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What To Do With Tofu — A Dessert, Apparently

By Guan Tan

 
Felicia Yap
 

Singaporean pastry chef Ben Goh is 31 years old, and has 17 years of pastry-making experience under his belt. If you were to backtrack, he stepped foot into the sweets industry when he was merely a teenager. His major sweet tooth was what drove him to the profession. "I distinctly remember the time I ate an entire one-kilogram butter pound cake on my own," Goh exclaims. "I have the sweetest tooth in my family so I was always the one who bought pastries and cakes home from the neighbourhood bakery." 

Over the years, Goh watched trendy ingredients ebb and wane in the desserts landscape. All of his knowledge came together to form a mental world map of dessert ingredients and dishes in his head. 

For instance, tofu is an ingredient "fairly common in Asian desserts but not so in [Western] fine-dining desserts," Goh raps off. "In the West, they are most commonly seen in vegan desserts such as tofu cheesecake and tofu ice cream." In Asian culinary cultures, the use of tofu is definitely more pronounced — observed in "Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan" where the tofu pudding is commonplace. 

Nonetheless, the use of tofu in desserts remains fairly limited. Most diners still associate it with savoury appetisers or cold dishes. To Goh himself, the thought of tofu calls to mind a traditional Chinese steamed dish. "The most memorable tofu dish, to me, has to be the steamed tofu with preserved radish (or chye poh) that my mother makes. It is a very simple dish that speaks of my humble beginnings." Goh analyses the flavours and textures of the tofu with great detail, "The soft texture of the tofu is juxtaposed with the crunch from the radish, and the saltiness of the preserved vegetable is offset by the subtle flavour of the tofu." 

To Goh, tofu's gentle flavour profile is what makes it perfect for pastries. A good piece of tofu should ideally "be firm enough to stand on its own but disintegrate with the right amount of pressure applied. It should not have a strong, distinctive taste, but rather, a subtle bean flavour." The faint flavour is key here. Goh continues, "Tofu has a mild taste that does not jostle for attention but allows other flavours in the dessert to shine." That aside, tofu can take the place of stabilising agents such as gelatin and pectin in other dessert recipes — and it is a healthier option for those who are constantly plagued by a nagging sweet tooth, like Goh himself. 

"I am currently trying to lose weight and eat healthily," Goh muses laughingly. "I wanted to make a dessert that was healthy and yet, presented different flavours and textures. This dessert combines protein from tofu with fruits — delicious and low in fat." 

Here, Goh came up with a Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta recipe for home cooks. There are five major components and a final assembly. 

Felicia YapIngredients for pastry chef Ben Goh's Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta.
Ingredients for pastry chef Ben Goh's Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta.

Part 1: Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta

Ingredients
200 grams Tofu
250 millimetres Soy Milk
100 millimetres Fresh Cream
20 grams Sugar
8 grams Gelatin

Preparation
1. Blend the tofu, soy milk and cream using a mixer until smooth.
2. Add in sugar, and stir the mixture before cooking it until 65°C.
3. Soak the gelatin in water before adding it into the warm mixture, stir gently until gelatin is fully incorporated.
4. Fill a 6-centimetre (diameter) round mould or metal ring with the mixture to a height of 1.5 centimetres.
5. Place mould into the refrigerator and chill it for at least two hours to allow it to set.

Felicia YapChef Ben Goh pops gelatin into the mixture.
Chef Ben Goh pops gelatin into the mixture.
Felicia YapStrain the mixture.
Strain the mixture.
Felicia YapChef Ben Goh pipes the mixture into a plastic mould.
Chef Ben Goh pipes the mixture into a plastic mould.

Part 2. Rice Krispies Base

Ingredients
250 grams Rice Krispies cereal
175 grams Feuilletine
100 grams White Chocolate
1 Lemon (Zest)

Preparation
1. Melt the white chocolate chips over a bain-marie.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix gently until fully incorporated.
3. Place the mixture in a 7-centimetre (diameter) metal ring or round mould to a height of 1 centimetre.

Felicia YapMix the white chocolate into the Krispies.
Mix the white chocolate into the Krispies.
Felicia YapMix well, for the chocolate will act as the glue to hold the Krispies together.
Mix well, for the chocolate will act as the glue to hold the Krispies together.
Felicia YapThe Krispies mixture in a plastic mould.
The Krispies mixture in a plastic mould.

Part 3. Strawberry Consommé

Ingredients
100 grams Frozen Strawberries
100 grams Frozen Raspberries
20 grams Sugar
1 Lemon
1 Cinnamon Stick
 
 Preparation
1. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out its juice.
2. Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, including the entire squeezed lemon and its juice, and stir the mixture well.
3. Transfer the mixture to a bain-marie and allow mixture to cook for two hours.
4. Sift out the ingredients and set the juice aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Felicia YapThe ingredients in a mixing bowl.
The ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Felicia YapAllow mixture to cook over bain-marie.
Allow mixture to cook over bain-marie.
Felicia YapSift out mixture and keep the juice aside in a refrigerator for use later.
Sift out mixture and keep the juice aside in a refrigerator for use later.

Part 4. Lime Mint Granita

Ingredients
150 grams Warm Water
50 grams Lime Juice
30 grams Sugar
1 gram Fresh Mint Leaves (Chopped)

Preparation
1. Dissolve sugar into warm water.
2. Add lime juice and the mint leaves in.
3. Pour the mixture into a freezable container and freeze it.

Felicia YapDissolve sugar into warm water.
Dissolve sugar into warm water.
Felicia YapThe final frozen granita from the freezer.
The final frozen granita from the freezer.

Part 5. Strawberry Tulle

Ingredients
200 grams Strawberry Puree
50 grams Glucose
5 grams Pectin Yellow

Preparation
1. Mix strawberry puree and glucose together before bringing it to a boil.
2. Remove the mixture and pot from heat, add pectin yellow.
3. Put the pot back on the fire and allow it to boil for another 30 seconds.
4. Spread the mixture very thinly on a silicon mat and place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
5. After the mixture sets, cut it into squares in your desired size.
6. Place the squares in a dehydrator machine set to 70°C for one night. 
* If you do not have a dehydrator machine at home, you can dehydrate the strawberry mixture in an oven for three to four hours at 60°C.
7. When ready to serve, take the squares out from the machine (or oven) and quickly mould it into your desired shape while it is still hot.

Felicia YapSpread the mixture very thinly on a tray.
Spread the mixture very thinly on a tray.
Felicia YapA frozen piece fresh from the freezer, cut up into a square.
A frozen piece fresh from the freezer, cut up into a square.
Felicia YapChef Goh pops the square into a dehydrator machine. If not, pop it into an oven.
Chef Goh pops the square into a dehydrator machine. If not, pop it into an oven.
Felicia YapWhen dehydrated, it will break and tear easily, but that is fine.
When dehydrated, it will break and tear easily, but that is fine.

Final Assembly
1. Remove the chilled panna cotta from its mould. Using a smaller ring mould of about two to three centimetres (in diameter), cut a hole in the middle of the panna cotta.
2. Place the panna cotta disc (with the hole) over the rice Krispies base. Then place the entire dessert into a deep plate or bowl.
3. Take a fork and scrape at the frozen block of lime mint to create a granita. Place it within the emptied hole of the panna cotta.
4. Add the strawberry tulle on the side of the panna cotta. Garnish with a mint leaf and lemon zest.
5. Finally, pour the strawberry consommé over the dessert and enjoy immediately.

Felicia YapChef Ben Goh plating his Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta at The Lobby Lounge in the Intercontinental Singapore, where he is stationed.
Chef Ben Goh plating his Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta at The Lobby Lounge in the Intercontinental Singapore, where he is stationed.
Felicia YapPastry chef Ben Goh's healthier alternative to soothe his nagging sweet tooth — a Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta.
Pastry chef Ben Goh's healthier alternative to soothe his nagging sweet tooth — a Tofu Soy Milk Panna Cotta.
Visit pastry chef Ben Goh at The Lobby Lounge, Intercontinental Singapore.