Sweet and Smoky Tofu Bacun

DSC00988-003Tofu bacun is so easy to prepare and yields excellent results. It just requires a little time for pressing the tofu (8 to 12 hours), marinating the tofu with the seasoning liquid (a minimum of 12 hours), and low-oven baking or drying in a food dehydrator (about 2 hours). For this recipe I recommend using a tofu press, such as the TofuXpress®, that will hold the shape of the tofu while compressing the texture and removing the water prior to marinating. This recipe yields about 8 oz./½ lb. of bacun.

• 1 block (about 14 oz before pressing) extra-firm tofu
• high-temp cooking oil for frying

Marinade Ingredients
• ½ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• ½ cup water
• ¼ cup dark brown sugar or real maple syrup
• 1 T Worcestershire Sauce (from my Gentle Chef Cookbook or Seitan and Beyond Cookbook) or a commercial vegan equivalent
• 1 T liquid hickory smoke

Press the tofu to remove as much water as possible. Blot the surface dry and then cut ⅛-inch thick slices lengthwise.

Combine the marinade ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. If you prefer a less salty bacun, opt for low-sodium tamari or soy sauce. Pour a small amount of the marinade into a small food storage container and begin layering the tofu strips into the container, overlapping the slices as you layer. Handle the slices carefully as they will be rather delicate.


Pour the remaining marinade over the slices and seal the container. There should be sufficient marinade to just about cover the slices completely. Seal the container and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 48 hours, with 24 hours being ideal.

Preheat the oven to 225°F/110°C. Place a non-stick baker’s cooling rack on a baking sheet. If you don’t have a cooling rack, line the baking sheet with parchment paper.


Place the slices in a single layer on the rack. Again, handle the slices carefully as they will be rather delicate. Place the sheet on the middle oven rack and low-bake for 2 hours.

Alternately, a food dehydrator can be used at the highest setting. Dry for 2 hours or until the slices are dry to the touch but not completely dehydrated.

Place the slices in a food storage container and refrigerate until ready to finish and serve.

Finishing the Bacun
Tofu bacun benefits from frying in oil to create the crispy texture. Pour enough high-temp cooking into a skillet to cover the bottom completely and place over medium-high heat.

Add the strips to the skillet without overcrowding and fry until nicely browned, turning occasionally. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use in recipes. Pre-fried bacun can be reheated in a low oven.

Lemon Tempeh

DSC00777This dish is the vegan variation of Chinese lemon chicken. The tempeh can also be subbed with pressed extra-firm tofu or vegan chikun. The sauce is lemony, sweet, savory and has just a hint of heat.

Ingredients for the Tempeh
• 1 package (8 oz) tempeh (or 8 oz pressed and cubed block tofu or vegan chikun)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T Shaoxing wine or sweet mirin (or water)
• 2 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 2 T all-purpose flour or rice flour
• toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

For the Sauce
• 1 T peanut oil or other cooking oil, plus more for frying
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp grated ginger
• 1 cup vegan chikun broth or vegetable broth
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 T organic sugar, or to taste
• 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
• 1 tsp sambal oelek, Sriracha™ or other hot red pepper sauce
• 4 tsp unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, dissolved in just enough water to create a slurry
• sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

Slice the tempeh in half crosswise and simmer in enough water to cover for 10 minutes. This will help soften the tempeh and remove bitterness. Drain on paper towels until cooled. Slice the tempeh into bite-size cubes. Place the cubes into a food storage bag and add the tamari and wine/mirin. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of a few hours and best overnight.

Drain the excess marinade from the bag and add 2 tablespoons starch and the flour. Seal and gently toss to coat evenly. Place on a plate to dry while the sauce is prepared.

Add the 1 tablespoon oil to a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sauce ingredients except for the starch slurry. Bring to a boil, whisk in the starch slurry and stir until thickened. Taste the sauce and add additional sugar or salt as desired. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm while frying the tempeh.

In a wok or deep skillet, heat 1-inch of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the cubed tempeh and fry until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Add the fried tempeh to the lemon sauce and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Greek Moussaka, Vegan-Style

DSC00743A hearty casserole, vegan Greek moussaka features layers of potato, eggplant, savory beaf crumbles cooked with onion, crushed tomatoes, parsley and red wine, and an enriched and creamy cashew-based Béchamel that’s baked until golden brown. My plant-based variation is an adaptation of a generational family recipe from the Greek village of Ardactos on the island of Crete. I tried to stay as true to the flavors of the dish as possible. This recipe requires several components, which can be prepare separately and then assembled prior to baking the dish; however, I’ve written the recipe so the dish can prepared seamlessly from start to finish.

Ingredients for the Eggplant Layer
• 2 medium eggplants (aubergine), about 3 lbs, peeled or unpeeled
• olive oil as needed
• coarse sea salt or kosher salt
• coarse ground black pepper

Ingredients for the Potato Layer
• 3 medium russet potatoes
• sea salt or kosher salt

Ingredients for the Meatless Meat Layer
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and diced
• ¾ cup water
• ½ cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T porcini mushroom powder
• 1 T Worcestershire sauce (pg. ) or commercial vegan equivalent
• 1 cup dry TVP/TSP granules (textured vegetable protein/textured soy protein)
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from canned)
• 1 T tomato paste
• ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the enriched Béchamel
• 2 and ⅔ cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
• ⅓ cup olive oil
• ½ cup (about 2.5 oz/71 g) whole raw cashews (pre-soaking unnecessary)
• 4 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 1 T fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Slice the eggplant crosswise about ¼-inch thick. Place a colander into the sink and add layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle generously with the coarse salt and repeat with layers of eggplant and salt (don’t worry about using too much salt as it will be rinsed away later). Let the eggplant drain about 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to remove bitterness. Rinse well and pat dry on several layers of paper towels.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place layer of eggplant on the parchment. Brush with olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat the layers as needed. Bake uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove to cool.

While the eggplant is baking, peel and slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick. Immediately place into a large cooking pot with plenty of cold water to cover. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a full boil. Drain in the colander and set aside to cool.

Next, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Sauté the onions until tender and lightly golden. Add the water, red wine, tamari, mushroom powder and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil and add the TVP/TSP granules, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well, reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

To prepare the Béchamel, add all ingredients to a blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Do not boil. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm.

Assembling the Moussaka

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C (if not already heated).

Lightly oil a 9”x13” shallow baking dish. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping as you layer. Spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the potatoes.

Next, layer the eggplant slices as you did the potatoes and spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the eggplant.

Spread the meatless meat mixture over the eggplant and top with the remaining Béchamel sauce. Season with a little coarse ground black pepper and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Hot and Sour Tofu Vegetable Soup

DSC00748This is my own adaptation of Chinese hot and sour soup. I’ve eaten many versions of hot and sour soup throughout my life. Some were very good while others were very gelatinous and/or so acidic that the broth burned the back of my throat. I feel I’ve struck a nice balance of hot and sour and with just enough starch slurry added to create body without being gelatinous. I broke tradition and used tender straw mushrooms rather than the tough and chewy Chinese fungus. I also replaced the bamboo shoots with bean sprouts (although you can certainly use bamboo shoots if you prefer). The tofu was shaved into fragments to resemble cooked egg. Julienned bok choy greens were added and the soup garnished with green onions and cilantro. The heat is created with a blend of ground white pepper and sambal oelek (a Southeast Asian red chili pepper sauce). If desired, shredded porq from my Seitan and Beyond Cookbook can also be added, although I omitted it here.

Ingredients for the Broth
• 8 cups water
• 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
• 3 ribs bok choy (white part only; reserve the greens for the soup)
• 2 large carrots, unpeeled and cut into large pieces
• ½ cup plus 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• ¼ cup rice vinegar
• 6 cilantro stems (reserve the leaves for garnish)
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T porcini mushroom powder
• 1 T grated ginger root
• 1 T dark brown sugar
• 2 tsp sambal oelek or Sriracha™
• 1 tsp ground white pepper

Ingredients for the Soup
• ½ block (about 5 oz) pressed extra-firm or firm block tofu (not silken tofu), shaved with a sharp knife into fragments
• 1 can (15 oz) straw mushrooms, drained and halved lengthwise
or 8 oz small button mushrooms, halved
• reserved bok choy greens, julienned into ribbons
• 3 green onions, white and light green parts sliced and set aside in 1 dish
and the greens chopped and set aside in another dish for garnishing
• 1 and ½ cup fresh bean sprouts or 1 can (14 oz) bean sprouts, drained well
• 2 T plus 2 tsp cornstarch, unmodified potato starch or arrowroot powder dissolved in ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Add all broth ingredients to a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour.

With a spider or slotted spoon, remove the large vegetable solids and transfer to a bowl (after the vegetables have cooled a bit, the broth collecting in the bottom of the bowl can be added back to the soup pot). Discard the broth vegetables.

Add the tofu, mushrooms, bok choy greens and green onions (white and light green parts only). Bring the soup back to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

10 minutes before the soup is done, add the bean sprouts and stir in the starch slurry to thicken the soup (be sure the broth is simmering). Taste the soup and add salt if needed.

Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with the green onions and cilantro.

Cheddar and Sour Cream Potato Chip Seasoning

DSC00726This cheesy, creamy and mildly tangy seasoning powder was created specifically for dusting pre-salted potato chips and popcorn. For unsalted chips and popcorn, consider increasing and even doubling the amount of salt in the recipe. Freeze-dried minced chives can be added for a “loaded baked potato” flavor. This recipe yields about 1 cup of seasoning.

• ¾ cup nutritional yeast flakes
• ¼ cup organic soymilk powder (do not use soy protein powder or soy flour)
• 3 T tomato powder
• 2 T onion powder
• 4 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• 1 and ½ tsp lactic acid powder (available from ModernistPantry.com)
• ½ tsp dry ground mustard
• ⅛ tsp garlic powder

Process the ingredients in a DRY blender until finely powdered. Store the seasoning blend in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months (but you’ll never keep it around that long!)

To season a large bag of commercial potato chips, open the bag and add about 3 tablespoons of seasoning. Close the bag tightly and gently shake and turn to distribute the seasoning. Open the bag and enjoy.

Alternately, add the seasoning powder to a shaker dispenser and season your favorite foods and snacks according to taste.

Loaded Baked Potato Variation
Process the ingredients in a DRY blender until finely powdered. Add 1 tablespoon freeze-dried minced chives and process again until the chives are reduced to small particles but not completely powdered. Season the chips as directed above.

Potato, Leek and Fennel Gratin

DSC00686-002Sliced Yukon gold potatoes, fennel bulb and chopped leeks are bathed in a rich non-dairy Gruyère-style cheese sauce and baked until browned and bubbly.

• 2 T non-dairy butter or margarine, plus 1 T for greasing the baking dish
• 2 and ½ lbs Yukon gold potatoes
• 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only,
split lengthwise, rinsed well and chopped into half “moons”
• 1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced very thin
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
• coarse ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 cups Gruyère Cheese Sauce (see following recipe)

Gratin Preparation
Grease the interior of a shallow, rectangular baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter or margarine and set aside.

Peel the potatoes and slice them ⅛-inch thick. A mandoline makes the job much easier and creates more uniform slices – but watch your fingers! Place the slices immediately into a large pot of water to prevent the slices from oxidizing (turning brown). Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat and drain the slices thoroughly in a colander. Set aside.

Add the remaining butter or margarine to a skillet and place over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and sauté until tender and golden. Add the garlic, thyme and a dash of black pepper and sauté an additional minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.

Prepare the Gruyère cheese sauce; set aside over low heat to keep warm.

Layer ⅓ of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish and top with half of the leek and fennel mixture. Pour half of the cheese sauce over the layers. Repeat layering with another ⅓ of the potatoes, the remaining leek and fennel mixture and finish with a layer of potatoes. Cover with the remaining sauce and season with additional ground black pepper.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until browned nicely. Remove from the oven and serve.

Gruyère Cheese Sauce
Dairy Gruyère is a slightly salty, ripened Swiss cheese. While its texture and complex flavor is difficult to reproduce in non-dairy form, this cheese sauce captures the flavor of Gruyère fairly well, while retaining its own unique character.

Sauce Ingredients
• 1 and ¾ cup plain unsweetened soymilk
• ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
• ¼ cup tapioca starch
• ¼ cup mellow white miso paste
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 2 T extra-dry vermouth or dry white wine
• 2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp kappa carrageenan (available from ModernistPantry.com)
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ¼ tsp dry ground mustard
• ¼ tsp ground coriander

*The vermouth or wine can be omitted for health or ethical reasons, but this will alter the flavor profile.

Sauce Preparation
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the ingredients until smooth (a blender can also be used to efficiently combine the ingredients). Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continually with a flexible spatula.

As the mixture thickens and curdles (forms lumps), begin stirring vigorously until the curds disappear and the cheese becomes very thick, smooth and glossy. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to use. For a spreadable consistency, remove from the heat and allow the melt to thicken.

Spicy Italian Pancetta

DSC00665-001Pancetta is an un-smoked Italian bacon that is seasoned with black pepper and other spices and herbs before rolling and salt-curing. My meat-free version is seasoned with my own blend of spices and herbs to impart a distinctive Italian flavor. For this recipe, two batches of dough will be mixed to create the pancetta. Dough 1 is for the light marble layer and Dough 2 is for the dark marble layer.

Aromatic Seasoning Ingredients
• 1 and ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
• 2 tsp dried basil leaves
• 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
• ¼ tsp ground fennel seed
• ¼ tsp ground red pepper (optional)

Dry Ingredients for Dough 1
• ½ cup (75 g) vital wheat gluten
• 1 T garlic powder

Liquid Ingredients for Dough 1
• 6 T (90 ml) water
• 1 T olive oil
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt

Dry Ingredients for Dough 2
• 1 cup (150 g) vital wheat gluten
• 1 T onion powder
• 2 tsp sweet paprika

Liquid Ingredients for Dough 2
• ½ cup plus 2 T (150 ml) water
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 2 T red miso paste
• 1 T olive oil

Additional Item Needed
• 18-inch wide heavy-duty aluminum foil

Warning! It is very important to use only heavy-duty aluminum foil for this recipe. Regular foil is not sturdy enough and can easily rupture from steam pressure which builds up inside the sealed package.

Combine the Aromatic Seasoning Ingredients
Combine the aromatic seasoning ingredients in a small dish and using the back of a spoon, grind the mixture until the oregano and basil are coarsely ground; set the mixture aside. This blend will not be added to the dough, but rather layered over the dough before rolling in the foil.

Preparing Dough 1
Preheat the oven to 325°F/170°F.

Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 1 in a medium mixing bowl.

Stir together the liquid ingredients for Dough 1 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the salt dissolves.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough with a spoon or spatula in the bowl until the dough offers some resistance to mixing. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Set aside.

Preparing Dough 2
Combine the dry ingredients for Dough 2 in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together the liquid ingredients for Dough 2 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the miso and yeast dissolves (the yeast will not dissolve completely).

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough with a spoon or spatula in the bowl until the dough offers some resistance to mixing, about 2 minutes. Kneading can also be done in a food processor fitted with a dough blade attachment and processed for about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half.

Layering the Dough
Now you will begin the layering process which will create the marbling effect for the pancetta.

Tear off a sheet of foil (about 18-inches) and place on your work surface. Take a piece of Dough 1 (the light dough) and flatten into a disc. Place the flattened dough onto the foil. Sprinkle about ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough (don’t worry if some of the seasonings scatter on the foil).

Next, repeat with a piece of Dough 2 (the dark dough) and place on top of the first disc. Scatter ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough. Repeat with the second piece of Dough 1, again scattering ¼ of the aromatic seasonings over the disc of dough.

Finish layering with the second piece of Dough 2 and scatter the remaining seasoning over the dough. Firmly press down and stretch the stack against the foil until it is about ¼-inch thick.

Now, roll the dough into a cylinder and then use your hands to compress the dough into a thick compact log. Press any seasoning mixture that has scattered on the foil into the log.

Roll the dough in the foil to create a cylindrical package and twist the ends tightly to seal. Bend the ends in half to lock them tight. Repeat this wrapping procedure with 2 additional sheets of foil.

Place the package directly on the middle oven rack and bake for 90 minutes.

Cool the pancetta in the foil and then refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours. Chilling will firm and enhance the texture and make slicing easier – this is important. The pancetta can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week before slicing and finishing or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

For the best finished texture, use a very sharp knife and slice the pancetta as thinly as possible. Of course, if you prefer a thicker cut, that’s entirely up to you. The slices can also be cut into narrow strips if desired. Pancetta can also be small diced.

Finishing the Pancetta
Finishing the pancetta in the oven is my preferred method since heating is controlled. Sliced pancetta can also be given a “rippled” appearance using this method. To do this, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the slices (or diced pancetta) on the paper. Mist or brush the slices or dice with cooking oil. Use your fingers to “scrunch” the pancetta slices, thus giving them a rippled appearance. Bake for 20 minutes. Let the pancetta cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a serving plate. As the pancetta cools it will crisp up a bit while still retaining a nice chewy texture. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil.

Optionally, the pancetta slices or dice can be briefly fried in a non-stick skillet with a light layer of cooking oil over medium to medium-low heat. Frying “low and slow” is preferable to frying at a high temperature. The pancetta will brown (and burn) quickly and the texture will become hard if the temperature is too high. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil.

Serve warm; chop, dice or crumble in recipes; or layer on your favorite sandwich.

Beer-Braised Shredded Beaf

DSC00606Shredded beaf amazingly resembles slow-cooked shredded beef in texture and is superb for hot sandwiches when finished by skillet braising in a mixture of beer and savory seasonings.

• 1 recipe Stewing Beaf (from the Seitan and Beyond Cookbook)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T Dijon or spicy mustard
• 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
• ¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper, or more to taste
• ¼ tsp dried thyme leaves
• 2 T cooking oil
• 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bottle or can (12 oz) beer of your choice

Prepare and then chill the Stewing Beaf according to the cookbook directions.

Remove the foil and recycle. Using your hands, bend the roast in half to split it lengthwise; this will reveal the “grain”. Tear the roast in half following where it has been split. Bend and tear those pieces in half lengthwise. Now, with your fingers, pull the beaf into long strings or shreds, following the grain as much as possible. Tear those pieces into smaller bite-size shreds.

In a small dish, combine the tamari, mustard, Worcestershire, black pepper and thyme; set aside.

Add the oil to a large non-stick skillet or wok and place over medium heat; sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds.

Add the shredded beaf and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned. Add the tamari seasoning mixture and the beer and stir well to combine. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid has evaporated but the beaf is still moist. Serve hot as a filling for sandwiches.

Milk Chocolate Pudding (non-dairy and egg-free, of course)

CUS6-03MOUSSERich, creamy and delicious. This recipe yields about 3 cups or six ½ cup servings.

• ½ cup (2.5 oz. by weight) whole raw cashews (pre-soaking unnecessary)
• 2 and ½ cups non-dairy milk
• 2 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 1 cup organic sugar
• ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 tsp real vanilla extract
• ¼ tsp sea salt or kosher salt

Place the strainer over a large glass bowl or BPA-free plastic storage container and set aside.

Add all ingredients to a blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary.

Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir slowly and continually with a whisk. Whisk vigorously as the mixture begins to thicken (vigorous whisking will help to prevent lumps from forming). Continue whisking until the mixture begins to bubble.

Pour the mixture into the strainer over the container and stir with the whisk to press the mixture through the mesh. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap and let cool for about 15 minutes and then refrigerate for several hours until well-chilled.

To serve, stir the mixture thoroughly and spoon into individual dessert cups. Garnish the individual cups with non-dairy whipped cream, if desired.

Non-Dairy Churned Butter

DSC07736-004Dairy butter is an emulsion that consists of butterfat, milk protein and water. It is made by churning fresh or fermented cream. Lightly fermented cream, along with salt, adds flavor to the butter.

Non-dairy churned butter is an emulsion consisting of plant fat, pure soymilk protein and water. Lactic acid is added to produce the lightly fermented quality and add flavor, along with salt. No additional emulsifiers (such as lecithin) or stabilizers (such as guar gum) are required. It looks like dairy butter; it tastes like dairy butter; it behaves in cooking just like dairy butter; and it can be used in any recipe just as you would use dairy butter.

Churned butter is prepared with soy-based extra-heavy whipping cream. The composition of this cream is remarkably similar to dairy cream, which makes it ideal for home-churning butter. Do not use any other form of non-dairy cream; it will not produce the same results and most likely will not work at all.

You will also need a stand mixer with a balloon whip (wire whisk) attachment or an electric rotary mixer (the rotary mixer is not as efficient as a stand mixer and will take longer to produce butter). Do not attempt with a food processor or blender; they won’t work properly.

• 1 cup pure soymilk (no additives), room temperature (sorry, no substitutions)
• 1 tsp fine salt or kosher salt (reduce or omit as desired)
• 1 cup organic refined coconut oil*
• ½ tsp lactic acid powder (available from ModernistPantry.com)

The soymilk must be at room temperature to emulsify properly with the coconut oil. If necessary, gently warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat or briefly in the microwave. If cold soymilk is used, the coconut oil will congeal when it comes into contact with the cold liquid.

Remove the metal lid from the jar of coconut oil and place the jar in a microwave. Heat just until the solid oil liquefies, about 30 seconds to 1 minute (this will depend upon the solidity of the coconut oil). Alternately, place the jar in about an inch of simmering water and melt the oil in the same manner. Measure the coconut oil and set aside.

Pour the milk into a blender and add the salt. Put the cover in place but remove the center insert. Begin blending on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed (if the milk is splashing too much in the blender jar, reduce the speed slightly). Pour the coconut oil slowly into the milk through the opening in the blender jar’s lid. After the oil has been incorporated, add the lactic acid.

Continue to process for a few seconds until the mixture thickens (this should occur instantaneously). The mixture will resemble crème fraîche. Transfer the thickened cream to a sealable container and refrigerate until very cold (a minimum of 6 hours). Cold cream is essential to the success of churning butter. Also place the metal bowl and balloon whip attachment from a stand mixer or a metal or ceramic mixing bowl and 2 beaters from an electric rotary mixer into the refrigerator. Chill until very cold.

Please note that the thickened cream may taste somewhat salty; don’t worry, as a substantial portion of the salt is carried away with the buttermilk when the liquid separates from the butter. The finished butter should have a well-balanced flavor; however, the salt can always be adjusted to taste. For baking purposes, reducing or omitting the salt is recommended.

Scoop the cold thickened cream into the chilled bowl and begin whipping with the electric mixer or stand mixer on high speed. Using a stand mixer, it will take about 7 minutes for a stiff, grainy-appearing texture to form. From there it will begin to clump as the buttermilk separates from the butter. Total churning time is about 9 to 10 minutes. Using an electric rotary mixer, it will take about 12 to 14 minutes for a stiff, grainy-appearing texture to form. From there it will begin to clump as the buttermilk separates from the butter. Total churning time is about 15 to 17 minutes. This requires patience – but it will turn into butter.

Tip: When using the rotary mixer, occasionally scrape the sides towards the bottom of the bowl with a flexible spatula as the mixture is whipped.

DSC07743-002The butter separated to the left side, the buttermilk on the right

Press the butter to one side of the bowl with a spatula or the back of a spoon and then pour off the buttermilk (about ½ cup). The buttermilk can be discarded if you wish, but I enjoy drinking it – it’s rich, tangy, salty and delicious. Transfer and pack the solid butter into a container. As the butter is packed down, a small amount of residual buttermilk will rise to the top of the container; simply pour this off. Store the butter in the refrigerator until ready to use. The butter will stay fresh for several weeks. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tip: The butter will be quite solid and hard after refrigeration; simply let it sit out at room temperature to soften before using.