Who doesn’t love spring? It’s when we start to see green plants, bushes, and trees, colorful flowers of all types, birds singing, and children out playing. It’s also when we start to see spring foods coming into season. The clearest sign to me that the season has changed is when the early tasty strawberries and blueberries line the shelves at my neighborhood grocery store. It’s the time when I start switching from eating lots of apples and oranges to eating lots of berries.
This month the So Delicious company is sponsoring a Spring Fling Dairy Free Recipe Contest. The recipe, as you can probably imagine must in some way say ‘spring’, and it must be dairy free, too. I could thing of nothing more that means spring to me than berries and cream. Though the recipe does not use real cream, the idea of cream goes back to this time of the year when cows are out grazing in the pasture, delivering offspring, and mother cows are lactating. The idea of cream is associated with spring, but not necessarily with dairy products.
Cashew milk is a wonderful alternative for those who like cream in coffee, tea, baked goods and desserts, but who for one reason or another avoid dairy products, be they religious and cultural reasons, health, conviction, or simply for the taste. Cashew milk is mild in flavor compared to almond or coconut milk. Like cashew milk, soy milk is also light in flavor but cashew milk tastes closer to real cream. For this recipe I made a variation of crème anglaise, a classic French sauce typically used for custards, ice-cream, crème brulee, or as a sauce served over cake. The cream is flavored with orange peel and vanilla bean and tastes luscious over fresh berries.
This dessert is very nutritious, too. My nephew in Spain was a very poor eater and his mother, who was very concerned about his health, always made sure that he ate a custard or flan to finish off a meal. He didn’t fight eating these desserts and his eating them ensured her that he was getting some nutrition. So go ahead and enjoy this nutritious dairy-free and gluten-free dessert. It’s good for you and nothin’ says spring better ‘n berries ‘n cream!
Nothin’ says spring better ‘n berries ‘n cream parfait is a variation of a tasty orange crème Anglaise. The light flavor of the cashew milk is the perfect substitute for dairy milk and cream because the flavor doesn’t interfere with the sauce as other nut and soy milks do.
- 3 cups, plus 2 tablespoons cashew milk (So Delicious brand)
- 5 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- Peel of 1 orange, the white pithy underside removed and discarded
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 to 8 strips of orange peel 1-1/2-inchs long by ¼ inch wide
- 2 pints strawberries
- 2 6-ounce containers of blueberries
- Begin to heat the cashew milk with the sugar and the vanilla bean. Stir often.
- Place the egg yolks and the cornstarch into a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk until they are well combined.
- When the temperature of the milk reaches 160° very slowly add it to the egg yolks. Add a couple of teaspoons at first, count 5 slow seconds, and then add a couple more teaspoons. Next, add a tablespoon at a time counting 5 seconds between each addition. Do this about 4 times. Next, add a quarter cup at a time, stirring well after each addition and 5 second wait. (The idea is to get the hot milk mixed with the eggs without cooking the eggs. You want a the consistency of a smooth sauce—not scrambled eggs.)
- Pour the egg and milk mixture back to the pot on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 175° and the milk has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon. To test if it is ready run your finger over the back of the spoon. If the sauce leave a path that does not close up or run, it is ready. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the cream to cool. It will thicken up more as it cools.
- Remove the orange peel and the vanilla bean from the pot. Make a lengthwise slit down the length of the bean. Use the edge of a paring knife to scrape out the bean paste. Add the paste to the custard sauce and whisk it in until it is well combined.
- Stir the cream every 5 minutes for the first 20 minutes, and then every 15 minutes until the cream is cool. This is to prevent the cream from forming a skin on top.
- When the cream reaches room temperature you can start to layer the parfait.
- Wash the fruit and cut out the stems of the strawberries and discard them, and then slice the berries in half.
- Place a layer of strawberries in the serving glass, and then follow with a layer of cream sauce. Cover the sauce with a layer of blueberries, followed with a mixture of strawberries and blueberries. Cover with a tablespoon of sauce, or as much as is needed to make the parfait look attractive and show the fruit. Top with a mint leave and a twist of orange.
- Chill in the refrigerator 4 hours before serving.
**Notes: The dessert takes about 20 minutes to make, but the additional hour is cooling time. The sauce should be stirred from time to time to help it cool down quicker and to prevent a skin from developing on top.