BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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An Earth-Balanced Diet

Having nearly cornered the market on vegan butters, both nut- and soy-based, Earth Balance now seeks to conquer the whole buttery world. Expanding their empire exponentially in one fell swoop, those who eschew dairy can now spread it on thick with no less than three types of Mindful Mayo, plus a Coconut Spread. Specifically trumpeting the lack of soy in half of these new products, it’s clear that Earth Balance seeks to provide a little something for everyone, vegan and allergic alike.

Most groundbreaking of the bunch is the Coconut Spread. Claiming to be “perfect for baking and cooking instead of butter!” a challenge has been clearly declared and battle lines drawn. Tall promises for a humble ingredient, it does fill a niche left yawning wide open for decades, providing a soy-free option for those wary of the maligned bean. Pure white and somewhat waxy in appearance, it has no discernible scent out of the container. Solid straight out of the fridge but fast to melt, it smooths easily over a slice of hot toast, fresh from the broiler. Subtly sweet in the way that coconut naturally is, with a decent hit of salt to round out the fresh coconut flavor, a faux-butter, this is not. Don’t expect a straight butter replacement in the flavor department, as the Coconut Spread is true to its ingredients, tasting for all the world like a more spreadable coconut oil. Whether you like the flavor of coconut or not should be the deciding factor of your preference for this product.

The real question, however, was how would it bake up compared to Earth Balance’s more buttery offerings? Though I generally do not recommend using spreadable, tub-based margarines for baking, as they contain a greater percentage of water than stick-based “butters,” I gave the coconut spread the benefit of the doubt. Whipping up a simple chocolate-chocolate chip cookie, made many times over, I noticed a difference in the consistency of the dough right away. Far softer than usual, even a brief chill in the fridge did little to firm it up. Though they baked up just fine and were quite tasty, there was a marked variation in texture from the norm. Cakey rather than chewy, I would have to say that the coconut spread is not a viable direct substitute in baking, if you’re hoping to achieve exactly the same results. It will certainly work, and for those with no other option, fire up that oven by all means. I’m just not about to trade in my buttery sticks just yet.

Once my culinary nemesis but now a guilty pleasure, the Mindful Mayo couldn’t have been released at a better time. Now primed for a tasting, I was still reluctant to sample the spread in such a naked format, but I did it for you, my dear readers. Short of plunging in a spoon and eating it straight, it seemed that including it in a classic BLT would be an acceptable format for getting a good read on the flavor. Using tempeh bacon for the “B” portion of the sandwich, I made sure to really slather it on thick, as much as common sense told me not to. Thank goodness, my fears were unfounded, and it was a genuinely delicious sandwich! Thick and flawlessly creamy, you could easily stand a spoon straight up in the jar, which meant that it held up beautifully to the more hefty filling ingredients. Tangy, with a strong flavor of lemon and mustard than Vegenaise, it’s incredibly well balanced and adds serious “umph” to an ordinary bread and veggie assemblage.

Available in three varieties, I found the Organic and Original to be indistinguishable in flavor, unsurprisingly, but the Olive Oil mayo did mix things up a bit. Soy-free, whereas the aforementioned spreads are not, it’s a solid option, and one of the few available for those avoiding dairy, eggs, and soy all at once. However, I did find it a touch looser than the previous, and tangier, with a more fruity flavor as you would expect from decent olive oil. Lighter on the palate and perhaps a bit less rich, it’s a nice light option for those not as crazy about the traditional taste of mayonnaise.

Now fully stocked with three full jars of vegan mayonnaise, I had to do something to work down my excess. A simply green garlic dip easily filled that need, providing an excellent accompaniment to any party platter of crackers, veggies, or chips. Thanks to a serendipitous find of frozen garlic scapes, it took just a push of the “blend” button to churn out a gloriously emerald-hued and garlic-imbued dip.

Green Garlic Dip

6 Ounces (1/2 Package) Extra-Firm Silken Tofu
1/2 Cup Frozen Chopped Garlic Scapes, Thawed
1 Cup Fresh Spinach, Packed
1/2 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Teaspoons White Miso Paste
Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Simply toss everything into your food processor or blender, and blitz until perfectly smooth. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, to ensure that everything gets incorporated. Season to taste, and chill thoroughly before serving.

Makes About 1 Cup

Printable Recipe


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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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