Friday, May 18, 2012

Vegmallow!!

Did you ever have school bakesales when you were a kid? Back in my elementary school days, each week the designated "clean up" team of students would also be responsible for supplying and manning the Friday fundraiser. From store-bought cookies and Timbits to elaborately decorated cupcakes and homemade brownies, the table would unfailingly be laden with all things sugary - and the price was hard to beat. Each treat went for between 5 and 25 cents, and all the proceeds went towards subsidizing our year end field trip to someplace new and exotic (at least to our naive perception) - Montreal, Ottawa and even Washington DC filled the docket over the years, giving us kids (and our parents too) an escape for a few days.

There was, however, a certain hierarchy amongst the bake sale set. Chocolate in any format ruled head and shoulders above the rest of the treats, followed by anything with frosting, fried or cookie-like. Depending on who brought it in (some parents were stars of the bake-sale) the "bar" or "square" desserts would quickly disappear too. None of these bars was more popular than the classical, gooey Crispy Rice Treat. Filled with melted butter and sticky marshmallows, the squares were sturdy enough that we could buy two and save one until after school (excuse my childhood persona who is laughing her ass off at this thought).

Only a few kids avoided the bake sale madness completely. Us youngsters wrote these "outsiders" off as simply odd, but now I realize they may not have had any other option. Veganism was a foreign concept back then, but there were allergies and religious diets in our midst. The only ingredients completely banned from the school were nuts, so those brownies, cupcakes and doughnuts were still potentially hazardous materials. Even those innocuous Crispy treats posed hazards - the marshmallows made them inedible for the vegetarian and vegan students (most of whom were Hindu or Muslim) and the versions made with marshmallow "creme" were dangerous eats for the two students with egg allergies.

Flash forward to 2012. Veganism and allergies are hot topics these days, and it's rare that a substitute for most of the problematic ingredients isn't available. I know that vegan marshmallows and marshmallow creme are available - but where I life the only way to find either is through online ordering and frankly I don't use them enough to warrant the shipping costs. Since they exist at all, I knew they could be made, and after one of my fitness leaders mentioned her long-lost love for the classic RK square I figured I'd might as well give making them a shot. I opted for a "creme" based formula this time around, since I wasn't overly confident that an agar-set mixture would firm up to "real" marshmallows. A roughly half and half mix of corn syrup and Nature's Agave helped the sugar syrup melt and cook to soft-ball consistency while a touch of vanilla and sea salt rounded out the flavour and cut the cloying sweetness a touch.

In the end, I don't think I could have been any more pleased! Not only did I make a serviceable, vegan and additive-free "Vegmallow Fluff", but I created one that, when paired with Earth Balance and brown rice crisp cereal, made a gluten free, nut free, vegan and 100% kid friendly treat.

 
 
N.B.: All measurements are dry weight.
 
Vegmallow Fluff
Makes 12 oz (dry)
1 1/2 tbsp agar flakes
1/2 cup cold water
6 oz granulated sugar
2.5 oz corn syrup
2 oz clear agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla
pinch salt
  1. In a small saucepan, combine agar flakes and water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Bring agar mixture to a boil and boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour mixture into the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar and place over medium high heat.
  5. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 238F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
  6. Start the mixer and beat the agar for 2 minutes, then slowly begin to drizzle in the sugar syrup.
  7. Once all the syrup is in the bowl, increase the speed to high and beat until light and airy but still soft - about 25 minutes.
  8. Scrape into a container and store in the fridge.
Amount Per (1-oz) Serving
Calories: 85.7
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 8.4 mg
Total Carbs: 22.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.0 g

~*~ 

Vegmallow Fluff Krispy Squares
Makes 12
2 tbsp vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
10 oz (by weight) Vegmallow Fluff
5 cups crispy brown rice cereal (I used  Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice)
  1. Melt margarine in large saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add Vegmallow Fluff and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and add crispy rice cereal.
  4. Stir until well coated.
  5. Using a greased spatula, press mixture evenly into a greased 9" square pan.
  6. Let cool, then cut into squares.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 133.9
Total Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 31.2 mg
Total Carbs: 29.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 0.8 g