Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Time to Party

You are most likely going to host a party this holiday season, or go to one.  Vegan Mom and I have hosted/helped host two parties thus far.  The first was a neighbourhood affair with about 50 people in attendance so I thought I'd share what we did to help you with your own partying over the next week or so.  Many apologies for the quality of the pictures; they were snapped rather quickly right before guests came through the door.

We tried to do a mix of savoury and sweet.  On the savoury side we had a corn and bean salsa with chips, as described here.  You can also see a fruit tray, some mixed nuts, veggies and hummus, and pretzel bites for the kiddies.  
 The biggest hit by far on the savoury side was a large crockpot of Creamy Zucchini Soup (not pictured here) with baguette slices and focaccia for dunking.

 And now the sweet: If you look at the top picture again you will see mini chocolate cupcakes with mocha frosting (all from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World).  People love those things!  Vegan Mom went to town with the cookies.  Here we see Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread Men.
 Also: lemon tarts (Isa's lemon square filling from Veganomicon) and mincemeat tarts (if you are not making your own mincemeat, make sure the stuff you buy does not have suet (i.e. beef or mutton fat) in it).
 Chai Shortbread from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.
 And, of course, stollen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greek Christmas Bread

Sorry for the delay (bleedin' end of term grading!) but here is the final Christmas bread for the season.  It's the same dough recipe as the previous two, but with some added spices and a different shape.

- one recipe panettone dough, but add to the flour:
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/8 tsp allspice

- 56.5 g chopped toasted walnuts
- 170 g dried cranberries
- soy milk for brushing
- simple syrup for glazing

1. Make the panettone as directed, but add the spices listed above to the flour.
2. Add the fruit and nuts listed above, instead of those listed in the panettone recipe.
3. Firm up the dough by stretching and folding it on a floured surface.  Cut off 113 g of the dough.  Divide into two equal pieces, wrap in plastic, and place in the fridge.
4. Shape the remaining dough into a boule.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, mist with oil, and loosely cover. Let rise for 90 mins, or until the dough has noticeably swelled.  Remove the refrigerated pieces of dough and shape into 2 eight inch ropes.  Gently lay them in a cross form across the boule.  Let rise for another 30 mins.
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Brush with soy milk and bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and bale for another 30-35, or until the internal temperature reaches 185 F (85 C).  When the loaf comes out of the oven, brush with simple syrup (i.e. equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil).  Let fully cool before serving.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vegan Stollen

Here is Christmas Bread number 2: stollen.  You really can't go wrong with fruit and almonds in a delicate and slightly sweetened bread.  Dusted with icing sugar, this is a true holiday treat that makes this time of year so special.  I prefer the marzipan centre to adding sliced almonds, but the choice is yours.  This bread comes together much faster than the panettone because it has no final proofing and goes straight into the oven right after you shape the loaves.

- 1 recipe panettone dough
- 2 cups dried fruit/candied peel
- 2 cups toasted sliced almonds, or 227g  marzipan
- melted margarine, for brushing
- icing sugar

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
1. Make the panettone as per this recipe but add the amount of fruit listed here.  I like equal amounts of raisins, cranberries, currants, and candied peel.
2. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and dust the dough with flour.  Divide into two equal portions and pat into a 7 x 5" rectangle.  If using the marzipan, lay a 113.5g tube of marzipan along the long end of each.  If using the almonds, sprinkle half of them over each rectangle of dough.  Roll each into a loaf and seal the edges.
3. Transfer the loaves to the prepared baking sheet and place the pan in a cold oven.  Turn the heat to 350 and bake for 25 minutes.  Rotate the pan and bake for another 25 minutes, or until golden brown and registering 185 in the centre.
4. When done, remove the stollen from the oven and brush with melted margarine.  Dust with a good coating of icing sugar, wait one minute, then liberally dust again.  Transfer to a cooling rack to fully cool before serving.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vegan Panettone

With the holiday season upon us I am focusing on baking this month.  First up: panettone.  This is a rather advanced recipe that relies on a) sourdough mother starter, b) a stand mixer, c) a kitchen scale, and d) familiarity working with wet doughs.  It takes some time and skill but the end product is totally worth it.  I first made the recipe with Earth Balance, but did not like the taste it gave the bread.  I then changed to shortening and boosted the flavour with orange juice, lemon zest, and some extracts.  I much prefer this version.  The recipe is adapted and veganized from Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday.  If you have a copy you can follow his much more detailed instructions if you like.   If you don't have your own mother starter, you can follow the instructions here.  This panettone will be the basis for the other breads I will post: stollen and Greek Christmas Bread.

Makes 10 small panettone
Sourdough Starter
- 42.5g mother starter
- 170g bread flour
- 85g water

- 1 tbsp agave
- 56.5g lukewarm water
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- sourdough starter from above
- 70g orange juice, warm
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 65g soy yogurt or sour cream (or blended silken tofu), at room temp
- 1 tsp each lemon, orange, vanilla extract
-  zest of one lemon
- 213g bread flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 170g vegetable shortening, or Earth Balance margarine, at room temp
- 227g dried fruit (I used equal amounts of currants, golden raisins, cranberries)

Day One: Make the Sourdough Starter
1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and work into a dough.  Knead on a lightly floured surface for 30 seconds, or until all ingredients are mixed together.   Place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise at room temperature for 6-8 hours.  If you do not want to use the starter right away, stick it in the fridge after it has risen for up to four days.

Day Two: Make the Dough
1. Whisk together water and agave in your mixer's bowl, then sprinkle yeast over top and whisk until dissolved.  Let sit for a minute, then cut sourdough starter into 10-12 pieces and place in the water/yeast mixture.  Stir to soften the starter a bit.
2.  In a separate bowl, whisk flax into the orange juice until thick and goopy.  Then whisk in yogurt and extracts until well combined.  Add to starter mixture.
3. Add zest, flour, and salt, then mix with the paddle attachment for 2 mins, until a soft and sticky dough is formed (it should still hold together).
4. Switch to the dough hook and add the sugar 1/2 tbsp at a time, mixing well after each addition.  After all sugar is added, increase the speed and mix for 5 mins.  Scrape down the bowl when necessary.
5. Add the shortening/margarine about 1 tbsp at a time, mixing well after addition.  Scrape down the bowl when necessary. When all the fat is added the dough should be smooth and shiny but too sticky too handle with your bare hands.  Scrape down the bowl if needed, then knead for an additional 5 mins to fully develop the gluten.
6. Add the dried fruit and mix in on the lowest speed for 2 mins.
7. Transfer to dough to a floured surface using a wet spatula to get it out of the bowl.  Sprinkle flour over the top, then stretch and fold the dough.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees and stretch and fold again.  Form the dough into a boule.
8. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, or whatever amount will fill your molds 1/3 of the way full.
9. Let rise at room temp for 12 hours.
10. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for about 25-30 mins, or until loaves are golden.  Internal temperature should be 185 F/85 C.  Let cool in the pan for 5 mins, then thoroughly cool on a wire rack before eating.

A note on panettone molds.  I made my own by cutting out parchment paper to fit a large muffin tin  like you see here.  Just make sure that your bottom piece is attached to the side piece--otherwise the dough can  rise into the cracks and push the sides up and out, instead of the dough rising within the side pieces.  I stapled everything together because it's hard to tape parchment paper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I really wanted to get a few more Thanksgiving recipes posted for those celebrating the holiday tomorrow, but the impending end of term has kept me very busy with non-food related business.  I'm sure you already have your meals planned, but just in case you need to fill in a few dishes, here are some suggestions:

Main Dishes:
Roast Tofu and Veggies
Apple Cider Tofu (with Roasted Pears!)
Harvest Pies
Seitan Roast with Wild Rice and Chestnut Stuffing
Winter Vegetable Mini Pies
Maple Apple Cider Tofu
Baking and Dessert:
Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls
Rustic Pumpkin Bread
Apple Tart
Apple Pumpkin Spice Donuts
Pumpkin Spice Sweet Rolls
Pumpkin Custard
Chocolate Pumpkin Pudding Cake

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roast Tofu and Veggies

Good gravy, do I love the taste and texture of roasted potatoes!  They bring me back to Sunday dinners of yore and good times spent with family.  This dish could be your meat-free answer to traditional Thanksgiving fare, or it could be enjoyed throughout the winter months with plenty of gravy.  What follows is not a recipe per se, but more a list of possible ingredients and a method.  I am partial to mushrooms and tofu together, but you may decide against it or even swap out the tofu for beans.

Choose some or all of the root veggies below:
- potato (large chunks)
- carrot (thick slices/chunks)
- turnip (cubed)
- parsnip (thin slice)
- rutabaga (cubed)

- celery (thinly sliced)
- leek (halved and thickly sliced)
- fresh or dried thyme, sage, marjoram, savoury
- salt and pepper
- olive oil

- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 8-10 slices firm or extra firm tofu
- salt and pepper
- sliced onions
- sliced mushrooms

- vegetable stock, or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Cut up as many veggies as you see fit to use, or will fit in your roasting pan.  You can use a traditional pan, if you have it, but I use a 9x13 enamel-coated cast iron baking pan covered with a cookie sheet.  Mix veggies together with celery, leek, and herbs.  Toss with enough oil to coat well and season with salt and pepper.  Place into the roasting pan but hollow out a place in the centre for the tofu.
 2. Heat oil and margarine over med-hi heat in a large frying pan.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and fry 2-3 mins per side, until golden brown.  Remove from pan and place into the hollowed out spot in the veggie pan.  The idea here is to have the tofu roast away admist the veggies, not on top of them.  I did two rows of 5 slices each, with the top of each tofu slice overlapping the bottom of the previous slice so they could all fit. The mushroom and onion flavour will seep into the tofu as it roasts.
3. Add onions slices to the pan and cook for about 2 mins, or until just beginning to release their water, then add mushroom slices and cook for another 2 mins, or until their water is beginning to release.  Top the tofu with mushroom and onion slices.
4. Add vegetable stock or water to the pan, about 1/4" deep.  Cover pan tightly and roast for 60-90 mins (it will depend on how big your veggies are).  Check the veggies about halfway through and add more stock if they are drying out.  Baste veggies with stock from the bottom of the pan.  I like to remove the lid for the last 15 mins of roasting to brown up the veggies a bit.
5. Serve tofu slices topped with onion and mushroom, and with your favourite gravy if that is your thing.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple Cider Tofu with Butternut Squash and Roasted Pears

Another recipe for all y'all having Thanksgiving in November, or for the rest of us who want a tasty fall meal.

Makes 8 portions
- 8 slices butternut squash (from the top end), about 1/8-1/4" thick, trimmed to the same size as the tofu
- 24 pear slices (i.e. peel pear, cut in half lengthwise, core, then slice vertically)
- olive oil
- salt
- sugar

- 1 pkg firm or extra firm tofu, vertically cut into 8 slices
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 1/2 cup apple cider

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups diced cooking apple
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- salt and pepper

Cider Reduction
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 tbsp margarine
Bring cider to boiling in a small saucepan, and let reduce over med-hi heat for about 40 mins, until reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Whisk in margarine, and serve warm.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Toss squash slices, and then the pear slices, in a drizzle of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat).  Place squash and pear slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle the squash lightly with salt and bake for 20 mins. Turn over all slices, then lightly salt the squash and sprinkle some sugar (about 1 tsp) on the pears.  Bake for another 20 mins, or until cooked and golden.
2. While the squash is baking, season both sides of the tofu slices with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil and margarine over med-hi heat, then fry tofu for 3-4 mins per side, or until golden brown.  Add 1/4 cup of cider, reduce heat to medium, and cover.  When cider is absorbed, flip tofu over and add remaining 1/4 cup of cider.  Cover, reduce heat to med-lo, and cook until cider is gone.  Keep warm until needed.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté onions and garlic for 7-10 mins, until lightly golden.  Add apple and fry for 2 mins.  Add cider, cranberries, and herbs.  Cook until apples are soft and liquid is reduced (5-7 mins).  Season to taste.
4. Assemble: tofu slice, then squash slice topped with apple-cranberry mixture and 3 pear slices.   Drizzle cider reduction over top before eating.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Pumpkin Spice Donuts

These are the perfect autumn treat.  Enjoy whilst looking at falling leaves and sipping coffee.  

Makes at least 12 donuts and donut holes
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree 
- 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp warm soy creamer (or milk)
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 2.5 to 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup grated (peeled) cooking apple
- canola oil for frying

NOTE: You can make these without the apple, if you so desire.  Increase the pumpkin puree to 3/4 cup, and reduce flour to 2 1/4 -2 1/2 cups.

1. Heat puree, shortening, salt, and sugar in the microwave, or on the stove, stirring regularly until shortening melts. Set aside.
2. Whisk flax into creamer. Let sit a few minutes, then whisk again until thick. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix together yeast and flour. Add pumpkin and flax mixtures, and the grated apple. Mix together into a rough dough, then gently knead until smooth, adding more flour as needed to make a nice soft dough that is tacky but not sticky. Remember that the apple will keep releasing water into the dough if you work it too hard.  Also, a tacky dough makes for a chewy and tender donut.
4. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 60-90 mins, until doubled in size.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with oil.
6. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 3/8" thick. Cut with a donut cutter, setting the donut holes aside. Dough scraps can be re-rolled and cut. Place on prepared baking sheet, spray with oil, and cover. Let rise for 1/2 hour.
7. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry donuts in batches (about 60 seconds per side) until golden, drain on paper towel or paper bags, then let cool on wire rack. Let fully cool before glazing.
8. Fry the donut holes and immediately toss in a cinnamon-sugar mix.  Cool on a wire rack. 

- 3 tbsp soy milk
- 1.5 cups icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger

1. Heat the soy milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling.  Whisk in icing sugar, then vanilla and spices.  Turn off heat, but keep the pan on the stove.  Dip in donuts and let cool.  

NOTE: These freeze very well, glaze and all.

Monday, October 17, 2011

French Apple Tart

Apple pie is the quintessential American dish, but maybe you want something a little different this Thanksgiving.  This is a French apple tart, a fairly simple and delicious dessert that showcases the wonderful flavour of apples.  Unclouded by spices and excessive sugar, this tart lets seasonal apples shine through.  The recipe is veganized from Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking, but it is a pretty classic and standard dish: a baked apple sauce on the bottom and glazed sliced apples on top.  It is essential that you use baking apples (I used Royal Gala) so that they maintain some texture and don't reduce to total mush.  Then, you can use this basic recipe and go crazy: apple-cranberry-pecan tart, for example.  Feel free to add some cinnamon or nutmeg, or some brandy to the roasted apples.

Tart Pastry
- 1 1/4 cups (200g/6.5 oz) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60g/2 oz) icing sugar
- 1/2 cup (125g/4 oz) cold margarine (Earth Balance)
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 2-3 tbsp cold coconut milk (or soy creamer/milk)

1. Whisk together flour and sugar.  Cut in margarine until mixture has large crumbs the size of peas.
2. Sprinkle flax over the water and 2 tbsp of the coconut milk, then whisk until goopy.  Add to flour mixture and mix with a fork until it comes together into a soft dough, dribbling in more milk if needed.
3.  Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour and as much as overnight.
4. When pastry is cooled, roll out into a 12-13 inch circle on a floured surface.  Carefully place dough into a 9.5 inch tart pan, letting the excess hand over the sides.

Trim overhanging dough to 1/2 inch.  Fold overhang into the pan and press dough into the pan to make a smooth and uniform shell.

5. Place shell in the freezer and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
6. When oven is a heat, line shell with aluminium foil and fill with dried beans.

Bake for 15-20 mins, or until crust has dried out.  After 15 mins, pull back some of the foil and check if it is wet/oily.  If it is, replace the foil and check again in two mins.
7.  Once dry, remove foil/beans, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 3-5 mins, until very lightly golden (you only want to partially bake the crust).  Let cool on a wire rack.

Apple Tart
- 2 lbs cooking apples (about 5), peeled, cored, and cut into uniform chunks (about 1 inch)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp margarine, melted

- 2 cooking apples, peeled cored, and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp margarine, melted
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 cup apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together apple pieces, sugar, lemon juice and melted margarine in a large bowl and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 mins, or until soft and mash-able.  Mash until chunky and set aside to cool.
2. When cooled, spread into the cooled tart crust.

3. Layer sliced apples over the apple sauce like you see in the pic below.

Remember that the apples will shrink when cooked, so don't space them too far apart.  Brush lightly with melted margarine, then sprinkle sugar over top.  Bake for 45-50 mins, unit apples are soft.  Let cool on a wire rack for 30 mins.
4. Heat apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, then brush gently over the apples.  Serve at room temp.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls

These make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table.  Not only do they look good but they taste awesome.  The pumpkin brings a wonderful moistness to the dough and a beautiful golden colour.

Makes about 28 rolls
- 1 1/2 cups warm soy milk
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine, but fresh is better)
- 3 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry)
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp oil
- additional oil for brushing

1. Sprinkle yeast over the soy milk and whisk to dissolve.  Add puree, flours, salt, sugar, and oil and bring into a soft dough, adjusting flour or liquid as needed.  Knead for 5 mins, until smooth.
2. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
3. Line two 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.  Slice off 2 oz pieces of dough and work into a ball.  Place in the prepared pan just touching one another.  When pans are filled, brush buns with some oil, cover, and let rise for 30-40 mins, until almost doubled.
4. Preheat oven to 400 then bake for 15-18 mins, or until golden brown.  Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm, letting your dinner guests pull off rolls as needed.

You can very easily freeze a pan of these when they are cooled, then thaw/warm them when you need them.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Harvest Pies

I am actually on the ball this year and posting a Thanksgiving recipe a full week before Thanksgiving!  Yes, Canadian Thanksgiving is October 10.  So for you American readers I am really on the ball.  This recipe is a slight variation on the Winter Pies I posted a while back.  If you are pressed for time you could make these pies like the winter pies (i.e. like a tasty Hot Pocket) rather than going through all the fuss of making mini pies.  Also, you can probably get 12 pies out of this recipe buy adding another two cups total of veggies, but I have given you some wiggle room with the pastry dough.  The two things that make these superior to the Winter Pies are the roasted cranberries (awesome!) and the roasted squash (equally awesome!).  The crust, as always, remains my favourite.  It is easy to work with and durable, yet still flaky and tender.  Don't worry if the top crust does not totally bond with the bottom--we enjoyed taking off the tops, pouring in some gravy, and putting the tops back on.

Makes 10
Pie Crust
- 1 lb (3.5 cups) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10.5 oz (1 1/4 cup + 1tbsp cup) cold Earth Balance margarine, or vegetable shortening
- 5 oz (scant 2/3 cup) ice cold water
- 2 tsp ground flax seed

1. Whisk dry ingredients together, then cut margarine into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.
2. Whisk flax seed into the water, then add to dry ingredients. Work into a soft dough with a fork and then your hands.
3. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

- 4 cups butternut squash, small dice
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 1 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper

- 4 cups total diced veggies (I used potato, carrot, and onion)
- 2 cups cooked white kidney beans
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp margarine
- 1 tsp sage
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 tsp poultry spice (or a mix of thyme, sage, marjoram, and savoury)
- salt and pepper

- you also need some gravy

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Toss butternut squash, cranberries, and shallots in the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 30-40 mins, or until golden brown. 
2. While squash is roasting, heat olive oil and margarine in a large saucepan over medium-hi heat.  Add veggies, beans, and garlic and the 1 tsp sage and turn to coat all the veggies with the oil.  Season with salt and pepper, then reduce heat to medium and cover.  Cook for 15-20 mins, stirring regularly, until veggies are cooked and golden.  Remove lid, add wine, and cook until reduced.   
3.  Add braised veggies to the pan of roasted squash.  Sprinkle poultry spice over top and gently toss together.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Set aside to cool.
Reduce oven to 375 degrees
4. Remove pastry from the fridge and cut off 2/3rds.  Return 1/3 to the fridge.  Roll out dough on a well-floured surface to between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut the dough into circles, big enough to fit your muffin tin with some hang over.  For example, my muffin tins have sections with a 3.25 inch diameter, and I found that a circle of pastry dough with a 5 inch diameter fit perfectly.  Make sure there is a lip of dough so you can attach the top crust on.

5. Mould the pastry into the muffin tin, making sure it is an equal thickness.  Fill with cooled veggie filling, mounding it up as much as you can.  
6. Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cut to the right size to make a top crust for each pie.  Press the top crust on to the lip of dough from the bottom crust.  Cut venting holes/slits in the top and bake for 35-40 mins, until golden.  
7.  Let cool for 5 mins, then gently remove from the muffin tins.  I found it easiest to gently place a cooling rack upside on top of the pies, then invert the rack and the muffin tin at once (like getting a cake out of a pan).  Once out of the tin, serve the pies (right side up) with gravy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Canned Pears

Pears are in season here in Ontario so I spent some time canning them to enjoy later during the winter months.  Canning is not hard, but it does take some time.  It is time well spent, though, and you will thank yourself in February when you are feasting on the succulent fruits of the summer.  

- 10-12 lbs pears = 4 1L (1 quart) jars
- sugar
- water
- lemon juice

First, get your jars sterilized (or sterilizing) in boiling water or the dishwasher.  Since you will need to process the pears in boiling water, it makes sense to sterilize them first in your canning pot.  

Then, you need to make some syrup for the pears.  Light or medium syrups are perfect for pears.  Combine the sugar and water, bring to bubbling, then keep warm over low heat while you prepare the pears (i.e. don't let it boil down).
LIGHT = 2.25 cups sugar + 5.25 cups water
MEDIUM = 3.25 cups sugar + 5 cups water
Peel the pears and remove stem and blossom ends.  
Halve pears and remove seeds with a small spoon.  Place pears in a solution of 4 cups water + 1/4 cup lemon juice to keep from browning.  Bring the syrup to near bubbling over medium heat.
When syrup is hot (bot not boiling), place one layer of pears into the pot.  Reduce heat to medium-lo.  The idea here is to warm to pears for about 5 mins, not boil them.  You want the syrup to replace the air in the pears while still maintaining the fruit's integrity.  You will notice that the pears will slowly bubble when they first go into the syrup, like they are being deep fried.  Generally, when the bubbles slow down/stop, you are ready to can them.
 I like to use a funnel like you see above to transfer the fruit into the jars.  Working in batches, fill your sterilized jars with fruit, removing each batch of pears from the syrup with a slotted spoon.  Make sure there are not any air bubbles trapped in the fruit's cavities.
When you have four jars filled (or however many you can fit in your canning pot), fill each jar with syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Top with lids and rings adjusted finger tight.
 Your jars must be submerged in the boiling water for processing.  Cover with a lid and boil for 25 minutes.  Then, remove from the heat and remove the lid.  Let the jars stand in the hot water for 5 mins, then remove and let cool.  Done!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coconut Cream Topping

So, you may remember this post in which I made a vegan banana cream pie.  You may also remember that my attempt at a whipped cream-esque topping was an unqualified failure.  This was because the coconut milk did not separate/congeal in the fridge like it usually does.  I thought I would try again after being invited to a dinner party.  Once again, though, the cream did not set in the fridge (has Thai Kitchen changed their coconut milk?  What's the deal?).  To remedy the situation I took some readers' advice and put some agar into the coconut milk to firm it up.  It's a little more complicated than just putting a can into the fridge, but it's not really hard and is more stable at room temperature.  I used full fat coconut milk, but I don't see any reason why this would not work with low fat (but that theory has yet to be tested.  You might need more agar since there is less fat to firm up in the mixture when it gets cold).

- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 tbsp agar flakes
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla

1.  Separate coconut cream from coconut milk and add the milk (i.e. the watery stuff) to a small saucepan.  Sprinkle afar flakes over and let sit for 5 mins.  Add sugar and bring to bubbling over med hi heat, whisking constantly.  Cook for 3-5 mins, or until all the agar has dissolved.
2.  Remove from heat and whisk in cream and vanilla.  Adjust sugar to taste then pour into a bowl, cover, and place into the fridge.  Allow to fully cool.
3.  When ready to use, whisk the cooled mixture and spread over your pie (or whatever).  Place pie (or what have you) back into the fridge until ready to serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vegan Party Time

On Friday I hosted a reception for the new grad students entering our department. I made the food, others provided the drinks, and everyone had a good time. Despite a few early bacon jokes, the menu went over smashingly with everyone (even bacon boy). I think if the food is good no one cares if it can be labelled vegan or not.  Above is the savoury table.
 In the back left are sliced baguettes (Peter Reinhart, of course).  In front of that, a plate of focaccia.
The idea was to use the bread a base for various toppings.  Pesto, for one.  The larger yellow bowl is garden fresh tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Simply, but really tasty.  There was also hummus, along with plenty of veggies.  The only thing not made by hand was the tortilla chips.  I went with the "scoop" variety of chips so they could easily hold the bean salsa (black eyed peas and black beans with chopped yellow and orange pepper, red onion, celery, and corn.  All this was tossed in olive oil, white wine vinegar, and lime juice then seasoned.  I would have added jalapeno and cilantro, but sometimes that does not go over well at parties).  
Rounding out the savoury table were samosas (curried potatoes and peas wrapped in phyllo and served with a mango chutney (oh, I bought that, too).
And here is the sweet table.  Ye olde classic fruit trays are at the end (berries and melons, mostly).  
The mini cupcakes were a hit--chocolate and vanilla with mocha buttercream.  Simple, but tasty.  
I also tried my hand at palmiers.  I will have to revisit these and post a recipe.  They did not stick together like I would have liked, but they tasted great and were not a lot of work.  
I also made a batch of mini turnovers (1 inch square pieces of dough) but found them too fiddly and did not make any more.  
All the food could be eaten without a fork, which is great when you are standing trying to negotiate food into your mouth whilst not spilling your drink.

I made and baked the baguettes, focaccia, turnovers, palmiers, samosas, and cupcakes ahead of time and froze them.  The thawed cupcakes were iced on the day of the party, and the samosas reheated.  Pesto and hummus were made the night before, and fruit and veggies were cut the day of the party.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

I think this recipe could use a little tweaking in the future but is still good enough to post. The real winner here is the pastry cream--I am very happy with it and will use it again when needed. The problem stems from the topping. I was going for a whipped cream-esque topping like you see in this post (i.e. whipped coconut cream), but it never set in the fridge. Maybe my fridge is not cold enough. So, I added about 1/4 cup of sugar to the coconut cream, some vanilla extract, and whipped it like crazy until I got soft peaks. That was good enough, but not really the look I was going for. I also thought that it was far too heavy--maybe a small dollop on each slice next time, or some other kind of topping (but I am not sure what). As for the pastry cream, I went with agar flakes to help it to set. While I usually try to avoid hard to get ingredients, I really think this was the right call here. If you don't have agar, just Google "vegan pastry cream" and check out some of the other recipes out there. I also really have to advocate the vanilla bean here for superior flavour. Expensive but totally worth it.

- 1 pre-baked 9" pie shell
- whipped coconut cream (i.e. the fat from a can of coconut milk left in the fridge for a day, whipped with sugar and vanilla extract)
- 4 bananas, sliced
- 2 tsp orange juice
- 1 tsp Grand Marnier (or just another tsp of orange juice)

Pastry Cream

- 2 cups plain soy milk, divided
- 1 tsp agar flakes
- 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- pinch of tumeric (optional)
- 1 tbsp margarine

1. Bring 1/2 cup of the soy milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, sprinkle agar over top, and set aside.
2. Bring 1 cup of the soy milk (not the stuff from step 1) and the vanilla bean/scrapings to bubbling over medium heat in a saucepan. While it is heating, whisk the sugar and cornstarch (and tumeric, if using) together in a medium bowl, then whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk. When the soy milk on the stove is bubbling around the edges, remove the vanilla bean and slowly whisk it into the sugar/cornstarch/soy milk mixture.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, add the soy milk/agar mixture, and bring to bubbling, whisking constantly. Cook for 2-3 mins, or until the agar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in margarine. When thickened, pour into a clean bowl (pour through a sieve if the vanilla bean left any chunks behind) and cover with plastic wrap to prevent that scummy layer from forming. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap to let the steam escape. Let sit to cool to room temperature.

To make the pie:
1. Toss the banana slices in the juice and Grand Marnier. Pour half of the pastry cream into the pie shell, then layer all the banana slices on top. Top that with the remaining pastry cream and smooth out the top. Top with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to fully set (this will take a few hours).
2. When ready to serve, remove from fridge and top with coconut cream.

This is a pie you can make the day before and let sit in the fridge. It really does taste fabulous the next day.