"Eat food...Mostly plants" ----Michael Pollan
Chef Diane Forley began her culinary training in modern American and classical French kitchens. She cooked her way through The River Café in Brooklyn and landed the executive pastry chef position at Gotham Bar and Grill in New York. She apprenticed at L’Arpege and Maison Blanche in Paris, and at L’Ecole Lenôtre before opening her first restaurant, Verbena, in Gramercy Park. Her restaurant was renowned for Diane's vegetable forward tasting menus and wine pairings. Her botanically-inspired cookbook, Anatomy of a Dish (2002), established her at the forefront of the plant-based movement.
In 2009, Chef Forley opened Flourish Baking Company, a vegan, nut-free bakery. In her plant-based kitchen, she adopts a sustainable approach to baking free from eggs, dairy, butter and nuts. Her baking style supports the growing need for allergen friendly products.
I am often asked - Why open a vegan bakery? Why nut-free?
At the time I began training in restaurants, it was customary for plants to play a secondary role as a side dish or accompaniment to meat or fish. Yet, the techniques I learned in the kitchen when moving from station to station were in fact all plant based - garde manger (salads and knife skills), entremetier (vegetable cookery), saucier (stocks and sauce making), and patissier (sweets and bread baking). When I decided to open my restaurant, fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes took the starring role on my menus.
Years later, when I decided to open a bakery, I wanted to take a similar approach. It was time to rethink ingredients and their impact on the environment. I felt that it was my role as a chef to figure out a way to bake without eggs, dairy and butter and still create a delicious product. I was also frequently asked for nut-free options; my new baking style offered a natural solution for both those observing a vegan lifestyle, as well as for those with dietary restrictions.
I implemented the classical techniques that I had learned, but this time, with plants out front. While savory cooking was more forgiving, baking without eggs, milk and butter was a little more difficult. It was a challenge that I was eager to take. Little by little, as I recreated all of my recipes, I realized that baking did not require eggs or milk; baked products tasted cleaner and less processed.
As I began to convert my recipes, the timing couldn't be better. New ingredients began to emerge in the marketplace in response to a growing demand for more vegan and sustainable products. Ancient grains were available as flours - millet, oats, quinoa. Seeds and grains transformed into creamy dairy-free plant milks. Coconut took unexpected forms such as yogurt, butter, cheese, flour, sugar and even vinegar. At Flourish, beans and legumes became cornerstone ingredients in our soy and nut-free kitchen that crossed between sweet and savory. As an egg and nut replacement, beans and even bean water (aquafaba) provided nutrition and structure vital to baked goods. An added benefit, beans require less irrigation unlike water-intensive nut and soy crops.
Adopting a vegan approach in my kitchen, it turns out, was not sacrificing anything in terms of taste, flavor, or performance; but acquiring a deeper understanding of ingredients and how to use them.
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