for everyone trying to mother
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day so in the interest of being helpful, I’m publishing this newsletter a day early. This one goes out to all of you mothering someone in your life. Thank you for lighting yourself on fire to keep us all warm.
One of my mother’s favorite desserts is crème brulee. She’s the kind of woman who used to rarely allow herself even the smallest indulgence despite having a prodigious sweet tooth. Mom was too busy working full time and dealing with 2 very headstrong kids to think of treating herself. That made it all the more memorable when she found a moment to actually enjoy something.
One winter my family drove to Yosemite National Park for a little vacation. Uncharacteristically, we went to the famous Sunday brunch at The Ahwahnee– where my parents had spent their honeymoon years before. The spread was gorgeous and the view of the snow-covered valley floor from the dining room looked like something straight out of Narnia. But what stood out the most was my mom sending my brother and I to grab fresh ramekins of crème brulee for her as soon as they came out of the kitchen. Here was my mom looking happier than ever eating something she’d never even mentioned before. The whole brunch was so memorable not because it was one of the fanciest things we ever did as family but because of how happy my mom was cracking through all the bruleed sugar. None of us should have to wait decades to eat our favorite thing, particularly mothers. It’s fucking ridiculous.
This crème brulee is easy as hell to make and can serve as a base for all kinds of flavors. I kept it classic with a vanilla bean but you should feel free to branch out. Want it to be earl grey flavored? Toss 2 tea bags in as the milk comes to a simmer. Chamomile or chai would be delicious too. Replace the vanilla with rosewater and pair it with some fresh strawberries. You could keep it simple and just try out different flavors of creamers, like chocolate or cookie butter, until you find a favorite. This is one of those rare instances where I am going to recommend a product to you in a recipe. I have tried every single starch out there to make this work and there is no better way, or better price, than using Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer. Everything else just makes too watery of a custard. Luckily, it is gluten free and only contains potato starch, tapioca powder, baking soda, and psyllium husk so it’s not full of random trash. This is not an ad, just the best product for the job.
A butane torch really is the best way to make these so consider buying one online or at your local kitchen supply store. I use mine for browning the tops of casseroles and lasagnas all the time when the broiler just isn’t cutting it. You can find a decent one for under $30 bucks. If you are having trouble melting the sugar, pulse it in a blender or food processor to make the sugar crystals smaller and thus easier to melt. If you have older kids, they can handle this recipe by themselves. Just wander over during torch time and take over. It’s a great way to get some rage out plus you get a treat when it’s over. Now that’s a solid mother’s day gift. This one’s for you Beverly.
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
makes 8 individual servings in oven safe ramekins
One 15 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
4 cups of your favorite nondairy coffee creamer in vanilla or plain
1 ½ cups cane sugar
½ cup cornstarch
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric, optional since its just for color
Extra cane sugar to top
Grab a large casserole dish and place all the ramekins inside it. Warm up your oven to 325 degrees F.
Now on to the crème. Place all ingredients into a blender and run that shit until there aren’t any starchy chunks in there and everything looks nice and mixed up.
Pour this mixture into a sauce pan over a medium heat and bring it to a gentle simmer. Let this simmer together, stirring frequently, until that shit starts to thicken up and look like pudding, about 5 minutes. Keep scraping the sides of the pan to avoid any kind of pudding skin until you get the right consistency. You want it thick like a custard but not chunky so err on the side of looser instead of making it too thick. Once it’s coating the back of a spoon and it feels like you’re stirring pudding, you should be good.
Pour the mixture evenly between the 8 ramekins then fill the casserole dish up with water until it reaches about ¾th up the side of ramekins. Carefully place this in the oven without splashing a bunch of water into the containers and bake for about 25-35 minutes. To tell if they are ready to come out, gently tap one of the sides of the ramekins. A little tiny jiggle is ok, like a little less than jello. If it’s still rocking around a bunch, bake it for a little longer to get that thick, custard texture that you want. Let these cool enough to handle them then place them in the fridge to chill for an hour or up to overnight.
When it’s time to brûlée, sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cane sugar evenly across the top of each ramekin, kinda shifting them side to side to get the whole top coated. Grab a butane torch and sweep it back and forth across the surface to melt the sugar. You want it to create a pane of sugar glass. A couple of burnt spots are ok, they add character. If you are having trouble melting the sugar, pulse it in a blender or food processor to make the sugar crystals smaller and thus easier to melt.
Serve immediately with some fresh fruit on the side.
Thanks for all your great suggestions last week on what you guys want to see around here. It was so helpful. We appreciate you guys so much.