Bread Baking Day

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One of the many things I admire about French culture is the richesse of the rites and rituals of life’s most simple pleasures. Shifting one’s focus from the glitz and plastic of the eventfulness and moving to better celebrate the event itself. The daily trip to the boulangerie for your baguette, the importance of choosing the right head of lettuce for your salad or taking the time to greet each individual when arriving somewhere rather than a blanket – hey. I like that. Life is, as Hemingway so aptly phrased it, A Movable Feast. Amen.

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Trying to emphasize the joy in the quotidian is my aim, and I stumbled upon this wonderful blog event: Bread Baking Day which does just that. A diverse group of foodie-bloggers who commune once a month to share their daily bread. I only just baked my first loaf of bread about six months ago, but I’m hooked (jar of sourdough starter in fridge), and I am thrilled to have found an event to convene with other confirmed and wanna-be bread bakers for inspiration.

I find the ritual of baking bread to be (at the risk of sounding a little bit out there) a veritable spiritual experience. Very grounding, but spiritual at the same time. Maybe there is something in my genetic memory that feels rekindled and soothed by the kneading, the unmistakable smell of bread baking in the oven, a feeling of community-family-unity wafting from the kitchen… or maybe it’s just my stomach growling?

This month’s host Wild Yeast (who has a really beautiful blog with truly wonderful photography – food for the eyes) chose the theme “Celebration Breads” and with so many things to celebrate for so many different cultures during the month of March, it was difficult to decide.

I had been eyeing the recipe for raisin soda bread in Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan for some time now, but hadn’t gotten around to making it – and decided that Saint Patrick’s Day was my opportunity. Despite it’s dense look, this bread was not heavy, but a bit spongy (in a good way, I don’t have my baker’s jargon down) it was très moelleux, but had a nice, crunchy crust, and had just a hint of sweet. The Guppy and I enjoyed it for our “quatre heures” or tea, and it thrilled me to see her eating something with raisins in it! (She’s in that “I’m almost three and don’t need to eat anything” phase.) It was also the easiest-to-make bread I’ve ever thrown together.

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Jen’s Raisin Soda Bread from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

*notes : the recipe states that you can use cranberries in lieu of raisins, or you can add 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest.

  • 2 1/4 cups ap flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar (I only used one)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used both white & normal)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used plain soy)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

“Pre-heat the oven to 350°F(175°C). Lightly oil a 9-inch bread pan and set aside. (**In a small bowl, add milk & cider vinegar and just let sit & curdle.) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, and raisins. Add the milk and vinegar and gently stir dough until “just mixed”. Pour evenly into loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

**I find that mixing the vinegar & soymilk and letting them curdle makes for better leavening than just mixing them into the flour at the end.

EDITED TO SAY: Generally Bread Baking Day posts don’t go up until closer to the first of the month, but since my super-cute-mumma is coming to visit from the states I wanted to be sure to get this up on time!

Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners? Lentil Casserole & “Wanna Be” Twinkiesque Cupcakes

Ever since drooling over Jennifer McCann’s veganized Twinkie(r) recipe, I have been able to think of nothing else (sorry, just had to laugh at the absurdity of that sentence- can you imagine only thinking about spongecake & creme filling? No dwelling on worrying about stressing over thinking about things like paying the bills, what to feed your 2 year-old, grading papers for students who really don’t care anyway, your checking account’s current negative balance, et all.) Let’s say that the vegan Twinkies(r) have been on my mind. A lot.

I went to a few stores in town and none of them carried anything even close to the cakelette tins one needs to build the perfect vegan Twinkie(r). While ordering them on-line is a possibility, the shipping is more than the tins…so, I surrendered to the idea of just making cupcakes, but that is so not the same thing.

 

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The other little snag in my devious plot for vegan Twinkie(r) perfection was that the recipe for the creme filling calls for barley malt powder. Now, if you think finding the cakelette tins is a problem here, you can forget about finding something as obscure as barley malt powder.

Not prepared to renounce a chance at tasting the sweet nostalgia of my youth, I decided to improvise (as usual) and used the “Fluffy White Icing” recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance. I’ve made Isa’s (Can I call you Isa? I think I can. Or would you prefer Ms. Isa? How about Vegan Cupcake Goddess?) “Fauxstess Cupcakes” before (they are délicioso), though I’d not gone the extra caloric-mile with the cream filling. It was a mile well worth taking, because it was perfect. The recipe calls for non-hydrogenated shortening which is also impossible to find in ma ville, but doubling up on the non-hydrogenated margarine worked perfectly much to my delight!

The Twinkie-cupcake experience was all rather exciting for me as I’d never used a pastry bag to fill anything before- how fun! I actually exploded a few cupcakes in the process (which was also kinda fun), but it was no problem, I just decided to cover up the damage with some swirly-cream! (I felt so Martha Stewart).

 

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Before…

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after!

Mr. Fish had never before tasted the goodness that we call Twinkie(r), and he was converted instantly. I’d planned on bringing some to work with me today to make up for the Valentine’s cupcakes which never made it…and he persuaded me that it was better to keep them here, with us. For Us.

I was so busy being productive yesterday with the cupcakes and my long run and putting the finishing touches on my Pointy Kitty (which I’ll blog more on later), that the dinner part of Sunday just sort of slipped away from me.

Being that it’s the end of the month (we’re paid monthly here in France) and the cupboards are beginning to be a wee bit bare, and I was rather short on time (and energy, licking all that cream filling off my fingers was exhausting!), I wanted to find a nutritious and delicious casserole recipe, but where? how? Who would help me through this dilemma?

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Didn’t actually get a photo of the casserole, so here’s another cupcake!

Casseroles make me think of the 1950’s, which make me think retro, which logically make me think of looking in a Sarah Kramer cookbook. Makes sense, right? See, here’s the deal, I have a love/hate relationship with La Dolce Vegan!. You know, like the colleague you seem to always be sort of harping about, so much so that someone finally tells you “hey, you have a crush on them!”- Ha! and all the incredulous “No I don’t, whatever!”s in the world can’t change the fact that you spend an awful lot of time talking about said person.

 

That’s me. I totally think Kramer is a righteous fish and her books are hip, but I just can’t figure out how to effectively use LDV. I can’t find things easily. Take yesterday for example. I wanted I casserole recipe, so I look under casseroles in the index. I find just a few. Nothing that would work with my kitchen stock. I continue to flip through and accidentally happen upon “Wendy’s Lentil & Brown Rice Casserole” (which was not with the casseroles, go figure). Cool. I put down book, the Guppy picks up book and starts reading it and of course page is lost. I can’t find it. I know C for casserole won’t help, I then look under W for Wendy but that doesn’t work… luckily for me I found it under “lentils” because it was yummy. I amped up the spices adding more basil and oregano, adding turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, and four carrots. Very tasty, very easy. One pot meals rule! Yes you have to take it out to stir a few times, but since I had dishes to do and papers to grade at the kitchen table, it wasn’t terribly difficult.

I would like to say we enjoyed the casserole with a fresh, green salad with mustard vinaigrette (that was the plan) and homemade rolls (also the plan), but we were so full from noshing on the cupcakes that, well, we just left those out.