Easy Plant-Based Creams and Custards

With a season of sweet treets on the menu, Danielle Copperman delves into the world of dairy-free alternatives to our favourite Christmas accompaniments from pine nut cream to coconut milk custard. 

When it comes to festive feasting, it’s all in the sauce. While I have a soft spot for something sweet at the end of my meal, what I really look forward to are the accompaniments – for me, they are just as important as the pudding itself. Whether you’re a cream or custard kind of person, having something subtly sweet and silky smooth to pour over your pudding adds an entirely new dimension to the experience as a whole. 
Since I now eat a mostly plant-based diet, I wanted to share some super simple, all-natural, vegan and gluten-free options for the holiday seasons that are upon us. Whether you’ll be hosting a dinner party or simply cosying up with a bowl of your favourite wintery comfort food, there’s an accompaniment here for you. 

Cashew Custard

150g cashews, soaked in cold water
40g coconut oil
20g creamed coconut of coconut butter
125ml plant-based milk of your choice
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp natural sweetener
1 coconut (optional)
pinch of salt

Method: Put the soaked cashews, melted coconut oil, plant-based milk, vanilla powder, sweetener and
 salt in a blender and blend for 2–3 minutes, until smooth. Elevate it by adding the creamed coconut or coconut butter or, if you have access to one, the flesh of a young coconut and blend for a further 30 seconds to combine. Transfer to a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, then serve immediately. For a rich and nutty flavour, use toasted coconut milk instead of other plant-based milks. 

Coconut Milk Custard

400ml coconut milk (or other plant-based milk)
2tsp cornflour (or tapioca flour)
1 tbsp natural sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste, powder or fresh seeds)
pinch of salt

Method: Add the coconut milk, natural sweetener (like coconut, date, maple or coconut sugar), vanilla extract  and salt into a medium saucepan. Rest on a medium heat and bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 minutes. Next, vigorously whisk in the cornflour to avoid any sticking or curdling. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a splash of boiling water or more milk, as desired. Serve instantly, or allow to cool and store in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to enjoy.

Cashew Cream

100g cashews (soaked for a minimum of 2–4 hours)
50ml plant-based milk
1 Medjool date or 1 tsp natural sweetener
1 tbsp coconut oil
1⁄2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla powder or spices of your choice (optional)
pinch of salt

Method: Put the cashews, plant-based milk, melted coconut oil, Medjool date or natural sweetener, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend for 2–3 minutes, until smooth. For extra flavour, add the vanilla powder or spices of your choice. Blend for a further 30 seconds to combine. Transfer to a jug and store in the fridge. You can add a dash of extra plant-based milk and use a whisk or fork to loosen it up if the mixture needs thinning. For a thicker cream, use the buttercream recipe. 

Coconut Cream (single & whipped option)

400g can coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla powder
1/2 tsp natural syrup

Method: In a blender, blend the coconut cream with a splash of boiling water for 2–3 minutes, until silky smooth. To add flavour or sweetness, add in the vanilla powder and natural syrup and blend for another 30 seconds, until combined. Transfer to a jug or a pot and serve instantly or store in the fridge. You will need to blend it each time before serving as it will solidify once chilled. For a thicker cream, don’t add the splash of water and place in the fridge for 30–40 minutes, then remove from the fridge and stir vigorously using a small whisk or a fork. For a whipped cream option, refrigerate the can of coconut milk for a minimum of 6 hours, or overnight. Scrape the solid part of the cream into a bowl (reserve the liquid for use in other recipes), then use an electric whisk to whip the coconut cream into soft peaks. To add flavour or sweetness, add the vanilla powder and natural syrup of your choice. 

Pine Nut Cream

200g pine nuts (soaked for a minimum of 4-6 hours, or ideally overnight)
1200ml boiling water
50ml olive oil (or coconut/other plant-based oil
1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste, powder or fresh seeds)
1 tbsp natural sweetener
pinch of salt

Method: Add the pine nuts, boiling water, oil, vanilla extract, natural sweetener (like coconut, date, maple or coconut sugar) and a pinch of salt into a high-speed blender and blend for 1-2 minutes, until smooth. Add more water if the mixture struggles to blend or become smooth (up to 300ml depending on the power of your blender) and smooth down the sides before continuing to blend for a further 1-2 minutes. 
When the mixture is smooth, transfer to a small saucepan to heat gently before serving, or serve cold. Alternatively, store in the fridge in an airtight container before heating and serving, or before serving chilled.

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