Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gingered Edamame pâté

Well, summer hit the miserably hot over a hundred Fahrenheit every day stage early this year (at least it seems early to me, but this is only my third Texas summer). I'm avoiding turning the oven on at all costs so am digging into my repertoire of cold foods. This is pretty heavy on the ginger, but is delicious on crackers or carrot sticks.

Gingered Edamame pâté
1 LB shelled edamame
2 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs agave nectar or honey
2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs fresh diced ginger

Boil the edamame in salted water for about 5 minutes
(they will begin to float).
Run cold water over the beans to chill them.
Throw everything in a food processor and process until
Easy. Delicious. Barely any heat usage!

Black forest and German Chocolate cakes

Once again I've been sitting on recipes for things I've made and am posting a bunch at once...this time I've been too busy to write them up but feel like procrastinating of these days my thesis will decide to write itself, right?

I had a little bit of a chocolate cake obsession a few weeks back that happened to coincide with a couple birthdays and a going away party for a girl in my lab. Here's the one I decided I liked best after a little tweaking and blending of recipes...This will probably be my last baking post for quite a while since the summer has already gotten to be hellishly hot.

Basic chocolate cake
1 stick earth balance
2 cups sugar
3 eggs worth egg replacer
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup soy milk + 1 tsp vinegar
3/4 cup boiling water

Sift together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler...or improvise one with a metal bowl.

Allow the chocolate to cool to close to room temperature. Cream the earth balance and sugar until light and fluffy (the sugar won't totally break down, but it will be noticeably lighter in color). Beat in the eggs (mixture should stay fluffy). Cream in the vanilla and melted chocolate.

Alternate mixing in the sifted dry ingredients and soured soy milk. The batter will be quite thick at this point. Add boiling water, stirring well to incorporate and pour immediately into a prepped pan (one 9x3" round pan [with a floured flower nail like in the last post] or split between two regular 9" pans). Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour (check for doneness for a tooth pick after 45 minutes). This recipe tastes great, but my only quasi-gripe with it is it doesn't make a very deep cake. I like to torte the deep ones into three layers, but i it was hard to get three that were easy to handle out of it if the cake had to be leveled first. Not a huge deal, but it's something to keep in mind for assembly/decorating plans.

So on to the first chocolate cake of the week...this was a going away cake for a girl in my lab. I was SO close to writing "Have a Nice Life" on it, but she's super sweet so I decided to be nice.

Black Forest Cake aka the misuse of decorating tools (9" version)
1 chocolate cake
1 lb cherries
Kirshwasser (cherry brandy)

Whipped Vanilla Icing:
2 sticks earth balance
1 cups sugar (or granulated vanilla sugar)
1 cup soy milk
7 Tbs Flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
Follow the directions for the peanut butter icing.

Pit the cherries. I don't have a cherry pitter so I used a decorating tip (a star tip i believe, but i don't think it matters). Put the tip pointy side up on a cutting board and push the cherries down on it from where the stems are attached (this can get messy, so dig out the gothest apron you have, or at least don't wear white...but really, who does that when they're baking anyway?). The cherries will be a little mutilated, but I cut them all in half anyway. I was actually pretty surprised at how quickly this went.

Torte the cake into two or three layers. Spread about 3 tbs - 1/4 cup Kirshwasser on to the cut side of each layer. Allow to soak in for about 10 minutes or so then spread the bottom layer with whipped vanilla icing. Arrange a layer of cut cherries on top leaving about a cm border from the edge of the cake. Repeat with the next layer if making a three layer cake. Ice and decorate with the rest of the whipped icing, some chocolate shavings and whole cherries. I kept the assembles cake in the refrigerator overnight mostly to keep the icing from separating. It is safe to leave out if it isn't too hot out.

Now on to cake two...this was a birthday request that I was really happy about since it required a cooked icing...that meant I didn't have to worry about having an icing melt on me in the heat (which was only in the 90's at that time...ugh!)

German Chocolate Cake
1 chocolate cake (If you want to be truer to the original Germans' Chocolate recipe use semisweet chocolate instead of unsweetened).

Coconut Pecan Icing
1 2/3 cup almond milk (soy will work too, but almond was on sale!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbs cornstarch
2 cups shredded coconut
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbs earth balance

Mix together the cornstarch and 1/3 cup almond milk until there are no lumps. In a sauce pan mix the rest of the almond milk, both sugars and the cornstarch mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Stir over low heat a couple more minutes to thicken and cook out the cornstarch taste. Turn off the heat and mix in the vanilla and earth balance. Stir in the coconut and pecans and let it cool to almost room temperature. Torte the chocolate cake into two or three layers and ice with the cooled icing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My (first?) Wedding Cake!

May was a very busy month - lots of fun times, but not too much of it was spent in the kitchen, so it's been a while since my last post!  Two completely awesome people decided to get married and decided to ask me to make their cakes in May, so a good bit of my cooking time for a month was spent making practice cakes and figuring out the best baking methods to make large cakes (all on a budget and with a TINY oven).  We decided on a lemon cake filled raspberry preserves and vegan lemon curd and a chocolate peanut butter groom's cake...Jack and Dominique seemed to enjoy them! I completely forgot to take a nice picture of the cakes on the serving table, so above is the mutilated version after some tipsy guests and I hacked away at the lemon one!

I'll just be posting the lemon cake today, which is really just the most basic veganization of the 1-2-3-4 cake recipe on the back of the Swans Cake Flour box.  For both cakes I made a 12" bottom layer with a 9" cake on top. I baked each cake in 3" deep pans and torted them twice for three medium thick layers for each cake.  

Lemon Cake Filled with Raspberry Preserves and Vegan Lemon Curd

1 c. Earth Balance margarine (sticks or tub, not the whipped kind though)
2 c. sugar
3 c. sifted cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs worth of egg replacer
1 cup soy milk
1 tbs vanilla
2 tbs lemon zest

a jar of raspberry preserves (any berry preserve will be good though!)
vegan lemon curd (see below)
Basic decorators "butter cream" icing (the earth balance/powdered sugar/splashes of soy milk and vanilla kind. I've never really paid attention to how much of each of these i use but there's a million recipes for this online)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare the pans - I coated them with non stick spray and flour, lined the bottom with waxed paper and put a sprayed and floured flower nail in the middle for even heating in the deep pans. This is actually the first time I've even used the flower nails I bought months ago ha!

Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream the margarine and slowly add the sugar. Cream with an electric hand mixer until it gets fluffy and the color is noticeably lighter. Add the egg replacer in four parts, beating well after each addition. The batter should still be very fluffy! This is key for a light and crumbly cake. Alternate adding the flour and liquids, starting by adding the flour mixture. It is important to do this in sections so the batter doesn't separate!  The batter will be pretty thick. Pour all of the batter into a 9x3" deep round pan (or two regular 9" round pans).  If you have them, wet and wrap the bake-even cake strips around the outside of the pans.  This will help the cakes be level and is more important for pans larger than 9". 

For the deep pan, bake for about an hour, but start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. For the 12" cakes, I doubled this recipe and baked for about an hour and 20 minutes.  Remove from the pans after at least 15 minutes and let cool COMPLETELY before torting (waiting until the next day is good, and keeping the cakes well wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator is even better).  While you wait, make the lemon curd!

Vegan Lemon Curd

This is a pretty thin curd - it was the consistency of a jelly when kept in the refrigerator over night, which was a perfect spreadable consistency for cake assembly! It tastes like a sweet pie filling and could be used as one by upping the cornstarch!  It also was safe to use in a cake that was not refrigerated the day of the wedding.

1 c. water
2/3 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 c. sugar
3 tbs. corn starch
1.5 tbs. Ener-G egg replacer (powder, not mixed with water)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs earth balance
1/4 c. soy milk
1/2 tbs lemon zest

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, egg replacer and salt in the bottom of a sauce pan until it looks smooth and there are no corn starch lumps. Add the water and lemon juice and stir cold to further break down any lumps.  Cook over medium heat whisking continually. Continue whisking over the heat a couple minutes after it boils to cook out any starch flavor. Turn off the heat and wisk in the earth balance, soy milk and lemon zest. It will look like a translucent pudding.

Stir every minute or so for 5 minutes to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to at least room temperature before using, but over night in the refrigerator worked great!

Now assemble the cake! If your cakes are not flat, cut some off the top just to get it approximately level. Cut the cake horizontally twice to form three even layers (or as my pictures should show evenish is fine!).  Cut the top layer off first and slide a cake board under it to remove it and repeat with the second layer:
To fill the cake, pipe a dam around the border of the bottom layer. Spread a layer of curd and jam inside the dam and carefully slide the next layer off the cake board to be even on top of the filled bottom layer. Repeat filling the second layer and carefully placing the top layer of the cake.
Ice a thin crumb coat over the entire cake and place it in the refrigerator to crust over a bit.  Add a final smooth (or smoothish) layer of icing over the cake and decorate as you like!

To stack the cakes, I presses a 9" cake board into the final icing coat of the 12" cake after it had dried some to mark where to place the top layer. I cut 4 sections of wooden dowels the exact height of the 12" cake, placed one into the middle and the other three as an equilateral triangle, each dowel placed at the midpoint of the edge of the 9" cake mark and the center of the 12" cake. I put the dowel supports in at home, brought the cakes to the wedding in separate boxes and assembled the rest there...i'm WAY too much of a clutz to try to transport assembled cakes! the assembly part took pretty much no time at all since these were stacked, not tiered cakes. I'm not much of a decorator so we got some edible flowers on top of the not so smooth icing....the only picture I took of the final product is on my makeshift assembly space at Jack and Dominique's place! They tasted way better than they look!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vegan Tamales: Take 1

My missing tamale notes decided to turn up! Actually, I decided to clean my room a little....  This is yet another first attempt at a food I'd been meaning to make for a while.  The masa turned out pretty good, even though I'd heard it can be tricky to get it right.  This definitely took a long time and a good bit of labor but wasn't hard by any means.  The masa made enough for about 24 tamales (if i remember correctly, and it's been a few weeks now) but there was a lot of filling left (which made made delicious burritos with some extra rice and beans!).  I was pretty pleased with the 3:2:1 masa:broth:oil ratio and will just scale it to how many I want from now on...The filling on its own was a little bit spicy, but wasn't so much when eaten in the tamales. I'll use more poblanos next time!

Seitan and Summer Squash Tamales:
for the filling:
1 recipe seitan (I made the one from my seitan asada) chopped
3 poblano peppers
2 cups diced summer squash
6 cloves garlic (at least)
1/2 c chopped onion
salt to taste

Roast the poblanos until slightly charred (I used a broiler) and place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 10 minutes to steam. Peel off the skins.  Discard the seeds and membranes and chop the flesh.  Saute all of the filling ingredients until the squash is slightly softened.

for the masa:
4 1/2 c Masa flour (I used Maseca brand)
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs cumin
1/2 tbs onion powder
1/2 tbs garlic powder
3 c vegetarian beef broth
1 1/2 c oil
salt to taste

Mix the masa flour and spices in a large bowl.  Stir in the broth and oil and need with your hand for a few minutes. Add water or masa so that the texture is soft but moldable. 

Soak dried corn husks in warm water for about 20 minutes (until they are pliable). Shake off the excess water and dry them off slightly before filling. Spread about a half cup of masa on the husk leaving two adjacent edges uncovered and add 3 or 4 tbs filling to the middle, like so:

Fold the long side of the husk that has masa spread to the edge over the filling and roll it to completely surround the filling. Fold the unfilled end of the tamale over like an envelope:

Place the rolled tamale with the fold side down to keep it together while you roll the rest.  Stand the tamales upright on the folded ends in a large steamer. Steam for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the masa is solidified (check by peeling back the husk on a tamale).   I served these with mexican rice, black beans, guacamole and pico (I don't have any pictures of the fully assembled plate - I was hella hungry by then!). 

Sunday, April 12, 2009


One for the list of awesomely stupid things I'll spend hours doing just to amuse myself: A killer Rabbit of Caerbannog cake (for easter, duh)! The cake was eaten and there was much rejoicing!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Faux Pho Bo

I was planning on posting about the tamales I made, well, I guess like two weeks ago now, but I can't seem to find where I wrote down all the measurements (that I remember to write things down at all is amazing enough!). So I guess I'll HAVE to make some more, much to my test kitchen's dismay I'm sure! 

Instead I'll post my first batch of Pho (before I misplace that).  This is another food that I decided to make without ever having the real thing, and no one who tried any had real beef Pho either, so I can't vouch for authenticity...but it was tasty!  I was stingy with the anise since I am not a huge fan, but it was very subtle so I would even add more next time.  I also used store bought vegetarian beef bouillon.  Yeah, I cheat sometimes.

Vegetarian Pho Bo
8 cups vegetarian beef broth
1 1/2 - 2 inch section of ginger, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
3 whole star anise (or more)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Shallots, quartered
3 - 4 Tbs soy sauce (to taste)
7 oz rice noodles 
1 recipe seitan
bean sprouts
lime wedges
fresh cilanto
fresh basil leaves
sliced scallions
sliced thai chilis

Prepare a recipe of seitan: I used the same one as the asada tacos but replaced the spices with 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp pepper and used 2 Tbs soy sauce and 1 Tbs Worcestershire instead of equal amounts. 

While that bakes make the broth:  Toast the shallot, cinnamon and anise a few minutes in the bottom of a pot. Add the ginger slices and broth, bring it to a boil and let simmer for at least a half hour.  Strain the broth and return it to the pot.  Add soy sauce to taste.  

Prepare the rice noodles according to the package (mine weren't in English, but I soaked the noodles about 15 minutes in cold water and boiled a few minutes in salted water until they were tender but not mushy).  Slice up the garnish veggies and seitan, throw it all in a bowl and enjoy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seriously amazing peanut butter icing

This was my second attempt at peanut butterization of an icing I grew up calling butter cream, but to the baking world, “butter cream” refers to powdered sugar and fat based icings that are nauseatingly sweet. This recipe has a flour and milk paste that cuts the sweetness but has a light and creamy texture similar to a mouse. I’ve modified the base recipe somewhat from my mom’s recipe which I’m pretty sure was my grandma’s… the original recipe, aside from using real butter and milk, actually is less sweet, but upping the sugar from 1 cup to 1 ¼ results in a good in between sweetness that is good enough to eat big piped rosettes!

This recipe has been my first exercise in patience for this year. I’m not even sure how many times I’ve tried and failed with it over the years, but perfecting it was my first goal after receiving my KitchenAid. It is not actually difficult to do, but it is time consuming and takes a little bit of trial and error to know when each step is done, especially when you are trying to figure it out from a non-descriptive recipe. Properly creaming the margarine and sugar is the key to successfully making this icing. During this step, the sugar crystals cut into the fat creating air pockets that give the icing its light and fluffy consistency. The margarine should be close to room temperature and softened, but not melted so it is not too hard for the crystals to cut through. I’ve found letting Earth Balance sticks sit out for 15 – 20 minutes in a temperate kitchen works well. Another important step is dissolving the flour into the soymilk. You want to break down all flour clumps before heating so the flour paste is perfectly smooth. My mom does this by shaking the flour and milk in a jar until all of the clumps are gone. While this is probably the fastest method, I despise washing dishes and this makes one more flour coated item to scrub. I whisk the flour and soymilk together while cold for a few minutes until all the clumps are gone before cooking it. It is also important that the flour paste is cooled long enough before adding it to the creamed sugar. You’ll want it no warmer than room temperature, but I usually cool it in the refrigerator. Just be sure there isn’t any condensation on it! My last tip for this is to choose a peanut butter that has a homogenous consistency, although finding one that does not contain hydrogenated oils can be tricky. It is important not to use one that separates into a peanut paste and oil.

Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup soy milk
7 tbs flour
1 cup margarine (I swear by Earth Balance Buttery sticks for this)
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
½ tbs vanilla

To start, mix the flour and soymilk together while cold until there are no lumps left. *Update 062809: After mixing in the flour I pass it through a strainer to remove any remaining lumps. The final product is much better this way!* Cook over a low heat in a medium saucepan, whisking continually. Cook until the flour forms a sticky paste with a mashed potato-like consistency:
Cook a minute or two longer to ensure it is totally thickened and cook down all of the flour. Cool until ready to use. To avoid condensation, do not cover immediately when putting it in the refrigerator.

Using an electric hand or stand mixer, mix at low speed a minute or so until the sugar is roughly combined then increase to a creaming speed (number 6 on a KitchenAid). Cream until the margarine is almost white in color and is very fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl every few minutes. This is NOT a fast step – it will take 10 or 15 minutes if you’re lucky. I creamed the sugar in my KA for 15 – 20 minutes and then creamed another 5 or 10 minutes with a hand mixer to be sure all of the sugar crystals are broken down and the texture is not grainy:

Don’t freak out and throwaway your icing if you cannot get rid of every bit of graininess – mostly smooth should be ok since it will still be mixed further. It will probably take some trial and error before you realize what point this step is done. However, if the margarine starts to look like it’s separating (probably from starting with margarine too warm, creaming too long or it being too hot in your kitchen to keep it from melting) this batch could be a lost cause, but if you catch it early you can put the bowl in the fridge for a bit to try to salvage it. Baking 911 has a great description of the importance of this step and some trouble shooting tips. When the margarine and sugar are creamed, add the peanut butter and cream until fully incorporated. Add the cooled flour mixture. I usually add it in three parts, creaming each part in a minute to make sure it stays smooth and to check for separation. Add the vanilla and cream for another 5 – 10 minutes until totally smooth.

I find that this icing is best to use immediately, especially if you are going to pipe it. Decorated baked goods hold up well refrigerated or at room temperature, provided it is not horribly hot.

This recipe takes longer than most icing recipes and there are several steps that it can be ruined, but it is absolutely worth it!

I topped some chocolate cupcakes with this icing for my second annual SXSW brunch and everyone loved them! Chickpea and jícama salad and soyrizo recipes to be posted soon...

Seitan Asada Tacos

Ok, so these aren’t actually grilled or roasted, so calling these seitan asada isn’t actually correct. I also am not from TX and have never actually had real carne asada tacos...but they are pretty damned delicious if I do say so myself and have been praised by a few native Texans! This takes about two hours to make, but almost all of it is waiting for the seitan to bake.

Seitan Asada Tacos

1 ½ cup vital wheat gluten flour
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
7/8 cup vegetarian beef broth or water
1 ½ tbs vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tbs soy sauce
2 tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeño, minced
juice of 2 limes
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp Mexican oregano
salt and cayenne to taste

pico de gallo
avocado slices

Make the seitan: Preheat the oven to 325º. Mix together the first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Stir the broth, oil, Worcestershire, soy sauce and 2 tbs olive oil together then stir into the dry ingredients, adding more broth if necessary. Kneed the seitan for a few minutes and shape it into a log shape. Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 75 – 90 minutes.

Slice the seitan into strips. Mix together the remaining 2 tbs oil, lime juice, garlic, jalapeño and spices. Sauté this over medium heat for 3 – 5 minutes. Add the seitan strips and cook another 5 – 10 minutes tossing to evenly coat the strips. Be careful not to over cook the seitan at this step or it will be tough to chew. This is best eaten immediately served wrapped in warm tortillas with fresh pico and avocado slices.

Peanut Butter Salty Oat Cookies

Hi everybody! I decided to make my first post a dessert - I guess cookies and birthday cakes are what I make the most of so this seemed appropriate! Sweet and salty is one of my favorite dessert combinations. I made these for some friends in town and they went over exceedingly well!

Peanut butter salty oat cookies

1 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance as it is non-hydrogenated and still tastes good)
1 cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
egg replacer for 2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup peanut butter
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking soda
2 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375º
Cream margarine and both sugars with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg replacer and vanilla and cream until mixed. Add peanut butter and cream until mixed. Mix flour, salt and baking soda together and add to the wet ingredients. Mix in low speed until all ingredients are combined. Mix in the oats. Spoon about 3 tablespoons cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Slightly flatten the mounds and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 10 minutes.

These are came out more like soft peanut butter cookies than oatmeal, and stayed moist the whole few hours after baking that they lasted! Increasing the oatmeal to 1 ½ c will give a more oatmeal cookie texture.

A couple tips for making awesome cookies:

Parchment paper is your friend! It is the single best thing you can use to make getting your cookies off the tray easiest and with little breaking.

Don’t over bake them! If they look done in the oven they are probably over baked and going to be hard and dry.

Don’t trust recipes that call for a whole teaspoon of baking soda. You’re probably going to be able to taste in the final product. I never put more than ¾ tsp in no matter what a recipe says.