Back before I was vegan, I was a pretty good (albeit not formally trained) pastry chef. Not of the “How much icing can I fit on this cupcake” variety, which I honestly think is a bit vulgar, but more in the vein of trying to resurrect lost puddings and biscuits from old British housekeeping manuals, and getting really into French patisserie – The absolute acme of my non-career being a two foot tall croquembouche for a New Years’ party, where everything from the whipped cream to the gold-powder-infused caramel was made from scratch – No packet sauces or aerosols involved.
And then in 2011 I went vegan, and it all basically stopped, because vegan cake-making-stuff was expensive, and never gave the results I wanted, and using bananas as egg replacer made everything pink and stringy and taste of banana. (Though converting recipes with the Phallic Ratio does always amuse me).
So, this week, after a few months of craving financiers, I decided to experiment a bit. Urad dal, the white kind rather than the unhulled kind, is a pretty good source of protein, much like an egg white. And to make financiers, I pretty much only needed egg whites, for the texture.
So, one tablespoon of dal, into four tablespoons of boiling water from the kettle, left overnight, then strained in the morning to separate out the solids. I suspect this would also work if the dal was cooked, and the water saved, which would be quicker. The result was a thickish white liquid that, when spread around, seemed to be pretty proteinaceous, rather than starchy.
The dry ingredients didn’t need much changing, just a matter of working out the proportions; 3tbsp almond powder, 1tbsp icing sugar, 1 tbsp self-raising flour. Mixed up in a bowl, making sure there’s no clumps.
Then, to make beurre noisette – A pain in the dick at the best of times, becuase of all the stirring and risk of setting off the smoke alarms. I decided to use Vitalite (2 tbsp off), in a heavy-bottomed non-non-stick pan. It melts faster than real butter, but takes a bit longer to brown up, and needs constant stirring with a fork to keep it agitated and consistent, rather than burnt. It actually worked, pretty well.
Mix wet into dry – dal first, then the beurre noisette, slightly cooled, then leave everything to stand for a few minutes. A good time to grease tins, arrange silicone cake cases, and get the oven heated up to 200c.
Give everything another stir, and it should look a lot like “proper” cake mix. Put one tablespoon in the bottom of each mould, or cake case (Moulds are better, metal is best, since they make the undersides very crisp). The amount above makes six small cakes, since this was only a test run, but you’ll note that it’s an easy to convert ratio to make as many as you like.
Baking is a matter of faff – Five minutes at 200c, to get them to rise and start to crisp, then reduce the heat to 160 and bake for another eight minutes to cook the centres, then return to 200 for about another five minutes to crisp the shells up so that they’re nice and golden. The edges where they’re touching the metal pans should be a chestnutty colour, and the middles should be the classic gold that makes them look like gold bars.
Pop out of the trays, leave to cool for a few seconds if you’ve got the patience (And they do get a little crisper as they cool) then eat. The centres will, hopefully, be almost like an almond fondant, and the outers will be crispy sponge cake.