Thursday, May 11, 2006

Vegancake Scientist..

As a pastry chef, one of my first introductions into the Ithaca food scene was the Vegan food scene. I had only very few times in the past, baked anything vegan, so moving here in a way was the beginning of a new dessert science experiment. The first time that I baked a Vegan cake, using Soy instead of eggs and oil instead of butter, I was expecting something boring, barely palatable..with the texture of cardboard and the aftertaste of tofu. Imagine my surprise, when the cake I baked turned out almost identical in taste and in appearance, to a full fledged, full fat.. dairy cake. If anything, it was a little more crumbly, without any eggs to bind it and give it that structure. Nevertheless, I think this positive experience aroused an interest in me. Like I may have mentioned before, I am not Vegan, but there is something fun about experimenting using things like bananas, flax or tofu in the place of eggs and actually getting a pretty good tasting product….Must be the scientist in me.

When I was young, before I knew that my career path would eventually lead me through the world of science to the pastry world, I would often play ‘science kitchen’ with baking ingredients. My favorite was taking chocolate chips, cornstarch and baking soda and melting them all together. I remember being impressed when I would open the microwave to see a seething and bubbling mess of burning chocolate. Curious, and because I figured that it was chocolate, and in any form it must be good, I would taste it..(it wasn’t good) But that didn’t stop me from trying a different combination for the next batch, and tasting it yet again. I was convinced that at some point, I would come across the perfect concoction. It was only when I learned to incorporate other ingredients: flour, sugar, butter and eggs.. that I was able to come up with a perfect combination..

Today, I thought that I would tackle my almost bare cupboards once again. In addition to my basics: flour, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, oil and salt…I found some unsweetened chocolate, vinegar, instant espresso, peanut butter and powdered sugar..

Here is what I came up with:

Vegan Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cakes with Peanut Butter Icing

1 ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
1 teas baking soda
½ teas salt
1 c sugar
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 c water
2 teas instant espresso
2 teas vanilla
1/3 c oil
2 T cider vinegar

• Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside
• Melt chocolate with water, espresso and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly
• Stir oil into chocolate mixture and pour into the flour mixture. Whisk to combine
• Add vinegar to batter and whisk to combine.
• Pour into mini bundt cake molds, about ¾ the way up. (about 6)
• Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
• Remove and cool slightly, then, flip pan upside down and let cakes fall onto cooling rack.
• Cool.

Peanut Butter Icing
2.5 oz unsweetened Peanut Butter
4 oz powdered sugar
¼ c Soy milk
½ teas vanilla extract

• Whisk soy milk and vanilla into powdered sugar
• Melt peanut butter and whisk in. stir until smooth.
• Drizzle over bundt cakes

Verdict: I thought that these turned out pretty decent, yet the whole wheat flour gave them a ‘healthy’ flavor that may detract from the flavor of the chocolate. I recommend trying them also, with regular flour.

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