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Recipe of the week: Espresso crème caramel with pistachio biscotti

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Written by:
Recipe of the week: Espresso crème caramel with pistachio biscotti

Makes 6 crème caramels and 10-15 biscotti
200g caster sugar
75ml water

For the espresso crème
2 400ml cans full-fat coconut milk
50ml freshly brewed espresso
100g caster sugar
3g agar agar flakes
Pinch of vanilla seeds

This is a proper grown-up dessert and ideal for a dinner party or special occasion meal as it can be prepared in advance. In fact, the crème caramel is very much the better for being allowed to sit for 12 hours or more. You might think that since the main ingredient here is coconut milk it would have a coconut flavour, but we have found that the coffee and caramel neutralise it.

Some people are intimidated by the concept of caramel, but it’s very simple to make if you don’t fiddle with it too much. Never stir or whisk caramel as it cooks or the sugar will crystallise around the edge of the pan and you’ll end up with a lumpy mess. Also, you must work fast once the caramelisation occurs, as the sugar will continue to cook otherwise.

The sugar is very hot once caramelised, so it’s best not to have kids around while you’re making it, and don’t be tempted to stick your finger in it to taste. The biscotti are a little extra effort, but they are a simple biscuit to make and keep for ages. We have two Italian lads (non-vegan) working in the bakery and they love these – enough said!

Place six metal dariole moulds or ramekins on a heat-proof mat or chopping board ready to use.

Put the sugar in a saucepan and add the water – just enough to make all the sugar wet. Bring to the boil without stirring, and simmer till the sugar starts to catch – when dark caramel spots begin to appear. This takes five to 10 minutes, but don’t be tempted to leave the room because you may return to a pan full of smoking black tar.

Once the sugar has reached this stage, give the pan a quick swirl and then continue to cook until it reaches an even orange brown (caramel) colour.

Quickly coat the base of each dariole mould or ramekin with about two tablespoons of the caramel. You need to work fast, as the caramel will continue cooking.

Next make the espresso crème. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan, adding just enough espresso to achieve a café latte colour and flavour, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently with a balloon whisk, until all the agar has dissolved.

Remove the mixture from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the espresso crème onto the caramel in the moulds. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours until ready to serve.

To turn the refrigerated crème caramels out, hold each mould with your hand over the top and give the caramel a small firm shake from side to side. It should loosen inside the mould. Place a plate on top and turn mould and plate over together. The crème caramel should come away when you lift the mould. Serve with the biscotti, described below.

For the pistachio biscotti
2tbs cornflour
2½tbs orange juice
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
¼tsp salt
80g roasted, unsalted shelled pistachio nuts, roughly ground
Grated zest of ½ orange
100g caster sugar
60ml almond milk
1tbs coconut oil, melted
1tsp good-quality vanilla extract
Vegan single cream, for brushing
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
75g vegan dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), melted, to decorate (optional)

To make the biscotti, preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.

Mix the cornflour with the orange juice to make a smooth paste and set aside.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and ground pistachios into a bowl, add the orange zest and mix together.

Beat the sugar with the almond milk, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a bowl, until frothy. Add the cornflour paste and whisk for a further three minutes or so. Fold in the flour mixture until a dough forms.

Divide the dough into two flattened loaves about 7.5cm wide and about 2.5cm thick. Transfer to the lined baking tray, then brush with vegan cream and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a sharp bread or serrated knife, cut each loaf on a slight diagonal into slices about 1cm thick. (Don’t worry if you lose a few in the cutting process.) Lay the slices carefully on the lined baking sheet and bake for a further 20 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then drizzle with the melted chocolate, if you like.

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