Even though I like to wax dramatic about a certain two months of my life back in early 2007 when I had to be completely dairy-free, I’ve never followed a true vegan diet for any length of time — and given my fascination with elimination diet lifestyles, the only reason I can come up with is that I’ve simply never been effectively drawn to it. But I have friends who are, and now know a handful of people who’ve been living a strict vegan diet for over 10 years (or longer). I hold these friends up in a pinnacle of perceived willpower; for even believing that any “special” diet, once mastered, isn’t nearly as difficult as it may seem — and in fact, ironically, is often very freeing — it’s always been hard for me to imagine being vegan. For reasons very cliché, stereotypical, and perhaps gauche: 1) bacon, 2) half-n-half, 3) butter, and 4) eggs (those vegan-vices listed in no particular order of animal-product-preference).
But I’ve done my share of vegan cooking. Most of it due to the dairy- and once-believed-egg-allergic middle child of mine. But even before his needs threw me into a headhunt for suitable and tasty substitutions for butter, eggs, and cream, I’d done my share of Molly Katzen experimentation, furthered in the cause by various vegan options at The (famed, with reason) Grit (quick! someone in Athens go eat the special, and let me live vicariously! because I CRAVE that food more than almost any other). I found that I actually enjoyed the challenge. It took a few years, but I finally collected a reliable list of dairy alternatives in baking — ones that didn’t skimp on fat or flavor, and that could fool even the most sensitive palate into thinking they weren’t missing a thing.
But then I discovered something. The vegans I know — especially ones who’ve been living that way for a while — don’t need to be fooled. Their tastes have changed, to the point where they aren’t looking for things to taste “just like (fill in the blank with your favorite dairy product).” They aren’t the ones who are cleaning the shelves of soy-based “cheez,” because they don’t really want cheese (and it’s a good thing — because if there is a dairy product that, in my opinion, simply cannot be replaced, it is cheese. Glorious cheese.). So it’s not a matter of willpower — it’s simply a lack of desire.
But then again, you never know. So when invited to a Fourth-of-July get-together a couple weeks back, knowing that half the crowd would be of the vegan persuasion, I planned my takings accordingly. A vegan coleslaw would be a breeze, and required no changes (and I do love a good slaw, especially for a party, because every single time I win a new convert to the wonders of cabbage and vinaigrette, happily extinguishing that childhood-born discrimination). But the day before, I’d purchased the first blueberries of the season, and couldn’t fathom a 4th gathering without some sort of cobbler. And, let’s just be honest here: I was longing for the praise of the vegans. I envisioned, as usual, a scene where good party folks are at first wary, but then succumb to guttural ooh‘s and aah‘s, overtaken with surprise and joy as they scrape the last morsel of dairy-free cobbler from their paper plates. They would wonder aloud that they never knew a vegan cobbler could be as divine. That this was the cobbler they’d been missing all these years.
But, as is usual when my narcissistic daydreaming gets the best of my intentions: nothing of the sort happened. My sweet vegan friends either politely declined eating my cobbler, or ate such a small portion that it seemed clear they were visually rewarding my effort (was my need that obvious?). It wasn’t a bad cobbler — quite good, I thought. But it was eaten almost entirely by all the meat-and-dairy-loving slobs in the room, myself included.
When the dishes are washed, I’m ok with that. Enough so that I’m posting the recipe for perpetuity. Feel free to file it away for the next time you find yourself hosting a vegan, and fancy yourself able to woo them with baked confections. Just be prepared to consume the leftovers.
Vegan Peach-Blueberry Cobbler
(adapted from this recipe at cooksillustrated.com)
for the filling:
- 10 oz (about 2 cups) fresh blueberries
- scant 2 lbs peaches, ripe but firm (about 3-4 large)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp salt
for the topping:
- scant 1/3 cup coconut milk (full-fat, unsweetened)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup fresh whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp Spectrum Organic shortening (palm oil shortening), chilled and cut into small pieces
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, and heat oven to 425º.
Peel peaches and cut each into 8 wedges. Gently toss peaches and sugar together in a large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Drain peaches in a colander set over a large bowl (you should have about 1/4 cup juice reserved). Whisk juice together with cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Toss juice mixture with peach slices and blueberries, and transfer to an 8″ square baking dish. Bake until fruit begins to bubble around the edges, about 10 minutes.
While fruit bakes, pour the vinegar into a glass measuring cup, and add coconut milk until the liquid level reaches 1/3 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Toss the chilled shortening into the flour mixture, and cut the fat in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the coconut milk mixture all at once, and toss gently with a rubber spatula until a cohesive dough forms (dough might be wet).
Once fruit has baked 10 minutes and is bubbly, remove pan from oven. Drop dough in 6 evenly-spaced mounds over the top of the fruit (the dough mounds should not touch). Sprinkle dough mounds with additional sugar, and return to oven. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 16-18 minutes. Cool cobbler at least 20 minutes on a wire rack, and serve (topped with ice cream, as shown, for any non-vegan friends).
This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.