Veggies on the counter

Tangerine Cups with Almond Cream

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on February 10, 2011

I’m finally on vacation. I’ve been having lots of time to sleep (and, quite frankly, I can sleep a lot these days), getting some vitamin-D from the sun that has been unexpectadly shining every single day since February – well-known for its rainy days – started, and reading and cooking lots. And today, I thought we could chat a bit about desserts. I think I’ve already shared with you that I’m not a sweet tooth, which makes me a particular picky person when it comes to make/eat desserts. Cakes and such always seem to me to be a bad option: after a great first or second course, all I want to have is a refreshing, fruity dessert, and not particularly a slice of cake, which usually makes me feel heavy and ready to nap the all afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I do like cakes, but I always prefer to have them with a cup a tea in the late afternoon or in the morning, along with a cup of dark, hot coffee. So, the kind of desserts I’ve been trying to make lately are those that privilege fresh fruits and bright, light flavors: gelatins, panna cottas, steamed fruits (such as pears and apples) and fruit puddings tend to be my favorite options.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is not that much different, in terms of method, from that Vegan Panna Cotta I’ve posted a while ago. The fresh juice of sweet, in-season tangerines, is combined with agar agar to make an animal-free kind of gelatine, accompanied by a mildly sweet nut cream and topped with some shaved dark chocolate. Working with agar-agar flakes is not always easy, but once you get the right ratios, you’re good to go. From my experience so far with this fabolous seaweed, I can tell you that it’s always a good option to use few amounts of it: 2 teaspoons, not heaped, are enough for 600 ml of liquid. More than that, and you’re gelatin you’ll be too hard and have a weird, kind of artificial texture. I’ve been making a couple of notes on other ideas for quick, simple, and fruit-based vegan desserts, so expect some more to show up here in the upcoming days/weeks.

Tangerine Cups with Almond Cream

(for 5 servings)

for the tangerine gelatin:

600 ml freshly squeezed tangerine juice

2 teaspoons agar-agar flakes

3 tablespoons regular sugar

a couple tangerine wedges, pitted

for the nut cream:

100 grams cashews or almonds (I used the latter), soaked overnight

175 ml (¾ cups) almond milk

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

shaved dark chocolate, for garnishing

1. In a medium saucepan, add the tangerine juice and the agar-agar flakes. Whisk well and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to a minimum and, whisking constantly, let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the agar-agar flakes are totally dissolved. Let cool the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Distribute the gelatin equally among 5 glass cups and place 2 to 3 tangerine wedges over each individual serving. Let the gelatine cool completely to room temperature and, once cooled, refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before serving.

3. Drain the almonds. Process all the ingredients for the nut cream in a food processor, until smooth and well blended. Add a bit more almond milk if you want your cream a bit more runny.

4. To serve, scatter a generous tablespoon of the cream over each gelatin cup, and top it up with shaved dark chocolate. Serve immediately or keep it refrigerated until you plan to serve it.

recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s original recipe can be found here

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Vegan Panna Cotta with Stewed Blackberries

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on September 13, 2010

The other day, my mom went to the park to pick up some blackberries. She came home with a bag full of them, and asked me to use them as part of a dessert. I couldn’t help myselft but thinking of a delicious, simple, spoon dessert, made of coconut milk, agar agar, and stewed fruit. You may have heard about agar agar before: it’s a gelatinous substance derived from an algae, mostly used in asian cuisine. It’s all natural, 100% vegan, and doesn’t have the artificial ingredients gelatin generally does have (I’m not even mentioning the part that gelatin is derived from animals’ bones…).

I’ve been working with agar agar powder as a substitute for gelatin for quite some time now, but it took me a while to get the best out of it. The main problem I’ve found while using it in various spoon desserts, is that it tended to harden way more than I wanted it to. The consistency I’d get, although reminding that of gelatin, wasn’t as soft as the latter. But after some experiments, I think I came up with the right ratio: for each 300 mililiters of liquid, add 1 and ½ teaspoons of agar agar flakes. Less than that, you’ll get a runny consistency; and adding just a bit more for the said amount of liquid, will make your dessert a bit on the hard side.

Now, this recipe for Vegan Panna Cotta is a favorite around here; it’s dead easy to make and really tasty. Not only adding the right amount of agar agar powder but also using coconut milk, are really important things in here, so do not try to substitute any of those ingredients. The coconut milk with its rich and subtle flavor really complements well the sweetness of the stewed berries. As far the fruit goes, you don’t really need to use blackberries in here; others, such as blueberries or even strawberries, will work out. I even tried once to make this dessert using stewed figs – delicious. Just bare in mind you want a fruit that is delicate and soft, but still firm enough to hold part of its structure after being cooked.

Vegan Panna Cotta with Stewed Blackberries

(serves 3)

¼ cup regular sugar

¼ cup water

300 grams blackberries

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

400 ml coconut milk

5 tablespoons agave nectar

1 and ¾ teaspoons agar agar flakes

1. Heat a saucepan over low-medium heat, add the blackberries, vanilla bean, sugar, and water. Cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened a bit but hasn’t all evaporated. Let it cool and discard the vanilla bean.

2. In another pan over low-medium heat, add the coconut milk, agar agar flakes and agave nectar. Bring the mixture to a simmer (do not let the coconut milk boil) and stir constantly, for 15 minutes. When it’s done, remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Divide the coconut mixture equally among 3 cups. Refrigerate the cups for at least 2 hours, or until the mixture has harden to the consistency of gelatin.

4. Now, add the blackberries as well as the liquid that has been realeased while stewing them, on top of each cup. Cover the cups with cling film and refrigerate for additional 1 or 2 hours before serving.