Dessert: Our final frontier.
We tend towards immaturity when it comes to the end of the meal. When faced with the option; we typically relegate the dessert plate to cheese, fruit, booze or a combo of all three. We rarely create what could be typified as pastries or confections.
A recent brush with the shimmering glory of proper panna cotta, an italian cream-dream thickened with gelatin, made our minds wander into the cross-over world of the vegan sweet tooth. Serendipity struck when wandering the isles of our local Viet-grocer A-Market; coconut milk and agar agar MIGHT just work for this simple but totally satisfying jiggler of lipids and sucrose…
*Note: Agar Agar is available in sticks and powder form. Usually you’ll find sticks at Thai, Vietnamese or Filipino markets. While the sticks require a little more labor, they are priced WAY lower than powder will be.
**Another Note: this recipe made ~15 small servings that were more than enough for a post dinner sweet treat. Leftovers can be frozen or pureed into smoothies or shakes.
1 and 1/2 cups Coconut milk
2 Fresh vanilla beans
1/2 cup Honey or Agave Nectar
4 grams Agar Agar
1 cup Water
1 Tbs. Balinese Long Pepper (optional)
1. Empty the cans of coconut milk into a medium sauce pot and heat on low.
2. Split and scrape the contents of the vanilla beans into the milk, add the ‘spent’ pods as well. If you have any Long Pepper (find it already!) add them now. Continue to heat for 10-15 minutes until the milk begins to bubble — do not boil. When its hot and sudsy, remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the milk is cool (20-30 minutes) it will be well infused with the vanilla and pepper.
3. Make sure that you have all the vessels for your finished product clean and ready to go before you proceed. ( We gelled ours in little glass bowls, but you can try letting them set in rammekins and turn them out onto plates (the more traditional way. One benefit of a agar gelled non dairy panna–it wont melt at room temperature.)
4. In a smaller sauce pot, heat the cup of water on high heat until it boils.
5. Reduce the heat to just below a boiling point and add the agar while stirring rapidly. Agar melts at a very high temperature, but if you boil it you’ll loose volume of the water your melting it into (which will offset the ratio). If you have powder add it all at once and stir until it seems to have melted/dissolved into the water. If you have sticks; break them off into little chunks (you can jam them in a food processor to make it quick) and do the same.
6. Fish out/strain out the vanilla pods and peppercorns).
7. Combine the hot agar gel with the coconut milk and whisk thoroughly. Dump equal servings (about 1/4 cup) into each serving vessel, and place in the fridge to cool. Depending on your fridge temp; this should take not much longer than 30-60 minutes.
8. Garnish with fresh fruit, cracked pepper, or shaved chocolate.
Beverage: Uncommon Brewing Co.’s Siamese Twin Double
Soundtrack: Sonic Youth’s My Friend Goo