Vegan MoFo Day 26 – Halloween Treats, BBQ Treats, Blondie Treats! (No tricks, kids).

BOO!

Are these not the cutest ever? Originating with the Celts around 2000 years ago, Halloween has remained a mostly anglo-saxon holiday, moving to some of the various colonised countries with the colonizers. Despite various marketing attempts, it is not really celebrated in France. In Paris and in some more anglophone cities you can find stores selling decorations and goodies, but they are more and more the exception and not the rule. Imagine my joy when walking in front of my favorite little chocolaterie with Guppy the other day…the front window was decorated with Halloween treats galore! The ghosts and pumpkins really caught my eye, and when we walked in and I told the owner how I loved the window display she offered right away, “You know, I’m pretty sure the ghosts and pumpkins are dairy-free!” She then swiftly went in the back to consult her notes and confirmed with glee, “They are made with an almond paste, but it’s no dairy.” Yeah. Ok lady, twist my arm.

I’ve decided to dedicate Vegan MoFo to trying yet untried recipes in my (small) collection of cookbooks. I came across the “BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich” in VCON and thought, hey, I can swing this, I even have tempeh in the fridge! Yes, that’s right, I said tempeh. We’ve been eating a great deal of seitan around here lately, so I decided that this sandwich would be just as yummy with tempeh, and by golly it was! (Says the Shellyfish channeling a 1950′s teen). I never buy vegan mayo, so I just sort of fudged the dressing for the slaw with plain soy yogurt (which I usually do for slaw dressing and it’s just fine), but I did make the “Backyard BBQ Sauce” from VCON. My stand-by sauce is the BBQ from New Farm, so I felt a little guilty, but it was worth the infidelity because this sauce was rather scrummy. I just put the pre-fried tempeh in a baking dish with the BBQ sauce for about half an hour. Ding. We piled the sandwich goodness on some fresh baguette and dinner was served!

These beauties are the “Butterscotch Blondies” from Ricki’s soon-to-be-published Sweet Freedom. They are some of the best blondies I’ve ever tasted – decadent, rich…

All this Sweet Freedom deliciousness is really spoiling me! Luckily I’m a bit of a distance runner, otherwise I would have to make some new pants! Ricki, you are a recipe-writing genius.

Vegan MoFo Day 14 – Tea Cakes, anyone?

Make that Orange Raisin Tea Cakes, kids. Being a recipe tester for Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs is one of the most fun “jobs” I’ve ever had in my entire life! She’s hip, she vegan, and her recipes somehow defy all scientific logic and allow for the creation of decadant “this is a treat” goodies with humble, healthy ingredients.

These Tea Cakes are moist, rich, delicious, and have this aeromatic Orangey-Raisin thing happening. M. Fish was napping his afternoon away when the aroma roused him from our room and drew him to the kitchen where he asked eyebrows raised, expectantly, “qu’est-ce que tu fais?” , “What ‘ca doin’?”

This was one of the fastest “baked goods” type recipes I have ever put together. These would be just the right thing for a last minute brunch or breakfast treat, or for to have with your quatre heures or afternoon tea. I drizzeled a little orange glaze on some, but kept some plain. These were all gobbled down in mere moments.

I already have these on my “to make” list for next weekend…a nice, fresh from the oven Saturday morning wake-up treat. Gives a girl something to look forward to!

You can check out Sweet Freedom – the blog – for a peek at all the mouth-watering VEGAN treats to come!

Vegan MoFo Day 3 – We Have Our Winners! We Have Cookies!

VeganMoFo is rocking the blogosphere, people! I can see it’s going to be hard to keep up with all this MoFo love… but hey, that’s a good thing, right? We need to take over the Web with our Vegan Loving Kindness the way that an Evil Imperialst Empire would take over and occupy another country…but, you know, we come bearing cupcakes, cookies and seitan, not bombs, guns and god.

So first, the cookies :

I’m thrilled to be a test baker for the ever-classy Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs, who is publishing a delicious cook book Sweet Freedom. These cookies were amazing! They smelled so good I hardly was able to get a picture of them! Why? Remember me mentioning my in-laws being chez nous for a visit last week? After I took these beauties out of the oven, my adorable brother-in-law was standing on one side of the table with the serving platter, and M. Fish on the other side, and they were both snatching cookies to bring out to the living room to serve – making a photo-op nearly impossible!

The CMCC Cookies were deep, decadent, rich, and GONE after our goûter – I’d hoped to freeze some for later, but there was nothing left but some lonely little crumbs. My brother & sister-in-law are generally not big on sweets, but they asked me to make another batch before they left! I of course obliged (twist my arm). They also loved the lasagne I made from VCON. Let’s not forget, these people gave me carte blanche in their kitchen when we stayed with them near Toulouse last Spring – they weren’t really sure how to cook for a vegan, so they let me run the cuisine. They are très cool.

And now, for the winners of the cute felty-love pouches…

I wrote down everyone’s first name and put them in a hat – M. Fish pulled out the following 3 lucky winners (I know I initially said only 2, but I’m such a softie) :

Liz aka Veggie Girl and Mihl from Seitan Is My Motor and the aforementioned Ricki! (The fact that he loved your cookies had no sway. He didn’t know your name or anything like that!). I’m so excited for you! I wish I had more time (and more of a fabric stash) to make more gifts for everyone. I’m so glad M. Fish accepted to help me, because I’m so lame when it comes to choosing “winners” (and grading, too…). I’ll be doing another gift-away before the holidays because it just makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside – and because I wuv you all so much!

So ladies email me your addresses post haste…well, you can take your time. I’m in bed, slammed with another evil sinus infection, so, I won’t be getting these off to you for a few days… and if you have any suggestions for dealing with the sinus infections, please please share! I don’t eat dairy for pete’s sake, this shouldn’t be happening! I never, ever had sinus infections, then last fall I had about three or four (or just the same one) from September till late December. Any help/suggestions would be appreciated!

I’m just crackers for the Inaugural “Alternative” Daring Bakers Challenge!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered into my little drawing for a felty-love pouch! You have until Oct. 1st!

This has been my most exciting Daring Bakers Challenge yet! Why, you ask? Because I got to be a “hostess-with-the-mostest!” (Have any of you seen Spinal Tap? Oh, wasted youth, how I miss thee…). Oh, and because we got to chose our recipe, I wasn’t confronted with subbing 27 eggs, because the recipe was VEGAN! Ha! It was also possible to do a Gluten Free variation, because darn it, we’re Alternative, and we’re worth it! :

When the gracious and talented Natalie of Gluten A Go Go asked me to co-host with her I was wonderfully surprised and terribly flattered. I’m a baby Daring Baker, and my inaugural Challenge, veganizing Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, was my first real brush with a baking disaster (luckily my second attempt at Daringness was a success and my Tofu Cheesecake Pops rocked the casaba). It was during this second challenge that I “met” Natalie (during our Alternative Bake-Along) and started visiting her blog on a regular basis.

Working with Natalie on this project was pure joy! We were in sync from the very beginning, knowing we wanted to move away from the sticky-sweet challenges we’ve seen of late (though I love sweet, and I can’t wait for the next sugar-filled challenge!). There was also this bread vibe that passed between us, and from the beginning we moved towards baking bread or crackers, and Natalie suggested adding dips and spreads to the mix. We also knew that we wanted an easily convertible recipe so that our GF and Vegan Bakers wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel!

Natalie mentioned Peter Reinhart, and I took advantage of my State-Side vacation to pick up his phenomenal (IMHO) book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which was, without exaggeration, life-changing for me! I couldn’t put it down, and fell deeper and deeper in love with the glossy photos of his venerable chef d’oeuvres. As a very new baker, I was reminded of my early ballet career and seeing the Bolshoi Ballet for the very first time – W-O-W! Once the two of us were armed with Apprentice, we were baking to beat the band : trying different recipes for their GF or Vegan-friendliness, trying to find the perfect fit between a clear, structured recipe, and the possibility to bake outside of the box and add one’s own creative stamp to the Challenge.

After baking many a bread, we decided on the Lavash Crackers (recipe at the end of this post), for their adaptability, their deliciousness, and their utility (everyone should make their own crackers at least once, right?). We sincerely hoped that because of the different toppings possibilities, the dough add-ins such as herbs or spices, and of course the multitude of GF and Vegan dips or spreads to accompany them with, that this challenge could truly be yours, so that it would be a pleasure to make as well as to eat!

I want to thank Natalie for allowing me this opportunity for culinary collaboration, something I’d never done before. I felt like I was in school again working on a project with a friend, and the many emails we shared over the summer months fine tuning our ideas were rich and entertaining. It’s thanks to my fellow Daring Baker that I discovered Reinhart and his fabulous book, and I’ve learned so many new things and become all the richer for it. Thanks also go out to our co-founders Lis and Yvonne, who gave us the green light for our idea, and who have made the blogosphere a much more tasty place to be! Thank you!

I’ve made these crackers five times since we decided on the recipe. I have made savory and sweet versions, once adding dried basil and rosemary to the savory dough and another time I added all spice and vanilla for a sweet version. I’ve rolled the dough thicker for a pita-like bread, and much thinner, more crackly crackers. I broke them apart to make shards, cut them into pita triangles, and used cookie cutters. I’m thrilled to have this recipe in my repertoire, and I hope you are, too!

You might be wondering why there are no pictures of my dips? Well, mostly because I just forgot to take them! I’m sorry, I was so concentrating on the cracker-aspect of the Challenge! I made hummus, homemade salsa, Thai Almond dip, Smokey Black Bean dip, and I don’t remember what else. I think because I make these things so often, they just didn’t seem very photo-worthy…?

I think what I most enjoyed (besides eating the crackers), was this Challenge (hopefully) helped dispel some of the clichés surrounding what “Vegan” means – often people have a rather reductionist vision of what we eat, and they think we dine on soy 3 times a day, and supplement with twigs and berries (ok, maybe not!), but my family doesn’t really eat much soy at all, and when we do, it’s usually in the form of tempeh (so less processed). Our diets consist of a vast variety of foods, mostly veggies, fruits, and grains…and desserts, too! So many of what are considered “comfort foods” in North America are vegan – chips & salsa, PB & J, and if you’re ever in France, stop by my place for a vegan apple pie – you’ll NEVER know the difference! There was a spirit of curiosity buzzing about the forums, and I was so proud to be a member of this Daring community where my fellow Bakers took the Challenge to heart and sincerely moved outside of their comfort zones (the way the Alternative Bakers do, too!).

Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to pre-cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Mini-Cupcakes, Crafty Love & More!

Hola Everyone! First off, a change… Raw Tuesdays will now be…Raw Thursdays! So stay tuned tomorrow for that! My new schedule make a Thursday raw day a little easier, so there you go!

I picked up a mini-cupcake pan when I was in the U.S. and we’ve been enjoying the mini-cupcake love, let me tell you! They are the perfect size, because you feel much less guilty about eating two (or three) when they are tiny! Above are some Lemon Cupcakes with lemon royal icing and below, the Basic Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache icing from VCTOTW.

Friday we had a bunch of friends over for the apéro or cocktails…but it was a well-fed apéro :

Homemade salsa & fresh-baked pita triangles

(I didn’t make the tortilla chips, hélas, but I’ll get that figured out eventually…)

Homemade roasted-garlic hummus

Diann posted about these Samosa Potatoes from VCON recently & I thought they would be a great finger-food – and they were! I doubled the batch, and good thing I did because they disappeared almost right away! I admit to not following the recipe and making my own curry paste… not pictured is the soy yogurt & fresh coriander sauce I made to dunk them in.

The other thing not pictured are the 45 spring rolls I made! Don’t ask me how I forgot to take a picture of them…they took me so long to prepare!

And isn’t this cute?

You already know I’m an Aranzi Aranzo fan, so no surprises here! I aquired their Cute Stuff book this summer, and this felt bag really caught me eye. I added a liner, because it just looks way better with one. I’m really playing with the basic design of this bag and am coming up with some really cute ideas, but need some time to get them together! I really love their style, and find their ideas so inspiring – a great jumping off point for me to make my own things!

Daring Bakers Challenge – Faster Than A Vegan Éclair!

I LOVED this challenge!

Naked Éclair

Yep, the incredibly delicious Vegan Éclairs that were the August Daring Bakers Challenge disappeared “faster than lightening” or faster than an éclair, if you will. This month’s ever-so-lovely hosts Tony Tahhan and Meeta K of What’s For Lunch Honey? gave us a little French flavah by proposing Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé from Chocolate Desserts by Dorie Greenspan.

These little gems were so amazing…I can’t remember the last time I had an éclair, but if my memory is at all correct, they were right on! Mr. Fish who is an éclair expert, proclaimed that I should probably make another batch for him to taste to be sure of their authenticity… because the first batch just sort of disappeared! He loved them, Guppy loved them, and I loved them. They were light, flaky, and just perfect! I know I’ll be making these again…

I know, they look way more like profiteroles than éclairs, mais ça m’est égale! I don’t care! I wanted to make bite-sized éclairs, which explains their look. There had to be at least one chocolate component, either the glaze or the pastry cream or both. I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate pastry cream, so I opted for lemon custard instead. Rather than pipe in the scrumptious pastry cream, I sliced them in half to allow for generous helpings of cream, and made little éclair sandwiches. For the glaze I made a chocolate-lemon royal icing, and the lemon and chocolate really paired well together.

I would like to extend a huge thanks to Catherine of Food Snob for sharing the vegan éclair recipe she found – Merci Catherine! Tu es adorable! The recipe which follows is so fast and easy. I made the pastry cream and the glaze while the éclairs were in the oven and I think the entire challenge took me a mere hour and some change (with the “help” of my 3-year-old) which was a nice little break from the very elaborate challenges we’ve had of late (which I also like, but hey, quick & delicious is good, too, right?).

Don’t forget to check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll to see all the éclair goodness out there!

Vegan Éclairs

1 batch custard or pastry cream (I used the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking).

1 batch chocolate glaze (I used the Royal Icing recipe also from TJOVB but added 3 tbsp of dutch processed cocoa powder)

Ingredients (use vegan versions):
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or baking powder) – I used 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons margarine
equivalent of 4 eggs (2 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whipped until stiff with 1/3 cup water)
1 cup soy milk

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare baking sheet–either parchment paper or a non-stick pan. Prepare egg-replacer. Stir together flour, vegan sugar, salt, cream of tartar. In a sauce pan (non-stick works well), bring the soymilk and margarine to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the flour all at once, and reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the pan and the spoon and is glossy and smooth. Working quickly, remove from heat and add the Ener-G Egg Replacer, about a third at a time, beating well after each addition until the dough is glossy, smooth, and pulls away from the pan.

Shape the puffs as desired–I made mini-puffs about a rounded teaspoon each. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 for another 10 minutes, then turn off oven and allow to cool, with door slightly cracked for another 20 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks before serving or filling.

Iron Cupcake World – Inaugural Challenge : Chili-Citrus Cupcakes con Orange Confit


This is the first-ever Iron Cupcake Earth challenge, and when I saw that our challenge ingredient was Chili, I was immediately transported from my provençial French home to the warm, lush city of Guadalajara, Mexico. (Ok, I don’t have some sort of monopoly on teleportation, I meant in my mind.) During my graduate work at the University of Arizona I promised myself I’d participate in their Summer in Guadalajara program where you get to hang out in one of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities in the gorgeous country of Mexico, take in the culture by living with a host family, and hablo & estudiar by taking Spanish classes. After a few years of living near the Mexican boarder and taking the odd Spanish class I was really excited to actually experience Mexico in an authentic way, rather than just heading with friends Puerto Peñasco and hanging out at the taco stand & lounging on the beach all weekend…

I lucked out and lived with a really lovely family for six weeks, soaking up all the culture & cuisine possible. My family had four daughters, ranging in ages from 10 to 24 and they were as diverse as could be and made my time with their family truly memorable. One of our favourite snacks when I was there was squirting fresh lime or orange juice onto watermelon hunks, then dusting with chili powder. It was heavenly. We would also do this with a very dense sort of a corn-flour lightly-sweetened chocolate cake which my Señora said was just a mistake she once made making a traditional cake but became a family favourite. I didn’t ask her for the recipe – don’t forget, up until about 2 years ago I didn’t even have a stove! I didn’t cook or bake, so I didn’t yet have that reflex. I hadn’t thought of those chili-spicy-sweet-tangy snacks in forever, and knew my mission was to embody the spirit of that délice in my cupcake.

I can’t get masa flour here in France, and it is a very special day when I can find real cornmeal, so I was a little stumped on how to recreate the texture of my host-Señora’s chocolate cakes, but looked up and saw a jar of almond meal on my shelves and had a moment of union with the universe! I started jotting down the draft for the cupcake recipe, but how to infuse it with the sweet tang of the citrus? Well, let’s get zesty! With my trusty zester in hand I got giggy with some limes & oranges, but a piece of the equation was missing… des orangettes! Or candied oranges or oranges confits! However you say it, it’s what I had in my imagination. I’d never even thought of trying to make something like that, but I did have a big, beautiful bowl of oranges on my kitchen table…

The Iron Cupcake Challenge really became a true challenge for me. I have but rarely created a pastry recipe, generally relying on my favourites from my cookbooks. I felt like some sort of vegan pastry explorer and it was thrilling. I also really got my kicks making the orangettes – if someone a few years ago told me I’d be hootin’ it up on a Friday night making candied oranges I’d have said “balderdash!”, but there you go. It was surprisingly gratifying seeing how well they turned out, and how easy they were to make. I was as giddy as a teenager who sees her high school crush (this could have been from the Saint Emilion I was sipping though…). I am thrilled to say in all sincerity that these cupcakes were (cause they are so gone) amazing, some of the best I’ve ever, ever made. I did end up making two batches to try to get the right amount of chili pepper taste, but both batches were delicious – the first one only had the slightest hint of heat. It was the texture that really had me bluffed – the almond meal gave these cakes this wonderful mouth-feel that allowed for a very light and airy crumb, but a more toothsome bite. The frosting was also just perfect (if you love chocolate…). They have a very complex flavour, but not a “bite”. My 3-year-old loved them and wasn’t overwhelmed by the spice at all.

Following are the recipes you need to recreate this deliciousness. After that is some voting info if you’d like to vote me into the upper-class of Iron Cupcake Challengeness & help me maybe win a prize. The prizes are pretty sweet : the talented CAKESPY is contributing, as is JESSIE STEELE APRONS, CUPCAKE COURIER, and TASTE OF HOME. I really like prizes, just sayin’…

Chili-Citrus Cupcakes con Orange Confit

1 batch Candied Oranges for garnish. The recipe I used is here. I blanched the orange zest three times. Reserve 2 tbsp of your syrup for frosting.

1 batch Double-Chocolate Chili-Citrus Frosting (see below)

Cupcakes

1 C. AP flour

1/2 C. Almond Meal

1/2 C. Dutch Processed Coco

1/4 C. Brown Sugar

1/4 C. Xylitol

1/2 C. Sugar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Cardamom

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon Salt

Up to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne (a 1/4 teaspoon will still give you a little a good dose of chili spirit)

1 tablespoon Lime Zest

1 tablespoon Orange Zest

3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer

1 Cup Soymilk

1/3 Cup plus 2 tablespoons Canola Oil

1 teaspoon Almond extract

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

* Using an electric mixer, blend the egg replacer until well-blended and frothy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

* Sift all the dry ingredients EXCEPT the almond meal in a large mixing bowl. After sifted, stir in the almond meal.

*Add the remaining wet ingredients and the citrus zests to the egg replacer and mix well, then add the dry ingredients in two or three batches and mix until well blended.

*Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 15 to 20 mins. at 350F. Watch carefully if you use the Xylitol because it can be sneaky and burn up on you.

Frosting

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy margarine, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cups Dutch Processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon Cayenne (opt.)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange extract

1 teaspoon lime zest

2 tablespoons orange sugar syrup (from candied oranges)

1 or 2 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk, as needed to thin frosting

*Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa, and Cayenne together and set aside. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, then add the sugar mixture in two or three batches until fluffyness has been regained. Then add your extracts, syrup, and milk/water if necessary.

*Frost cupcakes, decorate with the orangettes, and lightly dust with cinnamon.

And….We’re Back!

After wrapping up my long & lovely vacation in the U – S – of – A I am now back chez moi with my adorable Mr. Fish and am trying to sort through weeks of mail, suitcases, and adjust to the Guppy’s maladjustment to the time difference between France & North America! It was amazing to see my family who I just don’t get to hang with all that often, but I am SO excited to be home! It was so wonderful to see the Guppy bond with my family, and despite maintaining my 40-mile-a-week running average, I still managed to pack on nearly 2kg which I believe are primarily composed of pinto beans, green chilés and blue corn chips (all North American indulgences I just can’t easily find here!). Once I get my poop in a group I’ll have more food & fun to share…but for now here’s a little peek at what became my family’s favourite sweet treat.

Maybe you were abducted by aliens, or perhaps, simply suffering from what is referred to as “missing time”, but if you missed Melisser’s Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with lovely video over at Julie Hasson’s Everyday Dish, well…get on over there kids! This cobbler was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I loved that it was more fruit-heavy than batter-heavy. Since I was sans cookie-cutters, but wanted to do something fun with the biscuits, I went with the Flying Saucer theme, because I’m a nerd…

One very fun thing about being on vacation near health food supermarket type stores meant I got to indulge in some vegan ice cream! The only vegan ice cream I ever eat is usually what I make myself (in that artisans non-ice cream maker way), but being on vacation I opted for the easy way out with some Soy Delicious vanilla, which complemented our U.F.Os :

I know I’ll make this for Mr. Fish once I shake off the jet-lag because I’m such a sweetie. It has nothing to do my wanting some. Of course.

An “Out-Of-The-Country” Daring Bakers July Challenge – *Vegan* Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

As most of you know I’m away from home for a smashing summer vacation in the U.S. visiting family. When the lovely and talented Chris of Mele Cotte, this month’s hostess-with-the-mostest, posted her chosen recipe, the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carol Walter, well, I hesitated. Not being in my own kitchen at home in France (which is the size of a typical American broom closet…but it’s my broom closet.) I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. When you’re home you know what’s in your cupboard, what pans and supplies you have, and where it all is.

The other consideration I had was that my “loaner” kitchen was not at all vegan, and that meant having to stock up on cruelty-free staples, but I would have had to do that anyway since I was planning on spending the better part of my six-week stay here (the house, not the kitchen). I didn’t want to miss a challenge, so I decided I would figure this out and not explode my vacation budget.

While this recipe could seem a bit daunting initially, it’s really just composed of several mini-recipes : Filbert Genoise, Sugar Syrup, Praline Buttercream (comprised of Swiss Buttercream & Praline Paste), Apricot Glaze, and finally, the Ganache Glaze. The good news was that my sister sent over some homemade raspberry jam, so I used that for the glaze rather than apricot. The bad news was that there was but one “cake” pan to be found, a 9×12″ jobber that wouldn’t do for this challenge. I had already purchased some 4″ round mini-pans to bring back to France (after falling for the adorable ones Marika showed us) and that was the extent of my pan-purchasing-power, so I decided to make mini-cakes to keep me in the game.

I used the “Vanilla Cupcakes” recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking for the Genoise, subbing a half-cup of hazelnut meal for a half-cup of flour. This recipe worked like a charm and these little babies popped right out of their pans.

I knew I had too much batter for my five little pans (which explains why they look like muffins!) but I cut off the tops and made mini-cakes for our quatre heures or afternoon tea, served with some of that raspberry jam!

The next step was to make the Praline Buttercream, and it was by far my favourite part of the recipe, and the best part of the cake! It was very fun to make (see full instructions included with the NON-VEGAN recipe at bottom of post). A cinch to make, the Praline Paste is just a sort of caramelized sugar with chopped hazel nuts mixed in (knowing I didn’t have a food processor in loaner kitchen, I opted to chop them before making the paste). I was fascinated by just pouring sugar into a pan and watching (without touching) as it melted into molten caramelish goo. Once the right temperature achieved, the transformation is über-fast, and it’s easy to be taken by surprise!

I took these two pictures sequentially, it melted that fast! I also ended up with a nasty burn on my index finger (despite Chris warning this could happen…). Sort of like wax. Oh well, I got extra cake rations for my suffering :)!

After cooling, you’re to grind this delectable rubble into the Praline Paste, but since we are sans food processor here at the loaner kitchen, I just whipped it in the blender, which did leave a more crunchy paste, but it was lovely and added a little something to the cake (I used the Buttercream recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking).

I really ran into trouble when trying to make the Ganache, and was rather frustrated because I have loads of vegan ganache recipes at home, but not here. I used soy creamer, which I know from fellow vegan bloggers usually works well, but I just couldn’t get my ganache to thicken or harden up enough to spread on the cake. It was delicious, but thin as water, even after spending a long time in the fridge. It was in the high 90sF here, which didn’t help, but still. I ended up using the reserved buttercream which I was to use for decorating and added it to the ganache, which did indeed thicken it up. I still was determined to decorate these little cakes, though, so I made a batch of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting from TJOVB , but subbed hazelnut butter for the peanut butter. Holy Amazing Delicious! I intended to use this to embellish the cakes… but again, I don’t have anything to decorate with. I read on-line that using baggies or plastic bags could work well. This is a big, fat, horrible lie, just so you know! Each of my attempts were met with terrible failure as the seams split and the frosting oozed out. I decided to not fight the universe and just do what I could to finish up and dig in…

Cacao powder sprinkled on top & frosting bag explosion.

I tried to save the glopped decorating frosting by making a border around the bottom…

I don’t think I’ll ever make this one again, but I know that I’ll make the Praline Paste Buttercream, it’s just just that freaking good!! Amazing, really. The three little cakes disappeared in little over 24 hours, so that’s generally a rather positive sign!

Here’s the original recipe – again, NON-VEGAN – just to be clear…

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

I love my job! End of the year goodies & parties! J’adore mon boulot! Petites fêtes avant les vacances avec gourmandises!

NB: Just a quick yet sincere thanks to everyone who left me such kind comments on this post! You all really made my day! I’m not ready for Etsy yet (it hadn’t even occurred to me) but now you’ve got me thinking!

It’s that time of year : Summer Vacation! Before putting away our textbooks and red pens and breaking out the SPF 200 and beach towels, we need to have a little fun, and with the Shellyfish that means some tasty vegan fun! I’ll warn you now, I could have sub-titled this entry : The Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero French Ad Campaign… with a little plug for ma chérie, the polyglot and chef extrordinaire, Céline.

One of my jobs is teaching Adult English Conversation Classes. I absolutely love my job & my students this year who were all fabulous, intelligent, witty and groovy women with lots of different experiences and talents to share. I also love parties. Cool chicks + party = :)

Un de mes boulots est d’animer des cours de conversation anglaise. J’adore mon travail et surtout mes élèves qui cette année étaient des femmes géniales, intelligentes, avec beaucoup d’esprit et de classe qui avaient toutes des expériences et des talents variés à partager. Des filles très cool + une fête = :)

Ce n’est pas une fête sans champagne!

Des jeunes filles en fleur!

I made these Chocolate & Raspberry cookies from Veganomicon, though I used some of my homemade strawberry jam instead. These are some of our favourite cookies, though I make these much bigger than called for (I’m such a rebel) and cut down on the cooking time a little so I end up with a very chewy, almost gâteau fondant centre, and a lightly crisp outside. Divine!

After raving about the glory of the Snickerdoodle (because it is virtually unknown here en france), I was obliged to also bring some of Céline’s Veg-Times Redoux Snickerdoodles. I actually had to make three batches because Mr. Fish kept sneaking them and I didn’t have enough to bring with me (I of course didn’t sneak any, ahem.)! If you haven’t made these yet, don’t. I mean it. Once you make them, you’ll fall in love with them and will be making them all the time. You won’t be able to stop yourself! These are seriously our most favouritest cookie of all time ever in the entire galaxy!

And because peanut butter anything is considered inherently North American, I always try to reinforce those stereotypes with some “Big Gigantoid Peanut butter Cookies” from Vegan With A Vengeance (yes these are the same cookies as here – I made a ton!). These are usually the cookies I make for folks here in France who declare “eeww, I don’t like peanut butter!”. I sneak these babies in and they usually really like them and then we have a little laugh about clichés, stereotypes, the North American’s and their peanut butter, the French and their Nutella…it’s all good!

before

after

While there are many culinary differences between France and North America (I need to do a post on that sometime), one fundamental difference is SUGAR (and snacking, and junk food, and ice cream consumption… I really need to do a post on this!). When I started getting my baking groove on about a year or so ago, I’d make my vegan buttercream and be all thrilled about it, but Mr. Fish who is most definitely a gourmand (that’s a polite French way of saying that he is incapable of controlling himself when faced with all that is delicious) can’t take it. Same for fudge! This is also one of the main reasons that as a country the French are collectively much thinner and remain in far better health until a far more advanced age, despite the heavy consumption of fats (also the snacking…). Anyway, all that to say I wanted to make a fun cupcake sans frosting and not too too sweet, so I made the Agave cupcakes from VCTOTW. This was the first time I made them and they were great! Very moist and a little heavier than the traditional cupcake, though this also could have been due to the fact that after baking up a storm for the Open House I was out of cupcake liners!

I had more cute pics of my lovely students, but as I mentioned, I had an evil happening with the technology and lost a host of pictures… hélas.