Always cooking with love, Chef Carla Hall is back with a new partnership that will change the way we approach dairy-free cooking and baking. She recently teamed up with leading plant-based beverage brand, Califia Farms, for a digital recipe book—Comfort Kitchen: A Dairy-Free & Plant-Based Recipe Collection—which features 16 recipes from the former Top Chef and The Chew talent.
"I have been using Califia products for a number of years, and I literally went back to see what else we could do together," Hall told EBONY. "This also falls in line with the things that I do and talk about in terms of making our foods healthier. I tried to do a collection of recipes that are comforting and can easily be added to meals. They are chef-driven but also very flavorful, and the great thing about the plant-based milks, they take on flavor very well."
With a focus on the brand's newly released dairy-free heavy whip, Hall says it's the perfect swap for baking and even cooking creamier soups.
"In the book, I use the heavy whip for my biscuits and berries recipe, but you can also do the whip with your sweet potato pie and holiday soups."
Beyond the heavy whip, she also raves about the oat and almond milks, including the unsweetened oat milk that she blends with a banana and cinnamon for a tasty late-night snack.
"This has been a favorite thing of mine. For kids, it tastes like a smoothie because of the creaminess and touch of cinnamon."
We asked Chef Carla Hall to give her favorite dairy-free recipes from the book that we can try this holiday season and beyond. And the great part is they are all very approachable, even for the occasional at-home cook.
"These recipes are absolutely approachable," Hall said. "For the biscuits, for instance, you can turn them into drop biscuits versus rolling them out in the flour. In the end, just have fun."
Carla Hall's Favorite Dairy-free Dishes
"Chicken-fried" mushrooms with pepper gravy
- 1 pound maitake mushrooms, divided into pieces about 3-inches to 4-inches each
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup rice flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 3 teaspoons onion powder
- 11/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 cup Califia Farms Unsweetened Almondmilk or Better Half
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons flaked salt, for garnish
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, onion powder, garlic
powder, and cayenne pepper.
- Prepare your dredging station with 3 shallow dishes. In the first dish, add the cornstarch and half of the spice mixture. In the second dish, add the Unsweetened Almondmilk or Better Half, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. In the third dish, add all-purpose flour, rice flour and the remaining spice mixture.
- Place skillet over medium-high heat and fill with 1/2-inch-deep vegetable oil, heating the oil to 360°F. Set a cooling rack on top of a half-sheet pan and set aside.
- Dredge the mushrooms in the cornstarch mixture, coating both sides, then dip into the liquid mixture, allowing excess liquid to drip off. Dredge in the seasoned flour mixture and gently place in the preheated oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 2–3 minutes per side.
- Remove to the rack on the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with a little flaked salt, and repeat until all mushrooms are fried. The mushrooms can be kept for up to 30 minutes in the oven set at 200°F until ready to serve.
- Serve with a side of Pepper Gravy.
Flaky Biscuit Shortcake with Mixed Berries
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons chilled coconut oil
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted dairy-free butter
- 3/4 cup cold Califia Farms Extra Creamy Almondmilk
- 1/3 cup Califia Farms Unsweetened Better Half, plus more for brushing
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 pound strawberries (½ thinly sliced, ½ topped and roughly chopped)
- ½ pint blueberries
- ½ pint blackberries
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 1–2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Sweetened Heavy Whip Topping:
- 3/4 cup Califia Farms Heavy Whip, chilled
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (plus more to garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract Almond Topping:
- ⅓ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Prepare the Almond Topping. Place the almonds, sugar and cinnamon in a blender or spice grinder and grind until fine. Pour into a shallow dish and set aside.
- Spray a half-sheet pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray, then line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the coconut oil and use your fingertips to completely pinch it into the flour mixture.
- Using a box grater, grate the cold dairy-free butter into the flour mixture and toss until all of the pieces are coated. Cut the butter into the flour by lightly pinching the butter into the flour mixture for about 30 seconds.
- Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.)
- Whisk together the Extra Creamy Almond-milk, Unsweetened Better Half, and apple cider vinegar, then add to the flour mixture. With a stiff rubber spatula, mix until the dough forms a shaggy mass and there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough should be slightly sticky.
- Transfer dough to the prepared work surface. Lightly sprinkle flour over the dough, coat your hands with flour and gently pat the dough with the pads of your hands to form it into a flat rectangle, 1/2-inch thick. Fold the rectangle into thirds, like a letter. Gently pat out again and repeat, turning the open ends in first. Repeat one last time, and pat the rectangle into 1-inch thickness.
- With the floured biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Flip the rounds over so that the pinched edge/smooth sides that were against the work surface are face up and place on the prepared pan, 1 inch apart. Stack the scraps, press and cut again. If necessary, refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes.
- Just before baking, brush the tops of the biscuits lightly with a little Califia Farms Unsweetened Better Half Creamer, then dip the tops into the Almond Topping to coat. Place the biscuit back on the pan.
- Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 13 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack.
- While the biscuits are baking, put the roughly chopped strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher until roughly pureed. Add the blueberries and blackberries to the strawberry mixture. Allow to sit and macerate
until ready to use.
- Just before you are ready to serve, whip the chilled Califia Farms Heavy Whip with the confectioners’ sugar and almond extract until soft peaks form.
- To serve, cut the biscuits in half horizon-tally with a serrated knife. Place a layer of sliced strawberries on the bottom half of a biscuit, then spoon the macerated berries loosely on top, so that they cascade lightly around the sides of the biscuit as well. Spoon a dollop of the Sweetened Heavy Whip Topping on top of the berries, then place the top half of the biscuit on top. Place a large dollop of the Sweetened Heavy Whip Topping on top of the biscuit, then dust with a little more confectioners’ sugar and some fresh lemon zest.