Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers March Challenge

As much as I'm enjoying the Daring Bakers challenges--being part of an online society with secrets is fun!, I'm beginning to suspect that the DBitS (Daring Baker in the Sky, if you recall) might hate me. There is no other explanation for all the time I spend, as an aspiring DBer, worrying about meringue. We saw this with the pavlovas, in particular, but this month is no different. The March challenge was a meringue filled coffee cake. When I saw this, I once again set about scouring the internet for new methods and recipes that just might produce something like that elusive fluff that can only come from the elixer of fetal birds. Finally, I found a few sites advocating the use of soy protein isolate and claiming that a bit of it can be whipped up with some cold water into stiff peaks and then baked on a pie or as meringue cookies. I splurged on all the ingredients to make this enchanting stuff only to be disappointed once again. I should have been more wary when the last comment on the blog was a person who had found her/himself in my position, whipping the protein isolate with water for 10, 15 minutes and having it remain stubbornly bubble-less. *sigh* Since the coffee cake was all ready to be filled at this point, I opted to just skip the meringue step altogether and fill it with sugar, cinnamon, sliced almonds, and chocolate. Had I been as wary as a vegan meringue project really justifies, I would have had a contingency plan of some sort--maybe some ricemallow fluff. Pride goeth before the fall, and all that.

In spite of this failure, the coffee cake was delicious and quite decadent, mostly owing to the high fat content of the cake. I had never made a yeasted coffee cake before. Coffee cakes, in my family's culinary lexicon, are quick bread sorts of things with a streusel-like topping. This yeasted coffee cake was actually very similar to the stollen from December. You make a rich dough, let it rise, fill it, roll it up, shape it into a wreath, let it rise again, and bake it off. Again, I'm not including the recipe here because I pretty much just veganized the one listed in the Daring Bakers instructions. If you are dying to make a rolled, yeasted coffee cake and think you can best me on the meringue step, by all means message me, and I'll share it. I am easily bested.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

I thought I would round out my recent ventures into boiled dinners with a recommendation for a soda bread recipe. No self-respecting piggy would eat so much boiled cabbage without at least the prospect of a thick slice of buttery, savory soda bread on the side. For special occasions, I really like the whole wheat millet soda bread in Veganomicon, but it's a little too rich for everyday fare. I also tried, but didn't have much success with, an oat-based soda bread from 101 Cookbooks. I couldn't say fairly whether the recipe or my cooking skills failed me, but I won't be making it again. Instead, I want to heartily recommend to you the following recipe from the blog Cakewalker. You can find his recipe and check out his blog here. The blogger says he adapted it from a recipe in the Los Angeles Times, and I followed it with just a couple changes. I also cut the recipe in half since I was only making it for two. This small loaf would do nicely for four people.

Here's what I did:

1/2 c currants
1 cup ap flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
3 T raw sugar
3/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T toasted caraway seeds
3 T vegan margarine
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 3 T water
1 T molasses (I used blackstrap)
2/3 c buttermilk (1 T vinegar + unsweetened non-dairy milk)

Preheat oven to 375. In a small bowl, cover raisins with hot water and let stand 5 minutes to plump. In a small skillet, toast caraway seeds briefly, just until fragrant. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Cut in margarine with a pastry blender or strong fork until no big pieces remain. In a smaller bowl, mix the cornstarch mixture, molasses, and buttermilk. Add wet to the dry, stir in plumped currants, and mix thoroughly. Knead the dough briefly with your hands, adding a bit more flour as necessary. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Shape into a round loaf and score the top with an "x." Rub a bit more flour onto the top of the loaf and bake for 45-50 minutes.b

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Irish Coddle

They don't really get top billing as far as food-focused holidays go, but two of my favorites are St. Patrick's Day and Passover. I'm neither Jewish nor particularly Irish, but I enjoy having an excuse to dabble in flavors, methods, and seasonings that don't generally make it into my dinner repertoire. In past years, C and I have gone all out with briskets, rugelach, and colcannon. This year, contemplating a late St. Paddy's day repast of even more of that delectable potatoes and greens mash, I opted instead for Coddle. The Irish--or maybe broadly Northern European--way of boiling meats with potatoes and various cruciferous vegetables kind of captures my imagination. Another dish that has long been on my list of things to try, for example, is called Bubble and Squeak. I saw a recipe some years ago that looked very veganizable indeed, but then promptly lost track of it. The following stew is a one-dish answer to the culinary injunction of St. Patrick's Day. Here you have starch, protein, and vegetables boiled together in a simple and tasty dish. I should also mention that this Coddle is my version of the one posted by the fantastic Susan V from Check hers out here, and see mine below:

Coddle (Kinda)

1 pkg vegan sausage, sliced (I used Tofurky beer brats because I was having a lazy day like that and those nice people at Turtle Mountain are just so darned reliably delicious. On a more ambitious day, I might make my own.)
1 medium onion, diced
1 small head green cabbage, sliced
1 1/2 lbs yukon potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 T dried dill
2 1/2 c water
2 veggie broth cubes
1 t liquid smoke
horseradish and vegan bacon bits for garnish

Dissolve the broth cubes in 2 cups hot water. Set aside. Fry sausage in a bit of olive oil until nicely browned. Meanwhile, saute onion in a pot or large saucepan. When onion is translucent, add potatoes and dill and stir briefly. Deglaze sausage pan with a 1/4 c water to remove any bits that are sticking to the pan, and transfer the contents to the larger pot. Top the sausage with the cabbage. Add liquid smoke to the prepared veggie broth and pour the liquid over the cabbage. Cover but don't stir. Simmer for 15 minutes, then check the potatoes for tenderness. When they are cooked as much as you'd like, serve in big bowls topped with vegan bacon bits and a dollop of horseradish. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quiche 2.0--Tempeh Bacon and Olive

I honestly thought I had the whole vegan quiche thing on lock-down, dear readers. I had it "dialed in," as my sister would say. Then, as with the universal tendency of everything to move from a state of order into one of disorder, my grip on quiche has loosened over time, slackened, weakened, entropificationed. The only thing to do in this situation is to take another run. Though sometimes, "another run," might mean returning to the drawing  board and starting from scratch--ditching your firm tofu for cashews and the like, it can also refer to a subtle but substantial tweaking: a little less of this and a little more of that, a pinch of something completely new.

Crust before baking.
I made this quiche, which as you recall I enjoy pronouncing as "quitch," because my sweet and smart niece used to say it that way, for a small dinner gathering at our friend Diana's house. She made a slamming apple-pear crisp and some brussels sprouts with squash, and our friend Joelle brought a lovely greens saute. C and I were charged with bringing the proteiny component of the meal. To be honest, most of our show-stopping repertoire that we tend to whip out for feeding (especially) omnis has something to do with seitan because, as we all know, gluten makes the best meat analogs. With tofu, I tend to get lazy. Pretty much I bake it, scramble it, blend it, and press it into quiches, and that's about it. Well, and put it in soup. And make stew out of it. Use it as an egg replacer. But you can see where I'm headed with this. I feel like most of those are pretty homey things and not the sorts of dishes I would take to someone's house for dinner. A quiche, on the other hand, is a nice, self-contained kind of unit. It heats up beautifully and is tasty with all kinds of fillings. While I tend to lean toward a sausage and mushroom filling, Diana's disinclination toward mushrooms and trouble with wheat pushed me toward thinking about other fillings: tempeh bacon and olive. These fillings along with this subtly different strategy toward flavoring the quiche really takes this dish to another level. Even if you're a fan of the earlier quiche recipe, I recommend springing for some black salt--yes, it's expensive--and trying it this way.


2 c whole spelt flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c apple juice

Mix together and press evenly into a pie pan. Prick the bottom and sides and bake at 400 for 10 minutes.
Tempeh bacon, fried and cooling a bit.


Tempeh Bacon--you could buy the packaged tempeh bacon, but I made my own. I used the simplified bacon recipe in Vegan Brunch, which really is one of the best vegan cookbooks on the market.There are loads of vegan tempeh bacon recipes on the internet, though, and I feel confident that any of them would be tasty. While worshipping at Isa's feet is a perfectly good place for me, I know other cooks have their own idols.

1/2 c sliced black olives
1 pound extra firm tofu
1/2-3/4 c unsweetened soy milk
1 t black salt
1 T turmeric
1/2 t salt
1 c cheddar Daiya

In a large bowl, mash the tofu thoroughly. I use my hands. Then mix in the soymilk, turmeric, and salts until the desired color and flavor are reached. Don't over-salt because the olives and the bacon will contribute much in that regard. Crumble bacon into large pieces and mix into tofu along with olives. Press the whole mess into the pre-baked crust. Spread a healthy layer of cheddar Daiya on top and bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes. Plan to let your quiche hang for a few minutes (10-15) for best presentation.