Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan challah 2014: I think this is the one!

I've posted a few times about baking vegan challah-- a traditional Jewish bread (similar to brioche) that's eaten as part of the Shabbos celebration on Friday evenings, and on holidays. In my family growing up, we didn't observe the weekly Shabbos, and we didn't have challah every week (although I definitely wanted us to!) but we still ate our fair share of challah, and it was an indispensable part of the holiday table, especially at Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is usually right in the beginning of fall. (It was last week! Sorry this post is a week late!) It's one of my favorite holidays, and every year since I went vegan (8 years ago now) I pretty much spend the month of September wondering if this will be the year that I crack the code of the vegan challah.

I'm pretty sure this was the year! I cracked the code! And it's really pretty simple-- no complicated egg substitutes, no weird artificial yellow food coloring, just nice yummy bread. It's lighter than some other challah recipes, and doesn't have that crazy dandelion yellow color, but it's quite good. And if you really want it to be more yellow, you can always add some turmeric or saffron for color-- I've done it both ways with nice results. Just use a tiny pinch though! And keep in mind that it will affect the flavor a little bit.

Vegan Challah, version 3:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp. soy or almond milk + 1 tsp oil, for brushing
optional: 1/2 cup currants (or raisins)

1. Whisk the flax seeds with the warm water for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is quite frothy. I like to put the flax-water mixture through a strainer to remove the little bits of flax seed, but that's absolutely optional-- the only difference it makes is in the appearance of the finished bread.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl (or your stand mixer, if you have one,) and stir just to distribute the ingredients. Add the salt and stir again briefly (you want to do it this way to minimize direct contact between the yeast and salt.)

3. Add the water and oil, and stir with a big sturdy spoon, or with the electric mixer's paddle attachment until everything comes together in a soft dough, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. If necessary, add more water or flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. If using a mixer: Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low for 8 minutes. Otherwise, just use your (clean) hands!

4. Turn onto a floured countertop or board, and knead by had, just to finish. The dough should be elastic and smooth. Put in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

5. Turn onto your floured board again, and use a rolling pin to gently roll it out into a big rectangle. If you're adding raisins or currants, sprinkle them evenly across the surface of the rectangle of dough. Roll the dough up (like a jelly roll) and knead a few more times, so that the raisins are distributed evenly. Put back in the bowl and cover. At this point, you can refrigerate it for a day or two until you're ready to bake. Or if you want to bake it now, just let it rest for about 30 minutes before shaping.

6. When it comes to shaping your loaves, you have a few options. You can do braided loaf, which is the normal/traditional shape for challah. This can be a regular 3-stranded braid, or a more elaborate braid with 4 or 6 strands.
For Rosh Hashanah, it's traditional to bake round loaves of challah, to symbolize the circle of life. There are a few ways to shape a round loaf-- you can do a woven round loaf like I did, you can make a regular braid and spiral it into a round shape, or you can even do a plain spiral. Or do one of each, if you really can't decide. This recipe makes two medium-sized loaves, or three petite loaves.
While you're working on your shapes, preheat the oven to 350 F.

7. Once you've gotten the loaves into whatever shapes you like, put them on a parchment-covered baking sheet and brush with the soymilk-oil mixture. Allow to rise for 30 minutes in a nice warm place. They should look nice and puffed up before you put them in the oven.






Friday, March 28, 2014

Back to Basics

I haven't posted in a while a year and a half.
What can I say? I was really really busy? I was thinking about other things? Those are both true, but still, it's been way (way, way) too long. I'm hoping to get back into the habit of posting recipes, and please forgive my long absence. And what better way to start than by going back to what this blog is all about: muffins!
These bran muffins are so good. Also, you can eat them for breakfast and not feel weird about it, because they're pretty wholesome, which is to say, not just cake in disguise.

Apple Bran Muffins
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen, via food.com because I actually don't have an ATK membership.

2 1/4 cups All Bran twigs cereal (I might start buying it in bulk)
1 cup rasins + 1 Tbsp water
1 small-medium apple, peeled + chopped
1 3/4 cups AP flour (I ran out of whole wheat, but the recipe actually calls for 1 1/4 c AP + 1/2 c WW)
2 tsp baking soda (not powder!!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
3 Tbsp molasses
1 swipe orange zest (does that make sense? Anyway, just a little.)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or another 2 Tbsp canola oil)
1 Tbsp flax seed meal
2 Tbsp what germ
1 3/4 cups soy milk mixed with 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
2/3 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar, or dehydrated can juice, or whatever dry sweetener you're into. I'm sure you could use agave, but don't ask me how much.)

1) Preheat your oven to 400 F, and grease one standard muffin pan with a little bit of spray oil.
2)In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the raisins and water, and microwave on high for about 40 seconds. You want the raisins to absorb some of the water and plump up. Don't skip this step! If you don't have a microwave, just pour a little bit of boiling water over the raisins, cover them, and let them sit for about 5 minutes.
3) Grind half of the bran cereal in the food processor until it reaches a sandy texture. You can then add it back in with the rest of the cereal.
4)In a large bowl, combine the sugar, molasses, and oils, and whisk until combined. Add in the apple sauce, extracts, zest, wheat germ, and flax meal, and beat for a minute or two. Add in the soy milk- vinegar mixture. Now stir in all of the cereal until moistened, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. You want to allow the bran cereal to absorb as much moisture as it can from the other ingredients.
5) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour(s), baking soda, and salt. Whisk everything to combine really well, so that you won't end up with any really salty bites.
6) Once the 15 minutes are up, you can add your dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until everything is moistened. Now fold in your raisins and apples.
7) Drop about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup. You can really pile the muffins high and overfill the cups, as they don't spread very much in the oven.
8) Bake for about 16 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs (but no wet batter.)
9) Allow the muffins to cool before removing from the pan, because they're a little delicate when warm. I think you should allow them to cool before you eat them, but my husband says that's BS. Just don't blame me if you burn your mouth!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harissa lentil burgers

Making  veggie burgers at home is a piece of cake totally manageable, and they're tastier than the ones you buy at the store. And cheaper depending on what you put in them. As in, don't make them out of store-bought seitan and black truffle shavings. (Seriously, why is seitan so  expensive?)

The beets are totally optional; they were just sort of hanging out in the fridge, so I added some to the recipe. They added a smidge of creepy red-meaty color to the insides of the burgers, which I sort of enjoyed, but flavor-wise I don't think they did a whole lot of anything. Leave them out if you want to!

I'd like to redo these with even more mushroom for a less dry texture, but the burgers were delicious and easy so I'm posting the recipe anyway. I'll post the final draft, too!


Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups cooked brown lentils
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1 small onion, diced
4 oz. (1/2 a package) cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko are usually vegan)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp. harissa paste (substitute tomato paste if you don't like/ can't find the harissa)
1/2 cup shredded raw beet
salt and pepper
oil for frying

1. Fry the onion and mushrooms over high heat until deep brown, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir/ knead with your hands until thoroughly combined.

3. Divide the burger mix into 6 equal pieces (or 8 if you like them a little more modest-sized.) Form each piece into a ball, and slowly press down into a round disc about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or maybe you like square burgers. Whatever you want! It's up to you.)

4. To cook, fry in a little oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat for five minutes per side. Don't move them around while they're cooking, so that they can brown on the outside. Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes to firm them up a little more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jamaican Rice and Peas

This is called rice and peas, but it's really more like rice and beans. This can be made with pigeon peas or cowpeas, if you want it to be more pea-y and less beany.
It makes a good dinner with just a vegetable on the side, but if you're feeling fancy, or trying to impress someone, it's pretty great served with some jerk tofu. And beer. I guess Red Stripe would be a classic pairing, but I'm drinking Peak Summer Session and it goes just fine, thank you! (I know wine pairings are classy, but what about beer pairings?)
The scotch bonnet peppers in this recipe are really hot, but don't worry because you don't eat the whole peppers in this dish. Rather, you cut a small slit in the skin of the pepper, which allows some flavor and heat to infuse the rice, but not in a way that makes fire come out your ears. Then when it's time to eat, just remove the scotch bonnet. Its really not very spicy at all, and the creamy coconut . milk mellows everything down considerably.
Look for scotch bonnets in a Caribbean market. They can be hard to find, depending on where you live, so you can substitute a habaƱero or even a couple of minced jalapeƱos.

Anyway, here's what you need:
1 heavy-bottomed saucepan
1 can coconut milk
1 can red or 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
2 cups basmati rice (that's how I like it but use any long-grain rice, just know that brown rice takes 40 minutes instead of 20)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 scallions
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch  piece of ginger
1 tsp. kosher salt, or 3/4 tsp. regular salt

Now, to cook it:
1.  Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow this to soak while you prep the other ingredients.
Wash the scallion and pepper. Trim the roots off the scallions (just the hairy part not the whole white part) and slice them. Cut a slit in the scotch bonnet. Throw those into the pot.
2. Pour the coconut milk into a measuring cup, add enough water to make 3 1/4 cups, and add those to the pot. Add the salt. Grate in the ginger and garlic (or mince if you prefer.) Drain, rinse, and add the beans. Bring everything to a gentle boil. Drain the rice and add that in. You can stir it once or twice but not too much cause it will break the rice, and then it'll be mushy.
3. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes (that's when I go to the bodega for beer, if that gives you an idea of the timing.) Fluff with a fork and serve.
4. Eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.
5. And the day after that, cause it makes a lot.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I made a wedding cake

Two-tiered lemon
cake with blackberries and limoncello buttercream.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cran-apple crumb muffins

I know I haven't posted an recipes in a while, so I thought I'd write up this muffin recipe even though I don't have any photos for you. Sorry! My camera is broken. The white whole wheat flour I use in this recipe is available at lots of places, but the cheapest place to get it seems to be Trader Joe's.

Note: I edited the original post to include an agave-sweetened variation at the end.

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardammom
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar*
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 smallish apple, peeled and chopped into itsy bitsy pieces
1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

crumb topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 sprinkle cinnamon
3 Tbsp margarine, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with paper liners.

2.Combine the flours, oats, spices, salt, and baking powder & soda in a medium bowl. Break up any lumps of soda/ baking powder with your fingers and whisk until it's evenly mixed.

3. In a large bowl, combine apple sauce, sugar, oil, and milk. Stir well. Add chopped apple.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until just combined--a few lumps are ok! Add walnuts and cranberries. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

5. While the batter is resting, make the crumb topping by mixing the flour, cinnamon  and brown sugar with your fingers, breaking up any stubborn brown sugar clumps. (You can use the bowl from the dry ingredients to save yourself some washing.) Drizzle in the melted margarine and work the mixture into coarse crumbs.

6. Scoop about 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin cup (they'll be pretty full; these are fairly tall muffins.) Sprinkle the muffins liberally with crumb mixture, because it's everyone's favorite part. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. You don't have to let them cool down all the way before you eat them, but please don't burn yourself because the apples and berries get hot!

*Agave Variation
Replace the sugar in the batter with 1/2 cup agave nectar, and reduce the soy milk to 1/4 cup. The agave makes this brown more quickly, so check these after 18 minutes. You can replace the crumb topping with a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, or just leave it out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lemon pound cake

It's been a really long time since my last post! There are lots of things that have been going on in the kitchen since my Halloween candy post, but I've been keeping them all to myself. Well, how about a recipe for lemon pound cake with some very lemony glaze? I have to tell you, it's not exactly quick to make. It requires some slightly annoying prep (pan-flouring, flour-sifting, lemon-zesting), and takes a lot of time in the oven. But even though that stuff might seem a little fussy, the difficulty-to-impressiveness ratio still comes out in your favor. It's zippy from all the citrus, and the glaze gives the outside of the cake a crunchy coat. Kind of like those really sour English lemon drops in cake form. I'm starting to think every cake should have a glaze. Here's the (very step-by-step) recipe, because I want you and the people you love to eat this cake.

(PS I think that paragraph can be summed up as, "cake cake cake cake cakety-cake cake cake! And glaze.")

Ingredients:
2 lemons
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup soy yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup non-dairy milk
2/3 cup more sugar (for the glaze)


1. Dry Ingredients
First, you'll need 3 cups of sifted all-purpose flour. If you've never done that before, it's easy, and there's a first time for everything. Here's all you do: Sift about 4 cups of all purpose flour into a large, dry mixing bowl. Now measure 3 cups of that sifted flour into a different mixing bowl. Sift in 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 3/4 tsp. salt. (The leftover flour that you sifted can get added right back into your flour canister.)

At this point, you'll also want to grate the peel of two lemons. Make sure you wash your lemons first! I use the finest side of a four-sided grater, and to grate onto a flexible cutting board, since grating into a bowl can be kind of wobbly. You want to get as much of the yellow outside zest as possible, but try to not get too much of the bitter white pith that's just under the skin.

2. Baking Pan
Grease (I use cooking spray) an 11-cup tube/bundt pan. If you don't have one of those, or if you like your pound cake loaf-y, grease 2 8" loaf pans. Dust the oiled pans with vegan breadcrumbs (NOT the seasoned kind!!! Blech. And check the ingredients for milk products.) If the only vegan bread crumbs you can get your hands on are panko, you'll want to crush/grind them up first. You can do that with a blender, food processor, mortar & pestle, or ziploc bag & rolling pin. Tap any excess crumbs into the trash, you only want a very fine coating.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

3. The Fun Part: Cake Batter
Use an electric mixer or fork to cream 2 sticks (that's 1 cup/ 1/2 lb.) vegan margarine. If you use something salty like Earth Balance, you should omit the salt from the dry ingredients.
Once the margarine is soft, add in 2 cups of sugar, and beat until well incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything gets mixed evenly. It should look pale yellow, fluffy, and smooth. Beat in the 1/2 cup soy yogurt, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Now turn your beater down to low, and add in about half of the flour mixture. Once that's almost all mixed in, add 1/2 of the milk and stir until incorporated. Now add the other half of the flour, and finish with the rest of the milk. Mix just until everything's smoothly incorporated, because overmixing will make your cake tough.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan(s) and bake for about an hour and ten minutes for a bundt, or 40 minutes for a loaf. Check your cake by poking it with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, its ready to come out of the oven! If not, give it another five minutes and test again.

Remove your cake from the oven and let it sit for five minutes in the cake pan while you prepare the glaze:
Juice the lemons and strain out the seeds. How much juice do you have? You only need 1/3-1/2 cup of the juice for this glaze, so put the rest in your seltzer or in some salad dressing or something. Add 2/3 cup of sugar and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. (It doesn't have to be perfect.)

Now invert your cake onto a wire cooling rack and brush or spoon glaze all over the warm cake. It will be messy, so put some foil under the cooling rack to catch the drips.

Let that sit for a few hours until cool, and serve to your friends and family, who will adore you forever. My sisters describe it as "nom nom nom," if that gives you an idea