Use your spoon to shatter the caramel crackle topping of this Vegan Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée and reveal the custardy and lemony dessert underneath!
This past year my Meyer lemon tree did exceptionally well. It held around 45 lemons, all at different stages of ripeness. As a hobby, I grow several kinds of citrus in large pots which I overwinter inside during the colder months. A month ago, with a fast-approaching Spring on my mind, I picked half of the ripe fruits off my large Meyer lemon tree to get it ready for its move outside. The weather took a chilly turn and has since been too wild to chance it, though. And as I type this, it’s now April and the weather is a shocking 30°F. These sun-starved trees will have to wait another week or two…
I’ve been trying to make use of all the wonderful lemons my tree gifted me so I use them to squeeze over avocado toast in the morning, make lemon-tahini dressing for salads, and blend into herbed lemonades, among many other uses. The thought came to me to use them in a dessert, and since I haven’t yet tried to make a vegan version of crème brûlée, I thought that would be the perfect vehicle to showcase their unique flavor.
Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin, so their acidity is often tempered with a touch of sweetness. That’s not always the case though, since some of mine have been as sour as an ordinary lemon. I think the main difference lies in the aroma of the zest. It has a flavor reminiscent of lemon with a hint of bitter orange. If Meyer lemons aren’t available to you, no problem…normal lemon is a perfect substitute.
- 1½ cups full-fat coconut milk
- 3 Tablespoons sugar (or sweetener of choice)
- ¼ teaspoon agar powder
- half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
- pinch of turmeric
- pinch of black salt
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- zest of one large Meyer lemon (1 heaping teaspoon)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 teaspoons of turbinado sugar (or regular sugar)
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coconut milk, sugar, agar, vanilla bean, turmeric, and black salt. Stir it until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Watch it during this time or else it may boil over.
- In a small cup or bowl, whisk together the water and the cornstarch then add it to the saucepan and stir to combine. Let it come back up to a boil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (to activate the cornstarch) then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract.
- Pour the custard into 5 crème brûlée ramekins (or any other shallow ramekins) and let them come to almost room temperature on the counter (15 minutes) before putting in the refrigerator to chill completely (at least 2 hours).
- When you are ready to serve, sprinkle one teaspoon of the turbinado sugar evenly over the surface of each one of the custards. Then use a blowtorch to melt, brown, and caramelize the sugar. You can also make them in the oven by putting all of the sugared custards onto a baking sheet. Then put the broiler on for a few minutes before placing the baking sheet with the custards on the highest shelf of the oven. You will have to watch them very carefully. This method is not my favorite because it can be uneven in browning and it can overheat the custards to a consistency that is too soft. That's why I like using a blowtorch, quick and controllable. Serve right after torching because the crackle may dissolve if it sits too long afterward.
-The black salt (kala namak) brings a very slight eggy-ness to make it reminiscent of traditional crème brûlée. If you can't get it, just substitute with a pinch of regular salt.
-If you don't have a vanilla bean, just bump up the amount of vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon.
-You can use one the specialized blowtorches for making this but I most often use a regular blowtorch (the kind you buy at a hardware store).