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I bet you thought I’d completely abandoned this project, right? Right? Wrong, darlings. But I do work in the vegan goodies business, and the holiday season tends to be rathah bizzay, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Despite the radio silence, I did in fact make a couple of items for this blog, it’s just been a matter of finding the time to sit down and write about them! Since I’ve been working through the list of desserts in the Savoy Truffle song in order, that’s how I’m going to finish the song up – one by one – until the grand finale, which will of course be the Savoy Truffle itself. (I actually haven’t a clue about what to do for the savoy truffle but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.)

This installment is all about the cool cherry cream.

vegan cherry mousse

It’s really a sort of vegan mousse. I had planned on using frozen cherries I’d stashed away back in the summer, but those were hijacked for the trifle I put together for family and friends on Christmas Day. So I was reduced to using a can of bing cherries bought from the supermarket. They weren’t organic, and they were packed in a mixture of their own juice and corn syrup. Had I been using pitted, fresh or frozen cherries, I would have made my own syrup with them, which is what I recommend you do. I’ll include a little note at the end telling you how to do this. It’s quite simple, really; which is an adequate descriptor for the remainder of this recipe, actually.

Vegan Cherry Mousse

14oz can of cherries, drained and liquid reserved (about 2 cups pitted cherries)
1 cup sugar
1 box firm, silken tofu, pureed until smooth
1 tub vegan cream cheese (about 8oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp agar powder
dash salt
toasted and crushed pistachios as garnish (optional)

Mix cherry liquid, sugar, agar and salt together in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil, whisking all the while, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Place the vegan “cream cheese” in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add in the pureed tofu and mix. With the beaters still working, slowly add the cherry syrup until it is completely incorporated and you have a nice pink creamy mixture. Refrigerate this for an hour, stirring occassionally, until it has thickened. Add the vanilla extract. Take the electric beaters to it a second time, on high speed, to incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture. Gently fold in the reserved cherries, keeping four aside as garnish.

Spoon the mousse into 4 serving dishes. Top with a cherry and toasted, crushed pistachios, if desired. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

To make a cherry syrup:
Place 2 cups of fresh or frozen cherries in a saucepan with 4 tbsp each water and liquid sweetener (maple syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar). Bring to a low boil and cook, uncovered, until the cherries release their juice. Let cool.

This mousse was a HUGE hit with the family, and I loved it because it was so simple to prepare.

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This is probably my favourite from the desserts in the Savoy Truffle so far. It was the perfect mixture of dark chocolate and strong coffee flavours, with a firm crust and dreamy creamy topping. I think next time I make it I’ll firm it up a little more by using more agar and letting it simmer a bit longer but it was lovely as-is.

coffee dessert, yes you know it's good news

A Coffee Dessert (Yes, You Know It’s Good News)
Mocha Dream Bars

Crust:
3 cups finely crushed cookies, any kind (I used Country Choice organic chocolate creme cookies)
1/4 cup finely ground chocolate covered espresso beans
1/2 cup chocolate syrup (storebought or homemade)

Topping:
2 packages (about 16 oz) vegan cream cheese substitute
1 box firm, silken tofu, blended smooth
1 cup sugar
30 grams bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup espresso or VERY strong, black coffee, room temperature
1 tbsp agar agar powder/granules
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

cocoa powder and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish

To make the crust, line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with a piece of foil or parchment that is long enough that it extends over the short sides slightly. Mix the ground cookies and chocolate covered espresso beans with the chocolate sauce and press firmly, in an even layer, into the prepared pan. Set in the freezer.

To make the filling, pour the espresso or coffee into a small saucepan and sprinkle with the agar agar powder. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes, then place over low heat and cook just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Set the chopped chocolate to melt in a double boiler. While it is melting, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until it is creamy. Add the whipped tofu, the coffee-agar mixture, and the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Mix in the vanilla and salt. Pour this over the prepared crust, and let set in your fridge for four hours, or overnight.

To serve, carefully grasp the extra foil or parchment you have left hanging over the edges of the pan and lift the uncut bars onto a cutting board. Chop into 16 squares and garnish with cocoa powder (tapped over the chopped bars with a sieve) and some extra chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Now THIS was a lyric I could get behind, because from the moment I concieved of this blog, I knew how I was going to put Harrison’s words into consumable form: by making a delicious alcoholic beverage. A cocktail of mine own creation.

Beatles-themed Cocktail!

Beatles-themed Cocktail!

I must be a bit of a lush since as soon as I heard the word “sling” I immediately thought of a Singapore Sling cocktail, which is some ghastly fruity concoction that only girl-drink-drunks would ever consider slurping back. Being a pretty dedicated consumer of dirty martinis, I do not particularly enjoy sugary alcoholic beverages. I like my booze to be astringent and pure, free of sugary mixers (aside from club soda) and maybe only mildly flavoured with real lemon or lime. So I knew I didn’t want to just make a cloyingly-sweet version of a Singapore Sling. Instead I came up with this punchy, spicy, only slightly-sweet cocktail, that I think just about everyone can enjoy. Responsibly, of course.

A Ginger Sling With A Pineapple Heart
Makes one.

1 oz each gin, brandy, and Fireball whiskey (regular whiskey will do in a pinch; the cinnamon just adds a nice kick)
2 oz spicy ginger syrup (see below)
club soda, sparkling mineral water, or a spicy natural ginger beer if you want the flavour to pack even more punch
pineapple heart* and pomegranate seeds for garnish

Shake boozes together well in a martini shaker. Strain into a glass. Add syrup and soda to the top. Garnish with pineapple heart and some pomegranate seeds if desired.

*My heart-shaped cookie cutter wasn’t sharp enough to actually punch the shape out of the pineapple slice, so I just used a sharp knife to trace around the edges. If you don’t care about your pineapple actually being heart-shaped, just cut a slit in it and hang it off the edge of the glass.

Spicy Ginger Syrup

1 1/2 pounds fresh ginger, coarsely grated
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in pan. Strain into a jar. Store in refrigerator. Yields enough for 4 Ginger Slings.

I admit, it isn’t in the least bit rational, but all of my life I have avoided eating nougat, or anything that claimed to contain nougat. It’s the word…it just sounds so UGLY to me. Newwwwww-gat. It causes one to shudder. It didn’t matter how many times I heard how delicious it was or how many people insisted I try it, I steadfastly refused out of sheer stubbornness. It was childish and closed-minded and absolutely ridiculous and I knew I was being a poo. I still would not let nougat (shudder) pass my lips.

And so after I did a little research into what George Harrison was singing about when he sang “Montaelimar,” in his totally adorable nasal accent you can imagine how dreadful I felt when I discovered Montelimar is a place in France, famous for it’s nougat (shudder). Interesting to note is that unless a nougat is actually produced in Montelimar, and it contains certain specific percentages of almonds and lavender honey, it can’t actually legally be called Montelimar nougat. Much like only sparkling wines made from the grapes of the Champagne region can be called Champagne. Oh, those proprietary French.

The history of nougat is long…dating back to Ancient Egypt and Greece, where it was common to make sweets from honey and nuts. The almond tree was imported to France from Asia during the 17th century and thus replaced other nuts in the “nux gatom” (nut cake) or “nugo”. This treat was generally brown in colour and rather crunchy. Sometime around 1650 or so they began producing a softer, white nougat (shudder) by incorporating egg whites into the mixture.

Now, as you know, and I know, vegans don’t eat honey and we certainly don’t eat eggs, so the challenge I faced with creating this particular Beatles-themed treat was triple fold. Replace the honey, replace the eggs, and make something that I instinctively find repulsive. Greeeeeat.
However, I gritted my teeth, and got down to work, because you can call me a procrastinator and you can call me close-minded but you cannot, simply cannot, call me a quitter.

And you know what? I’m glad I did it.

From the Duchess of Kircaldy

From the Duchess of Kircaldy

I admit that it is yummy, okay? I admit that nougat (shudder) is tasty, yummy, sweet, nutty goodness. But I still think it’s poorly named.

Now it’s time for the secret confessions of the recipe. I wasn’t exactly sure how to replace the eggs. Having never actually eaten nougat (shudder) before I didn’t know what the eggs would provide to the recipe in terms of flavour or texture. I knew from the reading I did that Montelimar nougat was supposed to be chewy but firm. I understand enough about candy-making to know that whatever temperature you cook your sugar mixture at determines how firm the resultant candy is, but clearly the eggs had some role to play. Also, since the hot sugar is poured into the whipped egg whites in the original recipe, I understood that the egg whites would likely cook in the bowl, as the hot sugar was incorporated. I tossed around a few ideas but finally decided to try melting down some vegan marshmallows to replace the eggs. Next time, I am going to use a mixture of tapioca starch and water, though. And I’m also going to reduce the cooking temperature and time on the sugar syrup. Because while my nougat (shudder) is tasty and delicious and a wonderful treat….it’s also far crunchier than I believe Montelimar nougat (shudder) is supposed to be. So, go ahead and follow this recipe if you like a nougat (shudder) that’s crunchy when you first bite it but then gets softer as you chew it, or try my suggestions (in brackets) if you want a nougat (shudder) that’s less firm.

Montelimar Nougat, vegan-style
An egg- and honey-free version of the French classic. Delicous and sweet. Toothbrushes at the ready?
Inspiration gleaned, as usual, from The Savoy Truffle, by the Beatles.

3 cups granulated sugar (don’t use raw or brown sugar in this, unless you want brown nougat…ewwwww)
1 cup light agave nectar
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water
5 ounces or 140 grams of vegan marshmallows + 2 tbsp warm water (alternate: 1/3 cup tapioca starch whipped with 2/3 cup warm water)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla
3 drops pure essential lavender oil (optional)
2 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds, toasted at 300 F for 10 – 15 minutes
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 tsp salt

Melt the marshmallows with the 2 tbsp water in a double boiler. Keep warm. If you’re using tapioca starch, do not bother with this step.

Combine the sugar, agave nectar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once this mixture boils, stop stirring and reduce heat to medium. Insert a candy thermometer and cook to 295 degrees Fahrenheit, exactly (285 F if you want a softer nougat). This can take quite a while, and the progress will seem slow until the thermometer hits about 250F, at which point it will heat very quickly. While it’s going slowly you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and work station. Have a 9 x 13″ baking sheet doused liberally with icing sugar all over the bottom. Get your stand mixer set up with it’s whisk attachment. When the thermometer hits 275F you want to put the warm, melted marshmallows into the bowl of your mixer and begin whisking. If you’re using the tapioca starch you’ll want to get it whisking at this point, too.

Once the sugar mixture reaches 295 F (285 F if you want a chewier candy), immediately pour it into a heat-proof measuring cup to stop the cooking. Then begin adding it to the whipped mixture in the bowl. DO NOT POUR HOT SYRUP OVER THE MOVING WHISK, as it will simply fly all over the sides of the bowl rather than incorporating. Instead, quickly pour it into the whisked mixture by thirds, switching the mixer off with each addition, beating the syrup in completely, then adding the next third.

Once all the syrup has been added, stir in the lemon zest, vanilla, and lavender oil (if desired…be careful – too much of this can ruin the batch!). Switch to the paddle attachment on your mixer and mix this on low speed for about 10 minutes, or until it’s cooled slightly. Add in the toasted almonds, chopped pistachios and salt, and mix. It will be very thick and hard to move it around the bowl as it cools, so you want to transfer it to the prepared pan as soon as you can touch it without it burning your precious little fingers. Press it into the pan to a uniform thickness. Let this cool for several hours or overnight before slicing into bite-sized squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot for up to six months.

O-bla-di O-bla-da, Life Goes On

November 2017
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