Meal Plan Mondays & Hazelnut Sandies with Barberries

Lots of yummies on this weeks list!  But first, how about a cookie recipe?

I know you’ve been waiting for the English translation of the last Francophone Fridays post, the sablés aux noisettes aux baies de bérberies (dans la langue de Molière) or Hazelnut Sandies with barberries (in the language of Shakespeare).

When the adorable Mihl and P. finally came visit us last year, they came with loads of goodies for us to eat.  One of the special treats they lugged with them across Europe (well, from Germany to south-western France anyway) was a bag of beautiful dried barberries!  Mihl uses them in some of the many recipes she has on her blog Seitan Is My Motor, and I couldn’t wait to try them for myself!  If you’re unfamiliar with these tart Persian berries, you can read a little  over at Wiki if you’d like.

Once I had the coveted berries in my possession, I found myself  wondering what to do with the little gems.  I had too many ideas, but a limited supply of berries, and I didn’t want to squander them on just any-old recipe where dried cranberries or currents could be used.  Then, it hit me (gently, I wasn’t harmed).

We have lots of things in common, my dear Mihl and I, among which dear memories of our sweet grandmothers.  I decided to honor their memories with these cookies, heavily-inspired by one of my great-grandmother’s recipes.  These sablés (sugar cookies) or “sandies” as my great-grandmother Mary  called them, are subtle and sophisticated with a lovely duo of textures : crumbly, buttery sugar cookie and sweet and tart dried barberries.  The ground hazelnuts  add just a hint of bitterness which plays wonderfully with the brown sugar-encrusted cookies.   If you don’t have barberries, dried unsweetened cranberries would work well, though I would probably dice them up, or try dried currents.

Hazelnut Sandies with Barberries

For about 40 cookies – advance preparation required!

2 tsp Ener-g Egg Replacer

2 tbsp water

175 g non-dairy butter, room temperature

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

180 g sifted powdered sugar

300 g AP flour

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp baking powder (11 g)

120 g ground hazelnuts

110 g dried barberries (or cranberries)

4 tbsp brown sugar

1) In a large bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, baking powder and ground hazelnuts. Set aside.

2) In a small mixing bowl or in a food processor, whip the water and Ener-G until it’s frothy, at least 3 minutes.

3) With an electric mixer, cream the powdered sugar and butter until it’s light and fluffy, then add the Ener-G, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Continue mixing until well combined.

4) Now add the flour, a little at a time, then fold in the barberries.  Divide the dough in two.

5) Spread half of the brown sugar on a piece of tinfoil about 30 cm long.  Lightly flour your hands, and roll one half of the dough into a log about 20 cm long.  If you’re having a difficult time working with your dough, try dusting it with some flour, a little at a time, and it will be easier to work with.  Go with your gut, and if the dough is very sticky, just knead a little flour in until it’s “workable”.

6) Gently roll the log through the brown sugar, covering the exterior.  Add a little sugar to the foil if there are some sugar-free spots.  Roll up the log with the foil, twisting the ends shut.  Do the same with the other half of the dough, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

7) Pre-heat the oven to 175°c and prepare two cookie sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.  Gently unroll the dough and slice cookies 15mm thick, wiping the knife clean each time.  If you’re having a difficult time slicing the cookies, don’t fret!  Just cover it back up and put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes, then try again.

VIII) Bake for about 13 minutes, until they are just firm and lightly browned on the bottom.  Let them cool slightly for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Now for this week’s Meal Plan :

Monday : crêpes sucrées et salées (savory and sweet crêpes) with sautéed mushrooms and onions for the savory, and powdered sugar and lemon juice for the sweet.  So. good.

Tuesday : Risotto with mushrooms and peas, served with braised dandelion greens.

Wednesday : Polenta with garlic gravy.

Thursday : Hot & Sour Carrots and Lentils, a tester recipe for The Urban Vegan.

Friday : Pizza Night!  How I love you so…

Do you blog your weekly meal plans?  Super-cool world-traveler Vegan Snorkler  has one up today.  Let me know, I’d love to link to your plan to share the planning mojo with everyone.  And don’t forget, if you’re looking for meal plan inspiration you can visit the MPM archives.

Vegan MoFo Day 11 : Mihl’s Birthday Cake & Community

Blogging began for me as a way to flex my activist muscles and say what I wanted to say about social justice (and injustice), feminism and veganism (aren’t they all intertwined?  Obviously!).  I was looking not only to make my voice heard, but also to find other voices out there in the dark, who shared the same ideals and values that I held close to my heart.  And in the case of veganism, to my tummy.

Community.  What I found was that in a very short time after I began blogging, there was this amazing, joyful, enthusiastic group of vegan bloggers who had so much to share with the world, and prove time and again to be the most generous folks I’ve ever met.  People who started out as casual commentors on my blog have become genuine friends – people who I email and tweet with and  who know more about my “real life” than my family!  These friendships have gotten me through some terribly tough times, and have also celebrated with me when things were going great.

One the bloggers I consider a real friend is Mihl of Seitan is My Motor, and when she mentioned considering visiting the south of France it was obvious that she and P. would  come stay with us.  Like an exteno-meet-up that lasted several days!

It’s funny, because when we were all hanging out – be it at breakfast over coffee or when discussing the world after dinner – it felt like Mihl and I had been friends for ages and were simply catching up, not really getting to know one another.  We were having so much fun, we actually made them stay an extra day!  Guppy wanted to keep them hostage in the bat cave (aka the spare bedroom where M. Fish hides out attacking virtual zombies) forever, but we’ll content ourselves with another visit!

Ms. Mihl doesn’t make much to-do about her birthday, and so she was very surprised I’d remembered it was her special day just before her visit.  Guppy and I just made a simple chocolate birthday cake from my grandma Mary’s cookbook (more on this soon).  It’s a “war cake” or “crazy cake”, a naturally vegan chocolate cake.  I promised her the recipe, and I don’t think Grandma Mary would mind if I shared it with you!

Mihl’s Birthday Cake

This is a thick, moist, fudgy chocolate cake that looks more like a chocolate tourte than a cake.  I chose to bake it in a 28cm round pan, but if you’d like a more traditional chocolate cake, bake it in a 23cm pan.  You can also double the recipe to make a layer cake.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup sugar

generous pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond extract

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon apple cider or white vinegar

1 cup cold water

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c/350°f and oil your cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Make a well in the middle and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix until just combined with a wooden spoon (well, any spoon, but I use wooden. meh.) and pour into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 30mins, or until a tooth pick inserted in the centre comes clean.

When it’s ready, carefully remove the cake from the pan and let it cool upside down on a wire cooling rack (if it sticks to the pan, just run a knife along the edges to loosen).  Let cool completely before frosting.

Easy Powdered Sugar Icing

About 350g powdered sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp flavour extract of choice

a little non-dairy milk

Pour the sugar into a bowl.  Add the lemon juice and extract and stir vigorously with a fork until it becomes smooth.  If it’s not thin enough, just add some non-dairy milk (I use soy), a teaspoon at a time, until you’ve reached desired consistency.  Carefully spread onto cake.  If you’re getting crumbs in your frosting, just add a very thin layer of the icing, don’t worry, put it in the fridge to harden a little.  Then just frost over the frosting layer.  See? All better!

Surprisingly, we two passionate food bloggers didn’t take much in the way of pictures.  I think we were too busy talking!  Go figure.  Mihl does have a snap shot over at her blog today, so go see!  Next time I make this cake I promise to update with a photo.

What I did take pictures of are some of the goodies she brought me from Dresden!

Speculos cookies, pumpkin & flax seeds (which I’m having trouble finding since the move) and wine!  Wee!  Guess that’s why we forgot to take pictures of our food!  She also brought me chocolate and jam, but that is for another post…

Now go spread some blog love, kids!