I can’t imagine living without milk or cream. I may not drink it a lot but it’s such an essential baking ingredient that life without it would be like life without chocolate. Oh the humanity!. And what would choc chip cookies do without a pool of bovine awesomeness to dunk in? But obviously, there are people who do live without milk whether by choice, ethical reasons or because of health issues and often they’d turn to soy milk for all their vegan, lactose-free, cholesterol-free or gluten-free needs.
However in the case of Lady Vegan and Miss Lactose-free, they might as well drink mud because the taste of soy milk to them isn’t so awesome. And if they’re not going to drink it, then damn are they’re going to cook with it. Which makes them the perfect guinea pigs for today.
When Clare from Mark Communications sent me a small package of Nestlé Carnation Soy Cooking Milk to try, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it and who to do it for. The question is, can soy milk haters still tolerate it in a recipe? And in case you were wondering, this was made specifically for all your baking needs as unlike normal drinking soy milk, this will not split under high temperatures.
I chose the one dessert that relies on the taste of full cream bovine milk for utmost pleasure - Arroz Con Leche – a creamy rice pudding from Spain that epitomises everything there is to love about comfort food. As in the case of Miss Lactose-free, it was the perfect choice since it was one that she had to (sadly) give up due to health reasons. As for Lady Vegan, it was a chance to try a soy-based dessert for the first time (and hopefully like it).
Arroz con Leche gets it beautiful sweetness from full-cream condensed milk, which of course, is a no-no, so I had to make the condensed milk from scratch using soy milk. Things didn’t bode well in the beginning as I opened the cans and we all took a deep breath of that distinctive soy aroma but things improved after a quick taste of the soy condensed milk.
“It’s soy-ish but not heavily so”, says a relieved Lady Vegan.
“Sweet…”, was all Miss Lactose-free could mumble.
Of course, you could just replace all the soy milk for full cream milk if you’d like to try it the traditional way. I absolutely adore Arroz Con Leche all year round – as breakfast on cold mornings and on cold nights it’s sublime with poached quinces or pears. In warmer months, serve it cold with fresh fruits or a tumbling of summer berries. Drizzle it with extra condensed milk or honey if you feeling indulgent.
As for the Vegan-friendly and lactose-free rice pudding, the general consensus is that it’s surprisingly tasty. Miss Lactose-free absolutely loves it and is lavishing the thought of constant arroz con leche affection now that her fears of soy milk have been allayed.
As for Lady Vegan, she likes it even though she can still taste a hint of soy. “But it’s tolerable”, she quips between mouthfuls of rice pudding. For her that is as big of a complement as soy desserts are going to get. The Captain? He just took one big ol’ bowl of it and sat down in front of the TV and polished it off in one ad break. I’ll take that as a good sign too.
Naturally I’ll always use my full cream milk in Arroz Con Leche (I’m enjoying a bowl of it right now actually) but for the soy-hating lactards or vegans amongst us, allay your fears and do give it a try in your favourite recipe or dessert. It is after all, very tolerable*.
* tol·er·a·ble (adj.)
1. Lady Vegan’s term for ‘surprisingly delicious’
Soy Condensed Milk
1 C (250ml) soy cooking milk
1 C caster sugar
1 Tbl cornflour
Pour over about 2-3 tablespoons of soy milk over the cornflour and whisk until blended and smooth.
In a pan, heat the remaining milk and sugar and stir to combine. Add the cornflour mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat (or the milk may boil over) and stir constantly until thickened. If you wish for it to be thicker, add a little more cornflour (make sure you whisk it in a little cold soy milk or water before adding to the pot).
Remove from heat and set aside. Any remaining condensed milk can be stored in the fridge.
Vegan Arroz Con Leche (Spanish Rice Pudding)
100g medium grain rice
2 C (500ml) soy cooking milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip of lemon or orange rind
1/2 C (125ml) of soy condensed milk (from above recipe)
Place the rice in a pot and cover with water (to come up 3 times higher than the rice). Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Then drain the rice and set aside.
Heat the soy milk with the cinnamon stick and citrus rind. When it has come to a boil, add the rice and reduce the heat.
Sitr the rice constantly over low heat for about 12 minutes (rice should be half cooked) then add the condensed milk.
Stir for another 10 minutes or so or until the rice is fully cooked through. A good way to test is to scoop a few rice grains on the benchtop and if they can be easily squished, then it’s ready.
Spoon into bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.
Note: The mixture would probably still look watery and like it has too much liquid but don’t worry, the pudding will thicken up and get creamy when served.
Nestlé Carnation Soy Cooking MIlk is available from all supermarkets in 375ml cans for $2.89 each.