Monday, March 31, 2014

Vegan Brie!

The only thing I asked Santa Clause for for this past Christmas was a copy of the Non-Dairy Formulary.  I'd read about it online last year, and heard how great all the vegan cheese recipes were, so I knew I wanted to try it.  But of course Mr. C wasn't so obliging.  So I went ahead and bought the book for myself right after Christmas.  I flipped through it right away, but promptly shelved it when I started to see the days-long process for making rejuvelac, and ingredients for other cheeses like kappa carrageenan and tapioca flour.  These didn't seem easy to find, and with session ramping up I didn't have a lot of spare time for involved cheese-making. 
But I still flipped through the book from time to time and also got around to looking for some of those trickier ingredients - buying tapioca flour at Wegmans and kappa carrageenan on Amazon.  It may still take me a while before I actually make rejuvelac, but once I had these other ingredients on hand it turns out the recipe for brie was pretty simple.  So last weekend I got to work ... and it was so worth it! 
You definitely need to have some time on your hands for the brie recipe, but most of the time involved is down time, so it's not exactly labor intensive.  I mixed up just a bit more than would fit in my little mold, so I ended up making one larger wheel of brie and a little mini-wheel as well.  The mixing up took all of about fifteen minutes, then I had to let them cool at room temperature for twenty minutes, sit in the fridge for six hours, take them out and dust with tapioca flour, then sit overnight before finally getting to try my little masterpieces. 
I won't try to claim they really tasted like brie.  The texture was pretty close, but the flavor still just doesn't have the bite of real cheese - alas, maybe no one will ever be able to accomplish a real "cheesy" vegan cheese.  But if you go into it not expecting cheese, then what you get is really quite good!  I ate my mini wheel of brie for breakfast Sunday morning with crackers and a berry banana protein shake.  Delicious! 
That afternoon Josh's parents came to visit for a pizza lunch at Pacci's and to take the dogs for a walk in Rock Creek Park.  I actually convinced them to try a slice of the larger wheel on crackers, and they both said it was actually pretty good (again, if you don't expect actual brie).  But the real fans of the vegan cheese were the dogs.  They're big cheese fans, but the fat in real cheese isn't exactly good for them.  But there are no such issues with vegan cheese!  They gobbled up the little tastes I offered them and begged for more :)  Even Panda loved it! 
So I happily devoured my vegan brie over the past week, finally finishing the last of it over this past weekend.  Some fun variations on the standard cheese and crackers that I tried this week:
Slices of brie on crackers drizzled with honey (shown at left) - for a nice desserty treat (yes, I still eat honey, so I realize I'm not really vegan)
Honey, almond, and brie sandwich - so good (but not quite as good as ...)
Brie and apple sandwich - this was the big winner of the week.  I'll definitely be making this brie again soon, if only to have more of these sandwiches!  They were something I'd enjoyed with real brie in the past, but frankly thought I would just be without forever now. 
It definitely seems like the longer I'm vegan, the more I find I can adapt all sorts of my old favorites.  Next on the agenda from the Non-Dairy Formulary?  I'm thinking a nice Stilton :)   

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