Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2012

You would think that since I spend most of my week waking and baking (no, not like that…) that it would be the farthest thing from my mind on my days off. But the truth is I still wake up in the middle of the night with ideas of things I want to create. And it’s honestly just so much fun to piddle around in your kitchen without any pressure of deadlines and what not.

So yesterday I felt like making pie. No real reason. Just wanted to. I ask my husband what kind of pie he wants… he immediately replies, “Apple. With vanilla ice cream.” I of course try to sneak in different (“creative”) things like brandy soaked cherries or caramel ice cream, but he just wants plain, simple ole apple pie. “Alright,” I say as I concede. =)

I don’t often make pie. I’d honestly rather make cake or cupcakes. Not that I have anything against pie, I’m just a cake girl. Plus, a pie just has a whole lot of fat in it. Or at least it should (otherwise it’s not really pie). And there’s not really anything you can do to take the fat out of it, without making it taste like a bland piece of non-flaky cardboard (and who the hell wants to eat that).

But I’ll be honest with you. This pie, while good, wasn’t “great.” My husband thought it was good. And I wouldn’t exactly spit it out of my mouth or anything, but it was just missing something I thought. But then again, I always think things could be improved, so take that for what you will. So here’s my advice, if you make this pie, add a pinch or two of salt to the apple filling, and several pats of vegan butter. Fat carries flavor, and a small amount of salt enhances – but don’t make it salty by any means. And, though it’s less healthy, use AP flour or white pastry flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour. The whole wheat flour made the crust very difficult to handle, and also lended a sort of “healthy” flavor to the pie (which isn’t supposed to be there of course).

For the Crust

  • 5oz pastry or AP flour
  • 1/2 T cinnamon sugar (just a mix of sugar with some cinnamon)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 4oz cold, diced vegan butter (use the Earth Balance sticks, tub butter is too liquidy)
  • 2 1/2 T cold water

This is the cheater method to making pie dough. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor. Add the diced butter and pulse several times until the butter clumps are between the size of cornmeal and green peas. Add the water, pulse a few more times just until the dough starts to come together but by no means is actually clumping together. You should be able to clump it with your hand but it shouldn’t clump on its own. Dump it out on the counter. Bring it into a mound with your hands. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and press it into a flat (1 – 2 in thick), round disk with your hands and arms; try to smooth out any cracks. Toss it in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the Streusel

  • 5oz Ap flour
  • 3oz brown sugar
  • 2oz raw sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 1/2oz rolled oats (optional)
  • 1 1/2oz chopped almonds (optional)
  • 4oz cold, diced vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)

Place all the dry ingredients except the oats and almonds in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few times. Dump the mixture into a bowl, add the oats and almonds and work it with your hands until the butter clumps are small and evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Apple Filling

  • 5 – 6 firm, starchy apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (wait until your ready to bake before doing this step)
  • Lemon juice
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegan Butter

I sent my husband to the store to get apples and told him to get a variety. He came home with 5 different types of apples and the stickers got pulled off before I got a chance to see what types he bought. So, I have no clue what kind of apples I used. I know a had a granny smith and a fuji, and some of them were of the mushy variety, but I think I had enough of the firm ones to counter that. You want a good mixture of tart and sweet apples, and I honestly think more tart than sweet is better as you want to balance all that sugar.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl and splash some lemon juice on them to keep them from oxidizing. Toss with cinnamon sugar (to taste) and a little bit of salt.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 6oz extra firm silken tofu (like Mori-Nu)
  • 3/4 C raw sugar
  • 1 T agave
  • 2 T whiskey (optional)
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt

You should probably make the ice cream first; it’ll need several hours to set up in the freezer. Or you could just be lazy of course and go buy some…

I’m always playing around with my ratios when making ice cream. I think next time I’m going to increase the amount of sugar as I think this ice cream was still a wee bit too “icy.” Full fat coconut milk would also help the mouth feel (but I like to cut fat out where I can). The whiskey isn’t really necessary, it simply contributes a small amount of flavor and helps keep the ice cream from freezing too hard.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions and stick it in the freezer when done.

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 C sugar
  • 3/4 C soy milk
  • 1 T whiskey
  • 1/4 t salt

I’m not going to lie, this sauce needs help. I would have used coconut milk but I was out. I probably should have also put butter in it but I got tired of messing with it. My opinion, use 1/2 cup of coconut milk and maybe a 1 T of vegan butter instead of the soy milk. I had to keep reducing my sauce as it was too thin.

Anyway, place the sugar in a sauce pan and add enough water to make it look like wet sand. Put it on the stove over high heat and wait. Don’t stir, just keep waiting. And then wait some more. At some point it will caramelize (depending on how much water needs to evaporate). Once it turns to a fairly dark caramel color, slowly whisk in the milk. Be careful here, the mixture will bubble profusely and you could get a steam burn on your hand. Don’t add the milk too quickly or you could seize of the caramel. Once all the milk is in, add butter (if using) and some salt. Let the mixture cool before deciding whether or not to reduce it down. I’ll keep working on a caramel sauce formula and will get back to you at some point in the future…

Baking the Pie… finally

Once the dough has chilled long enough, take it out, unwrap it, place it on a well floured surface, grab your rolling pin and get rolling. Try to fend off as many cracks as possible, and always make sure it’s not sticking to the counter. This dough was supposed to be enough for a 9 in pie… um, no. I had to use an 8 in pan and barely had enough to make it work. BUT, part of my problem was due to the whole wheat flour I think, my dough didn’t want to stay together and was crumbling all over the damn place. You want your dough to be about 1/4 in thick or a tad less (just use your best judgement).

When it’s rolled out, gently pick it up and place it in the pie pan. Let it sink into the pan, don’t stretch it. Take the overhanging ends and roll them under and sort of tuck them into the side of the pan. Use your fingers or knuckles to create a ruffle-like edge.

I chose to stick my crust back in the fridge for an hour before baking. It’s not completely necessary but it will help prevent shrinkage and improve the pie overall.

So, to actually bake, heat the oven up to 350.

Take your diced apples and pour them into your prepared pie crust. Place several pats of vegan butter in/ on the apples. Mound the apples pretty high as they’ll shrink during baking. I thought I had plenty of apples but the pie looked considerably smaller after I baked it. Cover the apples with the streusel. Brush the crust with soy milk and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake until everything is browned and the apples feel tender, mine took about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool. Eat.

So, you know what you do after your bake and eat your apple pie? You go running! =) Have a great weekend!

Read Full Post »

I won’t pretend to have an excuse for not posting anything to this blog for the last, ahem, 5 months. I have some excuses of course but they’re trivial (like being busy/ worn out from work and not having a photo studio at home… aka laziness). I wasn’t planning on blogging at all until I had a stockpile of posts to put up here as I hate blogging and then going awol for a long time, but I figured it was time to finally break the silence. And I have pictures of a cute cake to post.

I was co-hostess for a friend’s baby shower last weekend, and since I’m now a baker the cake fell onto my list of responsibilities. We decided to do a forest animal themed shower, and while perusing the internet for ideas I came across the tree stump cake and thought that was an excellent idea!!

The cake itself is based off the carrot cupcakes from VCTOTW, but I modified the flour and spices, ixnayed the raisins and added figs (wonderful texture contributor!). A word of caution, carrot cake is DENSE, and doesn’t rise very much in the oven. Originally I made a 3 times batch of cupcakes thinking that would be plenty for my 8 and 9 inch cake pans. WRONG! I had to go back to the drawing board and make another 2 times batch. So, that there cake you see above, it’s equivalent to 60 cupcakes. 60. Seriously. And damn, it was heavy. I had a wrist ache after putting the base coating of icing on.

Don't you just love the owl?! He was my favorite. I wanted to keep him.

All the animals and what not are made out of marzipan. And no, I don’t mean that small, overpriced box of preserved crap you find at the local Kroger. If people knew how easy this stuff is to make they would never buy it in ready to use form. Marzipan is simply almond paste, powdered sugar and corn syrup. I absolutely cringed when I bought the bottle of corn syrup (can you say GMO???) but I at least splurged and got the non-high fructose corn syrup stuff. I’m sure you could sub brown rice syrup or maybe even honey, but you’ll have to play with the amount as the consistency will be different.

He's supposed to be a fox but I think he looks more like a squirrel.

As for the almond paste, you can also buy that in ready to use form at specialty baking stores. Or, you can save yourself $15 and make it yourself (of course). There are a bunch of variations of almond paste out there but I went with this one. And you can totally make this several days or even weeks in advance and store it, wrapped tightly, in the fridge.

Shrooms!

Here’s the marzipan recipe:

  • 8oz almond paste
  • 8oz powdered sugar (10x)
  • 2oz corn syrup

Use the paddle attachment and mix the almond paste and 10x in your stand mixer. Add just enough corn syrup to make the almond paste moldable, but it shouldn’t be sticky. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

The bear has pudgy little arms, like a baby!

So coloring the marzipan is where you end up breaking all your culinary ethics and buying a box of Wilton icing colors. I hate fake things. Especially fake things that have high fructose corn syrup in them, but there’s really no other way to get all these colors (which makes me think I need to develop some healthy coloring alternatives…). I rarely make cake or cupcakes with non-natural colors because I hate using that stuff, but this was a special occasion that I felt warranted me going against my food morals.

My grumpy, fat little chipmunk, guarding his acorns.

So, to color the marzipan, you take small blobs of it, grab a toothpick and dip it into the color you want and then stab the marzipan blob all over. Then knead it with your hands until the color is no longer tie-dye but uniform. You’ll most likely have to keep adding and adding color to achieve your desired results, especially if you’re wanting a deep red or black. Start small as you can always add more color.

Ladybugs!

As you can see, I did a lot of hand kneading of the marzipan. It was so much fun though. I had such a great time making all the little figures. I suggest latex gloves, or something similar. The colors will wash off but it can get messy. I need to work on not getting my fingerprints all over the figures, but I think these turned out just fine for my maiden voyage.

I made chocolate cupcakes too. Seems the daddy to be doesn’t really like cake but he likes cupcakes… (I don’t get it either). It’s ok though. I tried to make them look mossy. The green on top is just crumbled up vanilla cake, the same stuff I used for my “grass” around the tree stump.

I also made chocolates for the party (yes, I was a little worn out by the time everything was said and done). The ones in the back are meant to be like the Rocher truffles, there’s a hazelnut in the middle, chocolate ganache, vanilla wafer pieces, chocolate and then cocoa powder. The filled chocolates have either caramel or crisp rice in them, and the clusters in front are just chocolate and crisp rice (word to the wise, make sure you have enough chocolate before trying to make filled chocolates… or you’ll end up making clusters :)).

And, just in case you’re wondering, everything here is completely vegan.

Well, I hope to be frequenting my blog more often. I have tons of ideas but finding time (and money) to actualize them isn’t always so easy. What I REALLY need is a nice little SLR camera and a photo studio my cats won’t tear apart, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. I also find myself making more savory food at home these days rather than sweet, so there’s a high possibility this “baking” blog might yield slightly into a more general food blog, but that’s not necessarily the end of the world is it?

Anyway, until the next time, have a great day and happy baking!

Read Full Post »