La fête des ateliers à FLC : Fontainebleau Loisirs et Culture! (En exclu- recettes en français!) Open house at the FLC & The Shellyfish’s Cooking Demo! (Sans Photos)

NB: Suite à un accident technique où j’ai perdu toute mes photos (sauf une) des gourmandises de cette journée, je voulais renoncer et ne pas écrire le suivant. Mais, me voila, j’ai un peu (beaucoup) de retard…faisons semblant qu’on est toujours au mois de juin? :) Due to a technical error where I lost all the pictures of the goodies from this event (save one), I wanted to skip this entry, but here I am anyway. This post is a little (very) late…let’s just pretend it’s still June, ok?

Le samedi 14 juin c’était la fête à FLC : Fontainebleau Loisirs & Culture, puisque nous avons littéralement ouvert les portes au grand public ! En règle générale je me trouve dans ma salle de classe avec mes élèves au premier étage (avec la porte fermée pour ne pas gêner les autres- on s’amuse bien en cours et ça s’entend !). En tant qu’animatrice des cours d’anglais*, j’essaie de préparer des cours aussi ludiques et intéressants que possible, avec des supports aussi variés que possible : peut-être un article sur la politique aux Etats-Unis, une nouvelle parlant des difficultés de la vie du couple (et même une chanson qui propose une autre solution assez extrême !), un texte bien utile qui nous explique comment prendre soin de ceux qu’on aime, ou bien l’analyse des films qui mettent en valeur des “personnes” et des “personnages” clefs de la culture anglophone.

Saturday June 14th things were rather festive at FLC, or Fontainebleau Loisirs & Culture, because it was our end of the year open house! Generally I’m up in my classroom with my students on the second floor (with of course the door closed as to not disrupt the other classes- we tend to have fun and laughter carries!). As the English language teacher*, I try to make my classes both interesting and fun, using as many different mediums and subjects as I can, incorporating varying facets of language and Anglophone culture : maybe an article about politics in the United States, or perhaps a short story about the “difficulties” of married life (and even a song with a rather unique solution to said difficulties!), a handy little text which explains how to “take care” of those we love, as well as watching and discussing films which highlight key people and characters of Anglophone culture.

FLC propose des tas de cours & ateliers : langue étrangère, art plastique, musique, cuisine – et encore! – et J’étais ravie lorsqu’on m’a proposé d’animer un atelier cuisine “sucré” spéciale ayant pour thème la « Cuisine nord américaine » lors de notre fête des ateliers ! Et je n’ai pas hésité une seconde lorsqu’il fallut choisir les recettes : des cupcakes au chocolat de Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World et des cookies aux flocons d’avoine et à la purée de cacahouète de Vegan With A Vengeance .

FLC offers a so many different classes & workshops : foreign langues, art, music, cooking – and more! – and I was thrilled when asked to lead a special “sweets” cooking workshop featuring “North American Cuisine” during our Open House! And I knew exactly what I wanted to make : the “Basic Chocolate Cupcakes” from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and the “Gigantoid Peanutbutter Cookies” from Vegan With A Vengeance.

Tout d’abord il fallait traduire les recettes et aussi faire les conversions entre le système Impériale et le système métrique (tellement plus facile !). J’ai donc préparé des cookies et des cupcakes à proposer aux visiteurs lors de la partie « portes ouvertes cours d’anglais » avant notre atelier cuisine, en faisant les conversions à chaque étape.

First I had to translate and convert the recipes from the Imperial system over to metric (which is so much easier, seriously people, it’s crazy!). I opted to make some test batches (translating and converting as I went using my kitchen scale) to serve to the passers by during the first part of the Open House where I greeted visitors in my classroom.

Je regrette sincèrement, mais je n’ai pas de photo de notre séance « cuisine et langue » (puisqu’on l’a fait en « franglais » !), j’étais tellement prise par ce que je faisais ! Je me suis beaucoup amusée, et les participants aussi (je pense), et nous nous sommes bien régalés aussi bien sûr ! Et le meilleur était de montrer à tout le monde combien les pâtisseries « sans cruauté » sont bonnes et faciles à préparer ! Beaucoup de monde passa, intrigués par les arômes venant de la cuisine, et il y avait plus d’une personne dubitative lorsque quelqu’un chuchotait « C’est végétalien ! Il n’y a pas d’œufs ! Tu te rends compte ! », mais je peux vous assurer qu’il ne restait plus rien à la fin de la séance, ils ont tout mangé ! Je n’avais pas pour mission explicite de faire de la propagande végétalienne, mais, si j’ai pu montrer aux non-croyants que c’est plus que possible de bien manger sans faire de mal aux animaux (et moins de mal à soi), tant mieux !

I’m so sorry that I don’t have any picutres of our “language and cuisine” session (because we did it in “fringlish” sharing random English vocabulary for baking & the kitchen- fun!) but I was so into what I was doing, it didn’t even occur to me to ask someone to be my photographer! I had so much fun, as did the participants (I hope!), and we also loved devouring sampling the goodies! But for me, the most rewarding part was showing everyone that “cruelty free” baked goodies were so yummy and so easy to prepare! There were many folks who just passed through the kitchen, curious as to the enticing aromas coming from the oven, and there was more than one eyebrow raised and doubtful look when someone whispered “It’s vegan! There are no eggs! Can you believe it?”, but there was nothing left at the end! They ate everything! I didn’t have a hidden agenda of Vegangelical propagandising, but if I was able to show a few non-believers that it’s more than possible to eat well without harming animals (and harming yourself a little less), well rock on!

Et voici les recettes, avec la permission de Ms. Isa et de Ms. Terry, les supers nanas de la cuisine végétalienne ! If you’re looking for the original versions of these recipes you can try here for the cupcakes, but I’m not sure the cookies have leaked to the blogosphere…though I’m sure they’re out there.

Cup Cakes au Chocolat

Ingrédients :

20cl lait de soja
5ml vinaigre de cidre
200g sucre en poudre
7cl huile végétale
10ml essence de vanille
180g farine
65g cacao en poudre
3.5ml (3/4 teaspoon) de bicarbonate de soude
2.5ml (1/2 teaspoon) de poudre levante
pincée de sel

1. Mettre le soja et le vinaigre dans un grand bol et mettre de côté.
2. Préchauffer le four à 175°. Mettre les feuilles de papier dans le moule.
3. Ajouter le sucre, l’huile, et la vanille au soja et mélanger à l’aide du mixer jusqu’à ce que ça mousse.
4. Passer au tamis (ou juste fouetter avec une fourchette) la farine, le cacao en poudre, la poudre levante et le sel dans un autre bol.
5. Ajouter en deux fois le mélange de farine aux ingrédients liquides tout en mixant, jusqu’à obtenir une pâte lisse & homogène.
6. Repartir la pâte dans les moules (les remplir au 3/4) et enfourner pour 10-15 minutes.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies

Ingrédients :
225g farine
175g flocons d’avoine
10ml (2 teaspoons) poudre levante
pincée de sel
175ml huile végétale
175g beurre de cacahouètes
225g sucre roux
200g sucre en poudre
125ml lait de soja
10ml (2 teaspoons) essence de vanille

1. Préchauffer le four à 180°. Sortir 2 plaques de cuisson.

2. Mélanger la farine, les flocons d’avoine, la poudre levante et le sel dans un grand bol. Dans un autre bol, mixer l’huile, le beurre, les sucres, le lait et la vanille.
3. Ajouter le mélange de farine aux ingrédients liquides et mixer. La pâte sera très humide et collante, c’est normal ! Répartir des cuillerées de pâte (aprox. La taille d’un œuf) sur la plaque de cuisson (aprox. Une douzaine). Enfourner pour 10-12 minutes, puis laisser refroidir quelques minutes, puis les déposer sur une grille.

* A partir de la rentrée il y aura des cours pour enfants le mercredi matin! Vous pouvez m’écrire pour plus d’info!

“C” is for Cookie & “C” is for Céline!

There seems to be a bit of a cookie frenzy in the air, or at least on the vegan blogosphere, thanks in large part to the lovely, cookie-wielding Céline of Have Cake, Will Tavel. I’m all about cookies. Who isn’t? (No, seriously, who isn’t, I want to know as they should perhaps not be trusted…).

One of my faves is the Snickerdoodle. See, I haven’t had one in, uh, I don’t know…a million years, because usually they are full of butter or hydrogenated shortening and well, that’s just, you know, gross. I received a new cookbook over the holidays and I was all excited about a Snickerdoodle recipe in said book because I thought that after long last the Snickerdoodle and the Shellyfish would be reunited.

I tried the recipe. Twice. It was, well, nasty-gross.

I was oh-so-disappointed, as was the entire Fish household, because I had maybe gone on just a little bit too much about how scrumptious the Snickerdoodles are. Then super-chef-extraordinaire Céline posted her becoming-more-famous-by-the-minute Snickerdoodle recipe, and I knew it was time to recreate the doodle-magic.

Me: Hey Guppy, do you want another Snickerdoodle?

Guppy: (laughing) They’re not sticky-noodles, Mumma, they’re cookies!

What is great about Ms. C’s Vegetarian Times recipe-redoux is that she created the perfect sized recipe for a small little school of fish like ours- there are only 3 of us, and so either we a) pig out on cookies as they are cooling because they are so difficult to resist and swear off cookies for a few weeks… or b) see “a”. So it’s OK to eat them all! Really, you can, don’t worry. I got about 8 cookies the first time I made them, and the second time I doubled the batch, which still only made about 14ish cookies. Perfect!

Why are you still reading? Click on the above link to Céline’s recipe already! Go, go, go!

Scones à l’eau de rose & aux amandes – Rose & Almond Scones – It’s Bread Baking Day N° 10

It is time once again for Bread Baking Day! This month’s theme, breakfast breads, was chosen by the lovely Melissa at Baking A Sweet Life – merci, Melissa! She’ll be putting the round-up of all our entries on June 5th, so go take a peek and be inspired!

I feel as though baking scones is a bit of a rite of passage in vegan culinaria. The vast majority of vegan blogs I love to visit have showcased at one time or another beautifully baked scones, with flavours ranging from peanut butter to pumpkin, even scony breakfast sandwiches – and admittedly they looked rather tempting. It also seems that no vegan cookbook would be complete without at least one (or multiple) scone recipes.

While the photos on the vegan blogosphere seemed enticing, I had scone issues. I’d only ever had scones on two occasions, and they left rather tasteless impressions on me. The first time was in a rather trendy tea room in London about 16 years ago. Everyone had hyped this amazing place with its brilliant scones and the clotted cream is bloody phenomenal! I sat uncomfortably, surrounded by 4 very hip and trendy and (seeming to 17-year-old me) sophisticated 25-year-old Londoners. I wanted to be cool, suave, and as cosmopolitan as they were, and when I bit into what I thought was a mixture of sawdust and cardboard I forced a smile and raising my eyebrows I declared,”It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before!”, which was true. I managed to avoid the clotted cream (because it sounded like something that should be thrown out because it had gone bad), and got about half of the thing they called “scone” into my handbag to be discreetly thrown out later without anyone noticing.

Scone session numéro dos was about 5 years later, with a much older and wiser Shellyfish (irony) surrounded by terribly cool people on a fashionably hip terrace at an over-priced trendy café in the desert Southwest in the U.S. My fellow brunchers were, in my eyes, what I wanted to be when I grew up : young 30-somethings, so for me, grown ups – there was the witty newspaper editor, the bohemian graphic designer, the sullen musician, the dreamy poet, and me, the dancer/student who dabbled a bit in freelance journalism and poetry, but who felt like an insignificant speck of wanna-be talent next to my friends. I came back from the washroom to find scones & coffee on our table, and sullen musician smiled with shocks of hair falling in his eyes and said, “you lived in Europe right, so I thought you would like these. I think they’re European or something.” Trying not to swoon because sullen musician knew something important about me, I forced down what felt like a hockey puck made of baking powder, but smiled through the entire ordeal.

I’m the young 30-something now, and have thankfully re-adjusted my focus a bit (and my friendship criteria). I wanted to move on in the scone department, and thought this BBD was the kick in the pants I needed to make the scones. Hundreds of snappy vegans couldn’t be wrong after all!

I based the following on the Orange Glazed Scone recipe in VWAV, because I am all about eau de rose lately (new and unusual). I wanted to use pistachios rather than almonds, but Mr. Fish depleted our stocks while watching a “Zombie sharks attack the vampire monkeys of New York” type movie the other night. The almonds were great, though. I’m also happy to say that the scones were, too. They were light and flaky and delicate as the rose itself!

  • 350g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 115ml plain soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinagar
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • pinch or two salt
  • 5 tablespoons veg. oil
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

Heat oven to about 200c/400f. Add the vinagar to the milk and set aside. Sift together the flour, meal, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the vinagar mixture and the rosewater & almond extract and stir until just mixed. I needed to add a little flour here because things were still rather wet. Dump out the dough and divide in two, knead a little and form into a bit of a disc and cut into pie-like wedges. Place on baking sheet and in the oven it goes for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned.

For the glaze add about 120g icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted non-hydrogenated margerine and 3 tablespoons eau de rose in a bowl and stir until well combined. You can get festive and add some food coloring if you wish (I did). Drizzle over scones and sprinkle with slivered almonds.

I’d also like to thank Ms. Zorra, the founder of this great event. Helping me to try new things, one bread at a time!

Cobblers & “Picniks”

The philanthropist & all-around-cutie Katie (or Special K) aka the Chocolate Covered Vegan posted her Little Vegan Crumble recently and it spurred daydreaming about summertime picknicks and BBQs with friends, light breezes and kite flying…you get the picture. The Guppy has been a bit slammed with a late-season cold, and was feeling a wee bit down about being stuck in the house with the sun beaming outside, so, I thought the moment for Katie’s Crumble had arrived, only, unbeliveably, I found myself oatless in the kitchen! I’d already promised a baking project to the eager Guppy who was already sitting on her knees on one of the kitchen chairs, playing the drums with a spoon and some mixing bowls, so my mental-roll-a-dex was spinning- what to make?

We’d already set the apples on the table, and I thought, hey, cobbler is yummy, too! And voila! Afternoon project and yummy snack rolled into one!

This recipe is adapted from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which as I’ve said before, is such a great Vegan resource. It’s not as sexy or hip as some of the newer books on the market (first edition published in 1975), but that’s what I love – you don’t need any fancy ingredients to make any of the recipes (and the pictures are so darn hippy-retro-cool!).

Fruit Cobbler

for the fruit filling :

  • 6 large apples (cored & sliced or chopped)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • a little water

Sauté your apples in a skillet over low heat for 5 minutes, adding a few soup spoons of water from time to time to keep from sticking (the original recipe calls for 3 Tbsp margarine, which you could use rather than H2O). Add the sugar and cinnamon, and cook apples until they are pretty tender, about 5-10 minutes more.

for the batter :

  • 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I don’t even use WW pastry flour & it turns out fine)
  • 3/4 AP flour (the original recipe calls for 1.5 cups AP flour if you don’t want to use WW, but it’s good!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup oil (I don’t use that much, I don’t fill it all the way…)
  • 1 cup “milk”
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients, then slowly add the wet until just mixed. Put in enough batter to cover the bottom of your pan (recipe suggests 8×8 square, I used a round, I’m a rebel), then add the apples. You’ll have very little batter left, it’s normal, just scoop it onto the apple layer in little splotches – it will seem like there isn’t enough, so don’t stress. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350F. You could top it with anything, obviously, but we like to add a little cashew-vanilla crème sauce on top:

And now for the “Picnik” – you may have noticed my playing around with the pics in this entry. Being one of the only bloggers on the planet to not have any photo editing software, I try to do what I can with light, etc., when taking my pictures, but could never crop or correct anything…until now!

Going through some bookmarked blogs I revisited Full Circle, which is a great blog (there are so many fabulous ones out there!) that has a huge amount of universal appeal though it is a self-described homeschooling blog. Seriously, go check it out! I may be one of the last to hear the news, but thanks to Full Circle I’m in the loop because she introduced me to Picnik, an amazing – and free – photo editing tool! I haven’t had too much time to play around with it, but it is just fabulous!

RAW : Flourless Chocolate Cake & Vanilla Crème Sauce & Frozen Feet

My feet are in a 5-gallon tub of ice water (okay, my right foot up to the metatarsal arch, my left foot is trying its best, but the toes are but kissing the surface of the water). I just got back from some intense speedwork and have been really dealing with some ouchies, and so, it’s time to get tough with the pain (wasn’t that from a pain-reliever ad way back? could just be hallucinating from agony, R foot is now numb past arch, L foot has all toes in…). Rather than suffer alone, I thought I may be able to help divert my attention from the cold and hang out with my fellow Vegan friends. Thank you for being here for me!

Now, I could snap a picture of my incredibly scary-looking (purple) feet, but why would I do that when you can look at that delicious raw cake up there? I guess I should say *was* delicious, because it dissappeared like the sensation in my R foot just did! Ha!

I thought that disguising my attempts at nudging Mr. Fish gently towards better appreciating the delicious goodness of raw foods would be helpful. What better disguise than cake? My efforts, however, were in vein, because after looking at me rather sceptically and barely trying a nibble, he smiled apologetically and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s just too weird.” He also says that about me when he sees me doing things like icing my feet… hey, maybe I am just too weird?

The Guppy ate all the cashew cream and strawberries on her piece, but wouldn’t even taste the cake, and this surprised me because it smelled of vanilla and carob. Sigh. What I was able to do, however, was to whiz a banana with some of the cream and she devoured that.

What this all means my dear V friends is that the Shellyfish ate the entire 4-serving raw cake. Not in one sitting though- in about 24-hours. It was a great pre-run snack, and I also had it for lunch with a green salad, had a slice with some banana with the Guppy for our snack (again, she did the banana-crème thing)… So perhaps not a winner in my family’s book, but I thought this little gem of a raw cake ruled! Thick and moist, reminded me a bit of a sort of vegan-walnut fudge.

Flourless Chocolate Cake from Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, unsoaked
  • Dash salt
  • 10 pitted dates, unsoaked
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocao or carob powder (I used carob)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1 teaspoon & 1 teaspoon almond extract, too)
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • raw fruit for garnish

Put the walnuts & salt in your food processor and whirl until finely ground. Add the dates, carob powder, and extracts and process until it begins to get sticky, add the water and process briefly. Dump it out onto a plate and form it into your shape of choice, then off to the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Foot update- left foot no longer in wreched pain & in up to arch- hourrah!

Now for the Vanilla Crème Sauce, I’m guessing every vegan out there has one recipe or another for their own sauce like this. I don’t really measure mine anymore, but it goes something like this:

  • About two good handfuls of soaked cashews (I soak them over night)
  • 3 tablespoons (or more or less to taste) of rice, maple or agave syrup
  • about 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of vanilla or almond extract

It all goes into the blender and stays there until smooth. Yum!

Oh thank you my blogosphere buddies. My feet have been iced. I will now shower as to not look quite so scary and smell not so stinky when the Guppy wakes up.

Bread Baking Day! Banana Oat Bread, Yum!

The lovely Astrid of Pulchen’s Food Blog is this month’s hostess for Bread Baking Day number 9. She proposed the fabulous theme of oat breads for the month of April, and I was thrilled because I am a newbie bread baker, and only have one oat bread under my belt (and it wasn’t terribly successful…Mr. Fish referred to it as “tasting like bread for old people”. Thanks mon amour.) The round-up is still a few days away, so if you just can’t wait, go visit Susan over at Wild Yeast. She graciously hosted our event last month, and here is the round-up.

I had images of golden, steaming loaves of oaty-goodness coming out of the oven, and was scouting around for a hearty loaf to use for delicious sandwiches. Finding a few recipes that interested me, I just didn’t come across the recipe (that being said, I can’t wait for this months BBD round-up to see what delights the others baked up!).

I woke up early one weekend morn to make some banana bread for the Guppy and Mr. Fish for a sweet breakfast treat, and then it hit me: Banana Oat Bread! (Luckily Banana Oat Bread is rather soft and moist, so it didn’t hurt.)

This seemed like a brilliant breakfast bread filled with the sweet goodness of oats and bananas, and I looked through my (very small collection) of cookbooks and came up empty. Recipes for regular banana bread, yep. I also had the “old people” oat bread recipe from my previous attempt at oat bread domination. After searching the web for a good Vegan recipe, I realized that I’d just have to create my own! (mostly because I didn’t have a huge amount of time to devote to my quest of searching the net, I’m sure there are some good ‘ens out there…) This bread was very moist and delicious, it reminded me of a sort of pudding-bread. It had a dense crumb, intense banana flavour, and was even better the next morning! You could easily add chocolate chips or walnuts to make things even more fabulous…

Shellyfish’s Vegan Banana Oat Bread

  • 110g ap flour
  • 110g whole wheat flour
  • 90g rolled oats
  • 70g sugar
  • 70g xylitol
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 medium very ripe & well-mashed bananas
  • 60ml vegetable oil or melted non-hydrogenated vegan buttery spread
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yeah, it’s a lot, you could use less- we’re big on vanilla, folks).
  • Non-dairy milk as needed
  • chopped walnuts or chocolate chips, optional

Pre-heat your oven to 350f/170c and get your pan ready!

Mix* the flax seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside. Sift together all the dry ingredients except the oats in a large bowl. Mix the banana-mash, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl, then add to the flax mixture. Blend well*, then add the dry ingredients in two or three small batches, and stir until just blended. Then fold in the oats and optional walnuts or chocolate chips.

Bake until your knife comes out clean (or smeary if you use the chocolate chips of course). For me this was about 45 minutes

*By mix, stir, etc, I mean with your big ‘ole trusty wooden spoon, kids.

Tofu Cheesecake Madness! It’s Daring Bakers Time Again!

Unleash your sweet-tooth for this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts For The Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor. I’m warning you now, this is not in any way a healthy-avid-yoga-runner-wholefoods-type recipe…but it was indeed very tasty, sticky, messy & gooey to make (which always hightens the fun-factor if you ask me).

This month’s lovely challenge hosts Elle from Feeding My Enthusasims and Deborah from Taste and Tell found we Daring Bakers a very decadent treat indeed (thank you for your time & effort, ladies!) Cheesecake is in itself quite an indulgence, but for this recipe it’s only the beginning! After you’ve baked your cheesecake you then freeze & form it into various shapes and give them lollipop sticks, then coat in chocolate and decorate! Wow! Holy calories, Batgirl! That being said, because they are individually sized, you can easily control your portions, so that’s a good thing. I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing…controlling cheesecake consumption I mean…

My favorite parts of this challenge were 1) completing the challenge with my super-cute mum who though battling a nasty nasty bout of illness played along and was available for planning consultations, official tasting & artistic direction (decorating) duty; and 2) the actual making of the tofu cheesecakes. I thought it was a blast! I totally admit to a heavy dose of finger-licking as well…see, these were indeed intended to be “pops”, but despite my best intentions (I visited two gourmet cooking shoppes & two super markets) I could not find anything that would work- I found popcicle sticks (too fat), super-thin straws (too flimsy), long, wooden sticks for cotton candy (too thick & long)… so I decided to turn this temporary set-back into a fun chance to use some new silicon molds that my mum brought me from the states! As a Daring Baker I was to follow certain guidelines, but using molds was ok’d by our hosts, so yeah for the molds! There were heart-shapes, disc-shapes, and flower-shapes, too!

Thing is, because there were no sticks to hold, I was hand-dipping them, which was a blast! Felt like a kid in the kitching doing something I could be scolded for! Another fun aspect of this month’s challenge was that a handful of the Daring Bakers Alternative Bakers got together to “chat” to exchange ideas & recipes & ideas, and that was a great chance to “meet” some new bakers & hear some ideas.

Here’s the recipe that I used (based on the tofu cheesecake recipe from The New Farm Cookbook (the original non-vegan Challenge recipe is at the bottom of this post if you want a peek!)

  • 3 1/2 cups firm tofu (rinse it, but don’t drain)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (I’ve used orange for orange cheese cake & it’s also good)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-2 table spoons vanilla or almond extract (or one of both if you’re really feeling crazy)

and for the chocolate coating:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan butter

I wiz everything in the blender or food processor till smooth (adding a little more juice if it’s a bit too stiff, normally it’s very smooth). If you were making a normal cheesecake, you just pour it into the crust & put it in the oven for about 50 minutes at 170c/335F. Because I opted for silicon molds this changed my normal baking time dramatically because the molds were of different shape & depth & made by different companies so the individual baking times varied from mold to mold (the shortest being 25mins, the longest 45). What I did then was to leave them in the moulds while they cooled (which I totally admit made my life easier than trying to scoop them out of a pan and shape them).

For the chocolate coating, I melted half the chocolate and 1 tbsp of vegan butter in the microwave and stirred well (so much work there). Then, carefully not burning my fingers on the chocolate I swirled the shapes in the chocolate. I found that even after being very cool from the fridge they were still really difficult to coat so I put them in the freezer & found that the colder they were, the easier they were to coat (less cold = thicker, goopier chocolate coating, whereas colder = pretty, thin layer). I also found that I had to sprinkle the decorations on right away after coating them or the chocolate hardened and they wouldn’t stick.

I’ll be honest- while the cheese cake was delicious, having it coated in chocolate just seemed too much for my family who seemed to just peel it off. It was, however, a very fun challenge, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Here’s the original recipe from Ms. O’Connor’s book:

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Cranberry-Orange-Nut Bread

Cranberry-Orange-Nut Bread

I can’t believe that my mum’s annual visit is coming to a close, and she’ll be heading back to the states in a week. Many people live very far from the people they love, so I don’t want to start throwing streamers for a pity party here folks, and I am constantly thankful for the Internet and free International Long Distance, things that weren’t always available to me when I was so far from home (like when I was just a little 16-year-old non-French-speaking exchange student, lost in a rural village in the Loire Valley…), but her eminent departure does make me a bit sad…

I am however thrilled that since my marriage in 2004, my mum has come at least once a year for a visit in the Spring. One of her dreams was to visit France, and now her passport is beginning to look rather accustomed to travel! This year’s visit was a bit dampened by her being very, very sick for nearly two weeks, and that on her birthday to boot! We’d made reservations at a schmancy restaurant to take her out to celebrate (a restaurant which was willing to accommodate a vegan diner no less!), but she was so sick, she couldn’t even pretend to want to go. I could tell she wouldn’t be able to force down a birthday cake, but I wanted her special day to begin with something special, so enter Cranberry-Orange-Nut Bread from Veganomicon!

The following is not the original recipe in VCON, I made a handful of adaptations, and the result was delicious (as is the unadulterated recipe in VCON of course!). Here is my altered version, which my mum just loved for her birthday breakfast- we even put a birthday candle on it! Here’s my changed-up version:

  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup veg. oil (it was actually a bit less, I maybe filled it 3/4 full)
  • 1/3 cup Xylitol (all-natural sugar-sub made from birch bark)
  • 1/3 cup raw/brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (reserve 2 tbs. to sprinkle on the bread & decorate plates)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbs orange water
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup whole frozen cranberries (they don’t have to be completely defrosted, just mostly)
  • 2/3 cups chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Sift together all the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet to dry, mixing until smooth. Fold in the cranberries, nuts & orange zest, and pour into a loaf pan & bake for about an hour at 325F/160C. Let it cool a bit, like 10-15 minutes, before trying to take it out of the pan.

We loved this bread, and since finding fresh cranberries is nearly impossible except in November here (my frozen ones were left over from Thanksgiving), I am going to try this with blueberries or blackberries.

Cookies for Monsieur Hotto

Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Raspberry

Not sure about you, but I really don’t need an excuse to bake cookies. My family loves cookies, and we love to eat cookies, so really, I need more reasons not to bake cookies…however…

Monsieur Hotto is an elderly neighbour that I met last fall when I saw him wrestling with his grocery bag in the cold (the bag was winning). I actually didn’t realize we were neighbors until I offered to help him home with his bag. He is just this adorable 83 year-old sweetheart – he’s got a quick wit and fabulous sense of humor, though he was recently widowed and sometimes seems a bit abandonded. I lived very far away from my grandfather (across the continent), and couldn’t be there to pick things up from the store for him or bring him little care packages of fresh-baked bread or homemade soup, but he had wonderful neighbours who did, and I am still so greatful to them. I really miss my grandpa, and so, one could say that there is something selfish in bringing my neighbor cookies or lemon bars (from Veganomicon, of course). I say, I’m happy to see him happy, and the Guppy loves to stop by and say hello and give him a kiss on the cheek and then laugh jokingly “oh! ça pique!” (hey! That’s prickly!). I like to check in on him and say hello, but I’m shy and need a bit of a reason to go visit. This is part of why I have really gotten into baking. If I make a batch of something, it’s far too much for my little family, so I just wrap up a portion for my cher voisin.

These are two of our favorites: Chocolate Raspberry cookies from Veganomicon and Classic Chocolate Chip from How It All Vegan.

The Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from HIAV are pretty much our standard cookie, but I had been itching to try the Chocolate Raspberry ones from VCON so this was my excuse. They are really amazing, and have quickly gained ‘favourite’ status in our home, but I found that I needed to make them much larger than the recipe suggested in order for them to be soft and chewy. When I made the first batch they rather came out like crunchy ginger-snap type things, which made my jaw hurt, and the Guppy didn’t even want to try to bite through one. I found that when I made them much bigger and thicker, though, they were fudgy-raspberry heaven.

So next time you’re baking something up, make a little extra for someone who might need a little vegan-love…

Also, please visit Endless Simmer to vote against Anthony Bourdain and vote for Hezbola Tofu (and check out all the creative & beautiful vegan make-overs of clueless Bourdain’s recipes) a rather arrogant and ignorant French chef who is giving French chefs & cuisine enthusiasts a very bad name. As a Franco-American who lives in France I would like to say that that thankfully the French are not as closed-minded as Monsieur Bourdain paints them to be. I have encountered here in France the same sorts of mixed-reception my herbivore lifestyle initiated in all the other countries I’ve ever lived in/visited.

My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

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Despite the veritable cornucopia of vegan foods available, many vegans find themselves rendering vegan many recipes from their pasts, things that we could refer to as comfort foods. Sometimes it’s a fairly easy exercise – swapping meat with a fancy rendering of tofu or seitan or tempeh – but sometimes veganizing something proves to be a wee bit more difficult, or at least, requiring a bit more imagination…

I happened upon The Daring Bakers, a fab group of blogging, whisk-wielding chefs, and realized right away that they were to offer me the challenge I was seeking : by accepting their monthly challenges, I would be forced to sharpen my vegan-baking skills, and would in the process learn how to better substitute all the things I avoid.

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Our challenge recipe was for “Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake” from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. The party cake sounded like a great, basic white cake recipe to use for birthday parties & the like, but my main task was to replace the 4 sticks of butter and 8 egg whites, and change up the cow’s milk for the soy milk. I know that there are oodles of already tried-and-true vegan cake recipes out there, but I wanted to stay as true to the real recipe as possible. I would have rather used an egg substitute like Ener-G for this particular cake because if would have helped with the “light & fluffyness” factor, but it’s unavailable where I live. I opted for ground flax seeds, which worked really well, and imparted a lovely soft “bananaish” flavour to the lemon-scented cake. I also had to cut way down on the butter – the recipe called for 1 stick – and I was really worried about the way the cake would turn out with these drastic changes, but I am happy to report it was absolutely delicious!
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As you can see from the photo, the flax did change the color of the supposed-to-be- pristine-white party cake, and yes, it was more moist & dense than light & fluffy, but we devoured it! I also obviously had to tinker with the buttercream frosting recipe as it called for eggs and butter, and I only iced the top layer of the cake because it just would have been too much for us (I also added some yellow color for a bit more festivity since we used this cake for my super-cute visiting mom’s birthday cake). The lemon flavour worked so well with the raspberry preserves and the flaked coconut, and we all had seconds (and thirds…).

I almost backed out of my first challenge because I was concerned about deviating too much from the original recipe, but I am so glad I sucked it up and dove in. It was also extra fun because my mom and I baked this up (while my usual baking partner, the Guppy, took her nap). Don’t get me wrong, I love baking with my little Guppy, but I think it was the first time I ever did a baking project with my mom!

I’d like to say thanks to this month’s challenge host Morven for taking the time to choose this wonderfully challenging recipe which gave us room to groove and move in our own individual ways!