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It’s summer time, or at least it’s close to summer time. Portland summers are usually confined to about 2.5 weeks in August so you gotta do what you can to, um, help summer along.

For me summer means flip flops, sunshine and porches, fresh fruit, moscato wine and tropical drinks. It also means birthdays as it seems most of my friends here were born during the months of summer or just on its outskirts. A few days ago was one of these said birthdays, so I took the opportunity to break out my long abandoned cupcake pan and go to work.

I’m always thinking of different ways I can throw a cupcake together. Actually I have this long, two sided, water stained list of cupcakes I’ve thought of but have yet to put into reality. One of these ideas included mangoes and lime zest and sounded like a perfect cupcake for a summer(ish) birthday.

Mango Margarita Cupcakes

  • 1 very ripe mango
  • 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 C AP flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C tequila
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t coconut extract

As usual, oven to 350, line your cupcake pan with liners.

Then prepare the mango. Peel the skin off the mango and then cut the flesh away from its large and obtuse seed. My mango was so ripe it was almost falling off the seed so I just chopped it up on a cutting board. If your mango isn’t so ripe you might have to puree it.

In your mixing bowl, stir together the soy milk and vinegar and set it aside to curdle.

While the milk is doing its thing, scale out all your dry ingredients in another small bowl.

Now add the mango, tequila, orange juice, oil, sugar, zest and extracts to the curdled milk and whisk it well. You can use the KitchenAid for this but I just did by hand. Sift in the dry ingredients in two stages so you don’t overwork the gluten; you don’t need to fully incorporate the flour before adding the second half. I folded in the flour and then used a whisk at the end to break up some of the lumps.

Scoop the batter into your prepared cupcake pan. I used a 1/4 cup scoop, which resulted in 12 normal sized cupcakes and 5 mini cupcakes. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they’re springy and the toothpick comes out clean. Let stand for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Lime Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 4 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Zest from 2 limes
  • Small splash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

The main reason why I don’t experiment with cupcakes more often, aside from their caloric content, is the price of the buttercream. Vegan stick butter is almost $6 a pound. Seriously. And then to get a decent texture/ flavor you really need vegan cream cheese, which can be close to $8 a pound. Since my pockets aren’t very deep these days, I’ve been playing around with alternatives, and this tofu buttercream is definitely a keeper. It still uses the expensive butter but I ixnayed the cream cheese. And nobody will ever know you fed them straight up tofu. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

Since it’s tofu you can’t just throw it in the KitchenAid, you have to puree it first. So, press some of the liquid out of the tofu with a kitchen or paper towel. Then toss it in a blender with the lime juice and the butter. You can add the zest here too if you like. Blend it on a lower speed until it’s well combined and uniform. It’ll look like it’s broken (aka wet and weepy). Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid or large mixing bowl and add the salt, vanilla and lime zest if you didn’t already. Beat in the powdered sugar until you reach a thick and fluffy consistency, I probably used around 4 cups.

Keep the buttercream well covered either with plastic wrap or in a piping bag until you’re ready to use. Unlike meringue based buttercreams, vegan buttercreams dry out super fast.

Candied Orange Peel

  • 1 large orange
  • Simple syrup
  • Organic sugar

If you have a citrus zester, use it to zest long strips of peel off the orange. If you don’t have a zester, peel the orange with a vegetable peeler (these work great) and then cut strips out of the peels with a knife. Place the zest in a small pan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then drain the water. Repeat this two more times and then poach the zest in some simple syrup for 5 – 10 minutes, or until it’s pleasantly chewable.

Simple syrup, in case you don’t know, is just equal parts sugar and water. Place it in a pan and heat it up until the sugar dissolves. You’re done.

After you poach the zest, drain it and then toss it with some sugar and spread it out on a plate to dry. Toss is around every few minutes to make sure it’s all drying and evenly coated in sugar.

Candied orange, or lemon, zest will keep for a very long time in an air tight container, so you could do a big batch of it and keep it on hand if you wanted. You can candy lime zest too but it looses its pretty green color and turns into something that looks like a soggy old canned green bean.

I used an 808 tip to get the big mounds of frosting. A bigger tip would have been even better but I wasn’t about to make myself have to wash another pastry bag (I use the reusable bags).

These cupcakes were delicious! You get just a hint of the tequila towards the end of your bite, and the tropical citrusy flavors are bright and refreshing. And I really like the icing. The tofu does a superb job at balancing out all that fat and sugar. These would be excellent for a margarita night!

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It’s odd sometimes, the way I associate things. Or rather when things remind me of other things that are in no way connected and for some reason the connection remains strong enough for me to remember it for an unhealthy length of time.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas. And obviously since it’s June I shouldn’t be talking about Christmas anyway. But growing up we watched the movie White Christmas every single year, and it became one of my favorite movies. I still watch it, and not necessarily around or even close to December. There’s a scene in the movie where Danny Kaye is trying to “clumsily entangle” Bing Crosby with some dumb blonde dancer in their show. The idea is that if Bing gets a family then Danny will finally have some time to himself – they’ve been super busy producing their show and what not. Later that evening they go to a club to check out a sister act and Bing ends up entranced by one of the sisters, Rosemary Clooney. The girls, of course, end up in a bit if trouble and Danny insists on helping them out. When one sister asks what’s in it for them – as they are practically strangers – he says, “45 minutes, all to myself.”

The other day I was sitting on my bar stool, hunched over my kitchen sink, peeling the skins off a big basket of cooked chickpeas. I looked at the clock when I was done and the first thought I had was, “45 minutes, all to myself.” That’s how long I was sitting there shucking the skins off my chickpeas. My second thought was, “This hummus better #*%$^@*! taste good.”

Lately I’ve been on a quest to replicate the Sabra hummus. I absolutely love the stuff! It’s super smooth and creamy, yet not too airy. But there’s also this tang in it that’s not coming from the lemon juice. I couldn’t figure it out. But one day I looked at the ingredients and saw it contains citric acid, and this little lightbulb finally went off in my head. In pastry class we made these sour jelly candies and the main souring ingredient we used was citric acid. Of course! How could I be so dim?!

I made this several weeks ago using the citric acid and everyone loved it. Five of us went through a very large tub of it in just a few days. The texture wasn’t quite there yet, however, and this is where those 45 minutes come into play.

It’s been a super long time since I’ve bought canned chickpeas so I don’t rightly remember, but I’m thinking the skins have already been removed (that’s probably why they cost so much – it’s a pain in the ass). When you cook dry chickpeas you’ll notice near the end of their cooking time these clearish-white shells coming off the beans – those are the skins. Typically I just throw the whole mess into the food processor and don’t think twice about it. But my hummus is never as smooth as I want it to be. So I sacrificed my time, and my posture, and separated the beans from their shields. And I think it made a HUGE difference.

And one more thing, there isn’t any tahini in this hummus. I love tahini, I do, but I hate shelling out the money for it. It’s usually at least $7 for a jar and that’s fine if you’re going to use it all but who really makes that much hummus at home? It’s just a lot of money to spend all at once for hummus. So since tahini is only just ground up sesame seeds mixed with oil, I see no reason why I can’t do it myself. Feel free to replace the sesame seeds in this recipe with tahini if you already have it, but if you don’t, my method works just fine.

Hummus

  • 2 C dry chickpeas, cooked and shelled (or 2 cans)
  • 1/3 C sesame seeds, toasted and ground
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 4 – 6 T cooking liquid or water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic (more if you like it garlicky)
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t citric acid

So typically they say you need to soak dry beans over night before cooking them. It does help to soak them but you can cheat and skip that part if you forgot. However, chickpeas probably take the longest time of all the beans to cook, whether you soaked them or not, so don’t plan on cooking your beans off in one hour and being on your merry way. Plus with hummus, you want the beans as soft as possible – so you gotta cook the crap out of them. I put mine in a big pot, cover them with a ton of water, place it on the stove with a lid and turn the fire on med/ med-low and just walk away. It takes hours, but you aren’t involved in any of it. You can, obviously, just buy canned chickpeas… but then you miss out on the 45 minutes of shelling fun!

If you do go the DIY route, when the beans are very soft drain them, but save the liquid. When they’re cool start rubbing those skins off. It takes some time, but it definitely produces a smoother product. Put the liquid in the fridge while you’re shelling the beans.

For the sesame seeds, toss them in a small pan and turn the heat on medium. They’ll toast quickly so don’t walk away and get a manicure or anything. You need to hang around and toss them frequently. When the majority of them are toasty brown, remove it from the heat, let it cool a few minutes and then grind them up in a small coffee grinder (preferably one that you don’t use for coffee).

Once your beans are shelled and seeds are toasted, you’re ready to go! Dump the chickpeas, sesame seeds and garlic in the food processor. Add just enough liquid or olive oil to help process them but don’t pour it all in. Pulse it for 30 seconds or so until everything is getting pureed finely. Now add everything else, except the liquid, and process.

Whether you’re using the cooking liquid or just water, add it in small increments as you don’t want to end up with hummus soup. If you use the cooking liquid, the amount you’ll need will vary depending on how long your beans cooked and how much the liquid reduced. Bean juice (that’s what I call it) absorbs some of the protein from the beans (at least I assume it does) and can thicken and congeal almost like there’s gelatin in it, so you may need more or less liquid depending on how goopy the bean juice is.

When you’ve reached your desired consistency, transfer the hummus to a tub and refrigerate for awhile so the flavors can get a chance to know each other. I’m never satisfied with my hummus straight out of the processor but it always tastes way better once it’s gotten a chance to mingle. And if you want to get all fancy, make a little well in the middle of it and add some paprika and olive oil before serving it.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. Once the beans are cooked it only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to throw it all together, assuming you’ve mise en placed (gotten everything you need ready).

There’s almost always a tub of hummus or pesto or some sort of dip in my house as it comes in handy. It’s good to snack on, make naan sandwiches with, thinned out for salad dressing, or tossed with pasta – endless possibilities!

Do you have a favorite hummus or hummus recipe? Please share if so!

iCake

I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Always. And I can’t think of any better excuse than my husband.

Just a couple weeks ago he graduated from law school (yay!!!). For awhile I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make his cake. He had already told me that he wanted a German chocolate cake, but it’s shape and everything else was up to me. I thought about making it look like school books, or perhaps something with a cap, tassel and one of those mallet things judges use. But since I hate using food coloring, none of these were overly appealing. And then it struck me!

For his present I got some family members together and we all chipped in to buy him a MacBook Air. He’d been talking about one for f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I figured since he’d worked and studied his butt off for the last three years, he deserved one. And thus the shape of his cake was born.

German Chocolate Cake

  • 2 C soy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C agave
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/3 C apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 C AP flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 C cocoa powder (this stuff is awesome)
  • 1/4 C instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a square 8 x 8 in cake pan with parchment in the bottom (don’t worry about the sides). You could use a round pan but I was afraid I’d lose too much mass getting it to look like an apple instead of a ball, so I went with the square.

Pour the soy milk and vinegar into your mixing bowl so it can curdle. While this is happening, sift all your dry ingredients into another bowl so they’re ready to dump right in when you want them.

Once the soy milk is curdled, add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar) and whisk thoroughly. You can do this by hand or with the stand mixer of course.

Add the dry ingredients in three portions. You don’t have to fully incorporate each portion before adding the next. You’re just adding the flour a little at a time to help avoid over mixing which will toughen the cake in the end.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out a bit if it’s all in the center. Bake until it springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took around an hour. When it’s done, let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes and then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Now put a cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. You should be able to remove the pan at this point, and letting the cake cool upside down will help flatten some of that rounded top.

Be sure to make the cake well in advance as it needs plenty of time to cool before you split it in half or thirds. I actually made mine several days before hand, wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out in just a couple of hours.

Chocolate Buttercream 

So I typically do half Earth Balance stick butter and half cream cheese with my frostings. Ever since I started paying attention to the way foods feel in your mouth (thank you culinary school) I can’t stand the Spectrum shortening; it coats your mouth as that stuff is solid at room temperature and therefore doesn’t really melt when it hits your tongue. You can use all butter of course but I think the cream cheese creates a lighter texture and better flavor.

In general, you use about 4 cups of powdered sugar to every cup of fat, and then augment the consistency with extracts, soy milk, etc. If you’re making chocolate buttercream, you’re obviously going to have cocoa powder in there so you will need more liquid to offset the extra amount of dry ingredients.

The frosting I made for this cake, I didn’t really like it. The flavor was fine but it dried super freaking fast and I had issues/ got tired of working with it when I was finishing the cake, as you can see from the unclean sides in the pictures. The main culprit? I think it was the chocolate. I decided to put melted chocolate in the frosting along with the cocoa powder. I don’t think it was the best idea I’ve ever had. So if you’re making chocolate buttercream, do something like the following recipe.
  • 4 oz Earth Balance Stick butter
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 4 C powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy milk as needed

Have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature and cream them together until it starts to look wet (vegan butter doesn’t get fluffy). Add the vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa powder in increments so it doesn’t snow in your kitchen. Add the soy milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a thick yet fluffy texture. You can make this ahead of time and just melt it a bit in the microwave and re-whip it with a spatula before using it.

Coconut Pecan Filling

I used this recipe from Mom in the City. I added an extra half cup of organic sugar though as I only had unsweetened coconut on hand and definitely was not going back to the store. Make sure you do this in advance as it needs to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate (or mix of semi-sweet and dark)
  • 2 oz vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
  • 2 T soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Melt everything in a doubler boiler – aka metal bowl on top of pot with hot water in it – and gently whisk it together. Store it in the fridge until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, melt it down in the microwave in short bursts of time, like 10 – 20 seconds. You need it completely liquidy but it doesn’t need to be super hot. I believe I melted mine down and then let it sit at room temp for awhile. If you’re uber talented you can just pour the ganache along the edge of the cake. If you aren’t so sure, use a piping bag like I did with a small whole or tip at the end and do it the careful way

Assembly

First, you need something to put the cake on. I didn’t have a cake board that was big enough so I cut a side out of a cardboard box and covered it with foil.

Second, you need to shape the cake into the apple. Use a small serrated knife (like a steak knife) and start by rounding the corners. Next make the indentions at the top and bottom of the apple. Get it looking like an apple before taking the “bite” out of the side.

When you do take the bite out of the side, be careful as this is your stem. You can always  reshape the stem a bit but you only have so much cake.

Now split it into layers. I did three layers but two would be just fine. Take a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and start sawing horizontally. You can score the cake all around the sides first to help ensure you’re cutting evenly. A revolving cake stand is your friend here. Place the extra layer(s) on the counter, preferably on plastic wrap or parchment so they’re easier to pick back up.

At this point you should brush away as many crumbs as you can so they don’t get in your frosting.

I also brushed my cake layers with a coconut simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves and then coconut extract added at the end. I did this to ensure the cake was moist. It definitely was moist but I don’t think the syrup was necessary, so it’s your call.

After you decrumb and syrup (or not), grab the coconut pecan filling and plop a big glob of it on the base layer. Use a large offset spatula to smooth it out. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick but I like a lot of filling, so less would be ok. Place the middle layer (if you have one) on the cake and do the same thing. Now place the last layer on the cake and crumb coat the entire thing with the buttercream and stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes. Crumb coating is just smearing a thin layer of frosting on the cake so that you will be less likely to have crumbs in the finished cake.

Once the crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with more buttercream and then stick is back in the fridge. Once it’s completely set, grab your ganache and the cake and go to town. You can ganache the whole thing or just the edges or whatever you want. Then when you’re done, (can you guess) stick it back in the fridge.

What happens now is up to you. Add more coconut goo to the top. Or just add some buttercream rosettes or pipe a pretty border. Or you could just cover the whole damn thing with ganache and make it look like the actual Apple logo. Maybe white chocolate!

Regarding the stem, I filled it with coconut goo just like the cake and then frosted it with the buttercream. When that had set I poured the ganche all over it.

And here is the happy graduate with his yummy cake! 🙂

Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls

My tummy usually starts growling around 4:15 am – should I be awake to hear it – so it isn’t often that I take the time to make breakfast pastries. But having visitors in town seems to augment my ability to go long periods of time without eating, like maybe two hours, so I decided we all needed cinnamon rolls. With cardamom in them. And a lemony cream cheese glaze on top. They were quite tasty.

I can’t take full credit for these of course. They were adapted from Novel Eats’ recipe, which was also adapted from somebody elses recipe of course. I’ve made these a few times over the last couple of years using a flaxseed egg and have gotten mixed results, so I decided to go with the Ener-G egg. I also used a different type of yeast and modified the mixing method. Maybe it all made a difference. Maybe it didn’t. But they turned out moist and fluffy and delicious so I’ll go with it.

Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 2 1/4 C AP flour
  • 1/4 oz fresh yeast (or 1/8 oz instant yeast)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • about 1/4 t Cardamom seeds, ground
  • 2 T + 2t vegan butter, melted (I suggest Earth Balance in stick form)
  • About 2 T vegan butter, softened
  • Cinnamon sugar (just sugar mixed with as much cinnamon as you like)

If you’re worried about how long the dough will take to ferment, warm up the soy milk. If you don’t care, just scale it into your mixing bowl along with the sugar and Ener-G egg. Next add the flour, yeast, salt and ground cardamom.

A note on the cardamom, you’ll get better flavor if you use a mortar and pestle to grind it up versus using a small coffee grinder. The friction from the mortar and pestle heats up the seeds which helps draw out those aromatic oils. But if you’re in a time crunch, the coffee grinder will work just fine.

Knead the dough using the hook attachment until it fully comes together. Now add the melted butter. This may seem bassackwards but fat inhibits gluten development because it coats the flour particles, making it difficult for glutens to form their network. Adding it at the end allows the gluten structure to get a head start. You might have to help it along though, or just be patient. When you add the melted butter to the bowl, the dough is going to slide all over the place. If you give it awhile it should come together. Alternatively, take it out of the bowl and knead it with your hands a bit and then put it back in the bowl. The dough is ready when the butter has been worked in and the dough is smooth, supple and just barely sticky, if at all. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment until double.

Once the dough has fermented, punch it down, round it on the counter, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest. After about 10 minutes, use a rolling pin and work the dough into a large rectangle. The thinner you get the dough, the more rolls you’ll have so it’s up to you. Mine was about 1/2 inch thin. Make sure it’s longer than it is wide however or you’ll have just a couple of gigantic cinnamon rolls (which is fine if there’s only two of you I guess).

Smear the dough with the softened butter, leaving about 1 inch of space along the edge of the dough that will be on the outside once it’s rolled up. Now sprinkle tons of cinnamon sugar onto the dough. There isn’t an exact amount you should have here, just cover it well. You can add nuts or raisins or chocolate chips or whatever else you’d like to have in your rolls at this point.

Roll up the dough now, starting with the end opposite of the edge you left unbuttered. Roll it as tight as you can, nobody wants a sloppy loose cinnamon roll. 🙂 Grab the sharpest knife you have – I used a carving knife – and cut the log into equal pieces about an inch thick. I started in the middle and divided it in half, and then in half again, and then cut those quarters into thirds – so I ended up with a dozen cinnamon rolls.

So most home bakers use an 8 or 9 in baking dish for cinnamon rolls and just cram them all in there. That’s fine but you can also use a lined sheet pan. Pick up each individual cinnamon roll and tuck that unbuttered end under the roll so it’s sitting on its tail so to speak. This will help alleviate most unrolling and other deformation during the baking process.

Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap (or a clean trash bag) and let them proof until double. You can see the difference below between before and after proofing.

Preheat your oven to 350. When the rolls are ready sprinkle them with some additional cinnamon sugar and stick them in the oven. You can wash them with soy milk here if you like, I did not. Mine baked in just under 15 minutes. Feel free to rotate the pan half way through.

These aren’t super dark but they are done. You’ll probably get a wee bit darker results if you brush it with milk.

Lemony Cream Cheese Glaze

  • Vegan cream cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt

So while your rolls are doing their thing in the oven, make the glaze. I’m not giving you exact amounts because, frankly, you don’t need them.

Get a small mixing bowl and plop a glob of cream cheese in it. Zest part of a lemon with a microplane into the bowl. Add a pinch of salt and some powdered sugar and mix it up with a spatula or spoon. If it’s too thin, add some more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, squeeze some lemon juice in it. Too sweet? Add a bit more salt. Not lemony enough, grab the zester. You want it thin enough to drizzle but not so much that your cinnamon roll ends up swimming in it. And its lemoniness is completely up to you.

So there you have it. Yummy, vegan cinnamon rolls even omnivores from the South will enjoy. My pictures show the glaze drizzled on but I’m pretty sure there was some slathering going on while I was busy taking pictures.

And one final tip, you can make the dough the night before and stick it in the fridge. Just yank it out first thing in the morning and let it come to room temp before you punch it down.

I don’t know about you but my family time growing up was typically spent on the couch, with large bowls of popcorn, watching Star Wars. All four of us sitting there – me with a pillow to hide behind when Luke fights the monster in Jabba’s palace – just munching away and not really talking or interacting with each other at all (hmm…). We, of course, didn’t have actual store-bought copies of the movies though. Instead we had some (completely legal I’m sure) taped over VHS versions, which included a never before seen moment of intergalactic fuzz part way through the first 10 minutes of Empire Strikes Back (I didn’t see the movie in its entirety until just a few years ago).

I doubt my parents were intentionally trying to make a geek out of me, but it worked. I like most things intergalactic space travel or Middle Earth oriented. I didn’t necessarily mean to make bread in honor Darth Vadar and his offspring, but marbled rye does have both a light and a dark side. And it was recently national Star Wars Day (May the 4th… may the force…) so I think it’s fitting.

In case you actually read my blog regularly, no, this is not the bread from Tartine (I still haven’t gotten around to starting that yet). But this bread does involve using a yeast starter and forces you to go through the 12 steps of bread baking.

  1. Scaling
  2. Mixing
  3. Fermentation
  4. Punching down
  5. Portioning
  6. Rounding
  7. Resting
  8. Makeup and panning
  9. Proofing
  10. Baking
  11. Cooling
  12. Storing

While this seems like a lot of work to do, it’s really not that bad. But I’ll be honest with you, this is a two day process, or at the least one very long day. You aren’t actually in the kitchen doing things for two days, it’s a waiting game. You mix something, wait. You mix something else, then wait again. You do something else, then wait yet again. Making bread isn’t complicated, it just requires you to plan. But it’s all worth it. Nothing smells better than fresh bread baking. And since everyone thinks it’s super complicated, you’ll look like a genius! 😉

Marbled Rye

Now before you do anything, make sure you have everything. It sucks to get part way through something and realize you don’t have enough flour. You also need a kitchen scale for this that has a metric function.

Rye Starter

  • 9 3/4 oz light rye flour (10 oz would be fine)
  • 6 grams fresh compressed yeast (or 3 grams instant yeast)
  • 8 oz warm water (warm to the touch is sufficient)

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a spatula. You could use a stand mixer for this but it isn’t necessary. A rye starter is typically pretty stiff but I wanted a wetter dough so I upped the water quantity. Make sure there aren’t any dry or wet spots in the starter, it should be uniform.

Leave the starter in the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 6 – 24 hours. I let mine sit for an entire day. 6 hours is probably pushing it. 12 hours is most likely sufficient but I wasn’t about to start making bread at midnight. Different starters behave differently. Some get all airy and foamy, some don’t appear to change much at all. The rye starter will be noticeably bigger, but it won’t be all foamy and bubbly. Below you can see what it looked like when I first mixed it and then the next day.

Light Rye Dough

  • Half of the starter, about 8 1/2 oz
  • 6 1/2 oz warm water
  • 1 T pure maple syrup (or molasses)
  • 12 oz bread flour
  • 4 grams fresh compressed yeast (or 2 grams instant yeast)
  • 3/4 T salt

Dark Rye Dough

  • Half of the starter, about 8 1/2 oz
  • 7 oz warm water
  • 1 T pure maple syrup (or molasses)
  • 12 oz bread flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 4 grams fresh compressed yeast (or 2 grams instant yeast)
  • 3/4 T salt

You have to mix the two doughs separately, but the process is the same for both. Do the light one first obviously so you don’t get brown flecks in the dough. I weighed everything directly into my mixing bowl, but feel free to scale it out separately and then add it.

Place the bowl for your stand mixer on the scale and tare it (set it back to zero). Measure in your starter and water, then add the syrup. Sift in the flour (and cocoa for dark) and then add the yeast. Using the dough hook, start mixing the bread on the lowest speed. Begin adding the salt to the dough once it starts forming around the hook, about 20 seconds or so.

The light dough will be a tad wetter than the dark dough and will need a little help during mixing because of this. Knead the dough for a minute or so and then stop the machine and use a bowl scraper to get under the dough blob and flip it upside down. You want to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom and not getting mixed in. Knead it for a little bit longer. You’re looking for a uniform dough, not any wet or dry spots, everything appears to be thoroughly mixed and the gluten structure is coming together. A properly mixed dough should be smooth and supple. Since the light dough is a wetter dough, it won’t be so smooth and supple, but you can see what it looks like in the photos below.

Once it’s mixed, transfer it to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until double in size, about two hours but this depends on the temperature of your ingredients and the room in which the dough is fermenting. To check to see if the dough is ready, dip a finger in some flour and then poke the dough. If the hole you made doesn’t start closing back up, it’s ready. If it does close back up, the yeast is still doing its thing in there so let it be.

Repeat this process with the dark dough.

Punching, portioning, rounding, resting, makeup and panning

After the dough is fermented it’s time to punch it down, and no this does not mean make a fist and plow into it like you just ran into Emperor Palpatine. Grab your bowl scraper and get it under one side of the dough, pull up and then fold over and down towards the center. Do this three more times, like you’re wrapping a package. This expels the gas that has been created inside the dough and equalizes the yeast.

Now dump the dough(s) out onto the counter. You’ll need some flour for the light dough but probably not any for the dark dough. Portion each dough in half, I believe mine were about 14 oz each, give or take half an oz. Grab each ball of dough and use both hands to round it into a ball. To do this, fold it into itself kind of like you did during the punching stage. Flip the side with the seems over so that it’s facing the surface. Cup your hands around the dough and move your hands in a circular motion while pressing down and around firmly. You’re looking to create a smooth surface all around the dough, except for perhaps a pucker on the bottom side.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 10 minutes to allow the glutens to relax.

A side note real quick, dough dries out quickly. Always cover it whenever you aren’t working with it. Also, you’ll notice during bread baking that you go through enough plastic wrap to cover an entire space station… to avoid this I use (and reuse) a clean trash bag. Less waste and a lot less hassle.

To makeup the dough, flatten each ball into as much of a rectangle as you can get it. I used my hands but feel free to break out the rolling pin. I got each dough blob about 3/4 inch thick, but thinner would be better. Now take a dark rectangle of dough and place it on a light rectangle.

So this is where you “marble” the bread. This is also where I screwed up my first loaf. There is, obviously, more than one way to mix the light and dark doughs. On my first loaf I decided to just roll it up like a burrito. This will work, but only if your dough is wide enough to do a few rolls (hence the thinner is better from earlier). My first loaf looked like this:

The second picture shows how I pinched all my seams together, which is very important. If you don’t pinch your seams together, they are likely to split apart during baking, making things a bit ugly in the end.

On my second loaf I stacked the dough like before, but then cut it in half and placed one half on top of the other. I then did this a second time, flattened it out a bit and rolled it up again. I obviously have seams exposed on this one, but I couldn’t get around it.

Place both loaves in their pans, seam sides down, and cover with plastic wrap.

Proofing, scoring and baking

Now you have to let the bread proof until about double in size. You can do the finger poke text again here if you want. This will probably take about an hour or so. If you under proof the bread, it will tear during baking. If you over proof your bread, it will actually shrink during baking. Fun, fun.

Before the bread’s ready to go in the oven, preheat it to 425.

When it is ready, brush the tops with some soy milk and then score it with a sharp knife or a lame (pronounced like Tom). I just did five slashes across the top, but feel free to make any design you’re capable of. You can also throw some caraway seeds on top at this point. I’m not caraway’s biggest fan so I left them on the shelf.

Place both loaves in the oven and bake until golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them with your finger. Mine took about 45 minutes but every oven is different. You can even take its temperature if you’re really worried, but you’ll need a digital thermometer. Lean breads should reach an internal temp of about 205 – 210 when thoroughly baked. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack when they’re done.

So that first loaf I did, the one that I screwed up? It didn’t “marble” at all. I knew this was going to happen before I baked it, but the doughs had already clung together and I didn’t try very hard to take them apart and re-work them. We can call this Tunneled Rye. 🙂

The second loaf turned out much better. It actually looks “marbled,” which is always a plus when you’re making marbled rye bread.

I did, however, still manage to screw this one up a little bit. Either it was under proofed just a tad, or it was because I had seams on top from mixing the two doughs together (or likely a combination of both), but it tore in the oven. It’s still sliceable and edible of course, just not as pretty as it could have been.

This bread has a moist, fairly tight crumb and an adequate crust (but isn’t overly crusty).

Because this bread is homemade, they’re isn’t much in the way of preservatives in it so you might find yourself hard pressed to eat both loaves before they stale too much. You can cut the recipe in half of course, but who wants to go through all that trouble for one loaf of bread??? The nice thing about bread is that you can freeze it. Place one loaf in a plastic bag, or wrap it well with plastic wrap, and toss it in the freezer. You can thaw it by just setting it on the counter for a few hours or tossing it in a warm oven for a bit. It’ll taste the same as it did the day you made it!

Be weary of the fridge though. While freezing temperatures stop the staling process, moderately cool ones cause breads to stale quicker. It’s best to just leave the bread on the counter, wrapped well, if you aren’t freezing it.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted. I’m not sure which took longer, making the bread or typing this post out. 🙂 But the sun is shining outside right now and I think I’m going to go take advantage of that. Definitely let me know if you make some marbled rye, and what technique(s) you use to marble it.

Have a great day, and may the force be with you (and your bread).

Kitchen Therapy

Some days you just need to bake something. Anything. It really doesn’t matter what. It’s like retail therapy, only cheaper and it doesn’t piss off your husband.

This past week hasn’t been the best week. I had a job. Now I don’t have a job. It’s a long story and I’ll spare you the details, but any of you who have ever looked for work in Portland know that the job market here isn’t exactly the most friendly of beasts. Hopefully the employment fairy will come visit me soon.

But enough of my pillow crying. Crappy things happen to all of us. It’s what you do after the crappy things happen that defines who you are. And I, of course, decided to make cookies.

I often try to bake something “new” and creative. Something different that isn’t boring or been done a million times. But sometimes – sometimes – you just need a chocolate chip cookie. It’s like good ole macaroni and cheese, only it’s not obviously. You know what I mean. Something familiar and comforting. Something you’ve done before and know will probably turn out alright so you don’t have to worry about being even more ticked off after your time in kitchen therapy. 🙂

This is one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” recipes. I typically keep my kitchen pretty well stocked with the basics – flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, etc, etc. – but I was a bit low on things yesterday. So I hodgepodged a recipe together and, thankfully, it turned out pretty well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 6 1/2 oz vegan stick butter (Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 oz brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 oz raw sugar
  • 3 oz pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz AP flour
  • 5 oz whole wheat pastry flour (or more AP)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or more chocolate chips)

In typing these ingredients out I just realized I forgot to put the vanilla extract in my cookies. So your cookies will taste even better than my cookies if you don’t screw that part up. 🙂

You can also add a fake egg if you like, either a flax egg or Ener-g egg. I wasn’t feeling it yesterday so I ixnayed the egg (and I don’t think it really made much of a difference).

About the butter, Earth Balance is expensive. And this sucks obviously but that’s just the price you pay for choosing the cow-free lifestyle. You can use the Smart Balance spread (it’s vegan) but there’s a huge difference in moisture content so be aware that the end product may be a bit different than mine.

Cream the butter, sugars and maple syrup together until “creamy” (which actually means “wet” in the vegan world). Add the vanilla extract. Sift in the flours, salt, baking powder and soda and start mixing. If you’re using a stand mixture, go ahead and start adding in the chocolate chips. If you’re mixing by hand, partially mix in the dry ingredients and then add the chocolate chips and finish mixing. Since there isn’t any liquid in here to speak of, you really don’t have to worry about over mixing and causing the glutens to toughen, but it’s just best to mix as little as possible.

Scoop the dough, roll it into a ball in your hands, partially flatten it – trying to keep it as round as possible – and place it onto a half sheet. I used a 1 & 1/2 tablespoon scoop (# 50) and 12 of these fit comfortably on the pan.

These will spread, almost like normal cookies, so the ball rolling and flattening is pretty much up to you. I was aiming for a more uniform cookie, hence the extra steps I took.

Bake at 350 for 7 minutes, rotate the pan and then bake for another 6 minutes. They’ll be soft when they come out, with the bottoms lightly brown, but they’ll firm up quite a bit during cooling. You could probably cook them even a minute or so less if you wanted a softer cookie.

These cookies are really nice (even without the vanilla extract). They’re crunchy but still chewy, and are definitely quite superb when they’re warm.

Well I have bread rising in the kitchen that probably needs my attention so I away I must go. Happy Thursday and have a great weekend!

Savory Mexican Crepes

“A girl cannot live  on sweets alone.” – a vegan cook from Portland 😉

Honestly, I love cooking. And actually I cook savory food more often than bake sweet food, but I’m typically always really hungry so the photo snapping time is generally neglected. But I was super excited about this dish so I managed to spare a few precious minutes to take some pictures before devouring it.

I know some would say, “Why make mexican crepes when you already have tortillas?” And perhaps this is a valid argument. But crepes are fun to make, and I might argue more fun than tortillas. Plus I just got a new crepe pan as a graduation present (thank you anonymous Tigard resident). And, well, the idea just randomly came to me one afternoon and I couldn’t get it out of my head and it called for soft, delicate crepes, not rough, durable tortillas. But the best, and most applicable, reason for using crepes instead of tortillas – I wanted to. Enough. Said.

This dish is all prep time. Once you slice and dice everything, and puree your crepe batter, there’s only about 20 minutes of cooking time left, depending on how many crepes you are making or how many crepe pans you have.

The nice thing about crepes is that, a) you can hold the batter in the fridge for a few days and, b) you can hold prepared crepes in the fridge for about a week or so. Yep, just stack em one on top of the other and plop em in a plastic bag or container. And what makes vegan crepes far superior to their eggy predecessor (aside from the obvious) is that they don’t stick to each other. Eggy crepes like to hold onto one another for dear life, especially after you chill them down in the fridge. These chicken friendly guys come right apart, no hassle or oven heating required.

Savory Mexican Crepes

Crepe Batter, adapted from Veganomicon

  • 1 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1/2 C water, plus more if too thick
  • 3/4 C AP flour
  • 1/4 C Garbanzo & Fava Flour
  • 1 T Tapioca starch
  • 1/2 t salt

This recipe is barely altered from Isa’s original version. I wasn’t sure if I should post it or not but then I found that you could view it on Google books so…

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a tub of some sort and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. The batter will thicken a bit as it sits. Make sure to stir it well before you make the crepes.

You may end up needing more water. The half cup is already double what the original recipe calls for, but I just think thinner is better.

To make the crepes, heat a crepe pan or other non-stick pan on med/ high to high heat. Brush vegan butter or oil onto the pan with a heat tempered brush (or you’ll singe the little guy’s hair). Pour 1 – 2 oz of batter (2 – 4 tablespoons) onto the pan and swirl the pan to move the batter all around. This might take some practice and you’ll probably lose a crepe or two but don’t fret, it gets easier.

And you have options here. You can cook the crepes all the way and immediately fill and eat them. Or you can par-cook them, fill them, and warm them up in the oven later when you’re ready for them. Either way, the level of doneness is entirely up to you. You can cook them until there is just barely some color on the crepe, or get some nice brown splotches all over it. You can also cook both sides of the crepe in the pan (by flipping or using a spatula) or just cook one side and finish cooking the rest of it in the oven. It’s all up to you!

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

  • 12 – 13 oz tomatillos (about 6 or so, average size)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small jalapeño, brunoise dice (1/8 in cut)
  • 1/2 small yellow chile, brunoise dice
  • 1/4 red onion, small dice (1/4 in cut)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 2 T minced cilantro
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

The quantities listed above are basically approximate. If you like things hotter, add more diced peppers. Not on onion fan? Leave it out. Absolutely love cilantro? Pile it on! Recipes aren’t meant to be followed like they are set in stone. Use it as a guide and follow your taste buds.

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them. Roughly chop them and place them in a food processor and pulse several times until they’re at the consistency you want. I had mine roughly pureed but chunky is fine too.

Transfer the tomatillos to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Let it sit in the fridge for awhile before deciding if it’s salty enough for you.

You can add other things like cumin and cayenne if you like. I wanted the flavors of the vegetables to shine through so I left the spices out.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • Lime juice (1 – 2 limes)
  • Olive oil (1 – 2 T)
  • Finely minced cilantro (2 – 3 t)
  • 1 small clove of garlic, grated on a microplane
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

The amount of oil versus lime juice versus cilantro is entirely up to you; the measurements in parentheses are about what I did. Salad dressings are typically loaded with oil, but I always cut it back quite a bit so mine was a bit on the acidic side. If you find your dressing is too acidic, try adding some sugar or agave to balance it out a little bit, or more olive oil.

Mix all ingredients vigorously with a small whisk or in a dressing emulsifier (love this thing). Set aside.

  • 1/4 head of red (purple) cabbage
  • 2 average sized carrots, peeled

Shred the cabbage and carrots in a food processor and toss them together in a bowl. If you let them sit for awhile, the carrots will turn this beautiful dark orange color from taking on the pigment in the cabbage. Toss with the vinaigrette when you’re ready to serve.

Kale Filling

  • 1/2 bunch curly kale, stemmed and roughly sliced
  • 2 large cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 – 3 T sliced leeks (about an inch of the stalk)
  • Salt, pepper, cumin, to taste
  • Minced cilantro, about 2 T

This is enough filling for about 6 small (7 in) crepes. Double it if you need to.

Heat a saute pan with a smidge of oil. Saute the leeks first for a couple minutes and then add the mushrooms and cook for another couple minutes. Add the kale and seasonings and toss everything. Add water or stock if you need more liquid in the pan. Once the kale brightens and begins to wilt (soften), it’s done. Add the cilantro and set aside until you’re ready to assemble your crepes.

Finishing Touches

I added some pepitas (pumpkin seeds – look in the bulk section if you’ve no pumpkins lying around) to my kale filling and placed some sliced avocado on the crepes right before serving. You could do guacamole if you want, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

All the natural flavors of the vegetables come together quite nicely in this dish. My husband, who typically pours hot sauce on all his Mexican food, didn’t even bring the Valentinas to the table. It’s fresh, flavorful and filling, but light and just perfect for eating on the porch on a warm day.