My entry (that almost wasn't!) for Vegan Chopped, Desserts!
Coconut Rice Crepes filled with Macadamia Creme topped with Mango Banana Pudding accompanied by Candied Beet Chips and Beet Syrup Candy (whew!)
When I knew Isa would be holding another Vegan Chopped I knew it would be fun to do again, especially without a time constraint. This was exceedingly important as a couple of my original ideas failed and I had to keep tinkering to get something that would still turn out worthy of capturing in a picture (or at least interesting in a picture. Does that beet syrup candy up there remind anyone else of the Sentinels in the Matrix movies?) AND still be really yummy to eat.
Mystery Ingredients: Crisped Rice Cereal, Fresh Bunch Beets, Fresh Mango, and Dried Unsweetened Coconut.
Here's my very 'wake up in the morning, totally not stressed that I haven't even bought the ingredients yet, or that I should be cleaning and packing for a trip, or that I've never attempted more than half of the ideas I thought would be just perfect for this challenge' layout.
I would soon trek to the health food store and grab the very last bunch of beets, get to the grocery store and find that none of the bananas or the mangoes were near ripe enough to use today and get ideal results. yay! Unphased (at this point, anyway) I first worked on the crepes as the recipe I was using as a guide for GF coconut flour crepes (that is nowhere in my history now, sorry!) stressed chilling the batter for a couple hours. First I ground the already fine dry unsweetened coconut and the rice cereal each into as fine a powder as I could in the bullet.
It took maybe a cup of rice cereal to get a 1/2 cup of 'flour' and maybe 3/4 cup of coconut flakes to get a 1/2 of coconut 'flour'. I mixed those with a pinch of salt, 3/4c. of lite coconut milk and 1 cup of water, 1 T of Florida Crystals, 1/2 tsp of cardamom, 1/4 c. melted organic Smart Balance Spread. I covered it and put it in the fridge for a couple hours.
Meanwhile, I worked on the beets as they would also take a long time. I found a recipe on Martha Stewart's site for Candied Beet Chips that sounded too good not to try. Beets were trimmed and peeled and sliced with my (extremely crappy) mandoline. They were simmered in a mix of 1 c. water to 1/2 cup sugar for 30 minutes then transferred with slotted spoon to parchment lined baking sheet and baked in a 250 oven for an hour.
Did I mention that my mandoline, it is the sucketh? yeah. Those three beautiful, perfect, disintegrate in your mouth in a sugary burst of earthy beet goodness were the ONLY three that came out like that. Granted, the other, thicker slices that came out more like jelly candies were pretty amazing (I have the stomachache and beetsintheteeth from eating most of them to proove it), but they wouldn't work for this creation. So I stared at the beautiful beet colored sugar water and decided to make a syrup. Except that I got distracted by a four year old and a yellow lab who felt the need to wrestle at that time in the kitchen and my syrup turned super thick super fast. In a moment of hopeful genius I grabbed a spoon, relined the baking sheet with new parchment, drizzled the sticky red sweet stuff all over the place and set it on the counter in front of a fan....then stuck it in the freezer as it's hot as all get out in here today!
I've been making Katie of Chocolate Covered Katie's agar starter to make a pudding every morning for weeks now. I alternate between making it with lite coconut milk one time then almond milk the next. I use 2 tsp of agar powder (the recipe uses flakes that I have never been able to get my hands on) to the 2 3/4 c. almond milk it calls for. I had made the almond version last night and it had been cooling in a large mason jar, covered in my refrigerator every since. I took it out and added one large (totally not ripe enough) banana one beautiful (but totally two days away from worth anything) mango to it and grabbed my stick blender. I blend the bejeezus out of that stuff until it looks like a pretty thick pudding. Tasted it. Then proceeded to add a tablespoon (or two) of powdered sugar. It still had that 'not all that ripe' fruit taste but it was sweet enough and the texture was perfect and I totally won't mind eating it with my protein smoothie mix added in every morning for the next few days, so....win?
On to the Macadamia Creme! When I heard the secret ingredients and knew i would be making crepes, I thought I'd make the pudding thicker like a custard and then want to top it with some sort of vegan whipped creme. I didn't want to use more coconut milk and cashews weren't right by themselves but macadamia nuts, THAT sounded perfect! Good luck finding unsalted macadamia nuts! No bother tho, I just rinsed them really well and they were barely salty. I took 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts and 1/2 cup of cashews and soaked them for about an hour. I drained and whirred in the magic bullet then added 3/4 c. almond milk (I could have added a bit less), 1/2 tsp vanilla, and a T of Florida Crystals. I grabbed my immersion blender and blended that stuff for five solid minutes. I then covered it and stuck it in the freezer in the hopes that would also help it firm up a bit as I planned to use it in the next 45 minutes or so. It did...kinda.
The crepes......sigh. I was all ready to make them and when I dropped them in a hot pan with a light coat of coconut oil? They bubbled. And bubbled. And bubbled.....and never became anything.
My kitchen was a mess, I had packing to do, I was tired, and I kinda just thought, eh! whatevs!
I had really hoped these crepes would be gluten free, and I almost made some flax eggs to see if that would fix it, but for whatever reason, I grabbed some flour, mixed 2 cups of my original batter with one cup of unbleached organic flour, 1 heaping tsp of baking powder, and some unsweetened coconut and some crushed macadamia nuts that I'd toasted for garnish and threw them in (yeah, I have no idea why either). It worked!
Granted, I tried cooking one and it just wouldn't cook thru, even tho they were so thin. So cooking the crepes went something like this: pour batter in pan. walk away, do a couple dishes, get distracted cleaning up after the four year old, and when I smelled 'something coconut cooking' I flipped. Repeat.
The plating I'm terrible at but I just knew all these things would taste great together no matter what they looked like. That turned out to be a good thing, because I live in Florida, and not just any part of Florida. The part of Florida best known as 'The Swamp'. Right now it's SERIOUSLY swampy out there (i'm not kidding, i currently have bath towels stuffed under the cracks of our porch's screen doors so that the hundred mosquitos bumping against them vying for a spot on my sweet orange tabby's coat get NOTHING). Yeah. So this means that the pretty beet syrup candy that was all stringy and sparkly and gorgeous started to melt and sweat and look less like garnet gossamer threads and were starting to resemble arteries or Matrix Sentinels. The light and fluffy macadamia creme was quickly becoming macadamia milk, and the thick mango banana pudding that was almost a custard was just another pudding.
(yeah, I'm not even editing that hot mess!)
But I ate that shiitake up in lieu of dinner and know what? I totally was kicking myself that I didn't make two plates worth! Though I supposed they'd be adorned with Beet Gummies instead of Candied Beet Chips.
Oh, and here's my much less zen layout of how it all went down.
Hope everyone else had as much fun (and as much yum!) as I did!
And a shout out to Isa, thanks for inspiring me for doing more than deciding which cookbook to pirate my meal from AND making it okay for me to have dessert for dinner!