Veggies on the counter

(eggless and dairy-free) Crème Brûlée

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on May 15, 2011

 

I’ll start this post by sharing with you some of the kitchen disasters that have happened around here lately. The first one happened a couple days ago, when I attempted to make some hazelnut cookies: some minutes after I’ve put them in the oven, we heard some noises coming from the oven, and in the end it turned out one of the oven glasses has broken. Surprisingly, the cookies weren’t affected and were still edible.

The second disaster happened a few days later: I was working on this crème brûlée recipe and used the food processor to blend all the ingredients I was going to use; suddendly, when trying to pull out the blender jar, all the liquid spilled away on the floor – perhaps I didn’t attach the jar properly to its base? After cleaning the kitchen floor, table and counter, I was determined to start over again – I wanted crème brûlée and, whatever happened next, I’d have my serving of it that night.

This créme brulée fever has triggered thanks to the MasterChef Australia (a TV show I’m completely addicted to, by the way) as in one of the shows I watched recently, the contestants were taught, in a masterclass, how to perfectly make the said dessert. I never cared too much for crème brûlée, but the moment I saw and heard on the show that burnt sugar surface crackling with the hit of the spoon, I was determined to make my own version of the french classic. The MasterChef recipe, even though looking (and certainly tasting) incredible, relied on eggs to get that pudding like texture – soft, smooth, but somehow solid. My purpose, when attempting at making an eggless version, was to achieve a similar consistency as it is nearly all crème brûlée is about. Arrowroot flour and agar agar flakes were then used in order to give creaminess and structure to this vanilla flavored custard; to finish things off, a good layer of golden and sort of smokey-tasting sugar was added, for extra sweetness and yumminess.

(eggless and dairy-free) Crème Brûlée

(for 5 sevings)

ingredients:

4 cups (1 liter) non-dairy milk (I used soy milk, but almond milk would work as well)

1/3 cup (65 grams) muscovado sugar (plus extra, for the topping)

4 ½ tablespoons arrowroot flour

1 3/4 teaspoons agar agar flakes

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

Notes: I’ve used agar agar flakes in here, and even though I’ve blended all the ingredients in the food processor before actually start cooking (as it’s suggested below), I could still feel some little pieces of agar which haven’t been blended properly. They were so few I actually didn’t mind, but if you want to avoid this, use powdered agar instead – you have to use less, I’d say ¾ to 1 teaspoon (I haven’t tested, so this is merely referential). On the other hand, feel free to use a vanilla bean (split in half, lengthwise, seeds scrapped straight into the pot) instead of vanilla extract.

1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor or vitamix and mix, at medium-high speed, for 30 seconds, or until everything is well blended.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, pour the mixture and stir with a spoon, until it barely starts boiling. It might happen that some scum forms on the surface – you can skim it off easily with a metal spoon. As soon as the liquid is boiling, decrease the heat to low and continue to whisk vigourously for 10 to 12 minutes longer. The mixture should thicken up substancially and you’ll know it’s ready when, while stirring, the spoon leaves trail marks, showing off the bottom of the pot.

3. Divide the créme brulée among 5 ramekins, and let them cool at room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. To make the “burnt” topping, add 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of each serving and, using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar, working in circular moves. Add up to 1 more tablespoon of sugar to each rameking, if you want a slightly more thick topping.

5. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving. Bon appetit!

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Chocolate Cake

Posted in baked goods, desserts by veggies on the counter on August 8, 2010

 

It took me a while to write this post. Actually, it took me a while to think of a nice and reasonable way to put into words my mixed feelings towards chocolate. It’s a back and forth relationship, the one I have with this ingredient: sometimes I love it, other times I can’t stand it. I have friends who die for chocolate, not being able of spending an entire day without putting their teeth into a chocolate bar or some kind of chocolaty treat. I, on the opposite, can spend quite some time, with no sacrifice at all, without eating it. I’ve learned to enjoy chocolate throughout the years, as it was something I never got enthuasiastic about, but still I tend to prefer sweets made out of other ingredients. My childhood food memories are filled with cinnamoon, orange and banana cakes, apple pies and roulades, goods that I’d help my grandmother preparing, as I’ve spent a great amount of time, as a kid, at her place. Time has passed, but those remain the sweet baked goods I still like the most. Simple cakes with honest flavors. No chocolate involved.

 

Actually, I had never baked a chocolate cake until yesterday. So, you may wonder, what on earth suddendly has happened to me to bake a chocolate cake? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it was more of a conscious and logical issue. I mean, I’ve cooked and baked so many things so far, and it feels strange not having a chocolate cake recipe in my repertoire. So, to fill this gap, I’ve decided to pick up a good chocolate cake recipe, one that I could easily make egg and dairy-free (if it wasn’t already like that), and bake it. It was not without surprise that, while searching, I found out that Deb, at Smitten Kitchen , posted a recipe for an everyday chocolate cake . The recipe was dead easy to put together (it took me only 10 minutes to measure the required ingredients, mix them into a batter, and put the batter on the prepared loaf pan), and it called for only one egg, which I easily replaced by some puréed tofu.

The cake was that good. It was dense, rich, and not overly sweet, as I don’t like my baked goods to be too sweet. Also, thanks to the addition of muscovado sugar, it developed a nice crust. We enjoyed the cake today right after lunch, and my grandparents, who usually come over for a visit on sundays, even took home some good slices of it with them, to enjoy later on today or tomorrow with a cup of tea.

Chocolate Cake

(for one cake, baked on a loaf pan of 22 x 7 cm)

110 grams (1/2 cup)  vegan margarine

190 grams (1 cup) light muscovado sugar

90 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

40 grams (1/4 cup) tofu, crumbled

3 tablespoons water

250 ml (1 cup) soy milk mixed with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (this makes a good substitute for buttermilk)

75 grams (3/4 cup) dutch processed cocoa powder (I used Green & Black’s)

190 grams (1 1/2 cups) regular flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 170º.

2. Grease a loaf pan (22 x 7 cm) and line with non-stick parchment paper.

3. In a food processor, combine the tofu with the water and process until creamy. Add the vegan margarine and soy “buttermilk”  and process until smooth.

4. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

5. Add the tofu, margarine and “buttermilk” mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir with a spoon until well combined, being carefull not to overmix. You can also do it (as I did) with an electric mixer, as it blends the ingredients more easily.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

7. Let the cake cool on the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you can transfer it to a wire rack, to cool down completely. It keeps for up to 2 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.

adapted from a recipe posted on the food blog Smitten Kitchen