no secrets

A fellow chocolatier in London recently contacted me saying she wanted to add a vegan line of chocolates to her business. She asked for some tips on how to make vegan ganaches, caramels, and white and milk chocolates. Yay! This is exactly why I’m in business—to make tasty things that are so ridiculously delicious that no one cares they’re even vegan (um, except for us vegans). To make treats so amazing that they reassure aspiring vegans that vegans can have treats that are just as decadent and amazing as ones made with dead and dying animals. To this end, I don’t really have secrets. Here’s what I wrote back to her:

Hello xxx!

What a lovely email! Your chocolates look so great. I’m so happy you’re working on a vegan range!

OK, here are my tips:

Our “white chocolate” and “milk chocolate” aren’t truly tempered or anything, they’re more like ganaches. I make the white chocolate with coconut milk, coconut oil, cocoa butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and sea salt. We just melt everything down and process it in the food processor and it hardens up just fine, though you can’t use it like regular tempered chocolate, obviously. We mostly use it as a filling. Then our milk chocolate is just the white choco plus regular tempered chocolate.

I’ve talked with some bean-to-bar makers around here who have said they could make me real white and milk chocolate that’s vegan with coconut milk, but I’d have to buy big quantities, so it’s a dream for another day.

As far as caramel and ganache—we mostly use coconut milk and coconut oil in everything you’d use butter and cream for. Coconut oil is about 15-20% more fatty than butter, though, so you need to use less of it and play around a bit. We use a refined coconut oil that doesn’t taste coconutty, and the coconut milk doesn’t taste coconutty once you add chocolate or make it into caramel.

Let me know how it goes!

Sweetest,

Lagusta

Savory dinner series; Shojin Ryori Menu

UPDATE UPDATE! Both seatings sold out! Watch this space for September dinner announcements! Thanks!!

UPDATE! TUESDAY, AUGUST 21 DINNER IS SOLD OUT! SECOND SEATING: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 22, 7:30 PM. We can still only accommodate 10 diners, so reserve ASAP. Thank you!

 

Our back room at the shop is FINALLY renovated. It used to be a truly appalling rundown apartment, and now it’s a lovely open space for us to pack up orders and get up to all kinds of fun. And…I designed the floor!

Because I was a savory chef for about a decade, it’s important for me to keep my knives and skills sharp. Making CSA-powered lunches for Maresa and Casey and Jacob and whatever friends happen to be in the shop at that minute (my #1 hobby, for sure) is fun, but it’s not the rigorous cheffy world I used to live in. It’s time to stretch myself a bit.

So I’m very excited to introduce a dinner series of monthly multi-course meals that will test my skills and, hopefully, bring a new level of playful fine dining to the New Paltz scene.

Here’s a very very rough draft of the menu for the first dinner. It’s very subject to change depending on produce availability and whim.

The theme of the night is my favorite kind of cuisine in the world, the beautiful, evocative, playful, ancient Japanese Zen Buddhist temple cuisine, shojin ryori. Naturally vegan, intrinsically tied to the seasons, sweetly playful, and deeply satisfying shojin cuisine is, in a word, just the best. This menu is an homage to the shojin world with a few twists.

Shojin Ryori Menu 

LIQUID: Complimentary chilled yuzu sake.

FIRST: Clear soup with Di Orio Farm shiitake tempura and tofu skin twists.

SECOND: Yuba rolls with fragrant homegrown herbs.  

THIRD: Hand-pulled udon noodles in Styrian pumpkin seed oil sauce.

PICKLES: Daikon, kelp, green strawberry. Black rice puffs.

FOURTH: Corn fritters with purple shiso and shiro miso sauce.

SWEET: Sichimi togarashi syrup with fresh Taliaferro Farms melon.

LIQUID: Matcha tea.

MIGNARDISES: 

Dark Chocolate Yuzu cream.

Black sesame chocolate truffle.

TAKEAWAY: Peach tarragon mochi.

In order not to get in over my head, the first dinner will be only open to ten people. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, August 21st, at 7:30 PM. If you’d like to make a reservation, tickets are $50 per person, payable at the shop (25 North Front Street, New Paltz), or over the phone (845-255-8834).

To see delicious photos of previous fancy dinners I’ve cooked (do it! There’s some great stuff there!), check out my Gracious Gourmand dinner from 2011 (part one is here and part two is here) and you could spend a fun afternoon checking out lovely photos from the meal delivery service, but I particularly like this week, this summery week, and this poetic one.