Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lemon Mousse Pie

I feel kind of ill-equipped to be blogging about this pie that comes courtesy of Vegan Pie in the Sky because Paul made the entire thing from start to finish. My only contribution to the process was busting through the door at 6pm with a fork in my hand, only to find out that it wasn't yet ready. Because it takes a small eternity for this particular pie to set.

We are not a patient people when it comes to sweets. The twenty minutes it takes to make chocolate chip cookies is a lot to ask of us, so you can imagine our horror when we learned that this pie needed to set in the fridge for FOUR HOURS.

In fact, our version of it needed to set for longer than four hours because we are not hip enough to own the cute little individual spring form pans that this recipe calls for. Instead, we had to use a 9" spring form pan and make a full size lemon mousse pie.

Science is not our strong suit so of course we didn't factor in the chemistry behind the size difference and almost ruined the entire pie by pouring the gelatinous lemon mixture on top of it before the mousse was ready. Who would have thought that a pie with a larger surface area would take longer to firm up than a pie with a smaller surface area?!

It appears that high school science classes have failed us. Maybe even elementary school science classes?

Lucky for us, it was only the very edges of the pie that slumped because of this oversight and we managed to salvage the rest. Plus, the pie was just for us and when it comes to desserts for ourselves we rarely bother with the fancy and typically even forgo separate plates in favour of eating right off the pie dish/cake plate/muffin tin to save on dirty dishes.

Anyway, the point of all this is that if you are making this as a full-size pie and are serving it to people whose opinions you value I very much recommend letting it set for five to six hours.

Did you notice my use of the word "gelatinous" and did it generate some concern?

Rest assured that gelatin is still has disgusting as ever - made from the collagen found inside animal bones and we certainly did not use it. We used agar. I'm just not sure the term "agarinous" has yet generated widespread acceptance with regard to all that is vegan and jiggly and would make Bill Cosby proud.

For those that are unfamiliar with agar (or "agar agar"), it comes from red algae and it is the best way to mimic Jell-o in vegan desserts. Like a lot of sea vegetables it can be pricy, but a little bit goes a long way in adding a certain jiggly quality to foodstuffs and (Praise Seitan) it is agar agar that makes vegan Jell-o shooters possible.

You can buy it in flake or powder form. I've found that powder is ideal for baking because it's more quickly and easily dissolved when heated and powdered seems to be the preferred form in vegan cookbooks. Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero even go so far as to say it is the only acceptable option for making their pies. The thing is, agar can be difficult to find and the flake variety seems to be more readily accessible than powder. At least around here.

So Paul used the flake, and on this particular Isa and Terry recipe it was completely fine, you just need to use a little bit more of the flake and cook it for a little bit longer. A ratio of approximately 1 tbsp of agar flake for every 1 tsp of agar powder should do the trick.

If you haven't ever used agar agar or agar powder, know that there is a bit of a learning curve to it. I am constantly screwing it up when I make Boston Cream cupcakes - some days it's perfectly jiggly, other days it's super runny. It's a bit of a diva with a Goldilocks complex: it demands the exact right cooking temperature and time, the exact right liquid-to-agar ratio and the exact right amount of time to set. You also don't want it to get old, either. I've never seen an expiry date on the powder but I find that as it gets older its ability to "gelatinize" (agarinize?) becomes compromised.

So truthfully, I don't like to work with it all that often because it's caused quite a few kitchen meltdowns over the last few years. But when the stars align and you get it right, it's one of the most amazing things. And it always, always makes for the best desserts.

Paul has even gone so far as to state that this lemon mousse pie is his favourite vegan dessert of all time.

While lemon might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to festive desserts, the gingersnap crust should do the trick - I guarantee that it will impress both the vegans and the non-vegans that you're spending the holidays with.

No digital recipe for it yet, you'll have to pick up a copy of Vegan Pie in the Sky!


Molly said...

I recently discovered this blog. It is awesome!

Kim said...

Wow - this looks super dee-lish M!
And what a great pic! Looks like something out of a magazine, super pretty.
I've always been too chicken to try a recipe that calls for the agar agar but maybe I should suck it up. I *think* I may have seen the powder at Eating Well... maybe not though. Maybe I'm thinking Arrowroot. Yup, definitely thinking Arrowroot. Scratch that. I'll have to try that recipe out.

Mary said...

Molly - Thank you!! Glad to have you!!

Kim - They probably do have the powder at Eating Well. I know they have it at Healthy Foods & More on Bridgeport, it's just that neither of those places are particularly close for me...Fiddleheads is right around the corner and they only have the flake, so that's usually what I get (unless I somehow manage to plan ahead and get it elsewhere...which never happens!). Agar is intimidating and requires patience and constant supervision - something I'm not good at (which is why Paul's baked goods always turn out so much better than mine!).

Catherine said...

I vote you substitute the word Jello-fy or jiggly-fy if you don't want to promote a specific brand in place of gelatinous/agarinous? LOL And it was a very nice looking pie!

Mary said...

Catherine - Great idea!!!

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