Vegan dessert porn: 7 desserts made with my daughter at ICE

betty ming liu Food 15 Comments

If you think “vegan” and “food porn” are incompatible concepts, these photos will change your mind.

The pictures are from a vegan dessert baking workshop that I took with my daughter Gabi. We enjoyed making these goodies — and then, stuffing ourselves with them afterwards.

Let’s start with your first question…What is a vegan? Vegans are animal lovers who do not eat meat, fish, milk, eggs or cheese. They feel animals should not be killed for food, nor should they labor to produce food for humans.

Vegans will not touch honey either, because it is made by bees.

No eggs. No milk. No butter. No honey. And, vegans can’t use regular sugar either!

The sugar issue: Conventional sugar manufacturing involves bone char. Bone char is the charcoal that results from burning the bones of animals, usually cows. The vegan alternative to Domino’s is actually easy. Any sugar labeled “organic” is fine.

There are also stand-ins for all the other ingredients. We learned about them when we went into Manhattan for a  four-hour “Vegan Desserts” baking class at ICE — short for Institute of Culinary Education.

Our teacher was vegan royalty: Quinn Ventura.

She’s the talented pastry chef for Blossom Du Jour, a chain of three casual vegan eateries in Manhattan which also supplies its baked goods to Whole Foods. The operation includes the Blossom restaurant in Chelsea.

Quinn’s expertise made her a fantastic instructor. We also liked her look: ring piercings through each nostril. Baking measurements tattooed on her fingers. She said she removed the lip piercing because it was too much for her father. Aw! More about parents later…

Quinn, a vegan, made three key points about vegan baking:

Vegan baking is scientific and demands tons of experimentation. “In baking, you really have to follow recipes because everything is based on reactions — especially with vegan baking because there are so many substitutes,” Quinn said.

The goal is to make a product that does NOT taste vegan. It must be delicious to non-vegans; that’s the authenticity test.

“Vegan baking doesn’t necessarily mean healthy baking,” said Quinn. Like regular desserts, the vegan version is loaded with sugar and fat. Unless a recipe is specifically gluten-free, her desserts use wheat flour.

Quinn’s “go-to” product for most recipes is Earth Balance, a butter substitute made from palm fruit, canola, flax, soybean and olive oil. One tablespoon is about 100 calories, similar to cow butter. And man, we used a ton of Earth Balance baking sticks in class.

We worked in teams of two, with each team making a recipe or two from Quinn’s personal collection. (Which means no secrets from the Blossom Du Jour bakery; we’ll just have to keep going there for the popular vegan croissant.)

My daughter Gabi and I were baking that day with our friends Dana (the daughter) and Marcelle (the mom).

classmates

Each mother-daughter team made a Vegan Apricot Frangipane Tart.

Since vegan doughs can be on the dry side, our secret ingredient in this one particular recipe was vodka. The liquor gave wetness during the dough-making process. But the alcohol evaporated while baking:

P.S. — I took home the leftover dough and made it into delicious shortbread cookies. :)

As for other recipes in the room…

Vegan Cinnamon Buns substitute soy milk for regular milk. Agave, a sweet plant sap, was added to the filling.

These buns were everyone’s favorite. At the end of class, they were the first treat to disappear.

The same dough also makes a very good Vegan Sticky Bun:

You would never guess that Vegan Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes were vegan. So delish. Vegan cream cheese made for an amazing frosting:

Vegan Banana Peanut Butter Cheesecake had two crusts. The bottom was a graham cracker crust. Sitting on top of it was a crust made of shredded coconut, almond meal, canola oil and agave. Once again, vegan cream cheese was a miracle topping:

Vegan Blueberry Bundt Cake only looked demure. Its main ingredients were lots of sugar, both white and brown. Vegan butter kept it moist:

Vegan S’mores Pie relied on Ener-g egg replacer for the topping. Made from potato starch and tapioca flour, it whipped into a reasonable facsimile for a merengue made of chicken egg whites. But the flavor? Not so much. Still, I loved the crust made of walnuts, shredded coconuts and dates.

In keeping with the spirit of experimentation, the S’mores team baked the leftover crust into sticky cookies. I rolled a few of the cooled cookies into little balls and found them charming. If you ask me, they make an excellent — and quite healthy, gluten-free alternative — to truffles. 

ICE classes always end with eat and drinking. Over wine and Bellini champagne cocktails, we compared notes on our experiences. Of course, we had to take photos with our smart phones. Hello, Instagram!

end of class

This was the second cooking class that Gabi and I have taken together at ICE. Cooking classes are great for mother-daughter bonding. With a teacher in charge, control issues are out of our hands and we become peers. No bickering, no arguments — at least, not for a few hours. Read about our gluten-free pasta class at ICE. 

I’d also like to give a a shout-out to my former NYU “Food Writing” student, Dana Mortell. What a surprise. Wasn’t expecting to see her but she walked into the middle of our vegan dessert workshop…

Small world — she’s working at ICE as the assistant education coordinator. Her job was to take pictures that will be used to promote vegan dessert-making. Seeing Dana as a college graduate and full-time working woman was definitely the icing on my cake.  :)

Dana Mortell

Comments 15

  1. Post
    Author

    Btw, in case you’re wondering — no, I’m not vegan. But I’m getting more interested in a life built on minimum animal protein. I just got a cookbook I really like: “VB6 — Vegan Before Six” by Mark Bittman.

    He says he lost 35 pounds and kept it off by changing his approach to eating. He added tons more fresh vegetables, fruits and grains, especially during the day. Before 6 p.m., he ate vegan. After 6 p.m., he’d go off the clock and eat whatever he wanted.

    Over time, he ended up eating less meat and fish; they became condiments rather than main dishes. Sounds good to me!

  2. I took the recreational pastries and cheesecake classes over there many years and love it. Did they still offer FREE breakfast and lunch during the class session? Your pastries pix looked very yummy ah!

  3. Post
    Author

    This was my first dessert class. Shirley, I can see why you kept going back! But we didn’t get either free lunch or breakfast.

    This was a 10-2pm class. When we got there, a little tray with slices of bread and jam was on a side table. Free coffee was also available.

    By noon-ish, a lot of us were starving! By around 1 p.m., we started to taste test our creations. It was hard to eat much because we were all OD’ing on sugar. But we took home samples.. And that’s when the real pigging out began for us. :)

  4. Betty – thank you so much for this! I am neither vegan nor vegetarian and never will be…BUT…I have good friends who are. When they come to dinner I have learned to prepare some excellent vegan main courses (which, actually, are enjoyed by everyone – not just the vegans) This gives me hope for excellent desserts as well. I’m going to print out this post and keep it in my recipe files.

  5. Post
    Author
  6. Hi Betty, That apricot tart looks fabulous!! Would love a peach/cinnamon version of that. What’s between the crust and fruit? I would love to do this with my vegan Emma.
    Miss you!
    Jean

  7. Post
    Author

    Jean, miss you too. Although, with your painting and my painting still sitting together on the kitchen shelf, I still have a cup of tea with you every morning.

    The filling in the tart is really creative. I’ve always used almond flour for crusts and cookies. But Quinn uses it as filler. She mixes it smooth in a blender with vegan butter (Earth Balance), sugar, a little regular flour and a few tablespoons of soy milk (plus almond extract to push the almond flavor).

    The result is an almond paste, like what you get in those Italian cookies. What are they called?

    Anyways, we just cut the apricots and layered them on top. No glaze, no nothin’. It tasted incredible. Peaches should work good too!

  8. Post
    Author
  9. Hi Betty, It’s vegan Sarah from your journalism classes at WCC :)

    This looks so cool, congrats on all the veganizing…! Haha

    I love vegan cooking (obviously the only kind I do) but don’t do much baking because, like your teacher said, it IS so scientific and precise. I think it’s amazing though how a little creativity can result in so many killer desserts that are just as indulgent and (more) delicious than the traditional non vegan stuff.

    I was wondering if you ever took cooking classes at The Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan…? I went to a book signing there in January and saw that they offer loads of classes. For a while I even considered applying to culinary school there, its kind of a vegan mecca. Here’s their site: http://www.naturalgourmetinstitute.com/publicclasses

    They have a lot of cool options. Some day I’m going to take their class on knife skills and hopefully learn how to chop properly.

    In the meantime, I’m starting Fordham in a couple of weeks. I know I’ll be missing your classes this semester :)

    1. Post
      Author

      Sarah! Congrats on getting into Fordham! You will do great. Very proud of you!!!

      As for the Natural Gourmet Institute, it’s been around since 1977 and its founder Annemarie Colbin is a legend! I have one of her books, one of the really old ones. I hope you do end up taking classes there, even if it’s just for the pleasure of developing personal skfun and personal skills. You know, I totally forgot about her and sort of fell into ICE. But I might join you in trying out an institute class some day.

      I had a friend who took a knife skills class. She said it was really enlightening. It’s on my list too. Meantime, keep me posted on Fordham. This is wonderful. :)

  10. This is a great post!!!! But just to clarify for your readers who might not know, vegan is a life-style, not an eating style. Vegans use no animal products – in clothing, in furniture, in shoes, etc. No leather, no fur, etc. The type of eating you’re describing is actually called strict vegetarian – they don’t eat any animal product.

    These desserts look great! Thank you for sharing with us! (I want to lick the screen…)

    1. Post
      Author

      Michelle, you inspired me to check the dictionary for definitions…a strict vegetarian is, as you say, someone who does not eat animal product. Vegan is defined as “a vegetarian who omits all animal products from the diet.” But I appreciate your point about the vegan lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Post
      Author
  11. Pingback: Indian cooking spices up mother-daughter bonding | betty ming liu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *