I am not really good at staying away from dairy products, as much as I have to. I still love nibbling my favourite cheese Camembert, or spooning a dollop of Mascarpone on a bowl of freshly picked orange juice macerated strawberries. I still like enjoying homemade cappuccino with heaps of milk foam on top and love devouring over creme brulee as my favourite desserts on a special occassion. All of those are too good to be substituted with dairy-free ingredients, if I have to be frank, but they are not without consequences that I have to deal with afterwards. If they are in any way substituted, I cannot find a parallel satisfaction I can get from dairy products counterparts.
Sometimes the consequence is so ugly that makes me promise myself right to the bone not to go back to the previous diets (although I often don't keep).
The older, the wiser I am (says me). If I want to live longer and healthy, please Arfi, don't break your own promises. If dairy-free products can keep me enjoy the world much longer and watch my kids grow up, then stick with them. It is a long-term conduct of well-being, I suppose. And (perhaps) self-discipline.
So, yes. I have to switch my palate to another direction my body tells it's safe to consume. Perhaps with a little adjustment, I will be alright.
I am sure I am not the only one.
The good news is, I am a bit lucky that I can find a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free baking substitutes at our local (Pukekohe, The Heart of Franklin, that is) specialty store, 'N Tolerance. They have Milk Alternatives, Soy Condensed Milk, as well as other baking substitutes you find on the website. Besides, you can just find milk substitutes at ordinary groceries, such as 'Pak n Save. Coconut milk and coconut cream are also widely available at local groceries or Asian shops. I don't think I would be able to complain anymore.
It's now the matter of being creative.
I have been experimenting on these products for such a long time to make pannacotta, not that I am paid to say these things, but just as you know. Soy milk and Rice milk are equally good. Almond milk will give slightly richer texture with nutty flavour more than the previous mentioned. But when you make pannacotta, you will need something quite thicker than milk. Therefore, I use coconut cream.
Dairy-Free Vanilla Rice Milk and Coconut Cream Pannacotta
Allison of Pease Pudding sent me a jar of agar-agar weeks ago (thanks, Alli!) and I use it to make this dairy-free pannacotta. The result will be a firmer texture of pannacotta, not as wobbly as a jelly would be like. I have been familiar cooking with agar-agar because this is what we mostly use to cook desserts in Indonesia, like Casablanca Pudding I made years ago, although nowadays gelatine has been introduced and been used widely. We enjoy this pannacotta with blueberry compote.
The interesting thing about agar-agar is that you can cook it with the other ingredients without the need to soak it in liquid firsthand. If you have some mixture left on your saucepan, it will slide away easily when you rinse it in cold water.
400ml coconut cream
100ml rice milk
1 Tbs agar-agar powder
1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped
1/2 cup caster sugar
Whisk all the ingredients in a large saucepan until well-blended. Boil on high heat until bubbly and then on low heat to simmer until the mixture is thicken. Discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture into prepared glasses. Let cool and then transfer into the fridge. Serve with your favourite topping.