I've arrived at the conclusion that making vegan desserts is like being stuck on Gilligan's Island: coconuts will save your ass every time. Thanks to its creamy texture and pleasing flavor, coconut milk makes a great stand-in for dairy, and its tropical nature makes it easy to pair it with a variety of fruits.
So the next time the Vegan Harlem Globetrotters drop by for dinner, or you're trying to smooth things over between Ginger and Mary Ann, try out this dessert based on a recipe by
The Professor Dr. Andrew Weil. Compared to the original, I upped the coconut quotient by using coconut milk instead of generic non-dairy milk, and paired it with a little pineapple-lime-ginger mixture. Should be ready in less than three hours! I'll stop now.
To be fair, this is not a 100% convincing vegan dessert. You can, to some extent, taste its constituent ingredients. But overall, it has a nice taste and not a bad texture, and if your guests aren't paying attention they may not notice its vegan-ness. The only trouble I had with this was bubbles remaining trapped in the flan as it set. I'm not sure what to do about this, other than more gentle blending, perhaps.
5 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 package soft tofu
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of syrup (above)
Coconut extract to taste (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
1 can coconut milk, plus half a can's worth of water
1 1/2 tablespoons agar agar, or 3/4 teaspoons agar powder
Place tofu, sugar, coconut extract and salt in your blender. Make the syrup by combining the brown sugar, water and vanilla in a saucepan and heating over low heat until it boils. Boil for five minutes, then add one tablespoon of the syrup to the blender, and divide the remaining syrup among 6-10 cups or ramekins. Swirl the syrup around the ramekins to coat.
Add the coconut milk and agar to the same saucepan and boil over high heat for five minutes (if it foams up too much, take off the heat for a minute). Add this mixture to the blender and blend carefully until smooth. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge until set.
When it's time to serve, run a knife or small icing spatula around the inside of each ramekin, place a plate on top, invert, and pray that it comes out.
Serve as-is, or pair with something tropical, like diced pineapple with lime zest and ginger. Mango with ginger and maybe some black pepper would be interesting as well. Enjoy!