Cracking through the toffee into a silky creme brulee is one of life’s small joys. This dairy free version is really simple to make and a little healthier than the usual creme brulee made with full fat cream.
My relationship with creme brulee goes back a long way. I love the stuff, but it’s also become a running joke in our household.
I’ve travelled fairly extensively through South East Asia (one of my other great loves), and over a few trips and a few countries, come to a hilarious realisation about the restaurant menus. Picture a busy narrow street in, let’s say, Hanoi. Every restaurant has a menu out the front, and sometimes staff, touting to get you to eat at their place. Many offer creme brulee. You’ve been travelling for a while, eating badly, and think to yourself, yes that’d be great! In you go.
How many of these restaurants do you think have creme brulee available if you order it? None. Zip. Nada. Once we realised this we started ordering it everywhere we went. Then losing ourselves in giggles when the poor waiter came back to apologetically explain that they didn’t have any. They must have thought we were mad.
And I get it, I really do. In a country that barely eats dairy, getting hold of fresh dairy cream (and keeping it fresh) must be difficult.
But as you see in this recipe, it’s so easy (and outstandingly delicious) to make creme brulee with coconut cream. These ingredients are as local as you can get in South East Asia, and this is the dessert I wish was on every menu instead of an unavailable attempt at recreating a European dish.
Palm sugar comes in large nuggets or lumps, and is available from Asian supermarkets and some regular supermarkets. It has a caramelly flavour which works very well with coconut cream.
You need to start this recipe the day before, or early in the morning if you’re serving the brulee that night. Ideally you want a kitchen blowtorch too, these are so much fun and make a quick job of caramelising almost anything. Mine was a Christmas gift. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to find the perfect gift for that foodie family member this December. Just saying.
Coconut and lime creme brulee
- 2 cups of full fat coconut cream
- 5 free range egg yolks
- 1/2 cup palm sugar, (or substitute white sugar)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste, or extract
- Zest of 1 lime
- 4 tsp caster sugar for the brulee topping
- Preheat oven to 120°C.
- Grate your palm sugar (I used almost 2 lumps) and measure a ½ cup quantity.
- Gently whisk the palm sugar into your egg yolks. You want the yolks and sugar well mixed and the sugar dissolved, but you don't want to introduce too much air to the yolks. No one wants a bubbly brulee.
- Heat the coconut cream, lime zest and vanilla in a saucepan until small bubbles are forming around the edge and it's almost boiling. Remove from the heat.
- Stirring constantly, add about a half cup of the hot coconut cream to the eggs. Once mixed, add that back to the hot coconut cream in the saucepan (still stirring constantly). Doing this stops the eggs from heating too quickly and prevents the mixture from separating or scrambling.
- Boil your jug.
- To remove the zest and any possible lumps, pour the creme brulee mixture through a sieve into a glass jug.
- Get out a deep roasting dish and put a tea towel in the bottom. Sit four ramekins on top (the tea towel stops them from sliding around). Open your oven and put the roasting dish on the rack.
- Pour the creme brulee mixture evenly into four ramekins. Then pour boiling water into the roasting dish to come as far up the sides of your ramekins as you can. My ramekins were taller than my roasting dish, so the water only came about half way up. This is a lot easier than trying to lift the dish full of water into the oven without spilling anything...
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the sides of the creme brulee are set but the middle still wobbles if you give one a gentle shake. The time will vary a bit depending on the size of your ramekins, so keep an eye on them.
- Remove from the oven and cool until you can safely move the ramekins to a wire rack to cool more. Once they're warm, pop them in the fridge overnight or for the day. This will firm them up.
- When you're ready to serve, sprinkle 1 tsp of caster sugar evenly over the top. Get out your blowtorch and go all mad professor on them! I like mine quite dark, almost on the edge of being burned, but you can stop when you get to a level of golden that you're happy with.
- If you don't have a blowtorch, put the creme brulees under a screamingly hot grill for just long enough to caramelise the sugar (you don't want to melt the custard below).
- Let the sugar cool and harden for a few minutes, then crack into them and enjoy!