THE SWEET SPOT - Dessert COTM (Sept-Oct) - PUDDING, CUSTARD, FROZEN DESSERTS and FRUIT
This is a category with several subjects. I hope it won't be confusing.
Here's the place to post info, discussion, tips about ingredients, pros and cons and anything else about PUDDING, CUSTARD, FROZEN DESSERTS and FRUIT.
As always, PLEASE indicate the page number and name of the recipe at the beginning of your post.
If you don't have the book, look in the main topic post for the Dessert COTM. It can be found in the first section at the top of the Home Cooking Board. There you should find, in the next days, a list of online recipes.
Jasmine Rice Pudding p. 167
I doodled with this recipe quite a bit, so this isn't a fair estimation. In other words, your results may vary! I did use the same proportion of milk, skim milk, but subbed light coconut milk, so my result was probably far less rich. I also used already cooked, still warm koshihikari rice, since I had it leftover from dinner. I like the vanilla/cinnamon combo but don't like raisins in rice pudding, so left those out, and also used less sugar, only a third of what he wrote. No lime zest, no whipped cream to fold in at the last, no passionfruit sherbet accompaniment. This rice pudding is DELICIOUS, and probably would be even more so if I'd actually followed his recipe. (I know I'm risking a rep of one of "those" people who's not actually reviewing the same recipe, but I do think the dairy/coconut combo is a winner.) Next time I'm going to do the burnt sugar topping he suggests.
Red Bean Ice Cream, p. 240
I had some dried adzuki beans in my pantry so decided that my first attempt from this book would be the red bean ice cream. The general approach is to cook the beans until soft for a couple of hours and then to fold into a vanilla custard base. Chill base and then churn. Easy, right?
Unfortunately, this recipe wasn't wildly successful for a few reasons. Cooking the beans for a couple of hours was sort of a pain, especially when I had to keep on adding water every 20-30 min. His water to bean ratio (1.75 cups water to 1/2 cup beans) is off, and I would start w/ 4 cups water or at least partially cover the beans to minimize water evaporation. He doesn't call for presoaking the beans but I would soak overnight to speed the cooking process.
Another issue I had was that the resulting ice cream was way too sweet. I hesitated on adding the 3/4 cup sugar, but I thought I should follow the recipe this first time since the beans might need the sugar even though their cooking water has 2 TB sugar. Nope, the custard was far too sweet and I would definitely cut back to 1/2 cup. Should have gone w/ my instincts.
The last and biggest problem I had w/ this recipe was the taste and texture. The recipe does not call for mashing or pulverizing the cooked beans in any way; they are left whole. I thought that they might get slightly mashed during the churning process, but they are pretty sturdy and retain their shape. So there's no real merging between the beans and vanilla custard base, and the beans get rock hard once frozen. Not the creamy, slightly starchy concoction I hoped for.
All that said, all was not lost and it wasn't a total disaster. I still nibbled at about half of the batch over the course of a few days since I love sweet red bean and vanilla ice cream. Once softened at room temp., the beans weren't as rock hard. The silver lining is that I know exactly how I would retool this recipe to make a red bean ice cream more to my taste.
I still have some red bean, so I'd like to try making his interesting-looking shaved ice w/ summer corn, avocado & red beans.
Almond Tofu & Fresh Fruit Cocktail, p. 162
Ok, I'm very influenced by cookbook photos and seeing the picture of this recipe made me very eager to try it. Without the pretty photo, this is one recipe that I could easily overlook. I don't have the stemless wine glasses that he used so used martini glasses instead. I like how he tilted his glass to make an angled custard (what I used to do when making jello as a kid), but that was pretty impossible w/ martini glasses.
For those not familiar w/ almond tofu, it has no tofu in it and is a popular Chinese custard dessert usually made w/ milk and served w/ canned fruit cocktail. It gets its name from its resemblance to milky white tofu. Ong's twist is that he uses half almond milk and half soy milk accented w/ a hint of almond extract for what he calls a "dairy-free delight." It's not technically vegan due to the use of gelatin for thickening. Of course, there's no canned fruit cocktail as he makes an elegant fresh fruit melange of Asian pear, red grapes, and peaches in a simple syrup infused w/ orange zest.
Basically, this recipe is a dairy-free almond panna cotta topped w/ fresh fruit in simple syrup. I chose it because a hound friend I had over for dessert is lactose-intolerant, plus this dessert comes together in a flash w/ a couple of shortcuts. Ong recommends making homemade almond and soy milks, but uh, I didn't have the time for that (although I'm sure it would be worthwhile when I had the time and inclination). So I bought unsweetened almond and soy milks from my local hippie store and got the custard part done in like 15 min.
For the fruit cocktail, I used what I had on hand: Asian pear, plums, strawberries. Along with orange zest to infuse the simple syrup, I tossed in 3 coins of bruised ginger for another dimension. This turned out to be a good call...
The custard set for about 5 hrs. before eating; it set up pretty well although I think overnight is best. Unlike the red bean ice cream, this was very successful and well-received by all. The custard was light, creamy, and very soft. The almond flavor worked well w/ the fruits, and the orange zest and ginger lended some warmth in the back of the throat. A great dessert to end an Asian meal w/ endless possibilities for seasonal variation.
I only used about 1/2 tsp. of almond extract but might omit it altogether next time (the recipe states that it's optional) for a softer almond flavor. I may also increase the gelatin a tad for a slightly firmer consistency. I can't see myself making my own soy milk, but I gotta try making the almond milk one day...
To make almond milk, Ong instructs to simmer 1/2 c. whole almonds until tender, about one hour. Puree almonds w/ 3 c. water in blender until smooth and milky. Put puree in pan, add 3 more c. water and bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Simmer on low for about 25 min. Strain through cheesecloth, pressing on almonds to extract as much liquid as possible. Add 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/4 c. sugar, adding more sugar to taste. Store covered in fridge for up to 3 days.
Incidentally, fresh soy milk is made using the same technique except 1/2 c. dried yellow soybeans (rinsed and soaked) are substituted for the almonds.
Note: I used commercial unsweetened almond and soy milks for the almond tofu. Since Ong's homemade milks are apparently sweetened, I would either cut back on the sugar in his almond tofu recipe or leave the homemade milks unsweetened. I tend to cut back on sugar in most desserts...
re: Carb Lover
Carb Lover: Thanks for all the description and work. I also really love almond tofu and like the idea of making one's own fruit compote instead of the awful fruit cocktail. What amazes me is how much I used to love the stuff when I was a kid. We used to fight over the cherries and diss the peaches. The texture was too gooey. Grapes, though, were prized.
re: Carb Lover
Hi Carb Lover, Do you mind put the Almond Tofu recipe online as I have no idea where to purchase/get it.
Btw, when I learnt how to make the traditional Almond Tofu when I was a kid (I grew up in HK) the gelling agent is Agar Agar. Now i tasted an almond tofu made in a Japanese Restaurant in Vancouver and it is very different from the traditional Chinese one and I am craving it all the time. NEED to know how to make it. Thanks.