It’s high time for more 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival fun!
Once again, we’re going beyond the Marketplace Booths for a Special Event that is new to the Festival this year: Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! Hands-On Workshops. Similar to the Festival’s Culinary Demonstrations and Beverage Seminars, this new offering takes place daily in the Festival Center. However, the Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! sessions offer an interactive element unique to this Special Event where participants can take tips directly from leaders in the culinary industry.
The choice of topics is extensive, ranging from forming sushi rolls to pasta making and vodka tasting to pumpkin decorating (and beyond — check out the full list of options here). We attended The Art of Pastry Making with Erin McKenna.
You might be familiar with Erin McKenna as the founder of Babycakes or the owner of Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC in Disney Springs (or even her shops in New York and Los Angeles). If so, then you know that her focus is on creating tasty vegan and gluten-free goods. Since baking gluten-free items is not something I have previously attempted, I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn something new!
So join me in the Chef’s Showcase at the Festival Center to check out this new Special Event!
Long tables are set up in front of the stage so there’s plenty of room for lots of would-be pastry-makers!
Front and center is the stage with its large preparation area and makeshift kitchen. The appliances become useful depending on which demonstration you are attending.
The room is, indeed, HUGE. But even if you aren’t seated directly by the stage, large screens are also arranged to give every guest a good vantage point to follow along with the instructions, displaying an above-the-head shot of the preparation area to make sure that everybody can see what is going on!
Now, this may change depending on the amount of guests attending each workshop, but for The Art of Pastry Making with Erin McKenna, eight guests were seated at each table. Even within the group setting there was plenty of space in between seats to make sure we were comfortable and had plenty of room.
Cast Members made sure that each place setting had all of the appropriate items we would need during the demonstration, with the necessary ingredients in plastic ramekins (we’ll get into all of these soon!), and pitchers of water with cups set up at each table.
In addition to the ingredients, a fork, knife, mixing bowl and spatula were set for each guest.
Also upon seating, guests 21 and over were served a glass of Zonnin Prosecco. Guests under 21 are more than welcome to attend Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It events as well, but obviously will not receive any alcohol 🙂 . You can, however, request a soda instead.
Once we were all settled in, the host of the event was announced: Erin McKenna! She offered a greeting along with a small “Cheers” for a toast!
Erin also explained that it took some convincing for her to actually start eating a gluten-free diet. That said, once she made the switch she noticed a complete change in her lifestyle and energy. However, this change brought about a concern over the variety and quality of food choices available not only for herself but other gluten-free people as well. She started baking with a goal to create recipes for simple items such as cookies and brownies while making them incredible and special at the same time. Erin stressed that though her recipes are gluten-free and vegan-friendly, they are not intimidating and can attract all kinds of eaters — not only those on specialty diets. (We know this to be true from our own visits to Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC!)
Among Erin McKenna’s most popular items are Babycakes Brownie Bites… which is exactly what we learned to create! And if you’d like to join in the tasty fun, we have the steps listed here (and the recipe at the end of the post) so you can learn how to make them yourself.
We’ll start with the ingredients, which were clearly labeled and precisely pre-measured for us (and at the end of the post we’ll list all of the proper portions for you to use at home).
Ingredient One: Brown Rice Flour.
Erin explained that the the brown rice flour works as a sort of backbone of the recipe. It adds the density necessary for brownies.
Ingredient Two: Potato Starch.
This ensures that the brownies stay soft and chewy.
Ingredient Three: Vegan Sugar.
What makes vegan sugar different from regular sugar? It is free of any unknowns being added during production (regular sugar may often contain animal byproducts). Obviously, the role of the sugar is to add sweetness.
Ingredient Four: Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. (This was the only ingredient that didn’t have a lid and label, but it was certainly easy to recognize!)
Erin prefers to use an unsweetened cocoa to add the chocolate flavor because otherwise the Brownie Bites would be too sweet.
Ingredient Five: Baking Soda.
Baking soda helps the brownies to rise and also lends moisture; this is especially important because no eggs are used in this recipe.
Ingredient Six: Salt.
Okay, so this one’s pretty self-explanatory 🙂 , but Erin did note that she prefers using a coarse salt over a fine one.
Ingredient Seven: Xanthan Gum.
This was a new one for me! I learned that Xanthan Gum is crucial to the recipe because it has a binding element. Without it, your pastry will crumble.
Now, add all those dry ingredients (and ONLY the dry ingredients at this point), making sure to mix them thoroughly.
Once the dry ingredients are mixed, we can move on to adding the next ingredients.
Ingredient Eight: Canola Oil.
Canola Oil serves as a great substitute for butter, but you can feel free to use a coconut oil instead.
Ingredient Nine: Apple Sauce.
This is another ingredient that adds moisture. If you’re concerned with finding a completely safe and healthy applesauce, Erin suggests that apple baby food is always the safest choice!
Ingredient Ten: Vanilla Extract.
Another tip from Erin: invest in a good vanilla extract! Even if it costs a few more dollars, it will last for MANY baking sessions and you will be able to taste the difference.
Ingredient Eleven: Water.
Along with adding moisture, adding water also helps to remove lumps from the batter. Again, making sure the brownies have plenty of moisture is especially important when you’re not adding milk or eggs.
Allrighty, now it’s time to mix! Again!
Whisk well until the consistency is similar to a pancake batter. If it still appears too thick, just add small amounts of water until it’s just right.
Time to add the Final Ingredient: Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips!
There are plenty of other chocolate chip options out there, but the Enjoy Life brand (these are semi-sweet and miniature in size) are Erin’s absolute favorite to use.
At this point, the batter is ready for pouring and baking. You can make these in a mini muffin pan for Brownie Bites or in regular baking pan for full-sized Brownies.
The Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! sessions last one hour and fifteen minutes, so we were served prepared Brownies Bites that were freshly baked just before the class began. They were served with a few pieces of fruit as well; always a delicious combination with chocolate!
As I’ve grown to expect from an Erin McKenna treat, the Brownie Bite was soft and chewy, with just the right amount of decadent chocolate flavor.
Had I not JUST attended the session spelling out all the ingredients, I don’t think I would have known the Brownie Bite was gluten-free.
If you are gluten intolerant or vegan — or happen to have a friend or family member who is — these Brownie Bites are definitely worth taking the time to try to replicate yourself. Be sure to stay tuned to the very end of the post where we’ve included the recipe for you. I have to say, I feel much more confident having been shown the process step-by-step in the workshop. Additionally, after baking (and tasting!) we were free to ask questions to make sure we were comfortable with the information, adding to the interactive aspect of the whole experience.
Before you head into your own kitchen to give it a go, check out the parting gift each of the participants received… a bamboo cutting and serving board, complete with the Food and Wine Festival logo!
Erin McKenna’s goal is to make baked goods that taste both traditional and truly delicious. I honestly knew very little about preparing gluten-free and vegan baked goods before attending this workshop and I’m impressed with how much I learned in a relatively short amount of time. Again, the range of topics for the Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! sessions is quite varied, so be sure to check out the entire list and see if there is a topic that strikes your fancy. After all, even if your Food and Wine Festival adventure has wrapped up for this year, you know my personal philosophy: it’s never too early to start dreaming about the next one 😉 !
Each Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! Special Event takes place at 4:00 PM daily in the Festival Center, and the cost to attend is $49 per guest. Find the recipe for Erin MeKenna’s Brownie Bites below, and be sure to let us know how they turn out for you!
Brownie Bites Recipe
6 tablespoons potato starch
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1 cup vegan sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup melted canola oil or coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush a mini muffin/cupcake tray with oil and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, measure in potato starch, brown rice flour, sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt and whisk.
3. Pour the canola oil, applesauce, vanilla and water into the bowl and continue mixing until batter is smooth.
4. Using a heaping tablespoon, measure the batter into prepared baking pan. Place in oven for 10 minutes, rotate and continue baking an additional 5 minutes or until center is cooked.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Have you attended one of the new Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! Events this year? Please let us know about your experience with a comment!