I posted a poll on Instagram last week to decide on the next recipe I would create – a gingerbread creme brûlée or a peppermint crunch cake. You can obviously guess which one won – 61% to 39%!
I’ll be making the latter for Christmas and posting it next week, but in the meantime, I hope this may grace your Christmas tables this week.
Growing up, creme brûlée wasn’t my favorite. Yes, it’s a custard, and I love pudding and ice cream, but I’ve always had a problem with custards that are set too solid like flan. My mind was changed when a restaurant opened close to where I grew up. It was a wine bar called Iron Bridge Wine Company, and had creme brûlée on the menu. My mom and I went one evening, ordered the creme brûlée since it’s her favorite and I ate most of it. (Yes, I’m that daughter. Thanks Mom!)
What made me so happy was that the texture was more creamy than I had previously AND even better, it had a layer of chocolate ganache on the bottom. You know I’ll eat anything with rich dark chocolate.
This recipe brings the best of both with a twist – a festive spiced dairy free custard with a layer of smooth ganache. For someone who didn’t like creme brûlée before, I ate two after I made this – oops!
Cashew and coconut milk makes the base of this recipe to be completely dairy free, but neutral so the spice can shine through. Maple sugar gives it that gingerbread depth. In Maine, it’s easy for me to find maple sugar, but coconut sugar or organic cane sugar would work just fine in this recipe.
One note on the ganache, if you’re making homemade cashew milk as the recipe shows, blend it for a long time to really make the milk smooth. I rarely strain my cashew milk so I blend it forever, but this is important because the grit from the milk can transfer to the ganache and that’s no good for this!
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 cup cashew milk (recipe below)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, or 3 tablespoons ginger juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (80 g) coconut or maple sugar
1/2 cup cashew milk
1/4 cup water
1 cup (6 ounces) semi sweet chocolate (I used Raaka’s maple dark)
First, let’s set up your baking pan. Place four 6 oz ramekins into an oven safe baking dish. You want a baking dish that’s tall enough so you can create a water bath later. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Heat the cashew milk and water until just under a boil. Turn off the heat, and pour the mixture over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it sit for 5 minutes until whisking to smooth. Pour 1/4 cup of the ganache into the bottom of each of the ramekins. Place in your refrigerator to set.
While those are cooling, add the two milks, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, ground cinnamon and sea salt into a small pot. Heat the mixture until it’s just under a simmer, turn off the heat and let the milks steep for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to cool down.
In a medium bowl, whisk your egg yolks and sugar together until light. Carefully, pour your strained milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to not form scrambled eggs. Once the milk mixture is completely incorporated, whisk for another minute.
Take your ramekins out of the refrigerator, and pour 1/2 cup of your milk mixture on top of the ganache.
These custards need to bake slowly, so we’re goign to make a water bath. Heat about 3 cups of water in a pot until it simmers. Pour the water slowly into your baking dish so it comes half way up your ramekins.
Bake the custard for 40-50 minutes, until its just set with a little jiggle when you wiggle the ramekin. My ramekins were tall as opposed to wide. If yours are wider, decrease the cook time and start checking them at 20 minutes. Let them cool completely at room temperature before transferring them to the fridge for 2-4 hours.
When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the sugar of your choice onto the top of each custard. With a blow torch, caramelize the sugar until it’s golden brown and crunchy.
If you do not have a blow torch, you can also use the broil setting on your oven, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. We don’t like burnt sugar!
homemade cashew milk
3 cups of water
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours + drained
Blend the cashews and water together until completely smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.