However, I will say that, as with a lot of things I’m not the biggest fan of, the games can definitely be a jumping off point to creative genius in the kitchen. On that note, I will now welcome you all to another themed month born out of the irritation that is the Pan Am Games. International month! I had kind of been thinking about doing this at some point anyway, but with the games being this month, I figured what more fitting time could there be? Thinking of the Pan Am Games, to be really true to the theme, I’d originally thought of doing roadwork and/or traffic based desserts, or possibly something around the theme of “overcrowded city” or “strangers on the subway who have no qualms about entering my personal space” (although that last one is not specific to extra tourists being in the city. I mean, I know I’m awesome and everyone just wants to drink in my delicious aura, but seriously dude, back away). In addition to some of those ideas being a smite too wordy, the more I mulled over them, the more I realized that every dessert would have to be terrible on purpose in order to live up to their inspiration (and also, instead of puns, I was leaning more towards extremely ragey headlines which just didn’t scream summer fun. However, so that they don’t go completely to waste, here is a sampling of angry Pan Am headlines:
I’ll Give You a Sporting Chance Before I Smoosh This Pie in Your Face
Traffic is Not My Jam – A Crash Course in Cake Creation
Strangers On a Train…But Not in the Fun Hitchcockian Way
I didn’t say they were good, I just said I was pondering them 😉 )
On with the post! Emily Post that is. Her appropriate behaviour column made me realize that perhaps it would not serve my interests to be a jerk to everyone I saw. Maybe some sugary deliciousness will turn that frown upside down (ugh – really Amber? your’re leaving that in? For shame *tsk tsk*)
This first international dessert was actually originally inspired not by the games at all, but rather from a coffee/tea and treats update meeting that we occasionally have at work. A bit of an epic preamble was said about the nature of these Portuguese custard tarts (aka “Pastéis de nata”) before the boxes from the local bakery that made them were handed around. I admit that they looked (and from the expressions on the faces of the people eating them as well as the noises they were making, they sounded) pretty delicious, but obviously an egg custard tart (it’s crazy the amount of egg yolks that are in a traditional Pastéis de nata) was not something that I could partake in 🙁 . So, alas, sad and envious face for me at the time, but true to form, my brain was already taking up the challenge. “Not vegan you say? I’ll show you not vegan!”
I just wikipedia’d (have I ever mentioned how much I love that it’s accepted practice…to me at least…to make any website a verb?) these dessert as well, and I have to say that I find the following factoid about their provenance amazing-sauce:
“Pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese:Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching of clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country..” (see here if you’re a trivia geek and want even more info). So does that mean that sweetness and/ or deliciousness is next to cleanliness in the order of religious rankings? 😉
Anywho, if you would like to make this dessert easier on yourself, you may of course feel free to simply purchase a pre-made brand of vegan puff pastry. Being the snob that I can sometimes be, I chose instead to make my own (aka completely and unabashedly used this awesome recipe). Although it was a bit time consuming, it had a relatively small ingredient list and was pretty easy to make (the time consuming element was more due to the “…and then refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours” x 100 (slight exaggeration)). This dough turned out delicious though (how can it not when it’s made up of about 80% butter?), so I deemed it totally worth it. Plus you can always freeze extra for later so you have it on hand. Score!
Also, another fun side note about the benefits of making your own puff pastry are that you can then claim baking superiority over the esteemed Alton Brown (now there’s a man who knows his way around a pun). Literally the day after I made the puff pastry, I decided to watch an episode of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” that was all about puff pastry (pun case in point – the episode is called “Puff the Magic Pastry”. A man after my own heart). He pretty much says in the episode that, sure you could make your own puff pastry, but the frozen stuff is just as good so why would you go the effort? (ummm…so that I have the opportunity to be a big snob and feel vastly superior to a man with his own television show? Is that really a question that neeeded answering?). Literally the sub-header for the episode is “Don’t be afraid, the store stuff can deliver the puff.”
To be fair, it’s possible that the butter based ones are just as good, but since any vegan store-bought ones seem to be 100% composed of shortening, I just didn’t believe it could deliver a product that was as good as the one that also included my blood sweat and tears (Hmmm…I guess you can’t follow the recipe then, I don’t guarantee results if it only includes your blood, sweat and tears 😉 )
Yield: 12 tarts (Puff Pastry recipe would make enough for 24, so just double the custard if you want to use up all your puff pastry)
- 1 10″x15″ sheet of vegan puff pastry (either frozen – this would be about the size of one frozen sheet – or make your own using this recipe)
- 3/4 cups canned coconut milk
- 1/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1/3 of a lemon peel cut into 1.5-2 inch strips
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of the Vegg vegan egg yolk blended with 1/2 cup of water (if you can’t find this/don’t have it, you could substitute the 2 teaspoons of the Vegg with 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast and a teaspoon of cornstarch. If you also have/can find black salt as well that’s what would add the sulphur-ish eggy flavour)
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 6-10 gratings of nutmeg
- Cinnamon or icing sugar for dusting (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease 12 muffin tins.
2. Whisk the cornstarch with the almond milk in a small saucepan until completely dissolved and before turning on the heat (this should help avoid having your cornstarch clumping). Add the coconut milk, sugar, lemon peel, vanilla bean and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat until it just starts to thicken up a bit.
3. Add your blended Vegg mixutre (or nutritional yeast-cornstarch-black salt mixture) to the sauce pan and continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and custardy.
4. Remove from heat and strain out the lemon peel, vanilla bean etc. (i.e. any solids).
5. With your 10×15 sheet of puff pastry layed out flat, roll it into a tube along the long edge and cut into 12 pinwheel-looking pieces. Put a piece of puff pastry into each muffin tin hole and press it to spread it around to fill the muffin tin hole like a tart shell.
6. Bake empty shells for 8 minutes (you don’t really want to cook them, but I found out the hard way that you want to bake them at least a little bit before filling with custard.
7. Divide custard evenly between the 12 tart shells, but don’t fill more than about 3/4 of the way or it might boil over while cooking.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and dust with cinnamon and/or icing sugar if desired. These tasted the best the first day, so I recommend making them the day your planning to have them if possible (they’re still delicious after, the puff pastry is just at it’s flakiest on the first day).