WE INTERRUPT THE CONTEMPLATION OF WRITING A BIRTHDAY WRAP-UP POST TO BRING YOU THE FOLLOWING BREAKING NEWS...
Have you heard of Daiya vegan cheese? It's been a major topic of conversation ever since this year's Expo West. Daiya is a vegan cheese that purports to stretch (check out the photos on the website!), a quality usually only achieved by the inclusion of the dairy-based ingredient casein.
About 2 weeks ago, I got a sneak preview taste of the cheddar flavor from a friend who had received a block of it. We tried it cold out of hand (only ok), cold on flax chips (good), and melted into quinoa for a quasi-cheesy grits dish (delicious).
I thought it was going to be months and months before Daiya was available to purchase, so imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from Pangea vegan store letting me know that they are now carrying the much-coveted cheese. I immediately ordered 3 bags of shredded Italian style (mozzarella) and 2 bags of shredded cheddar style.
Obviously, pizza was in order for the Italian style. I've never made pizza dough from scratch and I felt that the Daiya deserved a true pizza for its first sampling. So, I arranged to take a fellow vegan on a surprise adventure yesterday to the amazing Purgatory Pizza (L.A.'s omni pizzeria whose owner is so vegan-friendly that she offers Teese pizzas, vegan pesto, and a couple vegan meats) with the Daiya in tow.
We knew that we wanted a half vegan pepperoni, half artichoke heart, olive, mushroom, and green pepper pizza, so we also brought vegan pepperoni and artichoke hearts with us, as those are not offered on the menu.
Our beautiful pizza was hand-delivered to our table by the man who made it. After we'd each tried it, the Purgatory chef came out again to talk to us about how we liked the Daiya compared to the Teese they usually use for vegan pizzas.
The verdict? Well, I'm a bit on the fence. It has a very pleasant, mild, creamy flavor that doesn't really taste like mozzarella (disclaimer: I have not had dairy cheese since February 2001 and don't know how long taste memories can last), but doesn't really taste much like anything else, either. I find that's true of many vegan cheeses (for example, Teese tastes buttery, not like mozzarella). It melted quite well, leaving a few visible fine shreds on top and an evenly melted surface covering the rest of the pizza. Also, the melted Daiya stuck to the roof of my mouth.
One thing was suspiciously missing, though...the stretchiness we were promised! Our pizza chef thought a possible reason for that lack was the fine shreds of the Daiya. He explained that a longer, thicker shred would be more likely to produce the stretchiness that Daiya's photos exhibit. [As an aside, I did see the tiny strands of stretchiness in the cheesy quinoa above, but that Daiya came from a block and was not shredded.] Further pizza experimentation is in order and will happen on Sunday!
Last night's pizza adventure was part of a concerted plan that also included movie night (Surrender Dorothy, a disturbing, extremely low-budget indie film) and Dandies vegan marshmallows.
I'd promised to make Rice Krispies treats and rocky road ice cream to properly showcase the air-puffed marshmallows. I received rave reviews for both and we had a very happy movie night (well, the movie wasn't a happy one, but the night on the whole was).
Using the traditional Rice Krispies treats recipe, but substituting Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks and one 10 oz. bag of Dandies and pressing the mixture into a 9x9 pan yielded these beautiful and cruelty-free treats that were just as good as, if not better than, the non-vegan version:
I made the Baracky-y Road Ice Cream recipe from A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, too, painstakingly cutting those sticky little Dandies into approximately thirds and using dry roasted, unsalted almonds. This coconut milk-based ice cream was perfectly rich and delicious last night, but a bit too rich for me on second tasting today. I also had a difficult time getting it to freeze properly in the ice cream maker. After 40 minutes of churning, it still wasn't ice cream consistency, which I'm guessing is because the liquid mixture wasn't chilled before it went into the machine (I let it cool for an hour, but didn't chill it, as the instructions didn't call for chilling). At that point, I put the cold mixture into an air-tight plastic container and let it finish freezing in the freezer. Despite this, it really tasted like what I remember of dairy rocky road ice cream.
I think I'm done with sweets for quite a while...