Monday, March 10, 2008

Delayed Vegan Valentine


A month or two ago one of my friends decided she was going to be vegan after reading a book about something. She never said what the book was. This was not too long before valentine's day, and since I usually take the treats I make to lunch with me, I felt bad if I took treats I couldn't share with everyone at the table (since they all eat nuts, I don't worry about those like I did in the past when I ate lunch with a nutty anti-nut friend).
I checked out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World from the library last year because with a title that cute how could I resist? However, being anti-margarine and shortening, as well as an omnivore, I never did anything but flip through it. But I'd tabbed pages that lacked offenders and wanted to try them. But then I returned the book. So when my friend mentioned being vegan, I figured it would be a nice surprise. So I checked out the book again, picked out my recipe for an icing (Super Natural Agave Icing), and bought everything for either vanilla or chocolate cupcakes. Then I reread the recipe: soy milk powder. And I began a three-week quest for the stuff short of ordering ten pounds of it from the internet. I only needed 1 1/2 cups. So then I gave up, but the plain soymilk was still sitting in the basement fridge. In the past I've enjoyed soymilk in my cereal, but that's because vanilla soymilk is sweet and I didn't want to open the soymilk until I knew I could finish it. Unfortunately, it's almost March 11th, the date on the package.

So it was time to make the cupcakes, and the chocolate ganache to match.

(Coincidentally, I also started reading Vegan Virgin Valentine - or more accurately, listening to, on my iPod today. The character's name is Valentine though.)

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
makes 12-15 cupcakes
My dad said these seemed like corn muffins to him. They weren't patient enough to wait for them to cool or for me to ice them this morning. When I had one, I pinpointed the flavor. It was a mild flavor from the soy milk.

1 cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or more vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin pan with liners.

Whisk the soymilk and vinegar together in a measuring cup and set aside a few minutes to curdle.

Whisk together the soymilk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract and other extracts in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until no large lumps remain.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 way full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until done. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Rich Chocolate Ganache Recipe
adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Note: It makes more than enough for 12 cupcakes, so I made truffles, like suggested in the book, with the leftovers. It suggested using a chocolate with up to a 60% cacao content, but the lowest vegan chocolate I had was 70%, and I wasn't about to compromise the vegan value of the cupcakes after getting this far. And one of my friends said she likes the ganache topping better than a buttercream anyway, so I guess it was worth it.

1/4 cup soymilk
4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a small saucepan bring soymilk to a simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate and syrup. Stir until smooth and set aside until ready to use.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Cake for A Potluck with Paella


As I mentioned last night, Dad was making paella for the potluck at our house. Mom contributed with tuna empanadas, and I was in charge of dessert. While the main course was a mish-mash of paella, kuku-ye lubiya (a Persian-style frittata with green beans), breaded shrimp with veggies, salad, and two different mast-e khiar (cucumber yogurt). I focused my dessert though to follow through with a theme started by the paella.
I have a recipe for a bizcocho de naranja in a magazine I picked up in Barcelona last year, but I used a different one that I made before and had notes on it so I knew that it would turn out tasty. I didn't want to risk a bad cake without time to try to save it.

Last time I used orange juice from a bottle since we already had it in the house, and this time I freshly squeezed it. Also, instead of following the recipe, I used Brown Cow cream top yogurt to make the cake, and since it was a new container and I didn't stir it up, most of the yogurt used was the cream top, which probably contributed to some of the richness, but the original recipe called for low-fat yogurt. I also probably need to find a better garnish because raspberries are not super tasty (and outrageously priced) this time of year. It just looks so boring without it, but tastes fine.

Bizcocho de Naranja (orange yogurt cake)
adapted from Cooking Light, July 2005
Serves 12 (or so)

1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
a large pinch crushed saffron threads
2 cups (9 1/2 ounces; 275 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup plain yogurt
6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil

3 Tablespoons orange marmalade
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with at least 1 1/2 inch sides.

Bring juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in saffron. Let stand 10 minutes, or while you are doing other steps.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl (or bowl of a mixer), beat sugar, egg, and egg white at medium speed until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add yogurt, beating well. Gradually add oil and the juice mixture, beating until well blended. Add half of flour mixture; beat just until blended. Add remaining flour and beat until just blended.

Spoon batter into prepared 9-inch cake pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a wodden pic inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove and cool completely on wire rack.

Place cake on serving platter. Combine marmalade and liqueur in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer stirring constantly. Remove from heat and spread mixture evenly over top of the cake, allowing to drip over sides. (If you like lots of glaze or don't like the look of the chunks, you can either double or strain it because this doesn't make a whole lot of glaze, its a very thin layer.)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spanish inspired cookies that ring Iran


Tonight we're having a potluck, a themeless one because of technical difficulties that prevented us from contacting our family soon enough to insist upon a theme. But Dad's making paella, so I decided to make the bizcocho de naranja that I made a year or so ago when Dad made paella.
To go along with it as well, I figured I should make something else, just in case. So I flipped through The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen and the very last recipe is for Chocolate-Dipped Almond-Stuffed Figs. That definitely caught my eye and I added it to the grocery list. But the dried figs were too expensive and too small at the first store and had too many preservatives in them at the second store. After I made my cake, I remembered having seen a recipe for a pistachio shortbread that I had all the ingredients for, so I measured out my pistachios just to make sure, and then decided to make it. The smell was familiar - like Iranian treats, so the cookies work perfectly for tonight whether I pretend I'm going with the Spanish theme or appealing to my family's preferences.

The scent of saffron and the presence of pistachios placed into something Scottish. It's a multi-ethnic cookie!

But you can find the recipe on page 451 of The New Spanish Table, here or here. The latter also has the recipe for chocolate-dipped almond-stuffed figs that I was going to make until I couldn't find figs and had everything to make the shortbread.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Granola Bar Weekend


I'm not sure what possessed me to make granola bars, but I had some sort of urge to make them on Friday night that was unfulfilled. I made corn tortillas, and when I was done with that, I decided to make granola bars. Mom told me she'd be home soon, so I didn't have enough time. And discovered I didn't have quite enough almonds, and despite having other nuts around, I was determined to use almonds.
So on Saturday, after the SAT (how fitting SATurday), I came home and made granola bars. I did have a paper due on Tuesday, but this is me and when the pressure comes pounding, I do something else.

The granola bars I made on Saturday were straight from The Kitchen Sink, though mine didn't come out nearly as photogenic. And I have an inability to cut things. Oh, and I used cherries instead of cranberries.Other than my parents complaining they were too hard (something I like about CRISPY granola bars), they were good. But I noticed the crumbs after eating them were almost always the whole flax seeds.

So on Monday, while my friend was editing my paper for me, I set out to make another batch of granola bars, but this time without coconut (which somehow sneaked its way in) and with ground flaxseeds (which somehow ended up as a mess in the garbage can.) The wheat germ in the container I couldn't get open was rancid, so for some reason I chose to use oat bran instead (these'll definately clean you out) and I added more honey after measuring (so weight is given for it and the tahini with estimates for volume). I personally liked these better, even though the fruit was EXTREMELY chewy and I left them in the oven a little too long because I chose to ignore to timer and continue what I was working on.

Sesame Pistachio Crisp Granola Bars
makes 16 bars, or however many pieces you choose to cut it into

2 1/2 cups (≈265 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (≈40 grams) oat bran
1/4 cup (≈20 g) shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup (≈150g) almonds
1/2 cup (≈60 g) pistachios
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 tsp. of finer grain salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
130 g honey (that's probably around 1/3 to 1/2 cup, I think)
80 g tahini, a ground sesame paste (that's probably around 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking sheet with two perpendicular pieces of parchment paper in a cross with overhangs for easier lifting; grease paper.

Mix together oats, oat bran, coconut, sesame seeds, almonds, and pistachios and spread out on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Toast in oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine salt, cinnamon, honey, and tahini in a large saucepan. When the oat mixture has about 5 minutes left, heat over medium heat, stirring, until honey and tahini make are warm and thoroughly mixed. Turn heat to low. Stir in oat mixture and dried fruits.

Press into prepared pan and bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until just turning golden. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into desired size pieces.