Vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan demystifies vegan baking in her books and with the classes she teaches. In addition to her a la carte classes, Fran kicks it into high gear with her Vegan Baking Boot Camp®, a 5 day intensive at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.
Through lecture, demonstration and hands-on guided practice, students learn everything there is to know about vegan baking. When it comes to vegan desserts, there are no limits and just about any traditional dessert recipe can be veganized in the most delightful way.
Fran Costigan’s next Vegan Baking BootCamp® Intensive at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts in NYC is just around the corner, Monday, August 19th to Friday, August 23rd. Enrollment is limited to 14 students and there are still a few slots left.
Between vegan conferences and putting the finishing touches on her new book (Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts) I had a chance to visit with the critically acclaimed Queen of Vegan Desserts.
What do students get out of taking the class in terms of knowledge, baking ability, recipe development skills, possible next steps for career?
Students in the course, whether absolute beginners or professionals, learn foundational dessert technique, which is necessary in order to make excellent desserts. You cannot consider doing recipe development without understanding technique and ingredients. The introductory lecture demo covers ingredients that are found in any dessert pantry as well as vegan specific ingredients. The emphasis is on choosing and using vegan specific ingredients and their specific profiles. Various sweeteners and types of starch, and agar, the vegan gelatin, for example have different properties and flavors and are not necessarily interchangeable. The students then spend the next 8 lessons (2 lessons per day), using these ingredients and techniques in a logical sequence. There is an enormous amount of practice, plating and of course, tasting!
Are most of your students professionals in the food industry?
Some students take the course for their own enjoyment and for the benefit of their families and friends. Others are contemplating opening a vegan bakery and some already have a vegan business. Interestingly, it is not infrequent that the beginners have the most open mind and do the best, especially in the beginning. Students gain confidence.
I know many of your graduates have achieved great success after taking the course.
The certificate of completion of the Fran Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp® Intensive from the Natural Gourmet Institute seems to open some doors. But as with any course, this is a beginning and practice, patience and passion going forward are required.
Students from around the world (India, Israel, So America, Asia, New Zealand, Africa, the UK, France) and across the US tell me this course is unique in the world. To know there are vegan dessert makers around the world is my joy.
There have been many success stories. Fran’s graduates have gone on to open up bakeries or grow their existing businesses after Boot. There’s Petite Treats in Ireland, Girl Next Door Baking Company in Massachussets, The Venerable Bean, Niia’s Cupcakes in Finland and SimplyHomeGoods.com to name just a few.
Now for a sweet treat from Fran’s first book, a vegan mousse recipe that’ll knock your socks off.
Vegan Peanut Butter Mousse in Chocolate Candy Cups
Yield: 4 cups mousse
Peanut Butter Mousse
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
(2 cups), blanched and drained
1 cup maple syrup
3⁄4 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
3⁄4 cup light natural cane sugar, or more to taste
3⁄4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Candy Cups
8 ounces nondairy chocolate chips
Tip: Admittedly, this is a time-consuming process, but chocolate cups can be frozen for up to a month in an airtight container, so make them when you have time to play.
I practically lived on peanut butter cup candies one semester at college. I don’t know why I was so drawn to them, but I do know it wasn’t a good thing. Tofu and organic peanut butter, both healthful foods, are the main players in this more healthful version of the popular treat, but it’s still not okay to eat too many. Of course, if peanut allergies are an issue, you can use another nut butter in its place.
To make the Chocolate Candy Cups, you’ll need paper candy cup liners or small cupcake liners (mini cups) and a clean, small watercolor paint brush, small pastry brush, or spoon. A pastry bag will be needed to fill them with the mousse.
1. To prepare the mousse, crumble the tofu into a food processor and process 1 minute. Add the maple syrup and process 1 minute. Add the peanut butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt, and process until the mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy. This can take up to 5 minutes. Stop the processor a few times to clean the sides of the bowl.
2. The mousse is ready to use, but can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to two days. Bring to room temperature when ready to use.
3. To prepare the chocolate cups, fit the paper liners into mini muffin tins or place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Do not overheat. Remove the bowl from the saucepan.
4. Spoon some melted chocolate into each cup. Use the brush to coat the liners as thoroughly as possible. Make sure to coat the inside rim; you want to prevent it from breaking when the paper is peeled off the chocolate.Wipe off any chocolate that drips onto the outside of the rim. Refrigerate or freeze the cups until the chocolate has hardened; this will take 10 to 30 minutes depending upon how cold your freezer is, and how thick a layer of chocolate you have made. Place the bowl of melted chocolate back on the saucepan and keep it warm over barely simmering water.
5. Check the cups for thin spots. Add another layer of chocolate, coating the thin spots more generously. The chocolate doesn’t have to be smooth; the cups will be filled. Chill again until hardened.
6. Slowly and carefully peel the paper off in a spiral motion; don’t pull straight down, or the rim may break. (You may find it easier to peel the paper from the cups after you have filled them. Test one or two and decide which method works better for you.)
7. To assemble the candy cups, spoon or pipe some peanut butter cream into each cup using a pastry bag fitted with a plain or star tip. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.
Be sure to check out Fran’s books, More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally and the soon to be released (available for pre-order on Amazon)
Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts
Do you have some favorite vegan desserts? Are there some desserts you wish you could veganize but haven’t cracked the code or found a good recipe yet?
Photo credit; Warren Jefferson
Recipe posted with permission from Fran Costigan.