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Just about everything I made from Miyoko Schinner’s book Artisan Vegan Cheese worked out beautifully for our fondue party.  I wanted to try as much as possible, so I even threw in a couple appetizers and a dessert.

culturing vegan cheeses

A patient human being and cultured vegan cheeses go very well together.

Pictured below is the Brie (p.12).  I wouldn’t say it tasted like brie on its own, but it worked perfectly as a replacement spread for jam and crackers.  It was a pretty thin round… when I made the brie, I thought it should have been poured into one 6-inch round and not two, but the small height actually worked out great for this context.  And I still have another round to save for another occasion. 🙂  I served it with raspberry jam, hot pepper raspberry jam, fig and walnut butter, red chili jam, and prickly pear champagne jelly.  

Then there was the Brie en Croute (p.80) which used the Air-Dried Brie (from p. 39).  Definitely a big hit.  I used 1/3 cup raspberry jam, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 2/3 cup walnuts as the filling.  It had a classic baked brie taste and went well with the classic Carr’s table water crackers.  (The recipe for the “Mushroom Puff Pastry Bites” at the top of the picture above can be found at the Seitan is my Motor blog here.  We omitted the oil and cut 3×3 inch squares of puff pastry instead of 4×4. They tasted delicious and the crimini mushrooms are perfect for this!)

For dessert, I wanted to try the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake (p. 115).  It was delicious, with a subtle lemony taste, but I wanted a little more raspberry throughout the cheesecake.  Next time, I think I will pour in half the filling, swirl in some raspberry, pour in the remaining filling, and then swirl the remaining raspberry on top.  Then there were the four fondues. I loved all of them!  Pictured below are the leftovers.  I had planned on having a fifth fondue of Swiss cheese (using the Air-Dried Emmentaler on p. 32) , but it didn’t melt right.  I think if you eliminated the agar and used a bit of carrageenan to thicken it up, it would work better as a fondue cheese.  The taste of the Swiss was spot on, so I definitely will try that at our next fondue!So from the top left I had the Gruyere, Spinach Artichoke, Chipotle Queso, and Sharp Cheddar.  My notes on each:

  • Gruyere (Hard Gruyere, p. 13): Very authentic taste!  Perfect for fondue.  I used the fondue recipe from p. 65 and it worked out great (the recipe is on Miyoko’s blog here… I only used half the wine for kid-friendliness and added more water).  I recommend making roasted Brussels sprouts to dip into this cheese.
  • Spinach Artichoke (used Cashew Cream Cheese, p. 20). For full details and a recipe click here!
  • Chipotle Queso (Low-Fat Chipotle Cheese Sauce, p. 63 or on Miyoko’s blog here): I have made this before and there is a reason for it!  This queso is slightly sweet, smoky, and a crowd-pleaser.  It tastes best with homemade tortilla chips, but for the sake of time, we used store-bought this time around.
  • Sharp Cheddar (Sharp Cheddar, p. 14):  I would really like to encourage people who make this recipe to be patient.  I cultured this cheese in Arizona for 36 hours, so in colder climates realize it could take 4-5 days.  I tasted it everyday and the nutritional yeast flavor does go away and it really does taste like a sharp cheddar.  I melted it with some almond milk and it was perfect.  And please take my advice and buy some soft pretzel rolls for this one.  You won’t regret it!
thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

thanks to kelli for her awesome instagram of the spread!

Vegan Grilled Cheese

Before I went vegan there was one sandwich I was particularly particular about!  My grilled cheese always involved the overly processed American cheese.  It always involved two slices of bread that were buttered on one side and then grilled on a frying pan.  The only healthy part of my sandwich was my switch to whole wheat as I got older.

So when I saw the quick-to-put-together Oat American Cheese (p.50) in Miyoko’s book, I had to try it.  

Oat American Cheese

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In the picture below, the Oat American is on the right, and the leftover cheese from my Sharp Cheddar fondue is on the left.  Clearly, the American on the right is more attractive.  But I have to say I prefer the taste and texture of the Sharp Cheddar on the left.  The Oat American has a lot of flavor (much more so than the dairy counterpart), but is a little too “nutritional yeast-y” to me.  I included the oil in the recipe, and thought it was a little too drippy (I may have melted it too much).

And while I give kudos to Miyoko’s Sharp Cheddar, I still have to say for grilled cheese, my favorite involves the sauce from Veg News’ mac and cheese recipe (click here to see my modified version for grilled cheese).  Probably because it’s not trying to be anything but a delicious sauce. 
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Well there ya go!  Miyoko’s book has clearly inspired me and blown me away with what’s possible in vegan cuisine.  The cheddar, gruyere, and swiss flavors blew me away with their authenticity without tasting fake, processed, or chemical-ish.  And both bries will be a regular part of my holiday repertoire.

The vegan community likes to debate the whole realm of “fake foods” or “imitative foods” vs. whole foods as grown… and I feel like I have a foot on each side of the debate.  If you can create an alternative to dairy or meat that is delicious enough to make someone think that veganism is possible for them, then I think it’s worth serving.   Do I generally admire people more for creating something new with the variety of vegetables we have to choose from?  Yes… but sometimes having an alternative helps people make the switch.  So let’s focus on the big picture.  What you see in this post is a holiday meal, not an everyday meal.  It’s a fun experiment, not a lifestyle.  And I think we should be thankful for people like Miyoko Schinner who are willing to test recipes and spend a fortune on cashews so we don’t have to!

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So about the same time I discovered Miyoko Schinner and her vegan buffalo mozzarella recipeWhole Foods had a sale on heirloom tomatoes… and you just can’t ignore a coincidence like that.

This mozzarella was simpler to make than I expected, and very delicious.  For me, It turned out a little softer than the dairy version, but my testers and I didn’t really care because it made for a perfect caprese salad either way.

Oh and Miyoko is coming out with a book called Artisan Vegan Cheese available for pre-order on amazon today, and it will be released on August 8th!  The recipes are rumored to take cultured vegan cheeses to the next level, and according to her blog, a majority of the recipes are made without oil!

Vegan Caprese Salad

Tomatoes: Buy heirloom tomatoes if you can!  As you can see in the pictures, they have a lot more meat to them and don’t fall apart when you slice them.

Balsamic Reduction: Buy some cheap balsamic vinegar, and pour a third to half the bottle in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer over medium-low heat till the vinegar is reduced by half and has a light syrupy consistency.  Let it sit in the fridge for 10-20 minutes and it will thicken up to a maple syrup consistency.

Basil: You can serve fresh basil leaves as shown above or do a chiffonade (click here for a step-by-step tutorial) and sprinkle on top.

Vegan Buffalo Mozzarella: Use this recipe from Miyoko Schinner.  You can also watch her demo it here.  Do not use the oil, and you might want to consider using some more agar flakes because my mozzarella could have been just a bit firmer.

I noticed that the closer you hold your ice cream scoop to the water, the more round the mozzarella balls turn out.