caramelizing
- Grease 4 ramekins or small bowls and set aside.
- In a blender of bowl of a food processor, combine the cashews, tofu. milk, sugar, cornstarch, grapefruit juice, maple syrup, and salt. Blend on high for 30 seconds to a minute, or until mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a saucepan oven medium heat and whisk continuously until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to whisk continuously, or the bottom of the mixture will burn! Pour the mixture evenly into the ramekins and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until filling is set.
- To caramelize the tops: After the creme brulee has chilled, top each with 1-2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar and broil on high for 2-3 minutes, watching closely until the tops are a deep golden brown. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen torch to get the same affect! Serve.