I’ve noticed as I get older, my tastes have evolved from bland to bold. The apple sauce and mashed potatoes that I loved as a child just don’t do it for me any more. I crave flavor with a capital F…which is why my cooking class this week is called Flavor-Up!.
It turns out our taste buds do, in fact, dull as we age. That’s why food manufacturers, constantly competing for our appetites, load up processed foods with salt, sugar and fat, trying to seduce us ever so synthetically.
But spend a week away from packaged foods, eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins, and you can take back your taste buds. Believe me, after five days on the M Café RESET Cleanse, my tongue is like a toddler’s!
You’ll be hearing more about the program soon, and I promise there will be a recipe or two from the RESET menu. But for now, I wanted to share the dessert I’ll be teaching at my next class. It’s based on a revelation I had a few years ago when I put a chai teabag in my morning latte. It’s a bit like layering silver and gold jewelry together in the same outfit. At first it was scary….then it just made me happy!
This dairy-free version of the popular French custard is just edgy enough to grab anyone’s attention but healthy enough to enjoy often. The coconut milk base steeps with tea, coffee and spices, then cooks gently in the oven before firming up in the refrigerator. You can play around with the flavors (try fresh ginger, star anise, whole cloves or juniper berries), but do follow the directions carefully, as there are a few pitfalls that will tank your lovely dessert and result in a curdled mess.
First, make sure you pour the hot base into the yolks very slowly so as not to scramble them. Vegans, you can substitute cornstarch for the eggs, but you’ll want to thicken the custard over the stove instead of in a water bath.
Next, you’ll have to pour boiling water into the pan of ramekins while facing a hot oven. Wear an oven mitt and work slowly. Finally, there’s the burnt sugar topping (essential for putting the brûlée in crème brûlée). Your toaster oven can do the browning on its Broil or Toast setting. Even better, a blow torch will do the trick in seconds without liquefying your custards (this one is on my birthday wish list).
But as long as you don’t rush feet first into this recipe, you’ll be rewarded with an unabashedly flavor-forward dessert…for mature palates only.
Makes 8 (half cup) ramekins
1 (14-ounce can) full fat coconut milk
1 (14-ounce can) light coconut milk
2 Chai tea bags
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
1 large cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 decaffeinated espresso pod or 1 tablespoon decaffeinated espresso powder
4 organic egg yolks (Vegans, use 4 tablespoons organic cornstarch)
Pinch kosher salt
¼ cup maple syrup, or more to taste
8 teaspoons coconut sugar or raw sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place 8 half-cup ovenproof ramekins in a large roasting pan. Fill a teapot with water and bring to a boil.
2. Place the coconut milks in a small saucepan with the tea bags,
espresso (brewed or powder), vanilla and cinnamon stick; bring to a simmer. Turn off the flame and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and cinnamon stick with a skimmer.
3. Meanwhile, place the eggs (or cornstarch), salt and maple syrup in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk until light-colored and foamy. Slowly pour in the warm coconut milk mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve to a large measuring cup or container with a spout, then pour into the ramekins, about ¾ full.
4. Place the roasting pan with the ramekins on a shelf in the middle of the oven. Carefully pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until mixture is just set (it will jiggle slightly in the middle when done). Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven (careful, the water will be boiling) and then remove the ramekins from the pan (I use these gloves to avoid burning my fingers). Allow to cool for about 20 minutes, then place in the fridge for 3-4 hours until chilled.
5. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top of each brûlée, making sure that all of the surface area is covered. If you have a blowtorch, aim the heat across the tops of the custards to caramelize and darken the sugar. Alternatively, preheat the broiler of your toaster oven or oven. Place the ramekins under the broiler on the top most rack for a minute or two until the sugar bubbles. If the ramekins feel a little loose, you may need to refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the custards to chill again. Serve immediately.
Valentine’s Day is around the corner! Here are some gifts I’ll be giving to my favorite Valentines:
Disclaimer: This post may contain totally benign affiliate links, earnestly and expressly intended to help dear readers make informed consumer choices while supporting unsponsored, free-of-charge and delicious content.