Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Vegan Chocolate Mousse (and major discovery)

I adapted this chocolate mousse recipe from one in a Gourmet from October 2009. Perhaps you're thinking to yourself, "Emily, aren't both beaten egg yolks and whipped egg whites essential to mousse?" Well, turns out they are not, though a little bit of finagling is required. I do think, however, that I discovered something important with my combination egg-yolk-and-whipped-heavy-cream replacer - it has that tongue-coating but totally unsweet richness that real whipped cream and yolk have. I think it will work beautifully as a heavy cream, custard, or egg yolk substitute in soups, sauces, desserts, etc. Next, I'm going to try to use it in a hollandaise,  adding a little turmeric for color.

The egg white replacer could be improved, but it seems to have worked well enough.

I don't really like desserts, so when I make them, I only make them for other people, and Valentine's Day is a good holiday for that. This is very rich, much too rich for me. In fact, I was hoping it would be lighter. I think next time I would change the proportions, using more of the tofu-cream-coconut-oil mixture and less chocolate. Still, if you are a chocolate person, this should be right up your alley. In the picture above, it's served with whipped cashew cream (left over from the gateau - yum!) and this amazing fermented fruit syrup called Drizzle that I bought at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse
Makes 4 large servings or 6 smaller servings

8 oz  bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli semisweet chips)
6 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other margarine
1/2 c. firm silken tofu (aseptic tofu tents to be softer and smoother)
2 Tbsp. coconut or soy heavy cream, or a dried soy product like Better Than Milk, prepared with 2 Tbsp. water and 2 tsp. powder)
3 Tbsp. refined coconut oil, melted
1/8 tsp. salt
4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
1 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
6 Tbsp. very warm water
1 Tbsp. cognac or other brandy

Find a large metal bowl. Fill a wide saucepan with water about 1/2 full, or up to the level that it is almost touching the bottom of the bowl when the bowl is set into the top of the pan. Double boil the chocolate and the Earth Balance until melted, stirring occasionally until very smooth. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally to keep the texture even.

In a blender, puree the tofu, salt, and coconut or soy cream until very smooth. With blender still running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil slowly, blending until fully emulsified. (Taste this plain - see what I mean?)

Whisk the heavy cream mixture and cognac into chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Thoroughly sift egg replacer powder with corn starch or arrowroot, then whisk with 6 Tbsp. very warm water. Use a hand mixer to rapidly whip the egg replacer until it forms a thick foam. If it isn't thickening properly, make a paste out of some more corn starch or arrowroot and a little warm water and beat it in to the egg mixture.

When your fake egg whites are stiff, fold them gently but thoroughly into the chocolate mixture, then pour the mixture carefully and gently into small cups or containers, and chill for about 2 hours.

Serve with whipped cashew cream, fresh fruit, a nice jam, or anything that sounds good to you. You can also freeze it for a delicious vegan chocolate custard ice cream. That's how I'm eating mine; somehow I can handle the richness better if it's frozen. Enjoy!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crepe Use #2: Gateau with Walnut and Pear, Topped with Pear-Infused Whipped Cashew Cream

I recently purchased a crêpe pan - a 9-1/4-inch, French-made, solid steel crêpe pan- and a lot of culinary hopes rested on its performance. I was emotionally invested in my success as I attempted this recipe recently at the home of a friend, who no doubt doesn't appreciate what I did to her kitchen (but has been very gracious and pretended not to care). As you may remember from my last crêpe blog, and before that from the latke blog, I tend to get angry at food when it doesn't perform well, and if it is in a solid state, I tend to stab it with any handy utensil. Usually my audience for this is limited to my dog, who sits back and waits for me to drop something she can eat, but one of the hazards of cooking in someone else's home is that they have to witness your tantrums, too. And so does their dog. Sorry, Lindsay and Magic.

Any time you're working with a new pan, there's a getting-to-know-you period. My crêpe pan and I, we had a smoky, sticky, burn-y first outing, but with a little bit of practice and lots of temperature adjustments, we finally started to turned out some beautiful crêpes, and overall, the gâteau came together very nicely, don't you think?

My new pan isn't non-stick, and doesn't need quite the level of heat that my old pan did, so I ended up working with very light oil and medium heat (I know, right?!). In classic crêpe making, you tend to heat the pan up very hot, until it's smoking, then picking it up, adding batter, quickly swirling the batter around the pan, and returning it immediately to the heat to cook for about 30 seconds until flipping. I had much better luck at medium, letting the pan fully reheat in between, then holding the pan at about a 45 degree angle and adding the batter from the top, then swirling carefully, then keeping the pan off the eye for about 10 seconds to let the heat disperse into the crêpe and cook the bottom more evenly. Once that has happened, I returned it to the heat, flipped it after about 30 more seconds, and cooked the other side for about that long. Et voilà!

Before you begin this recipe, note that there is some prep time; the crêpe batter needs to be made and the cashews soaked the night before, the cashew cream needs to chill for a couple of hours to firm up, and the pear-water will need to simmer for a while, too. But with a little planning, this shouldn't be any trouble.

Sweet Crêpes

Note: Depending on how many "practice crêpes" you'll need to make, and how large you want your gâteau to be (and how large your pan is), you may want to double this recipe. I did, just to be safe, and ended up needing them all after my initial new-crêpe-pan failures.

1 c. cold water
1 c. coconut milk
1 1/2 c. flour
Egg replacer equivalent to 4 eggs, prepared according to package instructions
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. melted Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
a pinch of salt

Pour liquid ingredients into a blender. Blend at low speed, adding dry ingredients slowly in small amounts while the blender is running (through the hole in the lid), then drizzling Earth Balance in as well. When all ingredients have been added, blend for about a minute, then store in the fridge overnight, or at least 2 hours, to let the gluten develop and let the air bubble out. When ready to use, follow directions above. Don't try to use too much batter at once; most pans should take between 1/8 and 1/4 cup.

Walnut and Pear Filling

1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
Agave nectar
2 large pears

Finely chop the walnuts, and combine with agave until thoroughly coated. Add a little more agave and a little bit of water, adjusting each until a syrup forms with the nuts. You'll need to be able to spread the mixture, so that's the consistency you're going for. Either dice or very finely slice the pears, depending on your preference and their texture. Cover the pears if you're not going to use them immediately. Reserve the pear cores and any remnants for the cashew cream

Pear-Infused Whipped Cashew Cream

1 c. cashews, rinsed and soaked overnight
Pear remnants, simmered slowly in 4 c. water until reduced by about half
1/4 c. agave nectar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. refined coconut oil, melted

Place cashews in a blender, then pour pear-water over them until they are just covered. If that isn't enough liquid to cover the cashews, add a little more water until the cashews are barely submerged. Blend, beginning on a low speed and working your way up to the higher speeds. Cashew cream should become perfectly smooth; there should be no perceptible graininess. Once it is the right consistency, reduce the speed and drizzle in agave and vanilla. Once the cream is thoroughly blended, up the speed a bit and slowly drizzle in the coconut oil, continuing to blend until it is thoroughly emulsified. Transfer to a container and chill for at least 2 hours.

Once you've made all your crêpes, find a serving plate and place a nice, big crêpein the middle. Pile on a couple more, spreading a little agave nectar (thinned with a little water, if necessary) in between to help them bind to each other. Decide how you want to distribute your filling, depending on how many crêpes you have, and plan ahead. 2 layers each of pear and walnut work well. When you reach the level where you want your first layer, spread  half of your walnut mixture, stopping about an inch and a half from the edge. Place the next crêpe on top, gently pressing down to solidify the gâteau and to seal around the edges of your layer of filling. Add a couple more crêpes, then repeat with a layer of pears. Repeat until you're out of filling, then add all your remaining crêpes, brushing with agave in between and gently pressing occasionally. when you're done, you can let it sit for a bit or cut immediately, serving with a drizzle or a dollop (it depends; mine was unexpectedly more of a drizzle this time, mostly because I didn't want to wait to chill it) of the cashew cream. Enjoy!

Thanks to Lindsay Lanois for the gâteau inspiration, collaboration, coffee, mimosas, and for the use of her kitchen!