Awhile back, my mom informs me of an ad she saw online about a new plant based butter and cream brand called Flora. They were offering small samples for free so she signed me up and told me to expect a box. Some time went by and honestly I had forgotten about it until a box showed up and I had two pounds of butter and a quart of cream to experiment with.
I was super excited to get my hands on these products and see how they can work in baking recipes. I have used vegan butters before and they really have gotten great at a 1:1 substitution in many recipes. The big challenges came when I wanted to make something other than a cake or cookie. Melting, emulsifying, and blending into all recipes didn’t always work. I was also super stoked for the cream. Most vegan creams are coconut based and I can’t use it so it’s hard to make some vegan desserts. This was a bean based cream that claimed it could blend into recipes, wouldn’t split, and could even whip up just like cream. Having a more neutral flavored cream for vegan products is defiantly something that can come in handy.
After sitting on the products for a bit and figuring out what I could and wanted to do with them I came down with this list:
1 lbs butter for croissants, using some cream to mimic the milk in the recipe
Cream and some butter in my favorite chewy caramel recipe
Cream in a simple chocolate ganache to see how it holds up
Lastly, whip some cream to see how easily it whips and potential to be used in mousse or other pastry recipes with whipped cream
With all this in mind I was ready to spend the day baking, sampling these products and see how they work!
First let’s talk about this butter. The biggest challenge I wanted to look at is a laminated dough. I love croissants and butter is the main ingredient, to remove it is kind of difficult. Many vegan butters work great in melting or creaming when soft, but lamination is a whole new category. The products came with a little pamphlet that talked about them and included some graphs that displayed the changing texture of the butter at various temps compared to cow’s milk butter. I was so happy to get that and see how it looks from a data stand point, and the Flora butter was almost exactly the same.
When making the butter block, I cut the pound block of butter into four slices and layered them next to each other. Even straight from the fridge it had a slightly soft texture that made it super easy to roll into a butter block. Typically I need to plasticize my butter (beat it with a rolling pin to soften), but the Flora butter was good to go without help. It was nice and smooth, didn’t melt quickly so I could handle it, and made a great little block.
As for the dough, I used half Flora cream and half water in place of the milk I usually use. This would be way more fat than milk but I didn’t want to make it complicated with a random ratio of the two and a 50/50 split seemed best. I made the dough like I always do. It came together a little slower than normal, maybe the cream was a little harder to absorb but after a few minutes it was back into a nice dough. Kneaded it to get to the right texture and it was perfect. Soft, supple, ready for a proof before lamination.
Now, lamination is where I really worried about how this would go. It all depends on the dough and butter to be similar consistencies to create even layers. Since the butter block was slightly soft even when cold though, this was a bit easier. On a non-vegan dough, I have to give the butter block a few moments to slightly soften before rolling. Not with Flora butter. I could go right in from the fridge and this to me is a huge bonus so that I don’t have to worry about my timing. Everything can be married at the right time and with ease. The overall lamination process was very much similar to standard dough. Lock and two folds, rest in fridge, last fold and roll and shape.
Once the dough was rolled out, I cut it just like I always do for croissants, placed them on pans, covered with tea towels and waited some more. It’s starting to warm up and this helps when I make yeasted products, typically it’s about 2-3 hours before baking and it was about 2 and a half when I decided to bake them off. I could have given them a little more time but I was making other things and needed them in and out of the oven so I sacrificed the last bit of proofing and away they went.
In oven is when a true test came, how well the butter holds up. There’s a lot of butter in croissants, and the butter tends to leak a little bit out. This has never been a problem for me but I always prepared for it. The Flora butter though…. Not much leak. I was super impressed. I made half the batch plain to see how they look completely but the batch is a dozen so of course I had to make some chocolate ones. The chocolate ones had a slight leak of butter but nothing compared to what I usually get. The plain ones on the other hand, no leak, none, just perfect little croissants hanging out on the pan.
Out of the oven, I let them cool completely so that I got the right texture and results. It was so hard to wait because they look so good and I was just so impressed so far I needed to taste and see if this butter can work for me. After fully cooling, I sliced one up and dove in. My god, they were perfect. Flakey, buttery, the mouthfeel was just like a croissant. There wasn’t any greasy film in the mouth. There wasn’t even a super greasy feel holding them in my hands. I have never had such a great looking croissant from my kitchen and I’m blown away by how these worked with the Flora butter.
The second experiment I was super excited for was my caramels. I love caramel candies. I have had a great recipes since I was in high school, people ask me for them, I make them all the time. I have tried a vegan butter and nut based cream once before with bad results. The butter was oily and didn’t emulsify (butter has natural emulsifiers that should help it blend in) and then cream curdled a little and made them soft.
With Flora butter and cream on hand, of course I needed to see if I can make a great vegan caramel. My recipe is simple and classic. Cook sugar and corn syrup to caramelize, add butter, add cream, cook to desired temp, done. When I added the butter to the caramelized sugar, at first it did seem to do the same thing as the other butter I tried. Melted fast, oil floated, struggled to emulsify. After a few stirs though it mixed right in and looks wonderful. Sometimes you just need a little elbow grease. Then the cream went in. The mixture bubbled like it should, cream mixed in pretty smoothly and I was impressed. Then cooked it to temp, poured into molds and waited for it to cool.
I’m impatient sometimes and I like to check the caramel consistency when I clean the pot. It had a decent firm texture so I was hopeful. As they cooled in the mold though I was starting to worry. They were not firming as fast as they normally do. Maybe the cream needed to be cooked more for a proper texture. I decided to do what I always do, cover and let them sit overnight and check the next day. I do this to fully allow any form of crystallization to take place. I do this with my ganaches as well to make sure they fully set. The following day checked on them again and they had firmed up just like they should and looked incredible. Ben helped me wrap them up, I of course tested a few while wrapping, and they look perfect! I was so impressed with how well the cream and butter mixed into the caramel and created the soft chewy caramel that so many love, but vegan!
The last recipe I wanted to test with the flora products was a simple chocolate ganache for some hand rolled truffles. Could this cream be used 1 for 1 with standard cream and I get the same consistency to work with my ganache?
I made a small batch, the cream mixed in beautifully and made a silk ganache that looked like heaven. I let it set up, as always with my ganache, overnight. The next day it had a nice firm texture. I rolled them up and they looked just like their non-vegan cousins. This cream has really impressed me to be a great substitute in many recipes of mine. There was just one more test I had to do…
The cream container makes a claim that it is just like cream, won’t separate or curdle, and can be whipped up. That whipping up is one of the hardest things to replicate and work well in recipes, so of course I needed to test it.
Simple whipping of the cream, nothing fancy here. I didn’t want to use it in a recipe plus I had only a little left and this was just to see if I can eventually use the Flora cream in recipes like mousse and Bavarian creams. Straight from the carton the Flora cream is nice and thick like cow’s cream. I started whipping it, by hand just to see, and very quickly it thickened more and had created a nice whipped cream. I was impressed how fast it happened, faster than cow’s cream. I did a small taste test to see the mouthfeel and honestly I could not sense a difference in the Flora cream. It was soft and luscious. A great creaminess without a greasiness to it. I added a little sugar and vanilla to make a nice Chantilly and all I needed was an apple pie. This was an incredible product and I cannot wait to get my hands on more to play with in more recipes and make more vegan creations.
Overall this was such a great time to play with my recipes and new vegan alternatives for ingredients. I love butter and cream but the environmental side of the cow industry is pretty bad. I know one day it will be more common to have non-cow based products but to know that we already have companies working out and creating such phenomenal replacements, I’m far less worried about my work, recipes, and how that will be down the line as the world keeps changing.