Creme brulee

This is my own take on the traditional french dessert (not only sans animal products, but with twist on flavor)  It’s finally cold in the deep south and nothing is better to cuddle up with than crème brûlée.  In this version I use mango, but if you want a more fall feel, you can easily substitute pumpkin or butternut squash puree.  Enjoy! 

4 champagne mangoes (3 if you are using a larger variety of mango)

2 cans of coconut milk

1 C sugar

1 ½ T vanilla extract

3 T arrowroot (or cornstarch in a pinch)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, pour into a saucepan, and heat until mixture becomes a thick pudding like consistency, whisking frequently.  Using a portion scoop or spoon divide mixture into ramekins (8-10) depending on size.  Refrigerate for a few hours until firm.  Set your oven to broil. (or if you have a culinary torch you can use that as well) Sprinkle the tops of the ramekins with sugar and place close to the heat source at the top of the oven for a few minutes until the sugar is slightly burnt and crunchy on top. Watch carefully, as this can happen quickly (you can leave the oven door slightly open to watch).  Let set at room temperature for a few minutes until the sugar hardens, Top with a slice of mango if desired and serve immediately.  I mean like, now.  Go cuddle up with someone and eat crème brûlée already.image

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Frangipane and Forgetfullness

So clearly, I’ve gotten a bit distracted from this project.  After many baking/pastry jobs in New York, I decided it wasn’t the place for me and hauled everything back to Texas (where I hail from originally).  But the good news is, after having dumped New York (the world’s worst boyfriend) I have something I haven’t had in years: free time!  I am working at a traditional french style bakery here and while very different from what I’m used to, I’m learning a lot of techniques I wouldn’t have otherwise.  My new job inspired me to make this lovely recipe for you guys.  Frangipane is a traditional french custard that is used as a filling for tarts (among other things).  It generally uses almonds, but after making my millionth almond pear tart, I decided I wanted to mix it up a bit


This tart is rich but I think the use of plums makes it a bit more summery.  Enjoy:

1 recipe vegan pate sucree (from fresh fruit tart recipe below)  or vegan pie crust recipe of your choice.

3 tablespoons cold non-hydrogenated vegan margarine

3 T coconut oil

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup hazelnuts

1/4 C cornstarch

pinch salt

2/3 cup plain non-dairy milk of choice (I used coconut)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup apricot jam, melted

5-6 plums (depending on size)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out your pie/tart dough and place in a tart shell, trim the ends.  If you don’t have a tart shell, a regular pie tin will work just fine for this recipe.  Pre-bake your crust for about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind your hazelnuts to a fine powder in your food processor.  Then add the margarine, coconut oil, sugar, cornstarch, salt, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract,  Process for a few minutes until a smooth paste is formed.  Once your tart shell is slightly cooled, pour the frangipane into your shell.

Slice your plums into nice fairly thin slices and arrange them in a pattern atop your frangipane filling like so:image

Then, just pop it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes or until the filling is set.  (You can check by kind of picking up a plum carefully to peak at the filling underneath, if it is at all liquidy it needs more time).

Once your tart is cool (give about 45 minutes) Add a splash of water to your 1/4 C apricot jam and heat in the microwave or on the stove top until it is liquid enough to be brush-able.  (Just about 45 second in the microwave).  Using a pastry brush, brush the jam onto the plums.  You can top your pie with hazelnuts like I did, or just go for it!  (If you are really feeling special you can candy your hazelnuts by tossing them with a bit of maple syrup and baking them on some parchment for about 8 minutes).  Enjoy!  I promise I will post a recipe that isn’t a tart very very soon!  

Cake Decorating Class

So, I took a cake decorating intensive at the ICE this weekend and it was awesome.  It was great to get the chance to just sit down and practice something, for hours with no pressure.  We learned all the basic piping techniques, how to make marzipan and sculpt marzipan fruits, how to make chocolate roses and other things with modeling chocolate, how to pipe buttercream roses, and for the final day we frosted a cake to take home.  Here was my cake, with a chocolate rose and leaves. 

I did the sides with basket weave, the bottom border of shells, and the top border with the rope technique. 

The class was expensive, but totally worth it. 

Chocolate Chili Tart with Coconut Whipped Cream

So I was kind of feeling uninspired by the lump of tart dough sitting in my fridge, and wanting to move on to something more new and challenging, but I decided I should go ahead and make another tart to use that up.  When trying to think of what to make though, I quickly regained some of my enthusiasm.  I decided to make a Chocolate Ganache Tart. 

The picture in my giant French baking book of the smooth unmarred sea of ganache with a fluffy cloud layer of whipped cream flecked with chocolate curls looked too good to pass-up.  I couldn’t just make it straight up like the recipe though, so I decided to add some ground chipotle to the ganache to make it a Chocolate Chili tart. 

Making this tart also appealed to me because it would give me a chance to get a good recipe down for whipped cream.  I find using coconut milk makes the best vegan whipped cream.  There are many recipes for tofu-based whipped creams out there, which I have made and enjoyed somewhat, but they always felt lacking for me- it was a texture thing.  Coconut cream, in all its richness, solves the texture problem. 

I added a little soy creamer and almond extract to the whipped cream, which I have included in the recipe, because I had it around and I thought it made it taste a little richer and made the coconut flavor a little less pronounced.  These two ingredients are totally optional.  Also, you can add any extract you wanted in place of the almond or if you want to be fancy you can use flavored liqueurs like Grand Marnier or Frangelico, etc.  Just make sure you’re adding a flavor that goes with whatever you are gonna be topping with that whipped cream. 

If this tart were a contemporary pop song, it would probably be S&M by Rihanna, unapologetic about its dark-raunchy-spicy-chocolateyness.

Chocolate Chili Ganache

170 grams (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

30 grams (1 ounce) Trimoline (I used Agave nectar instead and this worked fine, you can also use corn syrup)

70 Grams (2 ½ ounces) earth balance or other vegan margarine

185 Milliliters (6 ounces plus 2 teaspoons) silk or other vegan creamer

1 teaspoon ground chipotle or ancho chili (more or less depending on your taste, or none if you want to be boring)

Chocolate shavings or curls, optional

After rolling out your tart dough, letting it chill in the tart pan, and pre-baking it for 20-30 minutes, start making your ganache.  Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-resistant mixing bowl.  Add the agave or corn syrup and the margarine.  Set aside.

Over medium low-heat bring the soy creamer to a boil.  Pour the hot cream into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, let it sit for a couple minutes and then stir with a wooden spoon.  Don’t go too crazy stirring or you will create bubbles that will make your tart not look so smooth.  Pour your ganache into the pastry shell (which should be completely cool at this point)  Set aside to cool at room temperature to allow it to set it up.  Be careful not to touch or bump it, as it’s pretty fragile at this point.  After you’ve let it set up for a long time, about an hour or so, carefully place it in the fridge for up to 8 hours before serving.  Top with the whipped cream and use a vegetable peeler to create chocolate shavings if you so desire. 

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

2 cans full fat coconut milk (none of that “light” coconut milk here)

¾ C powdered sugar (or to taste)

2 teaspoons soy creamer

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon almond (or other extract/flavoring of choice)

For this recipe you’ve got to plan ahead, put your coconut milk in the fridge for several hours to overnight.  Once your coconut milk is chilled, either use one of those can openers that pokes a whole in the can and open from the bottom to drain out the coconut water or open from the top and carefully scrape out the cream.  (If you want save the coconut water and make a drink with it, like coconut limeade!).  Get out your electric beaters or stand mixer, sift in the powdered sugar, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until creamy and well incorporated.  Refrigerate until ready to use! 

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Come on Let Your Colors Burst

Why is listening to pop music so necessary when you are doing kitchen work?  I am not 100% sure but all I know is that when I am listening to a Lady Gaga album, I am at the height of my productivity.  It’s sort of silent agreement among most of my co-workers, (who generally don’t seem like a group to be blaring Katy Perry or rocking out to Keisha) that it is just what we need to hear.  Pop radio is more often than not, what we are jamming in the bakery.  You gotta do what you gotta do.     

            This week, I started my first project from my gigantic French Culinary Institute technique of French pastry arts book.  The first section is on tart dough, so I decided to make a fresh fruit tart.  Like most of the recipes in this section the fresh fruit tart gives you the choice of using one of three basic tart doughs: Pâte Brisée, Pâte Sucrée, or Pâte Sablée.  Pâte Brisée translating as “broken dough” is just a basic pie dough, making it vegan would merely mean substituting vegan butter for dairy butter, so I decided to eschew that in favor of a something a little more complicated. 

Pâte Sucrée, translating as “sugared dough” seemed like a good choice since I chose to make a sweet tart, and I was excited to try to find out a good substitute for the eggs in the recipe.  The ingredients for the dough in the original recipe were butter, confectioners’ sugar, 3 eggs, cake flour and baking powder.  I decided to try replacing the eggs with vanilla soy yogurt. 

The tart dough came out really well! This is the finished dough

  I was a little concerned because it seemed very soft, but after chilling it overnight it was perfect.  I also got to use my new food scale which is awesome.  All the ingredients in the recipes for this book are measured by weight, so if you don’t have a food scale, I definitely recommend it, they are great for so many things!  I decided to make my vanilla pastry cream recipe to fill the tart shell with, and then topped it with fresh fruit.  I think the tart shell came out pretty true to how Pâte Sucrée is supposed to be, it is described as being “crumbly rather than flaky” when baked, so I think I did a passable job. 

This is the tart shell after being filled with pastry cream

This recipe was a little time consuming, but fairly easy, the hardest part was rolling out the dough and transferring it to tart pan.  That, and cutting the tart to eat it, it’s always so hard to cut into something you spend a lot of time decorating!  Here is the finished product.

Pastry Cream

½ C Sugar

2 T cornstarch

½ C vanilla soy creamer

½ C non-dairy milk

1/2 t vanilla extract (or use some real vanilla bean if you’ve got the dollar bills)

1 T earth balance or other vegan margarine

Whisk together the cornstarch and sugar in a small pot.  Add the soy creamer and non-dairy milk and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Let simmer for about 7-10 minutes while whisking constantly, when mixture starts to get thick remove from heat and add the vanilla and the earth balance.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then refrigerate.  Use within a day or two. 

Vegan Pâte Sucrée (Note: This recipe makes enough for dough for two 9 inch tarts so half it if you just want one, I just think it’s nice to have tart dough hanging around just in case)

250 grams (8 ½ ounces) earth balance or other vegan margarine, at room temperature

125 grams (4 ½ ounces) confectioners’ sugar

¾ C vanilla soy yogurt (at room temperature)

500 grams (1 pound ½ ounces) cake flour

½ t baking powder

Prepare your mise en place.

Put the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer (or if you are broke like me and don’t have one like me, an electric hand mixer will work) use the paddle attachment if you are using a stand mixer.  Add the sugar and beat on low to combine.  Beat on medium high until the mixture is light and creamy.  Add the soy yogurt ¼ C at a time, mixing well after each addition.  If the mixture seems to separate, continue mixing until it comes back together.  If it doesn’t seem to come back together, you can add a spoonful of flour to help it homogenize.  When the soy yogurt is well incorporated, turn off the beaters and add all the cake flour and baking powder.  Beat at a low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl, mix until the flour is just incorporated.  Be careful not to over mix at this stage. Form into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes up to 1 week before using.   

To make tart:  On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick.  Make sure you roll it out to be 2 inches larger than the pan you will be baking it in.  Carefully transfer it to the tart pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown (mine seemed to take more like 30 minutes).  Allow to cool completely and then remove the tart shell from the pan, spread your pastry cream over the bottom and top with fresh fruit in whatever kind of decorative pattern you feel like.  Mix some apricot jam with a little water and heat on the stove top until melted.  With a pastry brush glaze the fruit with the warm jam.  Done! Now go show it off to someone! 

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In the Weeds


I am a vegan chef and baker.  In my culinary work, it seems like I hear a lot of people say that you can’t make this or that dish vegan, especially in the pastry world.  A lot of times, there seems to be no available evidence to the contrary but, I see no reason that with a little experimentation we can’t come up with good quality recipes for all the classical french pastries, like pate a choux, etc. 

In my personal life, I have just moved from small town Vermont (by way of Boston) to Brooklyn.  This has been quite an adjustment as you can imagine, but so far in a (mostly) good way.  I left a head chef position at a vegan restaurant in Boston, because the hours were too crazy and the job too stressful.  In kitchens there is a saying for when someone just can’t catch a break (you’re out of pans,  you burn yourself on the oven, you can’t find anything, you’re running out of rice, and you get 6 orders for risotto at once, for example) which is being “in the weeds”.  At my former job, I felt like I was always in the weeds, with no end in sight.image

This is a picture of me at about 7am, which I feel like kind of sums of the feeling of working in a stressful kitchen (note random smudge on my face of unknown origin). 

I got a little disillusioned with the culinary world.  Add to that, my strong desire to go to culinary school, and my subsequent frustration at the lack of options for vegan friendly schools with substantial baking programs, and the crazy expense of traditional pastry programs and that brings me to where I am.  So that’s when I had this idea.  Since going to culinary school seems like a bad financial investment considering the low-pay many culinary jobs offer (and my already being in the field), I figured, I’ll just teach myself everything I would learn in a traditional school.  So I purchased these two books and I plan to work my way through learning all the techniques of traditional french pastry, but using all vegan ingredients.


So this is an attempt for me to get out of the weeds, remember why I chose a career in the culinary arts in the first place, and get a chance to be truly creative in the kitchen. 

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