Confessions of a Disaster
Boy am I a stubborn person. A good quality at times, admittedly this may be one of them.
In my never ending attempts to create all things vegan, I was rightfully intrigued by Seven Spoons’ post with a call for entry to Sugar High Friday. Entry #31 is entitled “Neutral Territory: Tasting the Many Shades of White”. I was proud, almost cocky with these lavishly pouffy white creations encircling my mind. I do things vegan and I like a challenge, so this had to be good.
What is fluffier, smoother, stickier or more delightful than pavlova I thought?
Not familiar with pavlova? Made of a soft meringue, it has a crisp, white crust encasing a sinfully soft, marshmallowly centre. If that’s not sweet enough, right before serving the pavlova is dolloped in a velvety whipped cream and topped with passion fruit or fresh berries. Aaahhhh.
As if that’s not the most non-vegan thing around?
I tried, I attempted…. anything to replicate the lovely meringue. I even found a vegan recipe claiming to top a pie beautifully. I was determined to contribute to SHF, so I thought I’d have to give it a go.
This recipe called for egg replacer and agar – it would seem to make sense. Agar is a gelatinous substance that is derived from seaweed. It’s commonly used in jellies, ice cream and other desserts in place of traditional gelatin. The egg replacer, however, was a bit odd— mostly a biocarbonate used to create bubbles, like baking powder. I can’t even begin to describe the sounds of rejection my Kitchen Aid was wailing. Slapping this glump of a mixture around in the bowl as it managed to froth it up a bit. The smell was not exactly appealing but the taste was sweet. Sugar is typically predictable.
Being in the middle of things I couldn’t bring myself to quit now. I had to bake it. I hoped. Honestly I hoped that it would perk up in the oven.
Pavlova bakes slowly for over an hour, so for the most part, I left it. Gradually, an odd scent of warm Play Doh hovered in my kitchen, I held my breath then peeked. If only the concoction had found a way to turn green it could have resembled the alien mass it had become in my oven. It was about the same shape but with a strange dusty gloss and the colour of it was anything but white. Even my eighth grade version of Tuna Noodle Casserole was less frightening, you know the one with the potato chip topping that you have to make with 5 other people, each taking a turn to open a can of soup?
I’d been stumped. I’ve never run into a recipe I couldn’t veganize. Counting my remaining two days to complete, I pitched the mess and hung my head.
This morning I was working on my site, getting ready to make my next post. I noticed the comment I’d made on the Seven Spoons site. I couldn’t just roll over, it’s just not me. I’ve hung up my hat (for now) with the meringue but this is a dessert project! It’s everyone’s favourite meal of the day… even for vegans!
I still needed something spectacular, something with height too, if anything to lift up my own spirits. I wanted light, airy layers to create different flavour combinations with every bite…. that and I knew that if in doubt, one of them would be successful. Making it a habit to create dishes that sustain and are in season, I chose to add strawberries. As an added plus, I figured the lightest blush of a strawberry purée just might represent my experience of getting this all together.
I wish I could have said that it worked. I had each component made successfully. I don’t know if it was the weather or the threat of a full moon but the layers would not work together. The cake held up wonderfully. A light, but sturdy cake, perfect for the first layer. (A recipe I fully intend on developing further.) Next was my tofu cheesecake. I’ve made it a hundred times. The cheesecake even my “I will never eat tofu” Dad gobbled up. I just would not hold together enough to carry the miserably sagging mousse intended for the top. I was nearly in tears. Or ready to kick my stove. I needed some hope and a hug.
With intuition only a Nana can have, my grandmother called in the nick of time. Describing my dilemma, she said, in her perfect Scottish accent, “What you need dear, are cookies.” More like a tissue I thought. All the while feeling sorry for myself I thought my best contribution to the Sugar High Friday would be a photo of a tall glass of soy milk to go with everyone else’s success stories.
Throwing in the proverbial tea towel, I went to bed. Still mulling on my Nana’s advice, it came to me. There really is something about a cookie. Something classic. Something comforting.
Nana’s Shortbread Cookies
1/4 Cup Corn Starch
1/4 Cup Confectionery Sugar
1 Cup Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Margarine
1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest *
*(1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers may be substituted, on a purple day)
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Sift flour, corn starch and sugar into a large bowl. Add the margarine and lemon zest.
Stir the mixture, using a wooden spoon, just until everything begins to come together in a soft dough.
Roll the dough out to about a 1/4″ thickness.
Cut cookies out, using a 2 “, round cookie cutter. (Or another favourite shape)
Top with a sprinkling of the granulated sugar.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes, watching carefully towards the end. The cookies should be removed just as the edges begin to turn golden.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Once you’ve finished baking, you should check out all the other beautiful entrants.