Vegan Coconut Flan
This light tofu pudding is very much like an egg custard made with coconut milk - a very common Southeast Asian dessert (but good with any tropical menu, including Latin American). I like to serve it with chunks of canned pineapple and fresh mint sprigs as an edible decoration. Fans of traditional flan will find this to be a delicious and healthful substitute. If you don't tell your guests about the switch, it's likely they won't even know the difference! There is an option, too, for vegan creme caramel.
Food as Medicine
Those who worry that vegan foods are iron deficient, note that tofu is an excellent source of iron, providing more than 33 percent of the Daily Value for this vital mineral.
5 tablespoons brown sugar or Sucanat or Rapadura
3 tablespoons water
⅔ cup medium-firm tofu (or use extra-firm silken tofu), crumbled
2 tablespoons light unbleached sugar or white beet sugar
1 tablespoon of the Syrup, above
¾ teaspoons coconut extract
Pinch of salt
2 ½ cups (reduced fat, if you like**) soymilk or other non-dairy milk, such as rice or almond milk
¾ teaspoons agar powder or 1 ½ tablespoons agar flakes
To make the Syrup:
1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan with a heavy bottom, over low heat. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Working quickly, place in the blender the tofu, 1 tablespoon of Syrup, 2 tablespoons sugar, coconut extract and salt. Set this aside and pour the remaining syrup evenly into 6 custard molds. Rotate each one to coat the base and sides with the syrup. Set aside.
3. Into the same saucepan pour the non-dairy milk and the agar. Bring this quickly to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Continue stirring. Add this hot milk mixture to the ingredients in the blender and immediately blend it to a smooth cream. Stir down the bubbles. Pour the blended mixture into the coated molds, and skim off any remaining foam. Cover the molds with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them until serving time.
To unmold the puddings:
Dip the bottom of each mold briefly into boiling water, then remove the plastic wrap and turn upside down on a dessert plate. The pudding should slide out easily. Pour any syrup left in the bottom of the mold over the pudding. Decorate each plate with fruit and mint or lemon balm sprigs.
** In light of recent research, Dr. Weil no longer recommends reduced-fat dairy products unless you happen to prefer the taste.
Variation: Vegan Crème Caramel or Individual Spanish-Style Flans:
Omit the coconut extract and add 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (you could use some orange extract or orange zest in the pudding and/or the syrup, if you like, and use less vanilla). I like this version less sweet, so I leave out the extra 2 tablespoons sugar in the pudding mixture, but you can leave it (or part of it) in, if you prefer.
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Recipe from "The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook" by Bryanna Clark Grogan (The Book Publishing Co., 1994)
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