July 20, 2008

Green Tea Ice Cream

Posted in dessert, ice cream, recipe, tea, Uncategorized at 7:42 pm by veganalects

Tea, tea, tea. I cannot get enough tea. Everything about it delights me: the wares, the process, the associated foods…not that I’m even very knowledgeable about tea, as became clear to me when I looked at a few tea blogs. But anyway, I decided that for my first foray into ice cream-making I should attempt not vanilla or chocolate but green tea. I had the matcha powder, I now had the ice cream maker, so I had no excuse not to make it.

For ideas about how to proceed I started with Veganomicon. Its one ice cream recipe is based on coconut milk, however, and I wanted to avoid a strong coconut taste in this case. So I turned to the internet, recalling that I’d come across a vegan ice cream blog once before. It’s not too good to be true! I used a template from the extremely useful A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, with my own add-ins. So while the recipe is mine, the credit is not.

Onto the verdict. The ice cream was really good—the ingredients were well-balanced, the tea came through nicely, it wasn’t too sweet, and (paramount for me) it was satisfyingly creamy. It fulfilled my ice cream needs and I would definitely make it again.

But.

It’s not perfect. The texture is not quite right. It’s not sorbet, which I’ve never cared for much; it is creamy. Yet it’s not quite ice cream either—not full-fledged, silky-smooth ice cream, anyway. It’s sort of 85% ice cream, 15% sorbet. This may be an issue of veganness, but I doubt it: I have had both store-bought and homemade (well, restaurant-made) vegan ice cream that did not suffer from this flaw. My mom also said she remembers having this problem with dairy ice cream, and that the solution was to make a custard first. So I don’t know if cooking it longer would help, or increasing the creamer-to-milk ratio, or what. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Still, I’m posting the recipe because I’m mostly happy with it and I still recommend it to other vegans craving ice cream. I used an ice cream maker, but apparently there are other methods.

Green Tea Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 cups soymilk
2 cups soy creamer
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder), sifted to remove lumps
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

1. Stir the arrowroot into ¼ cup of the soymilk until dissolved. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining soymilk and creamer in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.

3. When the liquid is gently bubbling, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then matcha until dissolved (it will not actually dissolve, but will be in suspension).

4. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in arrowroot mixture until dissolved. Then stir in the extracts.

5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker if you desire a thicker texture. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.

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January 13, 2008

Birthday Party: Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce

Posted in dessert, tea, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 6:52 pm by veganalects

Two nights ago we had some friends over for my dad’s birthday dinner. My mom made my favorite dish of all time, chickpea curry (I’ll post the recipe sometime), and I was responsible for dessert. Dessert is really the battle ground for veganism. A lot of people can’t imagine what we eat for dessert; they think of vegans as sallow, emaciated, dour sorts of people, eating our alfalfa sprouts in self-righteous silence. Not that our friends are the sort of people who think that, but still, many omnivores and even vegetarians can’t imagine dessert without dairy.

So I knew I had to make something good. Not just good, like pie good, but decadent. Chocolatey, perhaps. But not just decadent-chocolatey, like brownies decadent-chocolatey; it had to be sophisticated. I turned to trusty Veganomicon and found what I was looking for. What says “decadent, chocolatey, and sophisticated” better than tea-poached pears in chocolate sauce? With ice cream on the side, garnished with mint?

Lacking an ice-cream maker and time, I decided to use vanilla Tofutti ice cream. Of the brands I’ve tried, Tofutti is my favorite, and I’ve found that dairy-eaters tend to like it, too. Still, vegan ice cream is a bit of a gamble, so we just gave everyone a dollop.

The recipe is really pretty easy to make. Since we had ten people, I made a double-and-a-half recipe, and the only labor-intensive step was peeling and coring the ten pears. If you make a normal recipe, you only have to do four. The bruises on the pears also disappear once you poach them.

And…it was a big hit. The pears and even the ice cream fetched a lot of compliments, but the real praise came in the eating. Almost everyone had seconds on both, and we ended up with a stack full of scraped plates. What little leftovers we had were gone by the next afternoon. Score one for veganism!

January 9, 2008

Biscotti Bonanza

Posted in baking, dessert, tea, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 2:23 am by veganalects

Okay, it wasn’t really a bonanza. It was just, well, a batch. But “biscotti batch” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

And it was exciting. I had never made biscotti before, but (as I’ve mentioned) I love tea, so I decided to make this my first baking adventure of the month. These are the Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti from Veganomicon. I’d say they’re perfect—they cracked when I was cutting them, but that’s probably my fault, and who really cares anyway? They’re delicious. Furthermore, they were a hit with the parents, and I consider baking the final frontier for convincing vegan skeptics, my mom most of all. I still have some work to do, but I think the biscotti are on my side.

biscotti.jpg

December 13, 2007

Making Tea

Posted in non-food, tea at 8:29 pm by veganalects



Why on earth, I can hear you asking, would anyone need instructions for making tea? Hot water + tea bag = finished product, right? Well, yes, you can make tea that way—but I’m going to try to convince you not to. With a little extra time and effort, you can improve your Earl Grey or English Breakfast immensely.

The first thing you should know about me is that I love tea. I make it almost every day, sometimes twice or even thrice a day. (As long as “thrice” is a word, why not use it?) I’m talking about black tea, by the way. I do love other teas, both real and herbal, but they’re prepared a bit differently and black tea is my staple.

George Orwell had eleven rules for making tea, almost all of which I agree with, but I’ll keep it to four golden ones. Besides, he wrote those rules before the advent of tea bags, which brings us to the first point.

leaves.jpgRule #1: Always use loose tea. That Twinings tin is full of nice, big, dried leaves. Don’t they look luscious? Okay, maybe luscious isn’t the word, but they’re certainly pretty. Most tea bags are filled with “fannings,” the dusty byproduct of sorting loose leaf tea. Fannings make a second-rate cup of tea. It steeps faster and takes less coddling, but it’s often stale, yields a cloudy brew, and just doesn’t taste that great. Loose tea is available at a lot of natural food stores, some mainstream grocery stores, specialty tea shops, and online (like here and here).

Rule #2: Make it in a teapot. Seems a tad obvious, perhaps, but there are dozens of tea-making implements that don’t require a pot: mesh tea-balls, cotton brew bags, etc. I’ve tried a bunch of them and nothing steeps quite like a pot. The leaves need plenty of space to expand and swim around. Some teapots have strainers over the spout and some don’t, so you may need to use a strainer as well. (Ideally you’d warm the pot with hot water before you steep the tea, but now I’m getting nitpicky.)

Rule #3: Use really boiling water. Hot water isn’t hot enough. It’s hot enough for green or other kinds of tea, but not for black. That means water out of hot taps on sinks or water jugs won’t do the job. The water should have just come to a rolling boil so that it’s hot enough but still has plenty of oxygen (important for flavor).

table.jpgRule #4: At least try it with plain, unsweetened soymilk. Okay, this isn’t a rule so much as a plea. Every time someone adds vanilla soymilk or a few heaping spoons of sugar to her tea, a little part of me dies. Or maybe just cries. Either way, it’s in pain. I don’t know if I’m going to convert anyone, but I second George’s advice: “Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.” Call me crazy, but I also think sweetened soymilk in tea tastes more soymilky.

This might sound intimidating or labor-intensive, but it’s really not! It takes five minutes and makes my day so much better.