Blog - dairy-free
I’ve adapted this recipe to eliminate the copious amounts of dairy in a very popular dessert we used to regularly make. The Parfait Tortoni, as it was called, was basically a creamy ice cream flavored with Amontillado sherry and meringue chunks.
I made my first adaptation during the previous fall. I created a version of the Tortoni using cashew cream as the base and flavored the cream with a pumpkin puree. It was festive, delicious and very popular.
The version I am presenting below is identical, with the exception of course of the pumpkin puree, which I have now replaced with a mango puree. The result is a light, ice cream-like dessert with wonderful textural chunks of meringue, which I think is a perfect summer dessert to enjoy!
Most professional cooks will probably tell you it is extremely important to create balance in a final dish…and that balance is achieved by artfully combining flavors, texture and appearance. Unfortunately, most professional cooks have also learned the standard techniques in a classical kitchen which rely heavily on the use of fats, salt and sugars. And if you don’t believe this statement, then simply tune into any cooking show on television and watch how the professionals cook. I guarantee you will see a recipe which is most definitely unhealthy!
But is all that fat really necessary to produce a tasty and balanced dish?
As a mostly plant-based cook, I have discovered how to produce really tasty food without the use of animal products and with a heavy emphasis on supporting good health. Removing fats from a dish will dramatically affect its flavor, so I had to consider how I would maximize the flavor of ingredients I use in my recipes. I began looking at alternatives. I started to emphasize toasting and roasting nuts, seeds and spices before I would use them in a recipe. I increased the sweet, acid and spice elements in my dishes to create powerful flavors which balanced well in the mouth. I concentrated flavors through reduction to bring even more flavor into my no oil dishes. And I never missed the fat!
Cavallucci are traditional, rustic biscotti (cookies) that date back to 16th century Tuscany. They are now frequently given as gifts during special occasions or holidays. They are especially beloved during the Christmas holiday season.
According to some really old Tuscan cookbooks, their name seems to stem from the cavalli (horses) used for delivering the mail. It is believed that the postal workers who substituted the tired horses with new horses ate the cookies on a regular basis…presumably as a snack. At one time, the shape of a horse was stamped on the surface of the cookies, but that is rarely seen these days.
The cookies are traditionally round and fairly large with an irregular shape. Original versions were made using only flour, a little sugar, anise seeds and a couple of walnuts. Modern day versions are now made with acacia honey and sugar slowly melted over low heat, then mixed with flour, chopped walnuts and hazelnuts, minced candied citron and orange, some spices (anise seeds, nutmeg, coriander powder) and a pinch of baking soda to lighten the dough. Once cooled, the dough is rolled into long logs and divided into pieces before being baked for about twenty minutes.
There is another version coming from the seaside village Grosseto, which tend to be a bit larger and softer than most other Cavallucci. They tend to have almonds, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cinnamon…which do seem perfect for Christmas.
Cavallucci are simple to make…and are always completely dairy-free! A bonus to me and a real treat for my sweet tooth!
The cooler weather of fall always brings me to soups…and I really enjoy all types: creamy purées, thick lentil soups, chunky vegetable soups, clear consommés and so on. But in my opinion, the king of all cold weather soups has to be the famous Tuscan ribolita. It is a thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup filled with healthy vegetables, beans and potatoes. It is excellent when first prepared, but like the name suggests (ribolita means to re-boil), the soup improves in flavor when reheated, which makes this soup perfect for keeping around a couple of days
Most ribolita soups you will encounter are somewhat different than the original…either lacking in vegetable variety or packed full of tomato puree and cheese. My version below is very similar to the actual DOC designated recipe, which was officially declared on the 24th of May, 2011 at the Florence Academy of Italian Cuisine. The designation followed a long research period with some of the finest restaurants in Florence participating. The concluding recipe implied most restaurants in Tuscany do not serve the real version, but mere impostors.
It doesn’t take very much time these days to search for and find soup recipes made in a pressure cooker. In fact, you can even search within this blog from just a few months ago and locate my marvelous Caramelized Carrot and Ginger Soup, adapted from “The Modernist Cuisine.”
So why is there a sudden spike in popularity amongst soup enthusiasts in using pressure cookers? Well, I think the answer is simple; pressure cookers cook soups quickly and create unmatched flavors. That’s the bottom line…and that’s all that should matter.
My two newest soups this fall are based on a couple of regulars: Curried Pumpkin and Orange and Creamy Pumpkin and Chestnut.
Strudel desserts are perfect during cool fall evenings because they really highlight the fruit inside. I like to think of a strudel as a rolled up pie – much the same as a calzone is basically a rolled up pizza. The classic recipe, of course, is apple strudel which is very difficult to beat in terms of overwhelming satisfaction. But I like to tinker a bit, so I added some pears or green figs to the recipe…you know, just to be a bit different. Sometimes I even feel a bit more bold and replace the traditional roasted hazelnuts with walnuts.
However I decide to make the filling, I always make sure to make the dough in the same manner which is more in the Austrian style.
Austrian-style strudels are typically a bit smaller in diameter than their German or Hungarian counterparts…and the dough is much crispier – somewhat reminiscent to phyllo dough. German-style strudels are typically made from a dough similar to puff pastry, while Austrian strudels are made with essentially a pasta dough which has vinegar added to it. The addition of vinegar to the dough is very important…if not a bit odd sounding at first. Vinegar will help the formation of a very elastic gluten network, which helps greatly when stretching out this dough to a paper thin consistency. I always use a mild flavored white wine vinegar in my strudel dough.
Most traditional recipes include copious amounts of butter – both inside the filling and as part of the dough. I personally think the butter covers up the wonderful fruit and spice flavors, so I replace it with oil…plus, I don’t eat any dairy products.
Traditional soda bread recipes should only contain flour, baking soda, salt and sour milk – that’s it! I have seen many recipes that a fat or raisins in the ingredients, but this is actually considered an entirely different recipe called ‘spotted dog’.
Soda bread will often turn out rather heavy, with a gummy texture when using the simple ingredients. I find the interior of the bread becomes more flaky and the crust a bit harder when adding about 20 gr. of olive oil. The added fat will shorten the gluten a bit, which can also be achieved using butter. But, olive oil also hardens the crust during the baking process and butter just creates the flakiness inside.
You can also make this recipe lactose-free by replacing the buttermilk with a mixture of: 180 gr. soy yogurt, 220 gr. rice milk, 5 gr. cream of tartar and 1 Tbl. lemon juice oil).
This recipe makes one large round loaf.
I will freely admit having a real weakness for a good cookie…and a well-executed chocolate chip cookie rises to the top of my list of foods I crave but wish I didn’t.
I was eventually faced with an important decision after giving up consumption of all dairy products more than three years ago…either give up chocolate chip cookies or figure out how to make them without dairy. My ultimate decision is the following recipe for Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies.
This dairy-free version of chocolate chip cookies comes very close to everyone’s favorite original tollhouse recipe. They should end up chewy and oozing with chocolate…an ultimate treat for all cookie aficionados! After some experimentation, I finalized the ingredient list which included a few surprises. I decided to use both baking powder and baking soda in the recipe to create a nice rise in the batter as the cookies baked. This was ultimately important because I eliminated the use of whole eggs. Originally, I wanted to make a completely vegan version…which I did accomplish. I just felt the addition of a slightly whisked egg white added a tremendous amount of structure to the final product…and without adding any additional fat (the completely vegan version eliminates the use of the egg white and adds 30 gr. of egg replacer, which is essentially guar gum, starch and a binder).
So, back to the recipe and the use of olive oil. I really enjoy baking with olive oil as I believe the final product is much cleaner in taste…allowing one to enjoy all of the ingredients rather than having their flavors muted by the overwhelming flavor of butter. I like that. But, using olive oil in recipes which call for creaming flour and fat became an issue because the mix always leaked fat and never really became homogeneous. I finally added a bit of arrowroot to help bind the mix in the final product…but more importantly, I simply changed the method. Instead of creaming the fat and flour together, I just treated the fat (olive oil) as a liquid ingredient and mixed it together like one would do in making muffins. I worked fine for me…
Finally, I used the half banana as part of my egg replacer. I was worried about this ingredient at first because I thought the flavor would become too prevalent in the cookie, but in the end, the marriage of flavors actually worked to an advantage and I was thrilled with the result.
Baking a cake with olive oil? I know, this does sound strange at first to many who are used to baking with traditional fats (think butter), but the result with olive oil is a very light tasting product resembling a sponge cake. The absence of butter allows the other flavors to become more prevalent making this cake a truly delicious and fresh-tasting revelation.
Any fat acts as a shortening in baking, because it ‘shortens’ gluten strands and tenderizes the product. Most professional bakers use shortenings made from vegetable oils. The liquid fats are made solid during the manufacturing process and the fats become hydrogenated…and these types of fats are not very health-friendly. Hydrogenated fats are mostly used because of cost considerations. They are far less expensive than butter, and they will create products with a longer shelf life. Good for the manufacturer…bad for the consumer.
Most hydrogenated shortenings are intentionally flavorless and leave an unpleasant coating in the mouth. Fresh butter on the other hand has a highly desirable flavor and melts nicely in the mouth. Butter does cost more than hydrogenated fats and has less shelf life. But for the home baker, these factors seldom come into play.
So why change fats now? Well, my two reasons are really quite simple. I think olive oil is a healthier fat alternative and I like the way olive oil performs in baking vs. butter. Butter makes such a big impression in the final product; it simply selfishly takes over and will not allow the other flavors to be recognized.
When I came across a version of olive oil cake some years ago from Marcella Hazan’s classic book on Italian cooking, well I knew I needed to experiment and try out the cake. It was stunning and I was immediately convinced on the merits of baking with olive oil.