Smooth as silk—a description that brings to mind soft fabrics, easy-to-listen to cadences, and delectably creamy desserts. But how often does the word “silk” take you to tofu? In the case of silken—or Japanese-style—tofu, it’s all about the prep.
While all tofu is essentially a curdled soymilk (just as cheese is curdled dairy milk of sorts), this protein- and antioxidant-rich second-generation soyfood is sold in one of two forms, depending on how much water remains in the final product.
Japanese-style (again, silken) has the more water of the two styles and is aseptically packaged in shelf-stable boxes. Once opened, this smooth-as-silk tofu must be kept refrigerated and used within five days. Because it is the softest of the tofu types, it’s best used in purees such as smoothies, soups, dips, and the like.
If you’re working with a dish where tofu needs to hold its shape—think stir-fries, soups, and pasta dishes—you’ll want to use Chinese-style tofu. A firmer tofu, it is sold in 14- or so ounce water-packed blocks found refrigerated often in the produce section. (Japanese-style can also be found alongside the Chinese-style, but remember that the silken does not require refrigeration before opening.)
Which tofu to use isn’t always explained in cookbooks, but knowing that silken is softer will help give you the results you want.
Having already decided to use tofu in the kitchen—whether in a main dish, snack, beverage, or dessert—means you are already interested in taking advantage of this soyfood’s many health benefits.
For one, the protein found in soy has been shown to protect heart health. As well, it’s one of few vegetable proteins equivalent in quality to that of animal protein. Soyfoods also contain genistein—an antioxidant that possibly prevents certain cancers and alleviates menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. And when calcium salts are used in tofu manufacture, this soyfood is a good source of calcium, too.
Considering the season of excess we have entered, it’s smart to think about balancing the sweet, rich, and heavy food we’ll most likely be consuming with lighter, more nutritious fare. Let silken tofu help you by providing the “cream” in a cream-free mousse. Better yet, give it the flavors of our just-passed fall by mixing in pumpkin puree. Lighter and airier than pumpkin pie, this mousse also saves you the calories of a crust. Spoon it into pretty goblets and top with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafer cookies for a festive dessert (or snack or even breakfast) that tastes good but is also decidedly good for you.
Silken Pumpkin Mousse
1 (12-ounce) box silken tofu
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Generous pinch ground cloves
In food processor bowl, combine all ingredients; cover. Puree until smooth, scraping side of bowl as needed. Refrigerate to chill and blend flavors. Makes 4 (1/2-cup) servings.