“Rebirth”: a plated dessert

With this dessert, I was going for that phoenix from the ashes motif, but using all gluten-free and vegan ingredients! During the peak of 2020 quarantining, when everyone hogged all of the flour, eggs, and butter, I had to pivot and learn how to make desserts without any of those things, and this is really how that came about. One of my absolute favorite vegan components to make is a chocolate-tofu mousse, which is super straightforward to make and you wouldn’t be able to tell it is vegan! To add some contrast, a kinako(toasted soy bean powder) sable, an kumquat puree(which can be subbed with apricots or angelcots), macerated kumquats, and tempered chocolate “feathers” with an edible chocolate “ash”. I wanted this dessert to feature soy, chocolate, and kumquats, while also representing a phoenix rising from the ashes. You know, something theatrical and what-not. I love how the phoenix is something revered in both Eastern and Western cultures, which was why I wanted to use both Eastern(kinako, tofu, and kumquats) and Western(chocolate) ingredients in tis dish to bring it all to life! That and because I just love silken tofu, and this dessert puts forward my favorite way to prepare it.

As mentioned before, every component is vegan AND gluten-free. I wanted to use kumquats because I love the contrast of super tart fruit against bitter and rich chocolate. That and kumquats are an ingredient that I grew up on – there was a small kumquat bush that grew outside of my grandma’s old apartment in Taiwan, and they always fascinated me as a fruit because unlike an orange, these little orange-looking berries could be eaten as is, peel, rind, and all. I love how they are very tart on the inside, but the rind is quite sweet, making for a fun ingredient to add contrast to a dish. The usage of kinako(toasted soy bean flour) is to tie in with the tofu being used in the mousse, while I just love the combination of soy with chocolate in general as well! I also used the leftover water from the tofu packet in place of egg whites in the sable to further bind the dough together, since gluten-free doughs can use all the help that they can get. The beautiful thing about this crumble is that since essentially everything is cooked, you are really just looking for the sugars to caramelize around the lumps of kinako and almond/hazelnut flour to create a slightly crunchy and caramelized texture. I did list the options of either almond or hazelnut flour – I used almond flour since I had it readily available, but for any Nutella lovers out there, using the hazelnut flour will accomplish that sort of flavor profile for you. The chocolate “ash” was a fun component to make as well, since it is a great way to utilize anything leftover chocolate that was not used to temper the chocolate curl “feathers” with, while also adding another fun, contrasting element to the kinako crunch. Overall, this is a really fast and easy dessert to make, and one that embraces some of my favorite vegan and gluten-free things!

For the chocolate-tofu mousse:
8oz dark chocolate
8oz silken tofu
A pinch of salt

Heat up dark chocolate on a double boiler until fully melted. Pour the melted chocolate into a blender with silken tofu and salt and puree until fully smooth. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps of chocolate or tofu that were not blended down enough. Either transfer the mousse into a piping bag or pour and spread it into 1-inch silicone half sphere molds and freeze for at least 45 minutes before attempting to pipe or unmold them – or just freeze it for 20 minutes in a blast chiller.

For the kinako sable “crunch”:
¼ cup kinako powder
¼ cup almond or hazelnut flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tspn baking powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp reserved tofu water
¼ tspn xanthan gum

Mix everything together in a bowl to form a crumbly dough. Spread out the dough on a lined sheet tray in thumb nail-sized pieces. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool down and break apart then dough into smaller chunks before attempting to use.

For the charred kumquat puree:
1/4 cup sliced kumquats (depending on the season, you can also use kumquats too!)
A pinch of salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp olive oil

Char the kumquats in a cast iron pan until well-seared – it’s okay if they get burnt, as that will add a smoky flavor to them while also generating more acidity for the dish! Transfer the kumquats into a blender and puree with salt, sugar, and xanthan gum, streaming in just a little water, until completely pureed and soft. Strain the puree and transfer into a piping bag for plating.

For the tempered chocolate feathers:
6oz dark chocolate
A pinch of salt
¼ tsp grated cocoa butter

Melt down the dark chocolate and salt over a double boiler. Take off heat and stir in the cocoa butter. Once the chocolate registers about 89 degrees F, use an offset spatula to form feather shapes against acetate. Curl up the acetate in a ring mold and freeze. Reserve any leftover chocolate for the ash.

For the chocolate ash:
2oz reserved tempered dark chocolate
¼ tsp activated charcoal powder
1 tsp black cacao powder
½ cup tapioca maltodextrin
a pinch of salt

Make sure that the chocolate is still melted/not fully set. If not, heat it back up over a double boiler until is is melted again. In a bowl, mix everything together to form your chocolate ash.

For garnish:
Edible flowers – preferably nasturtiums, marigolds, and candelas
Sliced angelcots, brushed with a little bit of the puree

Pipe the mousse onto the plate first. Then do the crumble, ash, angelcots, edible flower petals, and chocolate feathers to finish.

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