Vegan Patisserie Challenge Adds Spice to World Pastry Cup in France

From Agence France-Presse . . . . . . . . .

Contestants at the World Pastry Cup in Lyon, France, this week had to wrestle with a challenge previously unthinkable in the country’s rich dessert history: it’s got to be vegan to take the cake.

Twenty-one countries took part in the final of a competition organised every two years, under the banner of the Lyon Gastronomy Fair.

Competitors had 10 hours to prepare a dessert based on chocolate and honey, a frozen dessert made of fruit, and one without any butter, cream, eggs or any animal product.

In addition the teams had to produce three sculptures, of chocolate, sugar and ice cream.

To the naked eye, none of the creations looked much different from classic cakes, even though they made use of soy milk, almond and hazelnuts, and plenty of fruit.

The British team offered an all-white dessert filled with a beetroot raspberry sorbet.

Egypt, meanwhile, produced a macaron by replacing the traditional airy egg whites with aquafaba, the water in which chickpeas have been cooked.

Not everyone was embracing the vegan concept, however.

“Butter and cream, that’s 100 per cent the pleasure of eating. I don’t know how to explain it – fat is good for your morale,” said Philippe Rigollot, a pastry chef based in Annecy, France, who won the contest in 2005.

Critics also say vegan desserts often end up too sugary, since there are no animal fats to soften the sweetness.

“To make up for the lack of eggs and other fats in the emulsions, candidates have been using carrageenans (edible seaweed extracts) or xanthan gum, a bacteria” used as a thickening agent, said Ludovic Mercier, a pastry chef from Geneva.

Malaysia’s enthusiastic team rose to the challenge, taking the prize with a meticulous crafting of monkeys dressed like Elvis.

Japan, one of the few teams to include a woman, took second place, followed by a visibly disappointed Italy.

France, as the current title holder, did not field a team this year, but it remains the pastry champion with eight world cups since the competition began 30 years ago.

“In 1989 pastry was out of style. People knew about Gaston Lenotre, but after that there really wasn’t anyone well known,” said Gabriel Paillasson, the cup’s founder.

But vegan patisserie is still a niche market in France and other Western nations, though many cooks point out that vegetable-based cakes have a long history in Asia.

Source: SCMP

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Extreme Food: International Annual Animal Testicles Cooking Championship

Spring rolls, ratatouille and curry were on the menu at a quirky food festival in rural Serbia on Saturday, with one gutsy ingredient in common: animal testicles.

Now in its 15th year, the cheeky “World Testicle Cooking Championship” draws a motley mix of teams – from groups of friends to professional chefs – for a few days of fun in the Serbian countryside.

There they set up cooking camps in a forest, stirring bubbling stews over wood fires as they vied for the coveted “Ball Cup”.

While the testicles – grey in colour and with a kidney-like texture – may spoil some appetites, festivalgoers wax poetic about their taste and alleged aphrodisiac qualities.

“There were some really interesting combinations of flavour … the winner was super, really fantastic,” said Philomena O’Brien, an Australian woman who sat on the three-judge panel that blind-tasted dishes from nearly 20 teams.

“Choosing the best balls is quite a responsibility,” she added with a smile.

The event was started by Ljubomir Erovic, the author of a recipe book called Cooking with Balls who claims testicles boost a man’s libido.

“It’s really an aphrodisiac festival,” he said, before donning a chef’s hat and announcing the winner on stage.

Flares and fireworks lit up the sky after a local Serbian team was crowned the winner, with a team of Japanese curry-makers and a team of French restaurateurs also singled out.

“It was quite challenging to do French gastronomy with testicles,” said a member of the French team, Philippe, who runs a restaurant in Paris.

“But we are happy with the result,” he added, showing off the team’s four-course menu featuring bull testicles with foie gras and chocolate “salty balls”, for which it received a special award.

Milos Kojanic, a 24-year-old from the winning team, said his group also took home last year’s trophy.

The secret to their saucy stews?

“That’s a mystery,” he said.

Source : SCMP