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Fish out of water

The truth is, and this may not shock some of you, Dallas doesn’t suit me. It’s not my cup of tea. Or coffee. Wine. Beer. Or even shot of whiskey. I’m not trying to insult those Dallasites that can hang here by any means. I’ve just come to the realization that I’m not one of those people.

I’ll spare you all the details, but after a few short months in Dallas, we’ve decided to go back home.

To those of you, if any are still around, that read my blog, please accept my apologies for the complete lack of content these last few months. I’ve had a hard time finding my inspiration these days, but things should get back to normal in the new year. Just hang on.

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It’s official. The fact that the first “hot” day in Portland renders me wishing it was cooler is surely a tell-tale sign that I’m a… wait for it… Portlander.

Of course I’ve gone through several of the iconic Portlander initiations already. Converting to a hop head and shunning all other beer that once I knew and loved. Wearing socks with my flip flops. Thinking McMenamins is cool. Figuring out that McMenamins actually kind of sucks. Except for the spicy tots of course. And yelling at a car from my bicycle, while forgetting that I don’t have any car windows to shield the public from my traffic tourettes.

Not that I hate the sun or warm weather or anything, I’m all about it being warm enough to wear flip flops (without the socks of course), but the hotness made my afternoon run total crap. You get so used to running in mild temperatures that 73 is just unbearable.

But, there is something that goes quite nicely with this summer weather; ice cream! I’m always fiddling around with my ice cream machine. I love having random ideas and being able to actually turn them into reality, even if reality turns out a tad different than what had originally transpired inside my head. #alwayshappens

I had some black mission figs slowly dying in my pantry. Initially I thought fig and honey ice cream, but honey’s technically not vegan and you just can’t get the same flavor from agave. Then I thought figs and madeira, but I, of course, didn’t have any madeira lying around. But I did have about half a bottle of marsala being neglected so I figure it was time to put it to use.

Fig & Marsala Ice Cream

  • 9 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1 & 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 6 T marsala (or to taste)
  • 1 T olive oil (optional)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C figs (fresh or dried)

So this is where I tell you how I did it, and then advise you to do it a different way (I’m a work in progress).

This ice cream turned out pretty soft; not yogurty-soft-serve-soft but definitely not ice creamy-heat-the-scoop-up-first-hard. The culprit? All that damn marsala. I may be a lush but I like to taste my booze, so I kept adding more marsala to the ice cream base. What I should have done is reduced a cup or so of marsala on the stove by more than half. This way you get a lot of flavor but not so much liquid (and alcohol which also affects the freezing properties). It’s up to you, but I advise going the route of the reduction.

Once you’ve decided how to handle your marsala, toss everything in a blender, except the figs, and puree until smooth. You can chill it down more before freezing, or just pour it straight into your ice cream maker.

If you’re using dried figs you’ll need to bring them back to life. I roughly chopped mine into small pieces, covered them with hot marsala and let them rehydrate for a bit. Drain off the marsala before adding the figs to your ice cream (add either during the last few minutes of freezing or mix them in by hand afterward).

I didn’t stop here of course. I still thought the ice cream wasn’t marsala-y enough, so I dumped the rest of the bottle into a sauce pan – probably about 1 cup – and reduced it until it was a thick syrup. You won’t be able to tell the consistency of the syrup until you cool it, so reduce it for a bit and then cool it in a stainless steel (or something conductive) bowl that’s sitting in an ice bath so you can find out quickly if it’s reduced enough. I drizzled the syrup over the ice cream in layers when transferring from maker to tupperware. In my opinion, the syrup did the trick in making the ice cream flavorful, but you might be able to skip this step if you reduce the marsala before adding it to the ice cream base.

Well today’s supposed to be another scorcher (high of 80… eek!). I think I’ll play it smarter though and not go for a run right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the day (I may be slow sometimes but I’m not completely daft). Hope you’re enjoying some nice spring weather, wherever you are. Cheers!

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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!

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No, I’m not talking about burnt muffins or sunken in cupcakes. I’m talking about my fingers. My arms. My knees. Even my toes. I never thought about baking being hard work, but damn! One week at my new job made everything on my body sore. Work was of course compounded by 6 hours of class every day, but baking is not something to be taken lightly nonetheless. All those hot full sheet pans and 24 count muffin pans get heavy, especially when you’re lifting 20 or 30 of them multiple times a day. And mixing large quantities of ingredients by hand wears your arms out. And lifting 50lb bags of flour (you get my point). I told my husband he was going to have to start working out more to keep up with my baking muscles. Plus you’re on your feet the entire time. I was practically limping by the time I got a day off. And my knees felt like I had just run a marathon. I won’t even talk about my accumulating collection of burn marks…

It’s fun though. I really like the atmosphere of the bakery and it’s nice to finally do something I actually want to do for a change. And I honestly like the 4 – 11am work schedule (if only a 4 – 10pm school schedule didn’t follow).

So, as you can tell by all this bemoaning, I recently got a job at a bakery here in Portland. I wasn’t necessarily planning on working during my time at culinary school, but it was a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass on it. There is a downside though, and that is the fact that I barely have enough time to say hello to my husband everyday, so finding time to bake something and blog about it is a wee bit impossible at the moment. I’m sure once I get into the groove of things I’ll find more time to piddle around in my own kitchen, but I’m afraid that my blog will stay a bit devoid of anything in the way of new posts for a short while. 😦

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my sweet tooth from yesterday. Ice cream’s pretty quick to make, and I had some left over vegan cream cheese in the fridge so I thought I’d throw it all together.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (vegan)

  • 1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 T cornstarch *
  • 1 T sugar
  • Splash of lemon juice

Roughly chop up about of the blueberries. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together to avoid any lumps. Combine everything, except the lemon juice, in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the blueberries breakdown slightly and the mixture thickens. Add a few splashes of lemon juice and remove from the heat. The berries need to be completely cooled (refrigerated) prior to making the ice cream, so do this part in advance.

I added a couple tablespoons of water and a few tablespoons of the ice cream mixture to the berries to thin it out a little bit, but feel free to leave it thick if you’d like.

  • 6oz extra firm silken tofu
  • 4oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/4 C soy milk
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C agave
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 shot (3 T) vanilla vodka

Combine everything in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer mixture to your ice cream maker and follow its directions. Once frozen, transfer the ice cream to a dish that will allow you to swirl in the blueberries. I used a bread pan and lined it with plastic wrap because I was afraid of liquid sitting in it for too long (I managed to rust out my old bread pan). Plop in the blueberries and use a spoon, knife, bamboo skewer, what have you to swirl the blueberry mixture around. Return it to the freezer for several hours so that it can freeze all the way.

In all honesty I think the full 8oz tub of cream cheese would be best to really bring out the cheesecake flavor. I would also add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the ice cream mixture. Regardless, this ice cream is rich and creamy, and has just the right amount of berries in it (not too sweet or overly fruity). If you have the time, or just happen to have a box of graham crackers lying around your house, I’d crush some up and toss them in to make it extra yummy and provide some crunchy texture.

* 7/22/11 So after making a blueberry pie in school the other day I became privy to the fact that blueberries have a whole lot of pectin in them and therefore tend to thick once heat is applied all by their lonesome. I’m guessing that you don’t need the cornstarch for this ice cream, especially since cornstarch breaks down when frozen (though it’s not enough of an amount to make a difference in this recipe – my ice cream still looks and tastes fine). Try omitting the starch and see what happens, I think it’ll be fine.

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Penso che io abbia finalmente risolto la ricetta per gelato vegano.   Tento sempre di farlo piu’ sano, ma qualche volta si deve compromettere.  Ma e’ ancora abbastanza sano perche’ non ho usato il latte’ di cocco che e’ pieno di grasso.

Lo chiamo <<gelato>>, ma forse sia proprio come gelato americano, oppure <<ice cream>>.  Non e’ importante purche’ lo gusti buonissimo!

Per fare il gelato, uso questa gelateria.  Ci vogliono solo 25 minuti di farlo, e non gli occorre nessuno ghiaccio o sale!  Questo gelato e’ molto cremoso e delizioso e non diventa duro come una roccia dopo lo metti nel congelatore.  In piu’, lo anch’e’ senza glutine!

Ecco la ricetta:

  • Un mezzo cubetto di tofu fermo seta (Mori-Nu)
  • 240 gr di latte di cocco leggero (come questo)
  • 120 gr di latte di soia (oppure mandorla, riso, ecc)
  • 170 gr di zucchero semolato biologico
  • Un cucchiaio da tavola di estratto vaniglia

Butta tutti gli ingredienti nel frullatore e omogeneizza fino a liscio.  Lo versa nella gelateria e l’accendi.  Circa 25 minuti di piu’, va bene! Hai gelato!

Now, in English…

I think I finally have the recipe for vegan ice cream solved.  I always try to make it more healthy, but sometimes you must compromise.  But it is still healthy enough because I don’t use the coconut milk that is full of fat.

The next sentence isn’t really relevant in English so I won’t translate it.

To make ice cream, I use this ice cream maker.  It takes only 25 minutes to make it and does not need any ice or salt!  This ice cream is very cream and delicious and does not become as hard as a rock after you put it in the freezer. Additionally, it  is also gluten free!

Here is the recipe:

  • Half a cube of firm silken tofu
  • 1 C of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 C of soy milk (or almond, rise, etc)
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract

Throw all the ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and turn it on.  About 25 minutes later, it’s done!  You have ice cream!

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The texture was perfect!!  Chocolate merlot cupcakes with merlot frosting.  Got the idea from this creative lady.

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Sorry about that.  In trying to balance my schedule between Middle Earth, Italy and lost passwords I have totally neglected you.  But it gets worse.  Or better.  Or maybe just different….

The other day Samantha from Novels Eats invited me to take part in a thing called Lunch.  It’s a website for reviews of this, that and whatever floats your boat.  And there are different “communities,” like Vegan Living, Green Living, Bakers and Pastry Lovers, etc. that you can join.  You can rate and comment on others’ reviews, and people can follow you and you can follow them (in a non-stalker sort of way).  I think it’s pretty dandy, so I’ve been posting reviews on it instead of here (they’ve been all product reviews).  You should come on over and take a gander at it and join in if you feel so obliged to share you knowledge of what works and just  how well.

Oh, it’s not relegated to food by the way, as the name might lead you to assume.

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