BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Cash[ew] is King

Well, it’s about time! Considering the proliferation of non-dairy milks, populating grocery stores near and far in unprecedented numbers, it seems unthinkable that cashews have been entirely missing in action… Until now. Who better than to unleash the world’s first commercial cashew milk than So Delicious, having proven their mastery of both frozen and refrigerated dairy-free delights? Before I even realized my own unfulfilled nut milk desires, this turned out to be the creamy drink I had been waiting for all along.

Almond milk is my typical go-to milk alternative, a prime candidate for drinking, baking, cooking, and yes, ice cream-ing. From here on in, consider that prime spot in my fridge under serious reconsideration, because So Delicious’ cashew milk performs all of those tasks with equal grace, and of course, great taste. Currently offered in only two flavors, Unsweetened Vanilla and Unsweetened, my only hope would be that the line takes off and expands to include a chocolate option, for those nostalgic chocolate milk cravings.

Both have an excellent viscosity, a moderate thickness without any cloying sensation. Though considerably less rich than homemade cashew milk, for a mere fraction of the calories (35 per cup) it tastes surprisingly creamy and even slightly decadent. A very subtle nutty flavor defines their background flavor, distinctly cashew in essence, and easily minimized when mixed into other recipes. Bearing a clean flavor with no sugar to speak of, they can seamlessly work in any application, a testament to their versatility.

In short, if you don’t give these cashew milks a try, you’re seriously missing out! They may very well replace my almond standby, at least once they gain wider distribution in more mainstream grocery stores.

Don’t just take my word for it, go try them out yourself! I happen to have two freebie coupons in my possession, and I’d much rather they be in your hands, ASAP. If you’d like to win one, leave me a comment by August 30th at midnight EST telling me about non-dairy milk. Write about anything at all, whether it’s a recipe for your favorite variety, a funny story that involves the dairy-free drink, or even a love sonnet if you feel so inspired. Just make sure you fill out your name and a valid email address in the appropriate boxes so I know who to contact. Two winners will be drawn and contacted shortly after the entry period closes. Good luck!

And the winners, as chosen by the wisdom of the random number generator are…

Commenters #14 and #37, otherwise known as Mrs Zuvers and workingonworkingmom. Congrats you two! Expect to hear from me shortly with details on how to collect your prizes.


86 Comments

When You Feel Like a Nut

One sip of almond milk, so many years ago, was all it took to convert me to a believer; I haven’t looked back to soy ever since. Smoother, creamier, and without the distinctive bean-y undertones soy is apt to impart, the choice for both baking and drinking was clear. The biggest downside to the switch was in nutrition; quite simply, no nut can compete with legumes on the protein front. Finally, the gap is beginning to close, thanks to another brilliant innovation by So Delicious. Almond Plus almond milk has the best of both worlds, and doesn’t taste like a compromise in the least bit.

Perfectly smooth, this silky elixir has a velvety thickness that goes down easily, whether it’s topping cold cereal or drank straight from the carton. Either the Original or Vanilla flavors are irresistible as stand-alone drinks, and I’m not often inclined to down a plain glass of “milk.” Unsweetened blends seamlessly into savory dishes, and has become a fast favorite for creamy sauces, such as the classic alfredo. Perfectly suited for baking and dessert making as well, it’s quickly become my go-to “milk” for making ice cream. Luckily, for those lacking the patience or equipment, So Delicious has you covered with a brand new line of almond milk ice creams all their own.

Diving first into the basics, the Chocolate and Vanilla make a dazzling first impression. Unlike their other recent creation, coconut milk ice cream, the base is a silent player here, allowing the star ingredients to shine in their respective pints. Soft and easy to scoop straight from the freezer, the chocolate does err a bit more on the sweet side, but I can see it having huge appeal with children especially. Impressively complex in flavor, it’s much more than mere cocoa; such richness belies a truly modest nutrition panel. Vanilla actually tastes like vanilla, and not just an anonymous “plain” option. In fact, it tastes more like homemade ice cream than anything I’ve tried out of a commercially packed cardboard pint, which is about the highest compliment I can bestow.

Even with such high expectations, it only gets better from there.  Cherry Amaretto is not one I would pick up on my own accord, but one taste forced me to change my tune, because I would definitely buy it from here on out. Cherry-flavored desserts often rub me the wrong way, with artificial flavors carrying most of the weight in  a truly unnatural, over-concentrated sort of way. Such a sin is not one committed here, as the chunks of real cherry are impossible to miss. A light cherry essence is found throughout, accented by the barest hint of amaretto flavor, which rounds out the dessert nicely.  Those big chunks of sweet cherries and delightfully chewy, rather than icy, like so many poorly planned fruit additions. A sophisticated yet still playful combination, it’s clearly designed for a more mature audience, by would undoubtedly be enjoyed by the younger set as well.

Butter Pecan stole my heart with just its name. More than merely butter-y, it’s in fact butterscotch-y, with deep caramel notes mingling seamlessly with the floral vanilla flavor. Tons of sizable pecan pieces add a satisfying crunch, and assert themselves properly to justify the name. A subtle hit of salt serves to intensify this complex ice cream, accentuating all of its best features. For the next Thanksgiving dinner, I’m highly tempted to simply pack this ice cream into a flaky crust and call it pecan pie!

Picking a favorite flavor out of this incredible selection is almost as difficult as picking a favorite child, but I can’t deny that the Mocha Almond Fudge would undoubtedly rank very high on my list. More than mere coffee and cocoa, there’s a whole lot going on in each spoonful. A gooey fudge ripple marbles throughout the pint, adding a blast of chocolate decadence every now and then, like built-in hot fudge sauce. Huge, plentiful chunks of fresh and lightly roasted almonds keep things exciting, although the smooth coffee backdrop would hardly be dull all by itself. I have a feeling that even coffee-haters may love this ice cream- It’s just that good.

Many other of So Delicious’ classic ice cream flavors will also be available in almond milk format, and let’s not forget about the novelty treats, too. Naturally, I wolfed down the whole box of Mocha Almond Fudge Bars in record time, but the Vanilla Bars were not long for this world, either. Something about that crisp, fast-melting chocolate coating makes this already killer ice cream even more irresistible. Biting into that frozen cloak of cocoa, it yields with a satisfying snap, revealing the contrasting creaminess within. It’s the kind of addictive treat I can’t keep on hand regularly if I hope to maintain a diet that includes edibles other than ice cream.

Though I was terribly spoiled by a sneak-peek shipment of these items, most should already be available in specialty markets such as Whole Foods across the US by now. When I’m ready to give the ice cream maker a much deserved break, I know just where to turn for delicious frozen desserts. To share the almond love a bit, So Delicious provided 2 freebie coupons for any of their products, so that means that two lucky readers will get to pick out something sweet, on the house! Just leave a comment that includes a valid email address, and tell me what your favorite flavor of ice cream is. The giveaway will close to new entries on Friday (the 13th!) at midnight, EST. Check back in this space to see the winners.

UPDATE: As chosen by the random number generator, the winners are…

#17, Roopa!

and

#31, Allie!

Congrats, and to everyone else, don’t go far- I’ve got another giveaway coming up very soon…


35 Comments

Flax or Fiction?

In a sea of greatly varied non-dairy milk options, it’s hard not to play favorites. When the best can rank even better than the original cow creations, and the worst can taste like putrid dish water, it helps to be discerning. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not exactly a fan of rice milk, so Good Karma isn’t a brand typically on my radar. Producing only rice milk and rice milk frozen desserts, it simply never caught my interest… Until now. Branching out into the world of flax, their latest and succinctly named offering of Flax Milk ventures out into new territory. One of only two flax beverages on the market, it’s not one I can find locally yet, but ever since sampling the Vanilla and Unsweetened varieties, I’ve been desperately scouring the shelves for my next fix.

Appropriately anonymous and well-suited to cooking and baking, the unsweetened “milk” is good, but I would be hard pressed to come up with a rave about something that excels at tasting mild. However, the Vanilla is another story. Not particularly thick but far from the watery mess I had feared, this flax beverage is surprisingly smooth and creamy. Accentuated with a light sweetness, it’s highly drinkable, and practically begging for a rich chocolate cookie alongside as an accompaniment. A very impressive and respectable non-dairy milk indeed, I would happily purchase this one frequently for my everyday smoothies… if only I could find it!

Also new to the Good Karma line-up is their rice-based coffee creamer. Highly skeptical, to say the least, but undeniably intrigued, I simply had to try what is currently the only existing rice milk creamer on the market. Sure there’s plenty of soy and coconut options now, but rice could provide those with allergies and coconut-adverse tastes a whole new lease on lightened coffee life.

Just like the previous beverages, I was shocked at how good all three flavors (Original, Vanilla, and Hazelnut) were. Near flawless, in fact; I’d even venture to say that they’re better than the typical vegan creamers I had been using. Much thicker than the competition, like heavy cream, each bottle contained a luscious, silky-smooth liquid entirely richer and more satisfying that I could have anticipated. Fatty in the best way possible, it added volumes of depth to any average latte.

I generally prefer my coffee black though, so where this creamer really shined in my eyes was when it made it into the savory side of the kitchen. Using the unsweetened, original flavor in my Straight-Up Scramble brought this simple staple to life. I found myself making many more scrambles all month, right up until the bottle went dry. Don’t even get me started on the ice creams it churned out… It feels mean to tease about such decadent treats.

In a stunning coup, Good Karma has changed my mind on what rice, and flax, is capable of. If only they could get their products into more mainstream markets, they’d be an unstoppable force of non-dairy drinks!


30 Comments

Real Easter Bunnies Don’t Lay Eggs

They make chocolates instead.  Really, doesn’t it just make more sense? For such mammals to lay eggs is a biological impossibility, but the cleverest of rabbits explore their creative talents and craft cacao into treats for children- Now that sounds downright reasonable in comparison.  I can see it now: Gifted little bunnies across the globe secreting away sugar and cocoa in their homely burrows, creating magic for the good little boys and girls everywhere, much like Santa might prepare for Christmas. At least, that’s what I’d like to believe.  It’s much more optimistic than labeling the inclusion of so much cheap candy as merely a thinly disguised marketing ploy, capitalizing on yet another holiday that might prompt parents to spend ungodly amounts of money on unnecessary junk.

Indeed, I’ve been a very busy bunny this year, working hard to appease the younger (and older!) set who may not appreciate the same dark, bitter chocolate that I tend to favor. It’s a damn shame that there aren’t more light, sweet chocolates for vegans and the generally dairy-intolerant to enjoy. Though it doesn’t have the same reverence as “pure” chocolate, there is absolutely a place for it both in pastry and in the everyday candy dish, so cacao snobs need not get their beans in a bunch. It’s just another flavor, and another treat that I simply can’t leave be until I feel confident it can be enjoyed by all.

And thus, I present a sweet and simple method for homemade “milk” chocolate. Yes, I will tell you straight off, it will be ever so slightly grainy no matter what you do. But yes, it will have a lovely snap between the teeth. And yes, it tastes sweet and milky, just like I recollect the original inspiration to be. And finally, yes, it is absolutely delicious and borderline addictive, which is really saying something for this deep, dark chocolate fiend.

Whether it’s for Easter, or any day before or after, I would recommend you give soy-milk chocolate a chance. As long as you use real ingredients, (unlike the wax and crap that goes into much of the commercially produced milk chocolates) you can create confections every bit as fine and ambrosial as “gourmet” dark chocolates.

Soy-Milk Chocolate

2 Ounces (1/4 Cup) Pure, Food Grade Cocoa Butter, Melted
3 Tablespoons Powdered Soy Milk*
1 Ounce 100% Cacao, Unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate
1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Powder**
Pinch Salt

*If soy allergies are an issue, you can substitute rice milk powder, but be aware that the end results will be grainier and coarser overall.

**DO NOT try using liquid vanilla extract instead, it is not the same thing! You can, however, add the scraped insides of a whole vanilla bean, if powder is unavailable.

Set a small sauce pan over low heat, and place the cocoa butter inside. Allow it to fully melt if you measured it while solid, by weight. Once it has reach a completely liquid state, add in the “milk” powder, and allow it to cook, stirring constantly but slowly, for 5 minutes. This will help it to dissolve more fully, and create a smoother finished bar. Roughly chop the baker’s chocolate, and add the pieces into the pot, again stirring until melted and incorporated. Now, turn off the heat, and with a whisk, quickly mix in the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, powder, and salt. It may take a bit of vigorous whisking to get all of the sugar combined, but remain diligent and the mixture will even out.

Once completely smooth, pour the chocolate liquid into molds of you choice (I used two standard chocolate bar indentations, but you could also make small bonbons, or even use silicon miniature muffin pans. Just don’t use metal tins, because the chocolate will be very difficult to pop out once solidified.)

Let cool to room temperature, and then very carefully move the molds into a level surface in your fridge. Let chill until the chocolates have set, about 1 or 2 hours, and then wrap individually and store in an air tight container, either in a cool, dark place, or back inside the fridge.

Makes 2 2.5-Ounce Bars

Printable Recipe


17 Comments

Now Shmear This

Tofutti has become so ubiquitous in both specialty and mainstream grocery stores, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Many a vegan cheese cake has been born from those plastic tubs of non-dairy spread, and countless bagels topped with their creamy contents. So devoted am I to this classic staple, which has been around since the infancy of my veganism and beyond, it’s simply difficult to imagine having any other cream cheese in my life. Galaxy Foods wants to change all that though, and has officially entered the battlefield with their brand new vegan cream cheese.

The differences between brands are subtle, but noteworthy. Immediately upon peeling back the protective plastic, it was evident that the textures would be distinctly divergent. Much softer and easy to spread straight out the fridge, the Classic Plain from Galaxy definitely had the upper edge on consistency for everyday eating.

Delightfully but still mildly tangy and well-rounded, the stellar flavor makes this option a serious contender. With just the right balance of salty and sour elements, it’s a very pleasing and agreeable shmear overall. Truth be told though, while I would be perfectly happy eating Galaxy’s version, Tofutti might still be my personal preference in that department.

More importantly, however, how would this newcomer hold up to dessert applications? This was a job for my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe!

What had been a positive aspect previously was now a big negative- Too soft to properly pipe, thanks to that more spreadable texture, I tried to compensate with more confectioner’s sugar, but to no avail. The frosting remained more gooey than desired, and became too sweet through the process of trying to correct the issue.

Adding a bit more of a savory spin to things, the Chive & Garlic cream cheese introduces a few pale green flecks of herbs into the mix. Impressed by the concept but not so much the execution, I could barely taste either of the star ingredients. They’re subtle flavorings, to say the least. Taking that idea and running with it, though, I rolled balls of the cream cheese in a mixture of fresh chives, lemon zest, and chopped pine nuts, and was thrilled with the results. Perfect for serving at a party to spread on toast or crackers, those simple additions accentuated and greatly enhanced the existing herb essence.

Compared to existing non-dairy cream cheeses or tasted without any point of reference, this is unarguably a highly viable and tasty substitute to anything made with cow’s milk.

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