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Popsicles, corn flakes, ice cream cones…accidents happen. I tend to make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen; it’s all a part of experimenting. Let me tell you about the pudding that was supposed to be whipped cream. It was raining in New York all last week and I knew it would be the opportune time to make raindrop “cake” beads using agar and water. Then, I thought, I needed a rain scene to recreate. Raindrop beads aren’t that exciting by themselves. Since I grew up watching Studio Ghibli films, the scene that came to mind is the one where Totoro is waiting at the bus stop in the rain. Now, to make Totoro, I looked up gray food. An image that appeared in my search was Disney World’s “grey stuff”, which is apparently cookies and cream mousse. I thought it was whipped cream and was determined to make a vegan version!
I have been playing around with ideas to make vegan ice cream using cashews and coconut cream, so I had both ingredients on hand. I searched to see if anyone has made whipped cream with these ingredients before, and people have, so I figured it was safe to try it. However, when I put the ingredients into a blender, it would not process because there wasn’t enough liquid. I ended up adding ½ cup coconut milk beverage to the mix in order for the cashews to become a puree. I know arrowroot to be a stabilizer, so I added some for safe measure. I crossed my fingers that this will whip up, but even after 15 minutes of whipping, it never became light and airy like whipped cream. Refrigerating the cashew/coconut cream did not help either.
Then, I remembered a dairy-free cheesecake I made in December, where I ended up using gelatin to firm up the dessert. I wanted to keep this dessert vegan, so I decided to use agar instead. I added the warm agar solution to the cold cashew/coconut cream, and it immediately solidified into small chunks throughout the cream. Agar has a high melting temperature, thus I should have brought the cream to a higher temperature before adding the agar. The only way to fix this was by heating up the cream/agar mix. As I heated up the mix in a double boiler (as to not burn the whole thing), it started thickening in a way that felt irreversible. It looked like custard and was definitely not what whipped cream should look like. Suddenly, it dawned on me, I was cooking a mixture with cream, sugar, and a thickening agent (well, two) in a bain-marie. I had accidentally made vegan pudding!
If it were not for accidents and mistakes, popsicles, corn flakes, and ice cream cones would not exist. This delicious cookies and cream pudding would not have happened either. Eat it with the raindrop beads for a tapioca pudding texture. You’ll enjoy making this dessert; no mistake about it!
This is a cookies and cream pudding recipe with a vegan pudding base. The vegan pudding is made from cashews and full fat coconut milk. After mixing in chocolate cookie crumbs, the pudding is put into avocado half-shells and decorated into Totoro.
- 2 cups vegetable oil – chilled
- 1 cup (250 mL) filtered water
- 10 gram agar powder
- 1 cup cashews – soaked
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 3 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp arrowroot powder
- 10 chocolate sandwich cookies
- 4 avocado half-shells – cleaned and wiped dry
- ¼ cup (30 g) vegan chocolate chips
- 4 small spinach leaves
- Raindrop beads: Chill the vegetable oil in a tall glass in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 3 hours.
- Cookies and Cream Pudding: Soak the cashews in a bowl with 2 cups warm water at least 3 hours in advance. (Optional: add 1 tsp sea salt to the soaking water to reduce enzyme inhibitors). After the soak, drain the water and rinse the cashews a few times.
- Add the agar powder into a saucepan on top of the stove. Stir in the filtered water a little at a time until the agar dissolves.
- Bring the agar solution to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and let cool slightly. (Do not cool it all the way; it will solidify).
- Optional: Reserve ¼ cup of the agar solution and set aside for the pudding. The agar helps create a thicker pudding.
- Using a medicine dropper, pick up the agar solution and place drops of it into the glass of chilled vegetable oil. Keep the beads as spread out as possible. When it gets too crowded, swirl the glass and wait for some of the beads to sink to the bottom of the glass.
- With a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, pour the glass of beads and oil into the sieve. The oil can be reused.
- Rinse the beads with cold water.
- Place all of the pudding base ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor. Blend everything together until smooth.
- Optional: Place the pudding base ingredients over medium heat in a double broiler (makeshift version: a small pot with water in the bottom and heatproof bowl with the pudding base on top). Add the reserved ¼ cup of agar solution to the pudding base ingredients and stir well. Heat until the pudding thickens.
- Reserve ¼ cup of the cashew/coconut pudding and set aside for decorating Totoro.
- Place the sandwich cookies into a high speed blender or food processor and pulse the cookies into crumbs.
- Add the cookie crumbs to the 2 cups of unreserved pudding base and mix well.
- Pour the cookies and cream pudding into the avocado half-shells. Fill the pudding to the top and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. If needed, use a little warm water to help smooth the surface.
- Take the ¼ cup of reserved pudding and put it into a piping bag. Pipe two small dots for Totoro’s eyes towards the narrow end of the avocado. Pipe a large circle for Totoro’s belly below the eyes.
- Chill the Totoro pudding in the refrigerator overnight.
- Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Put the melted chocolate into a piping bag. Pipe Totoro’s eyes, nose, and fur onto the Totoro pudding.
- Put a spinach leaf onto Totoro’s forehead. Trim the leaf to fit the forehead.
- Plate the Totoro by piping chocolate ears onto a plate. Place the Totoro pudding under the ears. Sprinkle the raindrop beads over Totoro.
- Enjoy chilled!