Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies Invade My Belly

Have you ever noticed that there are about as many chocolate chip cookie recipes as clouds in the sky? Seriously, it's kind of crazy. It's interesting, though. So many different ways of creating virtually the same thing. My favorite is usually a veganized version of the old school Toll House cookie recipe. It's a nice cookie that's just a bit fluffy and not too crunchy or oily and doesn't fall apart. I always add pecans with the chocolate chips. Without the pecans it's good, but just not the same if you ask me.


When a chocolate chip cookie craving set upon me a few weeks ago, I decided that I'd try a new recipe just for kicks. You never know when that new recipe might suddenly become your old favorite, right? It's always worth it to shake things up a bit here and there. Enter Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Someone suggested I make a cookie pie instead of individual cookies. My willpower was not strong that day so I opted for a smaller serving size. I was afraid I'd eat like half of the cookiepie in one sitting!

These cookies turned out great! They didn't rise quite as much as my usual recipe, but not in a bad way. These are definitely more of a crunchy cookie. But not like super crunchy, just not like eating a pillow or something if that makes any sense. Again, not in a bad way! These were super yummy.

I pretty much always have all of the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies on hand, so that's a score. I even had the tapioca flour. I've been baking gluten-free stuff quite a bit more often so I've been stocking up on some of the more out of the ordinary flours. If you don't have any of that and don't want to buy any, you can substitute arrowroot powder. (Or so says the internet at least! I haven't tried doing that in this particular recipe, but I can't see why it wouldn't work just fine.)

Another cool thing about this recipe is that there's no margarine in it. Great for those days when you're out of Earth Balance but you really want to make some cookies.  That's also great if you're trying to avoid soy or palm oil.

I just realized Isa and Terry put this recipe online, so yay for you! I copy/pasted it from here.


Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)
Makes two dozen two inch cookies or about 16 three inch cookies

1/2 brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two large light metal baking sheets.

Mix together sugars, oil, milk and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until it resembles smooth caramel. There is a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collide, so it’s important that you don’t get lazy about that step. Mix in the vanilla.

Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans. The dough will be a little stuff so use your hands to really work them in.

For 3 inch cookies, roll the dough into about ping pong ball size balls. Flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches. They will spread just a bit. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes – no more than 9 – until they are just a little browned around the edges. I usually get 16 out of these so I do two rounds of eight cookies. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

For 2 dozen two inch cookies roll dough into walnut sized balls and flatten to about 1 1/2 inches and bake for only six minutes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And Then They Bought a Juicer

Last weekend we bought a juicer. It's one of those things that I've been wanting for years. As I'm trying to find ways to cram in more servings of fruits and vegetables in my day, I've been buying more fresh juice. I've also been really interested in making some juices with greens added to them. I can't really find anything like that locally so our answer was to suck it up and go buy a juicer.


This thing is awesome! The first juice we made was an apple-carrot-beet-ginger juice. We had no idea how much juice would come out of the produce so we actually ended up with about 5 huge glasses of juice. I know it's best not to refrigerate the juice and drink it later, but that's what we had to do with most of it. So crazy. I'm still getting the hang of how much fruit and veggies to put in to get just one or two glasses of juice.

So far we've made the apple-carrot-beet-ginger juice quite a few times, once with some kale added even. We've made lemon juice, apple juice, orange juice and pear juice, too. It's amazing. We realized that we'll never have to buy store-bought lemon juice again. That's something we use quite a bit at our place, too. The pears actually ended up making a bit of a pear puree. We cut it with some apple juice, simmered it all with a couple of cinnamon sticks and had the most amazing hot pear cider. Yum! I froze a bunch of the pear juice to use later. I think I might make a raw pie with that as the top layer.

Phoebe was posing, too so I thought I'd get a photo of her as well as the juice.

If you've never had freshly juiced oranges, woah. Putting an orange through a juicer is much, much different than just squeezing all of the juice out of it. The juice is really foamy and so delicious. I like it so much better this way than out of a carton from the store.

We've been juicing pretty much every day now. I'm looking forward to trying some green juices. We've gotten a couple of recommendations from friends and I'm reading Crazy Sexy Diet right now and I think Kris Carr has a few recipes for them as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vegan Bennies

I really love brunch. I especially love making brunch at home and enjoying it on a leisurely weekend morning. I know, I've probably said that a few million times before, but it's something I really look forward to. Sometimes we get so busy on the weekends or we forget to go to the market so there aren't enough ingredients. Usually those are the days we end up having biscuits for breakfast.

My new love, though, is vegan bennies. When I first brought home my copy of Vegan Brunch, that recipe immediately caught my eye. For some reason I brushed it off as too much trouble. I mean, look how cute it is in the book photo! That's kind of a silly way to think about it, really. These babies are super easy to make and don't really take that much time. It's just a matter of marinating some tofu and making a sauce. So easy.

I forgot to take a photo before we started eating so I made James stop mid-bite so I could get this one.

The first time I made these I really wanted to make the Potato Spinach Squares so I served them the english muffin way. I'd never had a benny before anyway, so I figured I should just go for the most common configuration for the first go-round anyway. The Potato Spinach Squares are super awesome, by the way. I make them as a side dish for dinner sometimes, too. I also did the whole thing of cutting out the tofu into little round pieces to fit on the english muffins. They were super cute, but seeing as how we don't really eat tofu that often at home anymore, I don't think I'll do it that way again because of how much tofu is leftover from the cutting.

The second time we made the bennies, I also made the Diner Home Fries from Vegan Brunch and just cut the tofu into little triangles perched on top of the potatoes. Okay, seriously, I should have just done this from the beginning. Not only were there no leftovers but holy cow, these potatoes are tasty!


I always end up with leftovers when I make these which is just fine by me. That means I can do a quick reheat the next morning and have a really nice breakfast on a Monday morning before work. That really helps get the day started nicely. We don't own a microwave so I can't vouch for that, but the bennies reheat nicely on the stovetop and in the oven. If you've been feeling intimidated by this recipe like I was, you really should try to make it. It's easy and comes together fast.

I think next time I'll add some spinach and maybe avocado to the bennies.  Yum!  Vegan Brunch, you win again!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Julia Child's Apple Tart

I've been meaning to blog about this for ages. I don't know why I keep forgetting. This is probably the best apple tart I've ever had. Not just the best that I, personally have made, but the best that's ever been in my tummy.


I was having a bunch of people over for dinner and wanted to make a fancyish dessert. It was fall and the local apples are plentiful in Vancouver at that time of year so I tend to want to bake them constantly. I had also just seen Julie & Julia and had been thinking that I'd never even looked at a Julia Child recipe. I rather like veganizing recipes from well-known chefs. It makes me kind of excited that I can make something just as awesome as they did without using any animal products. That actually makes my version even more awesome if you ask me.

So anyway, I came across this recipe for an apple tart and decided to go for it. I followed the instructions to the letter. I know Julia Child is very specific in how everything should be prepared. I do think that kind of attention to detail can make all of the difference sometimes when baking. I don't usually arrange my apples so neatly, either. I'm more of a throw it all together and move it around later kind of gal, especially if I'm trying to cook a bunch of stuff at once.


This tart was flipping amazing. The crust was so flaky, it melted in your mouth. I have never made a crust like this before. You see all of those cute little apple slices on the top of the tart? Under those is another layer of apple. It's like a smooth apple butter consistency or something, maybe a little thicker. That different texture really added an extra bit of oomph to the tart. I felt like my tastebuds were singing and dancing when eating this. I can't wait for a reason make this tart again.

I used a combination of Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples in this. I firmly believe that the type of apple you use when baking makes such a big difference in the final product. I almost exclusively use those two types of apples in cooking. Pink Ladies are also one of my favorites for just eating. That apple has sort of a sweet-tart flavor. Not nearly as tart as a Granny Smith, but just as firm and crunchy. They hold up well when baking. Granny Smith apples are tart and slightly sweet, but sweeten up a bit more when baked. They're even firmer and hold their shape nicely. I've never had either of these apples get mushy on me when I cook them.

Check it out. You can see my cat, Phoebe eyeing the tart from across the kitchen. She was doing that the entire time I was taking these photos. I almost didn't notice! It cracks me up whenever I look at this picture. I love the way she's staring at it with those big eyes of hers. haha


Apple Tart (adapted from Julia Child's original recipe, which you can find here)

You can use a pie plate, but a tart pan with a removable bottom is best. I used a 9" tart pan.

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz cold Earth Balance, cut into little pieces
1/4 cup ice water

6 medium to large apples, peeled and cored, Granny Smith or Pink Lady are best
1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
pinch cinnamon
1/2 fluffy bread crumbs (you can always tear up some bread and toast it in the oven for this.)
2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 large apples, peeled and cored, preferably Granny Smith or Pink Lady
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the Earth Balance with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the ice water a little bit at a time until it's all incorporated. Be careful not to mix it too much. You don't want to get the dough too warm. Now turn the dough out onto a clean surface and gently knead it a few times just to get it to be a bit more like a dough. Be careful not to overdo it. You don't want to start forming gluten strings or make it too warm. Form the dough into a fat disc and wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for 2 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8" thick for a 9" tart pan. Gently press the dough into the tart pan. Chill again for about 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Line the inside of the dough with foil and pie weights (or you can use dried beans).  Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is just starting to get golden brown. You can take the foil and pie weights out now. Cool the crust on a wire rack while you're getting the filling together.

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Cut the apples into quarters. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and bread crumbs. Toss the apples into the sugar mixture until everything is combined and the apples are a bit coated. Add the lemon juice and mix it up until it's incorporated.

Spread the apple mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the apples start to release some of their juices and start to form a sauce. You want them to be soft enough to mash.

Remove the apple mixture from the oven and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes. Once it's cool, gently spoon it into the cooled crust, smoothing the top so it looks even.

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Line a baking pan or sheet with foil or parchment paper. You want a pan that's big enough to put your tart pan inside. This is to catch any drips or in case anything cooks over.

Quarter, then slice the apples into 1/8" slices. Gently, toss the apples with the lemon juice so that you get as much of the apple surface coated as you can.

Arrange the apple slices in a well-packed circle, starting with the center and working your way out. Brush with the melted Earth Balance and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. I also ground some fresh cinnamon on top of mine.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is glazed and the apples are edged in black. Dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Isa's Mac & Shews

I can tell you the exact moment my life changed. It was when I read Isa Moskowitz's blog post about Mac & Shews. I will never be the same again. Well, dinner won't be at least.

So Isa had this crazy awesome idea to add sauerkraut to a creamy cashew sauce to get that tang that vegan cheeses substitutes are missing. I just happened to have a jar of Bubbies sauerkraut in the fridge leftover from veggie dog meals from the summer. I've never really used it for anything else so I figured that if nothing else, this would be a great way to get rid of that jar. Also, I totally love making things from cashews.

Here's a funny thing. Even in my vegetarian days, I never really cared much for macaroni and cheese. (Or as they call it up here in Canada - Kraft Dinner.) For some reason, though, since becoming vegan, I love experimenting with different mac and cheese recipes. With the exception of Veganomicon's Mac Daddy, I've rarely made a recipe for this twice. It's always been sort of the same noochy flavor. Don't get me wrong, I love me some nutritional yeast, but I don't really care one way or the other for a nooch sauce of that type. I'll eat it, but I don't sit around thinking about it or anything. This stuff, though... oh, man.

Isa's photos are prettier than mine, so maybe go look at her post, too.

I will most definitely make Mac & Shews again. And again. And again. We steamed some broccoli with ours and added some hot sauce and it was amazing. James and I each had thirds. Thirds! I don't think either of us have ever done that. And even Mr. I-Refuse-To-Eat-Leftovers was looking forward to eating leftovers of this stuff. The sauce is creamy and tangy and full of wonderful flavors.

I've been told that the Bubbies sauerkraut has a slightly different flavor than other brands. I forget why. Maybe they don't add as much vinegar or something. So keep that in mind. However, I don't think you'd ever know sauerkraut was the secret ingredient in this if someone didn't tell you. James likes to try and guess what I put in things and he was totally stumped on this one. I was so gleeful when I told him it was cashews and sauerkraut. Seriously, try this stuff even if you never liked mac and cheese before.

One thing, though - this makes a huge pan worth. I think next time I'll half the recipe since it's just the two of us at home. If you're cooking for one or two,  you might want to do that as well.

Once again proving my copy/paste powers are strong, here's the recipe direct from Isa's blog to mine to you.

Mac & Shews

Recipe notes:
~You really need to blend the beejeezus out of the cashews and sauerkraut. Although it won’t be completely creamy until after it’s cooked, it should still be relatively smooth, with absolutely no chunks, when it comes out of the food processor. I think a Vitamix type thing would work here, too, but I don’t have one myself.

~Make sure that the roux is cooked and toasty before streaming in the veggie broth. It really makes a difference in the final flavor, so get your roux a really beautiful gravy color.

~You can use any smallish pasta. I love to use chiocciole because it can hold plenty of sauce, and I just find the shape pleasing. Small shells or traditional macaroni are both great choices, too.

~To soak cashews, just place them in a bowl and submerge with water. Soak for at least an hour, preferably two, or up to overnight.

~And lastly, the type of veggie broth you use makes a huge difference. If I use my own homemade broth, I make sure it’s super assertive. If you use the type of broth that comes from a powder or concentrate, that is totally cool, just make it a bit stronger than you usually do.

1 lb small pasta like shells, macaroni or chiocciole

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked (see recipe note)
4 cups broth, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups sauerkraut

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon tumeric
Several dashes fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

First boil salted water for the pasta. Cook pasta and drain. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the recipe.

Place the soaked cashews and the vegetable broth in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor with a spatula occasionally to make sure you get everything. This could take 5 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic and a pinch of salt in a tablespoon of the oil, until onions are softened.

Drain the sauerkraut in a sieve, pushing it into the sieve to remove as much moisture as possible. Add to the pan just to heat through, a minute or two.

Transfer sauerkraut mixture to the food processor with the cashew mixture. Once again, puree until relatively smooth. There will be some texture, just make sure it’s not chunky.

Wipe out the pan that you sauteed the onions in and preheat it over medium heat once again. Add 3 tablespoons of oil, along with the flour. It should become a gooey clump. You’re now making a roux! Add a little bit more olive oil if necessary. Toast the roux for about 15 minutes, until it smells toasty and turns a medium brown. Stir practically the whole time so that it cooks evenly.

Now stream in remaining 2 cups of broth, whisking constantly so that it doesn’t clump. Whisk until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes.

Stream in the cashew sauerkraut mixture, and whisk until well incorporated. Add the tumeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast if using, salt and fresh lemon juice. Heat through and stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken.

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 11 x 13 casserole with olive oil.

Add the cooked pasta back to the pasta pot and pour in the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Mix to coat, then transfer to the casserole dish. Cover casserole with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gluten-Free Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I've been wanting to try adding in some more gluten-free options to my diet. I'm not Celiac, but gluten gets to me if I have too much of it. Not to mention that it's probably a healthy idea to have a wider variety of grains in your diet, anyway. I have a few friends who are strictly gluten-free as well so it's always nice to be able to make treats that they can enjoy, too.


I recently acquired the Babycakes cookbook and I've been excited to try so many of the recipes in there. I was kind of dismayed to find that most of the book isn't actually gluten-free, but uses spelt flour. Spelt is fine for me, but for people who have a gluten intolerance, it's not really an okay substitute most of the time. No matter, I'll just make sure to bake those things when it's just me and James eating them.

I did have to make a couple of trips to get all of the ingredients for these, but it was worth it. I didn't even know where would have Xanthan Gum. Thank goodness for Capers!

The first thing I made were these awesome Apple Cinnamon Muffins. I love the big chunks of apples that are in the muffin for one thing. What a cool idea to cook the apples a bit before adding to the batter. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the warm muffins. They didn't taste like anything gluten-free that I'd had before. You know that typical dry, grainy texture that gluten-free stuff tends to have? These are not like that at all. I could tell they were made with regular wheat flour, but not in a bad way, you know?

James even really liked them. He grabbed some to bring for a quick breakfast at work a few times, too which was an indicator of how much he liked them. He doesn't usually think to bring food from home to work unless he really likes something. I did find that these are better warm. Once they were room temperature they were still good, but lacking a little something that warming them up definitely adds.

I can't wait to make more things from the Babycakes cookbook! If these muffins are any indication of how delicious the rest will be, oh man.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oven Baked Onion Rings

I've never really cared much for onion rings. For some reason in the past year or so I've started to want them. I'm generally disappointed with how greasy they are. I have this vision in my mind of what I wish the onion ring was and it never really quite lives up to my expectations. It's like I have some weird romantic chick flick in my head starring an onion ring or something.


When I first got my copy of Appetite for Reduction, I was immediately intrigued by the OMG Oven Baked Onion Rings recipe. Today I put on some Joan Jett and finally made some and let me tell you, they did not disappoint. Even James liked them and he doesn't generally like onion rings or anything with onions at all for that matter. Eat this with ketchup, barbeque sauce, hot sauce (we liked ours this way) or whatever.

These babies are really easy to make. I discovered that while Vidalia onions still made me tear up a bit, they aren't nearly as noxious as regular onions. So yay for that! This was actually a really fun recipe to make, too. Now I've just finished the bowl of onion rings that were in front of me as I was writing this so I guess I should get on with giving some practical information and whatever.

Here are some SJ tips if you decide to make these:

  • When you take the baking sheet out of the oven to flip the onion rings, give them another spray of oil. It'll keep them from being too dry. 
  • Don't try and pick up that same baking sheet with your bare hands to put it back in the oven. (Trust me on this one. Ouch!)
  • Don't worry too much about getting a huge amount of bread crumbs on each onion ring. If you put too thick of a crust of bread crumbs, the coating will be a tad too dry. Not inedible or anything, though, so don't stress.  Just if you're thinking everything is failed because there is just a thin layer, relax. They'll taste fine that way.
  • These are best eaten while hot. Let them sit for a minute or so after they come out of the oven just to firm up and then start loading them into your mouth like a champ.

Since Isa is awesome and posted this recipe on her blog, I'm going to repost it here for you guys. My copy/paste skills are out of this world.


OMG Oven Baked Onion Rings

2 vidalia onions (about a pound), or other sweet onion like Walla Walla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup cold almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
Cooking spray
Slice onions into 3/4 inch thick rings. Separate the rings and place in a bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or something, to keep the onioniness out of your eyes.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed 12×18 baking sheet with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray and set aside.
Now you’ll need two bowls for batter and breading. If you’ve got large, wide cereal bowls that’ll do the trick. In one bowl, dump in the flour and cornstarch. Add about half of the almond milk and stir vigorously with a fork to dissolve. Add the rest of the almond milk and the apple cider vinegar, and stir to incorporate. Set aside.
In the other bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and salt. Drizzle in the oil and use your fingertips to mix it up well.
Assemble the onion rings:
Get a conveyor belt going. From left to right, have the onions, the flour mixture, the breadcrumbs mixture and lastly the baking sheet. Dip each onion slice into the the flour, letting the excess drip off. Transfer to the breadcrumbs bowl and use the other hand to sprinkle a handful of breadcrumbs over the onion, to coat completely. This may take a bit of practice. Carefully transfer each onion to a single layer on the baking sheet. Make sure you use one hand for the wet batter and the other for the dry batter, or you’ll end up with club hand.
Spray rings lightly with cooking spray and bake for 8 minutes. Flip, and bake another 6 minutes. Rings should be varying shades of brown and crisp. Taste one to check for doneness. Serve as soon as possible. With ketchup if you must.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Polenta Pumpkin Seed Bread

I'm on this bread-baking kick now that I understand what to do with a starter. It's all kind of exciting. That is so dorky of me, I know. I actually got up early this past Sunday morning all excited to start baking bread. I'm out of control.

Look, you can see the little pieces of polenta in the bread!

I made olive bread the weekend before and it was quite delicious. I especially like the way it smelled. Adding the lemon zest was definitely a good move. Adding lemon zest to most things that you'd want to add it to kicks it up a notch, though. I think it also makes things seem fancier or something.

The Tartine Bread book has so many great variations on a simple loaf of bread. I want to explore some of the ones in the book before I start getting experimental. That's partially because I want to really get a handle on this kind of bread before I start tweaking it. Each time I notice little things I could have done differently to make the bread just a bit better.


Every time I open Tartine Bread, the book falls open to the Polenta Bread page. I would have never considered making bread with polenta in it. I figured the universe or Cthulu or whatever was trying to tell me something so that's the kind I made this time. Holy hell was that a good move. Polenta adds such a great texture and so many more nuances of flavor to the bread. I highly recommend trying it. You add some boiling water to your polenta in a 2:1 ratio and let it sit there and soak up the water before you add it to your dough. Just be a bit more patient than I am. I was so excited for bread that when the polenta hadn't quite soaked up all of the water, I didn't wait a bit longer like I should have and just dumped the whole pot into the dough figuring it would all work out in the end.

It did work out, but not as well as it could have. Now my dough is a bit too wet. That made my end loaf a bit heavy and denser than I would have liked. Granted, this was also probably because I used an older starter this time, too. I wanted to see if I used a starter that had been fed a few days before instead of the night before or morning of, if the bread would taste a bit more sour. It didn't. I think using a newer starter would have given the bread a bit more lift and resulted in a lighter loaf. It was still delicious, though. James and I have been really enjoying having a slice of bread with our meals or having some toasted for breakfast. I am most definitely going to be making polenta bread again. The flavor is so unique; I love it.

The one loaf had a funny ridge pattern on it from the towel that was in the bowl it was rising in.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Best Biscuits In the World

You guys. I made the best biscuits in the world. I mean it. I've never made biscuits like this before in my entire life. I think I've been given the key to biscuitry or something. I don't know, but these are damn awesome.


Here's what happened. I decided to go back and watch some old seasons of Good Eats. In season 1, Alton Brown does an episode on biscuits and even brings his grandma on the show! So awesome. Alton and Ma Mae taught me a thing or two about biscuits that day. Here is what I learned that made a HUGE difference in my biscuit making.

1. Use your fingers when you're adding the fats to the flour. Just make sure your hands are clean, right? It's not that messy, either, really.

2. Your dough should be pretty wet, actually.

3. Make sure your biscuits are touching when you put them on the baking sheet. I had always heard to give them room and space them evenly. I don't know where I picked that up, but it's wrong! Make like one of the middle biscuits is Justin Bieber and the rest are tween girls.

Oh, look, I just found this episode on YouTube. Go watch it and get some learnin.
The Dough Also Rises Part One
The Dough Also Rises Part Two

Now you have lots of new-found knowledge to make the fluffiest, most awesome biscuits in the history of ever. Now here's Alton Brown's recipe that I veganized that you can also use:

The Best Biscuits in the World

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
1 cup non-dairy milk, chilled (I used almond milk)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (even plain white vinegar is fine, though)

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Combine the non-dairy milk and the vinegar and set aside for 10-15 minutes. It's probably good to just put the mixture in the fridge to keep it cold while you do other stuff.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub Earth Balance and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled non-dairy milk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. After you take the biscuits out of the oven, you can brush them with some melted Earth Balance if you want them to give them a bit of extra buttery flavor.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Olive Bread

A few months ago a friend gave me some starter. I'd tried to make a starter from scratch once and it was an epic failure. I pretty much pushed it to the back of my mind after that fiasco. Now I'm all about the bread baking! It took me a while to get the hang of how often to feed the starter and all that jazz.  I even sort of almost killed it once but luckily I was able to bring it back to life. This stuff is resilient! Apparently this is a really old starter that originated in San Francisco decades ago. I don't know if that's true or that's just what he told me because I would get more excited about starter. Either way, I like believing it.

I wish I could eat this picture. I need more olive bread.

I made bread once a few months ago with this crazy convoluted recipe that took 3 days to make a loaf of sourdough. Yeah, I said 3 days. You pretty much had to be at home for all 3 days, too. It was such a pain in the butt that I didn't want to make bread anymore. I mean, really, who has that kind of time?! Then another friend of mine told me about Tartine Bread.

This book is greatness if you're wanting to start baking bread and aren't sure where to begin. Not only does it tell you how to create your own starter, but there are a myriad of recipes for bread. I haven't even started looking at the middle and end sections. I've just been focused on the Country Bread and variations. This is pretty much a basic bread made with starter. Here's what's cool about this particular book. There are a TON of really, really helpful photos for every single step of the way. The instructions are very detailed and so wonderful if you're unsure of what you're doing. This is probably the most instructive cookbook (without being confusing) I've ever seen.

The only caveat is that you need a scale. I'm heading out to buy one this week so I can make polenta bread this coming weekend. In the meantime I just googled how much flour and water were the weight it said to use. I had to guess at how much starter to use. Even though my bread came out alright, I know that my dough was much too wet. If I had weighed my ingredients it would have come out even better. Next time!

Waiting for my dough to rise.

So now I have starter and I have instructions. What's a girl to do? Obviously the answer was to make olive bread. If you don't live at my house you probably don't know how much James and I love olive bread. And really if you're not him or me or one of our cats you don't live at our house, so how could you know?! There is a local bakery in Vancouver that makes olive bread that we can get at the market just down from our apartment. We can devour a loaf of that stuff in no time flat. Some days we both just sit there wishing we were eating olive bread until finally one of us goes and gets some. That stuff is like crack. You can understand why that was my first inclination upon buying this new bread book.

Make olive bread I did! I chopped up a mixture of green and kalamata olives, threw in some lemon zest, and herbes de provence. Basically I followed the recipe for olive bread in the book. I wouldn't have considered adding the lemon zest on my own, but wow, it was a great addition. The bread came out so delicious. I can't wait to make it again. I forgot to take a photo of a cut piece of bread, but it had those awesome big air holes in it! I've never really had bread do that before so it was pretty exciting.

Morning light bathing my olive bread in awesomeness.

Making bread with starter is a whole new world for me. I'm excited to try different things to make the bread taste more sour and adding different things to the bread. Many moons ago when I worked in restaurants, one of my jobs at this one particular place was to make bread every day. I can make yeast bread without even thinking about it now. I just throw together flour, salt, yeast and water and eyeball it. That's what happens when you do it every day, I guess. I got really feisty and just started throwing random things into the bread. I remember tossing in some leftover chili once and making chili bread. hehe I'm looking forward to getting to that point with starter breads. It's going to be a fun adventure. My friend that suggested the Tartine Bread book bakes bread constantly. He and his wife have got the basic country loaf nailed. We're on the food bartering program now so I've gotten to take home some of their loaves before. Practice makes perfect, that's for sure.

I wonder what kind of bread I'll make next?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Raw Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

I know right. Raw cupcakes. How awesome. I think the greatest thing about raw food is probably the desserts. You can eat something that tastes completely sinful yet is actually deceptively healthy. I see what you did there, raw food, and I like it. This kind of thing is perfect for where I am in life right now. I'm trying to be more conscious of what I'm eating. I'm making more of a concerted effort to add in fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods. I think I eat pretty well overall, but I think I can always do better. Raw desserts help me stay on track without eating a bunch of junk. It doesn't hurt that they're so full of good stuff!


A couple of recipes in Ani Raw Food Desserts were the inspiration for these awesome cupcakes. If you don't already have this book, I would recommend getting it or at the very least perusing it at the library. I posted about the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake before and really, if that's not enough to persuade you on its own, I don't know what else to say.

Ani's Raw Food Desserts

I wanted something fruity, but it being winter it's difficult to get many fresh fruits right now except for apples and oranges and bananas. I sort of combined two recipes and tweaked one of them to make what I wanted. I used the Chocolate Crunch Cupcake recipe for the base. I took the lemon pudding part from the Lemon Pudding Filled Coconut Cupcakes and used orange juice in place of lemon juice. Because there were organic blood oranges at the market, I decided to candy some orange slices to put on top of the cupcakes. So, okay, the candied orange slices aren't raw, but they're tasty and they go SO well with these cupcakes.

Basically you mix together the cupcake part and then smoosh it down into a cupcake pan, leaving little dips in the middle for the pudding. Add a few spoons of pudding on top of each one and your cupcakes will look like this:


This being the first time I made these, I think it was overall pretty successful. Next time I think I would add a bit of orange zest and maybe even some smashed orange pulp to the pudding. It wasn't very orangey even though I used fresh juice. The cupcake itself is awesome, though not extremely sweet. Personally, I like it like that, but if you like things super sweet, add a few more dates.


Now for some info about the candied orange slices. Take note of this. Candying orange slices or strips of peel or even lemon or grapefruit peel is ridiculously easy. It's also something that people usually find really impressive. You can even just candy orange peel strips and dip them in chocolate for a crazy awesome treat. I love those so much.

Here's what you do. Cut your fruit into whatever side you want. Get a pot and add to it equal parts of sugar and water. How much depends on how many pieces of citrus you're candying. I did two oranges, a big regular one and a small blood orange so I went ahead and did 3 cups sugar with 3 cups of water.

Turn the heat to medium and stir a bit until the sugar is totally dissolved. Be patient and let the sugar water heat up until it starts to simmer. Add your fruit, give it a gentle stir with a wooden spoon and turn the heat down to low. You want it to be just barely simmering. Leave it alone for about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Line a baking sheet or a plate or something with some parchment paper and carefully arrange the fruit on the baking sheet to cool. You'll want to make sure none of it is touching too much or it might dry sticking together. After they've cooled for a bit, you can either dip them in chocolate, roll them in some superfine sugar or just use them as is.

Here's another cool thing. You've also just made some flavored sugar that's great for adding to iced teas and ice coffees and things like that. Strain the sugar water you used to cook the citrus in and put it in a mason jar or something like that and stick it in the fridge. Now you can pour in a bit whenever you need a bit of sweetness. This is also a really great simple syrup to use when making homemade lemonade.