Sunday, January 9, 2011

Creamy yet healthy – the tools of the trade

Friends have asked me for recipes of my frostings, “but it’s so creamy.”  They can’t believe that it’s dairy free.

I will admit, before I learned about food, I thought a good butter crème frosting was the ultimate.  I still believe that it’s not as bad for your body as hydrogenated margarine or traditional shortening (Crisco).  Actually the culprit in the dairy is not the fat, but the protein (casein).  

Without going into all the technical details, there is a way to get that great buttery taste (yes, it is a great taste) for your frosting.

It took me a while to get this right.  Sure the first version was good and people liked it, but I was looking for that whipped creamy consistency of a butter cream…. perfection.

I started out using the Spectrum Organic Shortening with a little soy milk and the typical frosting ingredients (powder sugar, vanilla, cocoa, etc.)  But it just didn’t have the right consistency.  I’ve never used shortening before (we didn’t have it in Europe) so I had no idea what to expect.  It was good, but just not good enough for me. Spectrum is also great for other baking needs.  It’s not the cheapest, but in the long run, you will save on medical bills because it’s not bad for you.

I’ve seen recipes using soy butter but I didn’t think that would work because soy butter is salted.  When I did use butter (pre 2005) I always used non salted butter.  My mother never even bought salted butter after we moved here from Europe and nor did I.  Salted butter overshadows the flavor and is not creamy.  I’ve been trying to replicate the flavor of that good homemade butter crème that I used to make with Plugra (a European butter).

Recently I tried a different formulation because of a new product  “So Delicious Coconut Milk” (note: it is not a dominating coconut flavor that you get from canned coconut milk).  This milk tastes the closest to real milk in texture and flavor.  It is organic and allergen free (and tested for allergens-so I trust the brand since I’m dealing with dairy allergies at home).

So the key to a good dairy free frosting that still has that buttery flavor we all love:

Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening
Ingredients: Mechanically Pressed Organic Palm Oil – and that’s ALL
Where can you buy it?  I find it at Whole Foods (watch for sales) and it's also available on Amazon. Some grocery stores also carry it, but it's a bit pricey (too specialized for the regular stores).
(and you can use this without the soy butter – the frosting is still great, just not as perfect)

So Delicious Organic Coconut Milk- Vanilla-gluten free, dairy free, soy free and vegan
This is a fairly new product.  I use about ½ cup to moisten the frosting (but not more-don’t want the flavor to dominate). Soy milk will also work, but I like the effect of this one more.
Where to find it?  I have only found this at Whole Foods so far.

Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks – dairy free, gluten free, vegan (contains soy)
Sometimes I feel like I’m the Paula Dean of soy butter.  This product is a great butter substitute; I use it for all my butter recipes (not just baking).  They also have a tub that is like whipped butter.  It is reasonably priced too.  It’s available at Whole Foods, some other grocery stores (where it’s a bit overpriced), and Woodman’s for those who live in Wisconsin.

There is a certain ratio for that perfect consistency.   I will include it in my recipes. But it’s basically one cup of Spectrum and half a cup of soy butter stick (along with others).  It’s 100% vegan, dairy free, gluten free too.  If you are avoiding soy, skip the soy butter. 

So my cakes are truly dairy free and no chance of cross contamination with nuts and dairy in my kitchen as I don’t even bring nuts and dairy into my home.

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