A couple months ago, I joined a book club with my mom, sister, and a few ladies from church. The book that month was Two Steps Forward by Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion. It takes place in France and talks a lot about the food the characters experience on their journey across the country. As a foodie, I was naturally eager to learn more about the cuisine which eventually led to the making of this Egg-Free Crème Brûlée
“Frenching Your Food”
The latest podcast I’ve been listening to is “Wise Traditions” by the Weston A. Price Foundation. While I don’t agree with all of their principles (i.e. I have no intent of consuming raw dairy), they have some very insightful information on traditional diets. In one episode, the interviewee spent a lot of time in France and coined the term, “Frenching your food”. It not only describes what the French eat, but more importantly, how.
First of all, adults in France don’t snack. It’s not that they have some superior willpower to withstand cravings and temptations. Snacking just isn’t part of the culture. They eat food at mealtime and that’s it. This leads right into the next point. Meals are big, multi-course events, hence there is no need for snacks. They don’t sit down with a frozen dinner in front of the TV. They don’t eat out of a fast-food bag on the way home from work. Rather, they socialize, slow down, and savor. They also serve food plates and sit down at a table rather than eating mindlessly straight out of the container. It allows them to taste the food and pay attention to it.
Finally, French food is a lot more pure than in the U.S. Ultra-processed food still exists in France, but they are much less common. The French diet consists of many more whole foods purchased locally from fresh markets. The simple, real ingredients lead to much healthier and delicious food.
I have a lot of progress to make before I feel like I’m truly “Frenching my food”, but it’s one of my goals to improve. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m passionate about whole, fresh foods. Nonetheless, I definitely need to work on slowing down, avoiding snacks, and enjoying each designated mealtime.
Coq au Vin and Egg-Free Crème Brûlée
After reading the book and learning more about French diet and culture, I wanted to encompass it all in a French themed dinner for my family. I’d been meaning to try an Egg-Free Crème Brûlée for a while, so that was on the menu for dessert. The main course was Coq au Vin, made with local chicken and bacon. For vegetarian options, we had roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, as well as Baked Spinach Asparagus Risotto and homemade bread.
The biggest challenge (other than having everything hot and ready at the same time), was making an egg-free crème brûlée. After all, the main ingredient is usually egg! I’m sure the eggs would add a whole new dimension, but it turned out just fine without. It consisted of sugar, starch, cream, evaporated milk, Celtic sea salt, cinnamon extract (or vanilla), and butter.
Ideally, you should have a few special supplies to make crème brûlée, but there are ways to get by without. The first are ramekins. These are small, 4-6 ounce ceramic dishes to make individual servings. If you don’t have them, it’s perfectly fine to make this recipe using a larger pie plate or square baking dish, but do allow more time for it to set up. The reason I prefer ramekins is that crème brûlée is best eaten as soon as you caramelize the sugar topping. If you make it in a big dish and torch it all at once, the crunchy top on the leftovers will soften in the refrigerator. It’s not a big deal and will still taste great–you’d just miss out on the contrasting textures. Another option would be to put the custard in a large dish and only torch one section at a time.
Speaking of torches, that is another tool you’ll need to make the perfect Egg-Free Crème Brûlée. After the filling sets up, sprinkle the top with a generous layer of sugar and use a butane kitchen torch to gently melt and burn the sugar. It will quickly cool into a glassy, hard topping! If you don’t have a torch, an alternative is to broil the crème brûlée. Just make sure the ramekins are oven safe.
How to Make Egg-Free Crème Brûlée
Start by placing the sugar, starch, and Celtic sea salt in a saucepan and use a silicone whisk to combine them. Then add the heavy whipping cream and evaporated milk and whisk again. Check the ingredients on the cream to make sure there aren’t any added ingredients! Organic Valley and Sassy Cow Creamery both have great, clean whipping creams. Unfortunately, the only evaporated milk I could find had dipotassium phosphate (I have no clue what it is, but is sounds bad) and carrageenan. Next time I make Egg-Free Crème Brûlée, I’m going to try making it myself using this tutorial.
Once you have all the ingredients in the pot, bring it to a simmer on medium-low heat. Do not boil! Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency. You’ll know when it gets there. Be sure to keep stirring so that all the starch gets evenly incorporated. Otherwise you’ll have clumps of starch at the bottom and the crème brûlée won’t set up like it should.
When the custard thickens, evenly distribute it between six ramekins. Let them cool on a rack for a couple hours before placing them in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight if that’s easier). Before serving, generously sprinkle the tops of each ramekin with sugar and use the torch to caramelize the tops as I discussed above. Serve as soon as possible before the Egg-Free Crème Brûlée loses it’s characteristic crunch.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you give it a try, take photos and tag @roots_and_rosemary on Instagram!
Egg-Free Crème Brûlée
- Butane torch
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp arrowroot starch
- ¼ tsp Celtic sea salt
- 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp evaporated milk
- 1 ¾ cup whipping cream
- 1½ tsp cinnamon extract
- 1 Tbsp salted butter
- Place the sugar, starch, and Celtic sea salt in a saucepan and use a silicone whisk to combine them.
- Then add the heavy whipping cream and evaporated milk and whisk again.
- Once you have all the ingredients in the pot, bring it to a simmer on medium-low heat. Do not boil!
- Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency. Be sure to keep stirring so that all the starch gets evenly incorporated. Otherwise you'll have clumps of starch at the bottom and the crème brûlée won't set up like it should.
- Evenly distribute the custard between six ceramic ramekins. Let them cool on a rack for two hours before placing them in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight if that's easier).
- Before serving, generously sprinkle the tops of each ramekin with sugar.
- Use a kitchen torch to gently melt and caramelize the sugar topping. When a section starts to brown and bubble, move the flame to the next area until everything is caramelized. Serve immediately.