Monday, December 8, 2008

Toasted Pecan Divinity

I did some hard-core vegan experimenting today. I can't promise you this recipe was a success, but neither was it unsuccessful. Maybe I've laid the foundation from which more experienced vegan chefs can come up with a fully working version of this yummy candy!

Mainly, I wanted to experiment because I just received two exciting products being used in vegan baking - one a packet of agar-agar powder (used to thicken like egg whites), and the other a packet of Versawhip, a soy protein that whips into an amazing foam - I tried out a test batch and it probably quadruples in volume. We'll leave the possibilities of Versawhip and vegan foam for another day, because today I wanted to try the agar-agar. Alas, nowhere on the package could I get a direct indication for how much of the powder was the equivalent of an egg white. I searched online, and found conflicting opinions. Finally, I followed this ratio:

Dissolve 4 teaspoons agar-agar powder in 1/2 a cup water. Let stand ten minutes. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until a milky white liquid is achieved. Unfortunately, my mixture seemed too thick - hardly liquid at all - so I added an entire 1/2 a cup of water more. Which may have messed up the consistency of the candy...

But anyway, that stood in for "2 egg whites" in my recipe. The rest of the recipe is as follows:

Toss 48 pecan halves with a tablespoon of melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance). Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for twelve minutes, until toasted. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt; set aside.

In a saucepan, combine two and a half cups raw sugar (yes it's a lot...) with 2/3 a cup water and 1/2 a cup light-colored corn syrup. I also (oops) realized that I was low on corn syrup, and could barely eke out 1/2 a cup from my bottle. I topped off the remaining last couple tablespoons-worth with water, which may also have affected my candy... (Can you tell it was not my day for baking?)

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook - without stirring! - until a candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees. The recipe said this should take about 8 minutes, but it took my mixture about double that. I wonder if it is the result of using raw sugar instead of refined? Or just my stove? Anyway, the thermometer did eventually tick up to 250, at which point, remove from heat.

Beat your "egg whites" (see above) until stiff. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, beating to combine. With the beater running at high speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture in a thin stream. Beat until the mixture is stiff.

(Note: while this step would take about 3 minutes with real egg whites, indications that I found online made it seem it would take closer to 10 with agar-agar. So I beat for a full 10 minutes, at which point things did start to thicken).

Working quickly, drop the mixture by the heaping-teaspoonful onto waxed paper, to measure 4 dozen little candy drops. Press a pecan half on the top of each one.

Now, here's where my recipe failed, even though I did come up with photograph-able little candies. They solidified, but not enough to store, certainly not in a container atop one another, as they were too sticky. They also aren't "puffed up" like the original version, nor as white (which I think I can attribute to the lack of white in egg whites?) Oh well! Perhaps I will tinker with things and try this again another afternoon. The resulting sugary-clumps that I did make were quite tasty. Each 'divinity' is 70 calories.

p.s. here's a photo of how it would look made with egg whites ::sigh::

agar agar powder $15.00

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance