C’est Magnifique!

Magic is what happens when impossibilities become reality.

Thus, this new development can only be explained as an act of magic. How else could France’s sole 100% vegan publisher, L’Age d’Homme, have picked my modest tribute to dairy-free ice creams out of a veritable ocean of cookbook options? Of all books, of all things- It’s still hard for me to believe! I don’t speak French and have only visited the country briefly, but this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

I haven’t yet seen the translated and reformatted rendition, renamed Veganice Glaces Véganes, but I’m already thrilled by the adorable new cover. For all you Francophiles out there, keep you eyes peeled for the release on June 21st! Should any French-speaking vegans out there get your hands on a copy, please let me know how the the recipes read, since I wouldn’t know the difference whether the instructions ultimately make ice cream or bicycles. Plus, I just got word that Vegan Desserts and Easy as Vegan Pie will also be joining Collection V shortly… Stay tuned for more details as they develop!

Since I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a big scoop of freshly churned ice cream, my recipe for Beurre Noisette Ice Cream, straight out of Vegan a la Mode, sounds like the perfect flavor to mark the occasion.

Beurre Noisette Ice Cream

Otherwise known as browned butter, the French have a much more elegant way of describing this rich nectar as “hazelnut butter,” alluding to the toasty, hazelnut-like flavor derived from a quick flash in the pan. The application of gentle heat transforms this everyday substance into something otherworldly, redolent with both salty and savory notes that heighten the sweetness of baked goods, or in this case, frozen treats. Many chefs would have you believe that this decadent substance can only be made with dairy, but au contraire, I’ve found that the same process works just as well with vegan “butter.” Taking the French term a bit more literally, a generous handful of hazelnuts cranks up the volume on that naturally nutty essence all the way to 11, so really, who needs the dairy anyway?

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
3 1/4 Cups Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Light Corn Syrup or Light Agave Nectar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts, Finely Chopped

Cut the margarine into tablespoon-sized pieces and place them in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Wait for all of the margarine to melt, then begin swirling the pan around to stir, as needed. In a fairly short time it should begin to look somewhat separated, with a foamy white top and yellow oil underneath that will gradually progress to a darker color. Eventually, the solids will settle to the bottom and begin to brown. The best judge of doneness here is to watch and listen to the bubbles; they will start making a more hollow pinging sort of sound near the end, and slow nearly to stopping.

At that point, quickly add in the sugar, whisking slowly but continuously. The mixture will be clumpy initially, but it will smooth out. Cook the sugar to a deep amber color, but do not be alarmed if it’s still not completely dissolved yet. Add in 1 1/2 cups of the non-dairy milk very carefully to arrest the caramelization process– Stand back, because it will sputter angrily. Things may look like a mess now, with the sugar solidified and clumped at the bottom of the pan, but do not panic! Continue stirring over gentle heat until the sugar melts and becomes smooth again.

Whisk cornstarch and remaining milk together separately before adding it into the pan with the corn syrup and salt. Turn the heat up to medium, bring the mixture to a full boil, then turn off the stove. Stir in the vanilla and let cool to room temperature before moving the cooked custard into your fridge. Chill thoroughly, for at least 3 hours, before churning.

Churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last 5 minutes of churning, slowly sprinkle in the chopped hazelnuts so that the blades of the paddle incorporate and distribute the nuts throughout the ice cream. Transfer the soft ice cream to an air-tight container, and store it in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving.

Makes 1 – 1 1/2 Quarts

Printable Recipe

Napoleon Complex

You can hardly walk a block through any big city these days without tripping over a vegan-friendly bakery. Littering the landscape with enthusiastic signs proclaiming their versatility with alternative diets, it’s thrilling to get any sort of treat with such ease. The typical selection, however, leaves a bit to be desired. Cupcakes and donuts are easy to find, but it’s the real treasures of classic French pastry that remain so terribly elusive. For anyone craving the finesse of mille-feuille, those gossamer thin sheets of puff pastry baked to a shatteringly crisp crunch, sans butter, there’s simply no where to turn… Except for the kitchen, of course.

Puff pastry may intimidate those unaccustomed to its often temperamental ways, but there’s no shame in buying the frozen variety to shave hours of mind-numbing prep off of the procedure. Rather than going the classic but tired chocolate-and-vanilla route, I wanted something a bit more lively. Lemon zest proved just the trick to add some sparkle to my Lemon-Pistachio Napoleons, baked for the March/April issue of VegNews Magazine. Considering how easy it is to put all the pieces together, it’s just as well that more bakeries don’t take the initiative for themselves. This is one DIY project that is likely far easier than taking a trip out to the nearest patisserie!

Around the World in 80 Plates: Lyon, France

Moving right along on our culinary world tour, our next stop will be in Lyon, France! Although I’ve never been to Lyon, I have visited Paris, and am rather familiar with one French specialty in particular… Pastry! As soon as I learned of this destination, there was no doubt in my mind that another grand dessert experiment was in store. How many times do I have the opportunity to let loose and go wild with chocolate, sugar, and cake? Perhaps more than the average person, true, but French pastries are something different altogether.

Recalling towers of multi-colored macaron shells, spiraling upwards to impossibly tall heights, and glass cases lined with glittering fruit tarts so dazzling, they could easily be confused with a jeweler’s wares, all my inspiration could be found in one memory of one patisserie. Pierre Hermé, the so-called “Picasso of Pastry,” pairs daring flavors into modern pastry presentations, which is right up my alley.

On my “dream pastry challenge” list, (Yes, such thing really does exist! The pages are lined with ideas of croquembuche and napoleons, but those are for another day) there sat the scribbled title of “plaisir sucré.” An individual portion that unflinchingly packs in the chocolate in a layered attack that seems greater than each component would be capable of. Originally based on a hazelnut cake and hazelnut praline foundation, followed by waves of milk chocolate, I just had to put in my own little twist. Speculoos is my secondary flavor, playing harmony to many shades of dark chocolate instead. There’s a lot going on in each bite, so let me break it down for you…

Though far from perfect, it felt as though I had scaled Mount Everest when that final sheet of chocolate fell into place. It’s true, I could use a whole lot of work on my chocolate skills, but a nice transfer sheet covers a multitude of tempering sins. I’m not sure that Monsieur Hermé would approve of my eggless and dairy-free rendition on his masterwork, but I’m fairly certain that my tasters did, in any event. Who knows if the competitors on the upcoming episode will turn to pastry, but I would crown them the winner right then and there if they did the French tradition justice! Tune in when Around the World in 80 Plates heads to France, this Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo, to find out.

Speculoos Plaisr Sucré

Chocolate Sheets:

10 Ounces Dark Chocolate, Finely Chopped, Melted, and Tempered

Bittersweet Ganache:

12 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Finely Chopped
3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Speculoos Dacquoise:

3/4 Cup Speculoos Spread
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Confectioner’s sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Roughly Crushed Speculoos Cookies

Speculoos Praline:

1 1/3 Cups Speculoos Spread
6 Ounces (1 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Melted
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
2 Cups Crispy Rice Cereal

Chocolate Chantilly

Starting with the chocolate sheets, use an offset spatula to spread your tempered chocolate onto plain acetate sheets, or chocolate transfer sheets, large enough to cover a baking sheet. Mine had been rolled up for quite some time, so in order to get it flat, I had to tape down the corners with masking tape; you may choose to do the same, just to prevent it from sliding around. Spread the chocolate very thinly (thinner than is pictured- these layers were a bit tough to get a fork through) and as evenly as possible. Allow them to set, undisturbed, until completely solidified. If your kitchen is particularly warm, you can place the whole sheet in the refrigerator to help them firm up. Once solid, warm a sharp knife to allow for smoother cuts, and slice the sheet into 2 x 4-inch rectangles. Set aside.

Next up, prepare the ganache. Simple place the chocolate and “milk” in a microwave-safe dish, and heat on full power for 60 seconds. Let sit for 60 seconds more, and then stir thoroughly, until completely smooth. If there are still a few stubborn pieces of chocolate that haven’t fully melted, heat again at intervals of 20 seconds, stirring well after each heating, until smooth. Let cool until firm enough to pipe. You may wish to hasten the process by chilling the mixture in your fridge, but don’t just leave it there, because it will set to hard if allowed to reach such a cold temperature. Set aside.

Moving on to the dacquoise, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan.

Place the speculoos spread, water, sugar, and vanilla in your blender, and process to emulsify. Scrape down the sides of the container if any of the spread is sticking, and blend once more, until the liquid mixture is entirely homogeneous.

Separately, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in a large bowl. Pour the liquid mix into the dry goods, and whisk just until the two are combined to create the batter. Transfer to your prepared jelly roll pan, and smooth it out into a thin but even layer. It may not seem like enough cake to cover all that space, but just keep spreading and you’ll get there! Sprinkle the crushed speculoos cookies equally over the entire surface.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out cleanly. Let cool completely before proceeding.

For the praline, simply mix together all of the ingredients until well incorporated, and quickly spread it on top of your cooled sheet of cake. This mixture is extremely thick and sticky, so I would highly recommend lightly greasing your offset spatula before going at it. It only gets thicker as it cools, too, so don’t waste any time or let it sit there unattended! Spread it out as evenly as possible, to ensure that the rest of your layers follow suit.

Lastly, prepare the chocolate chantilly according to the recipe linked, and take a moment to thank Hervé This for his brilliance.

Okay, now we’re finally ready for assembly! Slice the praline-topped cake into rectangles measuring 2 x 4-inches. Load the ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip, and pipe ganache in a zigzagging pattern across the top of each piece. Place a sheet of chocolate on top, and pipe another zigzag of ganache over that. Add another sheet of chocolate, and now grab your chocolate chantilly. Place that into a second piping bag, this one fitted with a large round tip, and pipe two straight lines lengthwise down each piece. At long last, finish it all off with a third sheet of chocolate. You’re done! Now, savor every single bite; this isn’t an ordinary, everyday sort of treat!

Makes Approximately 18 – 24 Servings (depending on how many scraps you eat during the process)

Printable Recipe

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.

Bringing a Bite of Paris Back Home

Paris.

If anyone can sum up that city in just a few succinct paragraphs, I would be highly suspicious of how much they actually went out and experienced there. Overwhelmed by all of the words that could be said, the myriad of stories that could be told, after a mere 5 1/2 days of total immersion in the capital of France, I found it impossible to pick and choose the right ones at all. 

If you want to know more about the photos I posted, you can now see a few brief descriptions and explanations on Flickr

Speechless, stunned, and yet brimming with inspiration, I was back at work in the kitchen again as soon as we walked through the door.

Suitcases still stuffed, with both dirty laundry and happy memories, the familiar scent of buttery pastries began floating through the air, as if we had never left Paris at all. This time, however, I could actually enjoy those flaky delicacies, instead of solely photographing them.

I’ll be the first to admit that these are no where near as grand as those massive breakfast confections, but for a first try, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Cut into miniature sizes, each croissant was but two bites each, but unarguably rich enough to quell any further hunger.

Despite how intimidating the hundreds of paper-thin layers may seem, croissants are actually quite simple to make; it’s the waiting and repetition that might become a bit trying. Luckily, I found a recipe for “quick” croissants, which can produce fresh, homemade pastries from start to finish in about 3 hours. Adapting it to better suit my American cups and teaspoons, while also easily veganizing it, this is definitely a good starting place for anyone who wants to give croissants a try for themselves.

Yield: Makes 8 Medium or 12 Small Croissants

Basic Vegan Croissants

Basic Vegan Croissants

Buttery, flaky, crisp, and light, there's nothing like a fresh, homemade croissant still warm from the oven. This shortcut technique is much faster than the traditional approach so you can indulge anytime.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 2 1/4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 Cup + 2 Teaspoons Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons + 2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Melted Vegan Butter

Butter Block:

  • 9 Tablespoons Vegan Butter, Frozen

Instructions

  1. To make the dough, start by combining all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well distributed. Mix everything together and knead until a smooth dough is formed. Let rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Add in the water and melted vegan butter and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed by hand for about 10 – 15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the dough chills, you can go ahead and prepare the butter block.
  3. It helps to start by cutting the frozen vegan butter into sizable chunks and arranging them right next to each other in as even of a rectangle as possible on top of a silicone baking mat or piece of parchment paper. Sandwich the butter between another silicone baking mat or sheet of parchment paper, and using your rolling pin, whack it into submission. You want to flatten the block out to about 1 cm or so high, and try to keep the sides even and rectangular. Allow it to chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Once properly chilled, roll the dough out into a rectangle about twice as large as your butter block. Place the butter block in the center, diagonal to the sides (not parallel.) Enclose the block like an envelope, bringing the corners of the dough in to meet at the center. Roll the whole thing out gently to a thickness of about 1 cm again, and fold the short sides in by thirds.*
  5. Return it to the fridge so that it can chill for another 20 minutes before proceeding. Don’t be tempted to hasten this time, as the heat from your hands and the rolling pin will make all of the butter melt and run out. It’s essential to keep this dough as cool as possible before it hits the oven!
  6. Roll out the dough into a rectangle yet again, and fold in thirds as before. Chill for the same amount of time, and then repeat this process once more. Chill the dough for 20 more minutes before shaping it.
  7. To shape your croissants, roll the dough out into a rectangle as before, but cut it with a very sharp knife into equal triangles. If you want mini croissants, cut the dough in half lengthwise first, and then cut your triangles. Roll each triangle up, starting at the widest side, and the place each one on a fresh silpat or piece of parchment paper. Once all the croissants are cut and rolled, let them rise in a warm place for about 75 minutes, until nearly doubled in size.
  8. After rising, move the croissants into a preheated 415 degree oven.
  9. As soon as they’re safely inside, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and do not open the door again until 15 minutes has elapsed. They should be golden brown, but if not, bake for an additional 5 – 10 minutes as necessary. Let cool before enjoying the fruits of your labor!

Notes

*The folding and shaping process is rather difficult to describe in words, so don’t worry if you’re a bit confused. Just check out the very helpful photos over at WikiHow if you need a visual aid.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 177mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

 

The Bread with a Heart of Cake

Had you read through the last post carefully, you may have noticed where I casually mentioned brioche croutons. Yes, such a detail could easily be overlooked, uninteresting as it sounds on the surface, but there is really much more to it than just a few token cubes of stale bread. Brioche is a baker’s best friend, capable of applying itself in so many dessert applications that I couldn’t begin to list them all; a true work horse of the pastry kitchen. Of course, such versatility comes at a hefty price- About half a dozen eggs and a half pound of butter, minimum, for traditional recipes.

Well, after avoiding this delicious dilemma for so long, I could no longer stand having such a gaping hole in my recipe box, and I decided it was high time to tackle this challenge.  After all, I’m no newbie with yeast, and how different could it be from any other bread?

When the first brioche à tête came out of the oven, well-browned and smelling amazing, I was ready to call it a day and make some serious french toast. Waiting impatiently until it was merely warm to the touch, the first slice revealed a soft, golden interior, locked within a flaky, buttery crust. Completely unlike any bread I had previously tasted, it was truly like a yeasted cake with a tender crumb. What fantastic luck, to have created vegan brioche so easily!

Oh, but then, it was that second slice that put the brakes on my rejoicing.  Cutting away closer to the center, it was not merely moist or somewhat under-baked, but the core of this rounded loaf was positively raw. Gooey beyond repair, and completely inedible. So much for my marvelous brioche.

Luckily, all was not lost and that’s not the end of the story.   I had taken out some extra insurance and baked a standard loaf alongside at the same time! Much to my relief, the loaf had no sad streaks to speak of, and was just as delicious. So while I may not have used a standard recipe or form for this brioche, what matters most is the taste, and let’s just say that this cake-like bread didn’t last the weekend!

Should you still want to make brioche à tête, you will need to modify this recipe by baking at a lower temperature for a longer time, but I can’t give you specifics on that just yet. If you attempt this, let me know how it goes!

Yield: Makes 2 Loaves; 16 Servings

Brioche

Brioche

This vegan brioche has a soft, golden interior, locked within a flaky, buttery crust, without any eggs or dairy in the mix.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 12 hours
Total Time 13 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Flour
  • 1 3/4 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
  • 1 .6-Ounce Cake Fresh Yeast or 1 (1/4 Ounce) Packet Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Salt (Kala Namak)
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Plain Vegan Creamer or Plant-Based Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Vegan Butter, Cut into Small Cubes

Instructions

  1. Place the garbanzo bean flour in a medium saucepan and stir in a small amount of the non-dairy milk to form a paste. Once smooth, add in the rest of the milk, and whisk thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for about 5 – 10 minutes, until bubbles begin to break on the surface and the mixture feels significantly thickened. Turn off the heat, and continue to whisk occasionally for the next 10 minutes to help it cool down without forming a skin on top. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the garbanzo mixture, and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, until just barely warm to the touch.
  2. In your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, crumble the yeast into the flour, and mix briefly to incorporate all the pieces. Add in the sugar and salts, and mix once more. Once cooled enough that it won’t kill the yeast, (less than 120 degrees) scrape the garbanzo and milk “pudding” in and begin to mix on low speed. Combine the creamer and vinegar together before introducing them to the main mixing bowl as well.
  3. Once you have all of the dry and wet ingredients incorporated but the dough is still weak in structure, begin to add in the butter, a few cubes at a time. They should get folded in to a point that you can’t see them any more, but be patient because it takes time. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes once it seems smooth.
  4. After it has rested, dump the dough out onto a clean surface. DO NOT use extra flour here, despite how sticky the dough is. Simply use a bench scraper if you can’t get it off the counter. Kneed it briefly by hand, stretching and folding it to strengthen the structure, for about 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly greased bowl, and cover it lightly with a towel. Place it in the fridge and let it rise overnight, between 8 and 12 hours.
  5. In the morning, cut the dough in half, and then cut each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, and then place 3 balls all lined up evenly in a lightly greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover with a towel again, and let the loaves rest in a warm place for around 2 1/2 hours, until doubled or tripled in volume. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees as your loaves near the end of their rising time, and lightly brush them with vegan egg wash. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until well-browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let the loaves rest in the pans for 5 minutes before turning them out onto wire racks to cool.

Notes

Should you still want to make brioche à tête, you will need to modify this recipe by baking at a lower temperature for a longer time, but I can’t give you specifics on that just yet. If you attempt this, let me know how it goes!

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 191mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.