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Apr. 8 2010 - 1:07 am | 604 views | 1 recommendation | 25 comments

T&T Challenge: Tofu-Licious Desserts

Native New Yorker Fran Costigan (“the queen of vegan desserts”) is an internationally recognized culinary instructor, author, consultant and pioneering pastry chef who marries healthy eating with sumptuous tastes. The “Fran factor” is that her modern vegan desserts are on par with or better than their traditional counterparts – sans dairy, eggs, refined sugar or cholesterol.

Fran Costigan's soft orange cream tops off a dairy-free chocolate pudding. Photo: Linda Long.

A graduate of the New York Restaurant School and the Natural Gourmet Institute, Fran was a pastry chef in both traditional and vegan kitchens.

Today, she teaches at the Natural Gourmet Institute (including her Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®, a certification program), and at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Her second book, “More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts,” is designed as a complete course in vegan baking with recipes using only minimally processed organic and Fair Trade ingredients. Follow Fran on twitter: @goodcakesfran

********************ENTER TO WIN!***********************
Today’s giveaway comes from Nasoya, a gift pack (valued at $60) that includes a signature tote bag and apron, the TofuXpress tofu press, recipes and coupons. To enter, answer the following question in the comments section below by 6 p.m. PT: True or False: Tofu and dessert go together. Discuss/elaborate. A winner will be randomly selected from the comments. There will also be a VegNews giveway during my Culinate chat today (1 ET).
*****************************************************************

With its relatively neutral taste, tofu is the perfect foundation ingredient for vegan (dairy-free and egg-free) creams, mousse, puddings, fillings and frostings. I have been using this excellent ingredient in my dessert recipes for over 15 years with great success, if empty plates accompanied by wows and yum measure success. Yet, when I ask the question “do you use tofu to make desserts”, the answer is often “No I don’t; they taste like tofu. “

T &T virgins and friends, I want to set the record straight. Making luscious tofu-based creams, mousse, puddings, fillings and frostings — without any taste of the bean — is guaranteed, when you heed my simple tips:

* First thing’s first: Tofu is perishable, so check the expiration on the package. Use organic tofu whenever possible.

* Use the type of tofu specified (silken or regular), as they have different textures and properties.

* Drain silken tofu in a strainer set over a bowl at least one hour to overnight.

* Blanch regular tofu in a pot of barely simmering water for 3 to 4 minutes, remove and pat dry. This can be done three days ahead; cover and refrigerate.

* Regardless of which type you use, cream tofu for at least 5 minutes in a food processor, or until not a trace of graininess remains and the tofu is fully incorporated.

* Sweeten as you see fit. Adding a bit finely minced citrus zest enhances the flavor of many tofu-based desserts.

I have selected two favorite recipes to share. The first uses regular firm tofu and the other features silken firm tofu. (For a refresher on types of tofu, check out Jill Nussinow’s Tofu 101 post.)

Fran Costigan's peanut butter chocolate mousse, served in dairy-free chocolate cups. Photo: Warren Jefferson/Book Pub Co

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse
Organic tofu and organic peanut butter are the main players in this better–for-you version of the popular candy treat. From “More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts” by Fran Costigan.

Ingredients
1 (14-ounce) package firm regular tofu, blanched and drained
1 cup pure maple syrup, Grade A dark amber or B
3⁄4 cup organic peanut butter, at room temperature (I prefer smooth)
3⁄4 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup organic cane sugar, ground fine in a blender
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method
Crumble the tofu into the bowl of a food processor. Process 2 minutes. Add the maple syrup; process 3 minutes. Stop the machine and clean the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula a few times.

Add the peanut butter, pulse to incorporate and process 1 minute. Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Process 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy. Stop the processor a few times to clean the sides of the bowl.

The mousse is ready to use, but can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature, garnished with some salted roasted peanuts and chopped chocolate.

Serving suggestions/variations:
*The Elvis: Layer PB Mousse, sliced bananas and Fran’s Ultimate Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows).
*As a cake filling, frosting or eaten right off a spoon — it’s delicious!
*If you’ve some time and a little patience, make chocolate cups to fill with the cream and enjoy better-for-you PB Cups.

Fran’s Ultimate Chocolate Sauce

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 cup dark cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup, grade A dark amber
2 tablespoons canola oil (organic, preferably)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method
Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Combine the cocoa, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. With the motor running, pour 6 tablespoons of the hot water through the feed tube. Stop the blender or food processor, and clean the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla. Process about 1 minute, until smooth. The sauce will be thin.

Pour the sauce into a jar with a lid. Refrigerate the sauce for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month.

Soft Orange Cream
(Yield: 1⅔ cups)
This bright-tasting cream compliments fruit salads and plain cake and is lovely used in shortcakes and trifles. Note that the silken tofu makes a softer cream than those made with regular tofu, and that’s the advantage here. From “More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts” by Fran Costigan.

Ingredients
1 (12.3 ounce) box firm silken tofu
1/2 cup organic sugar, finely ground in a blender
5 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tablespoon organic canola oil or a mild extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely minced orange zest
Optional: ¼ teaspoon orange oil

Method
Drain the tofu in a strainer set over a bowl at least 1 hour.

Process the tofu in the bowl of a food processor 2 minutes until creamy. Clean the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the sugar and pulse to combine. Process 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and process 3 to 4 minutes, stopping the processor a few times to clean the sides of the bowl.

Pour the cream into a container, cover and refrigerate least 3 hours for the best flavor.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’m not vegan, so for me the answer is false–tofu does not go with dessert. I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t make dessert healthy (well, other than using the freshest, most natural ingredients, such as butter instead of shortening, for example). Rather, I think people should eat the best, most flavorable desserts in moderation.

    That said, I think there is a big market out there for healthier, vegan, and other special diet desserts. I am studying for a baking and pastry certificate, and my Chef instructor always reminds us that if we can come up with a fantastic dessert recipe that is vegan, gluten-free, or diabetic-friendly, we can be rich. So for those who can make great desserts using tofu, more power to them. However, for now I’m going to continue to consider tofu for lunch and dinner only :)

    • collapse expand

      Hi Jodie,
      It’s a mountain to climb for sure- the healthy-cannot be delicious dessert mountain. I agree with you (and your instructors) that successful desserts must be made with real ingredients (organic tofu is a real ingredient), and are meant to be enjoyed in moderation, even those whose protein content is amped up thanks to the tofu. My students are instructed that only the best, organic, wholesome, fresh ingredients will make desserts that are as delicious as, if not better than, their traditional counterparts. ‘Good for what it is’ doesn’t cut it for me. I am a pastry chef that happens to be making vegan desserts, so technique and ingredients matter. My students have included pastry chefs from Michelin-starred Paris & UK restos, fine dining establishments across the US, So. America & Asia, all having first completed traditional pastry programs, like you. (Note: Newbies too!!) BTW, the tofu-based recipes in my post are Vegan, Gluten Free, Naturally sweetened. I don’t use tofu in batters for baked goods. Per diabetic friendly, even the natural, organic sweeteners, such as maple syrup, agave, and organic granulated whole cane are meant to be used sparingly. Wow, when I get started! I happen to be a huge tempeh first, tofu next, fan (yes, savory).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Hi Jodie,
      It’s a mountain to climb for sure- the healthy-cannot be delicious dessert mountain. I agree with you (and your instructors) that successful desserts must be made with real ingredients (organic tofu is a real ingredient), and are meant to be enjoyed in moderation, even those whose protein content is amped up thanks to the tofu. My students are instructed that only the best, organic, wholesome, fresh ingredients will make desserts that are as delicious as, if not better than, their traditional counterparts. ‘Good for what it is’ doesn’t cut it for me. I am a pastry chef who happens to be making vegan desserts, so technique and ingredients matter. (I rarely use tofu in batters for baked goods.) My students have included pastry chefs from Michelin-starred Paris & UK restos, fine dining establishments across the US, So. America & Asia, all having first completed traditional pastry programs, like you. (Note: Newbies too!!) BTW, the tofu-based recipes in my post are Vegan, Gluten Free, Naturally sweetened. Per diabetic friendly, even the natural, organic sweeteners, such as maple syrup, agave, and organic granulated whole cane are meant to be used sparingly. Wow, when I get started! I happen to be a huge tempeh first, tofu next, fan (yes, savory).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    True.Tofu is so versatile that I don’t see why it can’t be in desserts too. I don’t eat eggs so anytime I can find a substitute for them I am happy.

  3. collapse expand

    Tofu and dessert go together….TRUE!
    I made a chocolate silk pie using tofu and it was YUMMY!

  4. collapse expand

    Tofu goes with dessert – TRUE. In fact, I first discovered that like 10 years ago with teh Whole Foods tofu chocolate mousse. I am a huge fan of using tofu in desserts to cut back on the cholesterol etc. In fact, Kim, I remember you made a cake once for a friend who was recovering from a heart attack and used tofu in it? I think that I am remembering right. It was in the earlier Might Appetite days.

  5. collapse expand

    I’m a long time vegan. I limit my sugar in-take, but I will occasionally have a treat. Plus chocolate is good. I look forward to trying these as they look delicious!

  6. collapse expand

    This is true, true, true!!! I’ve had better success with tofu in dessert dishes than savory dishes. My favorite is chocolate ganache and chocolate lava cakes using silken tofu as the lava and ganache. These were quite easy and less expensive than all the cheese, heavy cream and eggs used in nontofu desserts. My one attempt at making a tofu cheesecake flopped, but it wasn’t that bad, so I can learn to make it better.

  7. collapse expand

    TRUE. This past Thanksgiving I whipped up a pumpkin pie with silken tofu, in lieu of eggs (Kim, you know the one). Not only was it delicious, no one knew any better/worse that it wasn’t the “classic” recipe.

  8. collapse expand

    True! Whipped up some tofu with atrawberry puree & agave nectar for a wonderful mousse!

  9. collapse expand

    True! I whipped up a strawberry mousse using tofu, strawberry puree and agave nectar. It was most definitely dessert!

  10. collapse expand

    I definitely think so. I’m a tofu newbie, but by looking at the texture of tofu, I think it could work really well in desserts. And since it’s considered flavorless, then there shouldn’t be anything offensive tastewise, right? I have a serious sweet tooth, so I am really looking forward to trying out the dessert recipes, particularly the peanut butter chocolate mousse!

  11. collapse expand

    I’ve eaten desserts made with tofu – and they are creamy and delicious – but have never experimented with it making a dessert myself. I do think that I will soon be giving it a trial. I’ve done many savory applications with tofu over the years – and my most recent deliciousness was with your recipe for Kung-Pao Tofu. Thanks for this series – it has been quite informative.

  12. collapse expand

    True. Tofu adds a richness to desserts that is difficult to achieve without adding fat and is neutral enough to be versatile for endless applications. I am not a vegetarian, but I love desserts and like being able to make them functional by adding the protein and other nutrients that tofu provides.

  13. collapse expand

    Ummmm TRUE… just try some vegan pumpkin pie made with tofu if you have any doubts. DELICIOUS!!

    http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Vegan-Pumpkin-Pie-68432

  14. collapse expand

    True: Tofu and dessert go together.

    I’m lactose intolerant but I love cheesecake. I’ve used tofu to make many varieties of cheesecake and they turn out great!

    Tofu is also great for pies and puddings.

    Oh, and not to mention tofu ice cream!

  15. collapse expand

    Yes, tofu and desserts go together !

  16. collapse expand

    True! Tofu is a great way to make many desserts healthier. Although I’m not vegan, I eat tofu often. My favorite simple dessert including tofu is chocolate mousse — so easy yet so good!

  17. collapse expand

    Thumbs up on the tofu desserts! After all, for those of us who don’t eat dairy for reasons of compassion, those ethics don’t stop at the dessert plate. Tofu is an important ingredient in many delicious vegan desserts (lots of vegan desserts just don’t call for tofu, though).

  18. collapse expand

    This is a fantastic week, Kim – thanks so much for all the tofu recipes! I’m a vegetarian who makes a lot of tofu at home, so I’m definitely not scared of it – but the recipes sound so interesting that I keep starring them in my RSS feed as the week goes on. I plan to try all of them in the near future!

    I think tofu and dessert can go well together, but I admit that I’ve never tried myself. I’m especially interested in the mousse idea, because I have a lactose intolerant friend whom I’ve had trouble making desserts for in the past…

  19. collapse expand

    We just purchased a new tofu press from TofuPresser.com. It is different from the tofu x press you mentioned above, but it does not require any assembly and completely presses tofu in 15 minutes….and it costs less. Take a look.

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    About Me

    You might know me from The Washington Post, where for a dozen years I dished up cooking content, both as Web chat hostess ("What's Cooking") and daily blog minx ("A Mighty Appetite").

    To the table, I offer a stew of journalism (total = 16 years) and cooking smarts (a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education), served with a side of life-long curiosity.

    Home is Seattle for now, but until last year was parked on the east coast, born and raised outside of Philadelphia, where H20 is pronounced "wooder."

    In addition to the Post, I have written for Real Simple, Smithsonian.com and Culinate, where I host "Table Talk," a weekly chat every Thursday (1 pm ET/ 10a PT).

    Send story ideas, questions and crumbs to: writingfoodATgmail.com

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    What I'm Up To

    About “Licking Your Chops”

    Coming in September: The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (Da Capo Press). Now available for pre-order on Amazon, BN.com, Indie Bound and Powell’s.

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    T&T Honor Roll: Hats off to Those Who Took the Tempeh & Tofu Challenge.