Being dairy-free is a pain in the arse at the best of times (because cheese), especially if you love cake (and cheese). Unfortunately, most cheese alternatives seem pretty awful (I’m sure they’re not as bad as I’m imagining, but cashew cheese just doesn’t do it for me on a theoretical level…I’m not going to waste my time making it just to find out that it is, in fact, terrible) but DF baked goods can be just as good as their buttery, milky counterparts. In fact, most cakes you buy from shops are made with margarine or oil, but they invariably have milk based stabilisers or use soya products (and George is intolerant to them too).
We’ve recently become the proud owners of a kitchen mixer, so I decided to start some baking experiments. I have an awful lot of weight to lose, but I like to bake so sod it. I’m going to bake!
One of the things I’ve been missing the most is cream teas, so this is where I started!…
You might be thinking that a “cream” tea is pretty hard to do without cream, yes? Well no, not really…not when there’s such a thing as coconut milk (and therefore, coconut cream).
I’m not talking about the “coconut milk drink” that you can buy to put in tea/over cereal here, I’m talking about the canned stuff that settles into two layers (cream and water) if you leave it to stand. I got mine from Aldi because it’s quite inexpensive and I already knew it settles into two layers.
Some websites suggest that you chill your cans of coconut milk overnight but I hadn’t realised this til 5 minutes before I wanted to make it. Whoops.
First I opened two cans and scooped out the cream…
…saving the water (and a few splotches of cream) for porridge (oats and coconut water are supposed to be great for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk supply).
I added two tablespoons of sifted icing sugar and about a tsp of vanilla extract before beating it with the mixer’s whisk attachment.
I had visions of it turning into softly peaking clouds of cream, but no…it just crumbled up and looked like cottage cheese in the bowl. Sad face.
I switched to the beater attachment and had a little more luck, but it started to separate a bit and I now had semi-fluffy clouds amidst an off-white puddle. Nice.
On the verge of admitting defeat, I popped the bowl into the fridge to chill it all while I regrouped and thought about making scones.
I found a recipe that called for:
250g plain flour
40g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
1 medium egg (beaten)
75ml whole milk
…and I substituted Tesco baking fat in place of butter and Koko Dairy-Free instead of the cow’s milk. I always have Koko around because I drink it in tea, but I went with it (over other type of alt milks that I have) because my friend, Sarah (who does lots of vegan cooking) says that, in her experience, it behaves similarly to cow’s milk in cooking and baking.
I put all the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the (cold and cubed) baking fat before trying to mix it.
I got flour everywhere.
I soon gave up and rubbed the fat in with my fingers like I should have done to start with, chiding myself for being lazy.
Then I added the sultanas, egg and milk, beat it until it turned to dough, rolled it out and cut it into squares before baking at 220°c. The recipe said to bake for 15-20 minutes but after 12 I noticed that they were burning (golden brown scones with black sultanas)…it was then I realised that the temperature was for regular ovens and not fan assisted. Whoops.
They were also a little dry and crumbly…possibly because the omission of full fat milk meant that they were lacking in fat content. Next time I make them I’ll use a little more baking fat and a drop more “milk”. I’ll also only cook them at about 200° to try and avoid the charcoal-tanas.
I then left them – in all their black-studded and crumbly glory – to cool…
BACK TO THE CREAM…
I got the cream back out of the fridge (it had hardened off now) and set about whipping the life out of it with the beater. Even though the beater had worked the first time I just got cottage cheese again (no matter how long or fast I had the mixer working). In frustration I switched back to the whisk head, just to see what would happen, and BOOM! Whipped cream. Ish.
It took a while and it was still a little separated, but I poured the watery stuff into another bowl (again, saved for porridge) and was left with something that didn’t look too dissimilar to whipped cream…and it tasted bloody fantastic!
It was sweet and rich with a hint of vanilla and it was AMAZING with raspberry jam, even though the scones were exceedingly crappy.
It was a cream tea!
I haven’t had anything even vaguely like clotted cream in over 10 weeks so I wasn’t sure if my taste buds were lying to me, but my sister (who had been all “I’ll just have a small scone” skeptical-face about it) asked for a second helping, and Luke (who had been all “I’m not eating that” mocking-face) was lured into joining us. They both agreed that coconut cream is a lovely alternative to clotted cream, and that it more than made up for the rubbish quality of my scones.
Note…I stored the leftover cream in the fridge overnight and it hardened off quite a bit. I had scones again yesterday and had to scrape the cream and kind of modge it onto the scone. It still tasted just as good but it wasn’t as spreadable as it had been the day before.
…apparently it softens up after being re-whipped but I wasn’t going to get the mixer out for just that so I settled for modging.
Dairy-free scones were NOT a win on this occasion, but with a bit of tweaking (or a better recipe) I’m sure that they could be great. I’d like to have a go at an egg-free version too so that I can see if a vegan cream tea is within my capabilities.
Whipped coconut cream TASTED great, but was a bit of a challenge to make. I think I need to work on this part too.
…my next challenge is going to be a dairy-free chocolate torte. I’m planning on using amaretti biscuits for the base, so it’s going to be quite an involved make! Watch this space.