Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baked Lemony Potatoes and Tofu

I think a roasted potato is one of the most delicious things in the world. Add in a hearty portion of  flavourful tofu and the zing of lemons and you have yourself a wonderful winter meal. How much of each ingredient you use is really up to you and the size of your baking dish. Drizzle some gravy over it all if that is your thing, and dig out that applesauce you made in the fall.

- 2 1lb pkgs of extra firm tofu, brined, each cut into 4 pieces (or however you see fit)
- 2 tbsp margarine or oil
- fresh oregano
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- good roasting potatoes, cut into chunks
- 2 lemons
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup vegetable broth, plus more as needed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
1. When the tofu is done brining, heat a frying pan over med-hi heat. Add margarine and sear the tofu pieces on all sides. Do this in two batches, with more margarine, if necessary.
2. Place the pieces of tofu in a baking dish (I use a 8.5x11 cast iron one) with space in between. Drizzle the frying margarine over top. Place springs of fresh oregano and chopped garlic in between the pieces of tofu. Add the lemon slices and enough potato chunks to fill in the spaces. Don't make things too crowded, but they can be a bit snug. Grind fresh pepper over the whole lot.
3. Add 1 cup of veggie stock to the pan and place in the oven, uncovered. After the first 20 mins, baste about every 10 mins. If the stock dries up too quickly, add more in as needed. You don't want a cup of liquid left over at the end--you want just enough to keep everything moist. If your potatoes are browning too quickly you can reduce the heat to 425. Everything should be nicely roasted after an hour.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Anatomy of a Muffin

All muffins, more or less, are made up of the basic proportion of ingredients.  This means that the kinds of muffins you can make are limited only by your imagination.  I make mini muffins every week for the kids to take on their lunches--the ones pictured here are a mix of wheat flour, quinoa flakes, and oat bran with 3/4 cup of raisins and 3/4 cup of hemp seeds for a real protein boost in the middle of the day. You can also add things such as lemon or orange zest, and a variety of spices to craft your own unique muffin creations.

So, the basic ratio of dry:wet is 2:1
- 2 cups flour(s) or other dry ingredients (bran, wheat germ, quinoa flakes, etc.)
- 1 cup liquid (non-dairy milk, pureed pumpkin, orange juice, water, coffee, etc.)
I find that the muffins will hold their shape if at least one cup of the dry ingredients is wheat flour (all purpose, or whole wheat pastry).  I also find that soaking things like quinoa flakes and bran in the liquid for 5 mins or so keeps the final batter from being too wet.  If your final batter is to wet or too dry you can always add more flour or liquid as necessary.  

The other base ingredients are also easy to remember because they are also 1s and 2s:
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp spice (cinnamon, for example), optional
- 1/2 cup oil (or applesauce, mashed banana)
- 1 tsp vanilla

And then you can add:
- up to 1 1/2 cups of any combination of fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin.
1. Whisk together flour(s), baking powder, salt, and sugar (and spices, if using) in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add your liquid, oil, and vanilla.  Gently mix until flour is hydrated.  Fold in fruit, nuts, or whatever your are using.
2. Divide batter evenly into the muffin tins.  Bake for 18-20 mins.
3. Let muffins cool for about 5 mins, then remove from tins to a wire rack to fully cool.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chocolate Danish Braid

This recipe makes use of the quick laminated dough technique I use for puff pastry and croissants.  You can, of course, make a traditional danish dough if you want to (replace the cream cheese in the the recipe with mashed potatoes).  I think the results are pretty good with the quick dough, though, and spending less time laminating works for me. You can fill this with whatever you want, but the chocolate is always a crowd pleaser.  You will also have to forgive my idiosyncratic measurements in the recipe.

Quick Danish Dough
- 300 g all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 140 g cold margarine or vegan butter
- 7 oz cold plain soy milk
- 2 oz cold mashed potatoes (i.e. potatoes boiled whole, then skinned, then mashed)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Filling
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp cold margarine
- 1-2 tbsp soy milk

- soy milk and maple syrup for brushing
- sliced almonds
- course sugar

To Make the Dough:
1. Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Cut in cold margarine like you would for a pie crust.
2. Blend mashed potatoes and vanilla into the soy milk with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add to flour/margarine mixture and gently mix with a silicon spatula until the flour is hydrated. Use the spatula to shape into a ball as best you can.
3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough over night.
4. On baking day, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and fold twice as per this recipe.
5. Let the dough rest for 15 mins.
6. While dough is resting, blend together sugar and flour for the filling in a food processor. Pulse in the chocolate chips, then the margarine. Blend in enough soy milk to make a thick but spreadable paste.
7. Roll the dough into a 9x14 inch rectangle. Spread the paste down the middle third of the dough rectangle. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut 1.25 inch diagonal strips on both sides of the filling (like this). Cut off the triangular pieces at the top and bottom to leave a flap at the top and bottom.  Fold the top flap down, then start folding alternating strips over the flap and then the filling at an angle. Fold the bottom flap up before you cover it with the remaining strips.
8. Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover, and leave to rise until almost doubled.  Since the dough is cold this will take about 2 hours.
9. Preheat oven to 425. Mix a splash of maple syrup into about 1/4 cup of soy milk.  Gently brush the braid with the soy milk mixture.  Let sit for 5 mins, then brush again.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.
10. Bake for 15 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15 mins, or until a deep golden colour.  You can cover the braid with foil if it browning too quickly.
11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.