I’m definitely doing this challenge at the last minute – I decided to start the day it was due. I literally just finished plating one for the photo above! Normally, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but this time, I opted to make a dairy-free cream using a technique I’d never tried before. It was indeed an experiment – one I hoped I could pull off!
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
I was excited that the challenge was naturally gluten-free. Hooray – less substitutions! However, the chocolate mascarpone mousse was not dairy-free. It called for cream and mascarpone cheese. Creating a substitute was something I contemplated for quite a few days. I knew that I saw a dairy-free cream cheese at the store, made from tofu. I strongly considered using that and coconut milk as a substitute for the cream, and following the rest of the recipe as written. I even picked up the tofu cream cheese at the store and carried to the checkout line. It was then that I decided I didn’t want it – I am not fond of the flavor of most soymilk products, and I really didn’t want to use tofu cream cheese. I put it back. I would come up with another idea.
A few days later, Noelle of An Opera Singer in the Kitchen turned me on to this raw, vegan, dairy-free cheesecake made from soaked cashews. (Available at Earth Cafe) Noelle insisted that those cheesecakes were amazing, and I was convinced that in the near future, I’d be ordering one to see for myself. Meanwhile, she also shared with me a new blog to check out, The Daily Raw Cafe, where a similar cheesecake recipe could be found. I was inspired.
Instead of making a chocolate mascarpone mousse, I opted for something a touch lighter – almond butter cream and strawberries. I set to make the cream, soaking cashews and blending them, adding coconut milk, almond butter, lemon…and the resulting texture and flavor of this cream was silky and rich. I can only imagine how lovely this would taste in a cheesecake – it was lovely here.
My pavlovas were piped a bit thinner than I’m used to. (The last time I made a pavlova, it was a more traditionally large, fluffy cake-like dessert) However, they were deliciously crisp and chewy, with a lovely chocolate marshmallow-like flavor. Topped with the rich cream and fresh strawberries, this was indeed a lovely summer dessert. I would love to try this again, making a large pavlova next time around. A bit thanks to Dawn for this month’s challenge!
3 large egg whites
1/2 c plus 1 T granulated white sugar
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/3 c cocoa powder
Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the white sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping until the whites are stiff but not dry.
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder over the whites, and fold gently in. This will not appear as though it will blend at first, but keep folding and it will come together.
Place into piping bag and pipe into desired shapes on the lined baking sheets. Alternatively, you can spoon out the meringue into circles and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 2-3 hours (I baked mine for 2), until crisp. Allow to cool. You can store these in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Almond Butter Cream
2 c raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours in water
1/2 c agave nectar
3 T water
1 c coconut milk
1 t vanilla extract
½ t almond extract
6 T almond butter
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch sea salt
Soak the cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add cashews, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extracts, and the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into a blender. Blend until creamy, and add the coconut milk, almond butter, lemon zest, juice, and salt. Blend until smooth. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and store in freezer for 1 hour or until thick, stirring once or twice during that time.
To assemble pavlovas:
Top each pavlova with 1-2 tablespoons of the almond butter cream. Top with sliced strawberries and serve immediately.