Birthday Recap Time, Kids!

Thank you from the bottom of my little vegan heart for all of your love, electronic and virtual well wishes and other forms of birthday cheer. Birthdays are generally a very big deal for us- we normally celebrate “Birthday Girl (or Boy) Week”, but it’s been a bumpy little time here in Fishland, and my birthday was all but brushed under the rug – until some super friends and blogging buddies like YOU came along to make me feel all special and stuff. I won’t blather on, just know that I feel so grateful for you all. (Snif, snif).

It wouldn’t be a birthday without cake, right?

vwav-carrot-cake

This scrumptious carrot cake from Vegan With A Vengeance has been all over the blogosphere of late. I’m usually a lemon cake or tofu cheese cake kind of gal, but when I saw Virginia’s carrot cake from VWAV last week, I gave into the peer pressure. Know why I’ve never made it? I can’t find vegan cream cheese here, and I didn’t want to make it without “right” frosting! Sillyfish. I opted for an almond & coconut buttercream, which wasn’t too shabby. I added about 1/2 cup crushed pineapple to the cake (because for me, if a carrot cake is sans pineapple, it’s just a wanna-be) and used a little less pineapple juice – it worked out just splendidly!

Now for the gifts!

stylish-dress1

I asked Monsieur Fish for this Japanese Couture book from Pomodor24 (Highly recommend her! She has a shop on Etsy, too). He seemed incredulous and felt obliged to remind me I don’t read Japanese, but when I insisted that I’d be able to understand the diagrams and patterns, and that many other stitchy folks who lacked the Japanese skillz managed to sew some beautiful dresses from this book so why not me, he did acquiesce (though I didn’t know it! I was indeed a happysurprisedfish when I opened the mail). Look at how beautiful some of these are!

stylish-dress2

stylish-dress3

Now I just need to find me some perdy fabric and I will be all over this! That being said, have any of you made anything from this book? Cause, you know, it’s in Japanese! Ahem. I’ll figure it out, duh! (whispers: but you can email me if you’ve made something so I can see it on your blog & bug you with questions, right?). Whew.

And you need these to cut fabric for a new dress, right?

moms-gift

My sweet parents sent me these! They actually came in a few days before my birthday (meaning I’ve been able to use them) and man, they cut through four layers of cordoroy like non-dairy buttah, baby! Just shows you, getting by with any old tool is possible, but using the right tool for the job makes it so much easier!

I also received two very surprise gifts which made me feel so special!

new-crewel1A book, the new crewel : Excuisite Designs in Contemporary Embroidery by Katherine Shaughnessy. I made my way to the mail box thinking I’d find the light bill, but instead was this lovely book sent by my sweet friend Natalia!

crewel2

crewel3

My other suprise gift was a book card! Everybody’s favourite Texas Vegan Mum Krys, and her Two Vegan Boys, Arthur and Adam sent me a gift certificate so I can treat myself to one of my very favourite things – a book!

I am so moved by the friendships that have grown out of our little blogging community, and Natalia and Krys, you are both so special to me! And you made me feel special – hey, come on, group hug everyone! Thank you!

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? Celine’s Amazing Quiches

Before the fantastical deliciousness, just a reminder :

woyopracmoIt’s never too late to join in the yoga fun!

One does need sustenance in order to properly practice yoga, n’est-ce pas? Good thing there is so much deliciousness to chose from amongst the test recipes for Celine and Joni’s 500 Vegan Recipes! Honestly, the most difficult thing about being a tester (oh, woe is me) is deciding what to make.

I took advantage of our last lazy holiday Sunday to fix a lovely Sunday dinner. The crazy unusually cold temps seemed to suggest we make a big ole late lunch and stay in our jammies : -5c was the high!?! What the heck is up with that? I know, that doesn’t sound like much for some of you, but we are just not equipped for that kind of cold!

celinesquiche

I made some cheater green rice (thawed frozen spinach tossed in with rice), and a green salad to round out the meal. I hardly was able to snap a photo as the Fish School was starving!

These quiches are the easiest I’ve ever made – and the most convincing, too. This isn’t the first time I’ve made these. Monsieur Fish, not terribly loquacious, has requested them 3 times over the past month!

The first time I made these he didn’t get in until well after the dinner hour. I’d just left everything out so he could help himself, and he actually had to wake me up to ask me if I’d decided to start eating eggs! He thought they were that authentic tasting! Let me reassure you, no eggs were cracked in the making of these babies!

Food : Then & Now

Then:

Since so many of you kids out there in blogland are foodies – vegan & omni alike – I thought you may enjoy this. (I think it’s freaking fascinating and can’t stop wasting spending time reading it) . Check out this Food Timeline that Kelly of Eat Make Read posted. I don’t want anyone getting their vegan organic cotton panties in a bunch over the accuracy of the site – for me it’s purely for entertainment purposes, or perhaps a good starting off point for further research. I just think it’s terribly interesting to connect the dots of our genetic histories and food choices. I also think it would be wonderfully interesting to run a timeline of the apparition of “affluenza-esque” diseases parallel to this one. The introduction (and government-produced propaganda for the marketing) of sugar really marks some interesting changes in the ways we lived and died. Now excuse me while I eat another sugar cookie. Ahem.

Oh, and I’m also thinkin’ that I should be eating whole rice and millet more often, since they are just some of the most ancient grains regularly consumed meaning our bods have the technology to utilise them proficiently. And they rock.

Just sayin’.

Now :

Speaking of some great grains…

couscous-stuffed-shrooms

Curry Couscous Stuffed Mushrooms served with Red Wine Carrots.

I know, another washed-out photo on a food blog! How original! But get over it, because this meal goes down in the history books of deliciousness. (For a vegan I am awfully cheesy, don’t you think?). These carrots disappeared so quickly that I think for the first time ever in the history of the world I was reprimanded for not having made enough veg for dinner. Yeah, that good. Oh, and they have red wine in them. We all know how I feel about red wine.

And the schrooms? Out of this beloved galaxy my friends. I wish I could tell you what kind I used, but I can’t. Not because it’s top secret, but because Monsieur F has been negotiating the shopping since “My Left Foot” so, I told him to get big mushrooms. He asked how big. I said, as big as the palm of my hand, por favor.

mushroom

I think he did a pretty darn good job. Don’t you?

Anyway, I hate to be a tease, but these are two snazzy recipes which will be featured in 500 Vegan Recipes by our super sistahs Celine of Have Cake, Will Travel and Joni of Just The Food.

Oh, are you beginning to hyper-ventilate in a freaking panic because you still have a billion things to do before the 24th at midnight and are out of ideas? Take a deep breath. Joni has recently posted some great holiday recipes that would make delicious gifts, and so has Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs – so you’ve no excuses! Inspiration is everywhere! (I think the chocolate will travel just fine to France, don’t hold back!).


Pizza Party Daring Bakers Style! Vegan MoFo Day 30

Because I kept putting off the October challenge, I ended up re-living a Grad School nightmare of waiting until the deadline, and then because life gets in the way, missing it! I was really excited about this challenge, making pizza! We were to use the pizza dough recipe from one of my favorite books, Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Our mission : use the “Pizza Napoletana” recipe to make our pizzas, and I was thrilled because while I’ve made my own pizza before, I still hadn’t tried that one from the book. I have loved everything I’ve made from Apprentice, and this delicious dough is no exception!

But back to the challenge… well, life just kept getting in the way of the Shellyfish and her pizza-filled future. This type of meal is definitely one reserved for a weekend evening so that my little family can have fun and gather around a table set with various toppings. The thing is, our weekends just kept getting all filled up…which is lovely, but made pizza planning difficult. Then, this past weekend, catastropha! We were hit with an icky stomach-flu thing that made all food rather icky looking. Luckily I had banked a few blog entries for the Vegan Month of Food, or Vegan MoFo as it’s better known with the cool kids, because I couldn’t have written about food (or looked at food which is why I have been a bit behind in commenting on your blogs – sorry!). But now the Fish Family is back in action and you’d better watch out because tonight we were pizza making fools!

Part of this month’s challenge was to be photographed tossing our dough. Monsieur Fish was getting very frustrated because the light was horrible in our kitchen at 8 p.m. and it was impossible to take my picture without it being too blurry, but I told him blurry was a good thing. I’m shy.

I just made the most amazing catch ever!

We love making pizza at home. This crust was the easiest crust I’ve ever made, and it was also mighty delicious. Crazy delicious. I have a tiny little stove which would probably be illigal in North America – I mean, the thing looks like someone built in out in their garage or something. There is only enough room for one cookie sheet and I can’t get it hot enough for “a real pizza crust”, so I improvise. I just put the sheet on the bottom of the stove, which has indeed warped the odd cookie sheet, but works really well.

Here’s a very blurry, badly lit photo of a most delicious pizza :

Roasted red pepper strips, sautéed mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. Woot!

I used my Great Grandmother Antonia’s Garlic Gravy for the base, which always works so well for pizza sauce because it’s wonderfully flavourful without being too thick- which is key to keeping your crust nice and crispy. Pizza night is the most fun kind of night – especially when you’re actually hugry for solid foods! Sorry for the poopy pictures, but I wanted to get this challenge up as soon as possible, and we were way more into eating and making pizzas than taking picutres!

The lovely and talented Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums hosted this month’s challenge. I’d like to say a special thank you to her as she ended up hosting solo. Due to the sudden, tragic death of her co-hostess Sher of What did you eat? she was on her own. I didn’t know Sher who died of a heart-attack this past summer, but I know she was a well-loved food blogger, and a wife, mother and daughter. I was fortunate enough to be on vacation in the U.S. with my own mother, a multiple heart-attack survivor, when I learned of Sher’s passing and it reminded me yet again of how precious “family time” really is. I think that this challenge, which was a a fun family meal that had the three of us, Guppy and M. Fish in stiches (the 3-year-old tosses pizza dough like nobody’s business!) is a beautiful testimony to the memory of Sher and her love of life.

If you haven’t already made the rounds on the Daring Bakers Blogroll, get moving people!

Vegan MoFo Day 28 – The Joy of Vegan Baking

I would like to talk to you today my friends about one of my favourite vegan cookbooks. The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This was one of those books that I’d been eyeing when I’d peruse the cookbooks on various websites, but as is often the case, the international shipping would have been as expensive as the book itself! I managed to pick it up during my summer vacation to the US and I couldn’t be a more satisfied customer.

Jam-Filled Oat Bran Muffins

This is the most comprehensive “baking” book I’ve ever owned. It reminds me so much of the copy of the Better Home and Gardens baking book stationed next to the sugar canister and the oven during my childhood. Weighing somewhere around 15lbs, this huge tomb was my mother’s go to cookbook when she had a question or wanted to try to incorporate something new in her baking – that is how I would describe Joy of Baking. There is such an amazing collection of recipes here : your basic cookies, cakes, bars, cobblers and crisps, but it goes above and beyond with recipes like “Butterscotch Pudding” (and chocolate, and baked pumpkin), “Rugelach”, “Caramel Popcorn”, a huge choice of pie crusts (including raw!), sorbets, smoothies, Naan, pies, cheese cakes, cupcakes, frostings, sauces, waffels, biscuits, pancakes…the list is seemingly sans fin. Oh, and it is visually beautiful as well : loaded with glossy pages and lovely photographs.

Filled with homemade apricot jam…

Patrick-Goudreau’s introduction is engaging and informative, both for the veteran vegan and the vegan-curious, she’s included a fantastic section entitled : “The How-to’s and What-nots of Vegan Baking” with invaluable suggestions for subbing and switching up more traditional (and more cruel) ingredients. There is also a comprehensive appendix section with information on yields and equivalents, pan substitutes, a glossary, celebrational and seasonal suggestions… whew!

Cookie Model “Guppy” with Sugar Cookies, ready for the oven…

I have made so many things from this book, it’s crazy! Some of our favourites are the “Sugar Cookie” and “Royal Icing” recipes, the “Pastry Cream” (custard) and “Vanilla Cupcakes” (which makes a perfect white cake) are also amongst our favourites.

“Look What I Made!”

Guppy was snubbing my orange pumpkins for pink & blue sprinkles…

There are so many recipes in this book that it will take me a lifetime to go through them all, and that’s what I love about it! These recipes will accompany my family for years to come!

I’d also like to say that it is through her cookbook that I have come to appreciate Ms. Patrick-Goudreau and her advocacy efforts. I’ve become a regular listener to her podcasts at Vegetarian Food For Thought, and am thrilled to have such an articulate and cultivated person fighting for the animals. Her podcasts are always thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I especially love that she highlights short fiction which has a lien or link to animals and animal rights. You can learn more about her by visiting Compassionate Cooks.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Vegan MoFo Day 12 – Where’s The Beef?

I posted recently about making some, (ok, an environmentally-friendly truck-load) of Seitanic goodness, and I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite Seitanic dishes…and never fear, for those who can’t/wouldn’t/don’t want to get all gluten-y, it’s ok. You don’t need to be a Seitan worshipper to love this dinner! And I I’ll stop with the trite Seitan clichés now. Promise. Wait…

The Seitanic Sauna

Though sometimes brushed-off as a Macrobiotic-only cookbook, Cooking The Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello, is a wonderful vegan cookbook for anyone, Macrobiotic or not. Pierello’s wealth of experience as a whole foods chef is concentrated into this vast (it’s huge!) volume of 100% vegan meals, snacks, salads and desserts. I use this cookbook often, and whole-heartedly suggest checking it out at your local library if you can. One of my favorite recipes in CTWFW is her “Where’s The Beef?” Stew.

Stew was one of my favorite foods when I was a kid. It brings back memories of chilly Autumn walks home from school, rosy cheeks and steamed kitchen windows as my mum was getting dinner on. I think one of the other reasons I loved stew as a child was because it often meant baking powder biscuits, which were – and still are – one of my favorite treats.

There’s nothing too difficult about this stew : just dredge your seitan in some arrowroot & spices, fry it up a little in some oil to get it crispyish, then add in your veggies. What I use of course depends on what’s in my pantry or freezer, but I usually have some red onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, green peas and maybe some green beans in there. It’s a warm and healthy meal if you can manage not to pig out on the biscuits (which are not mandatory, but so yummy to dip in that stew!).

This stew is also just as good sin seitan. You could use any soy analogue or just the veggies. I’ve made this with no meat sub and it is also delicious, so don’t let the gluten stop you from drooling over my dinner!

On a non-food note, tomorrow is a big day for me. I’m going to try to quit one of my jobs. I hate it. HATE it. I started almost 2 years ago and never thought I’d still be there, but well, the money is nice for frosting the cupcakes if you know what I mean. It’s a part-time teaching gig at a vocational high school and it’s awful. I’ve finally decided that it’s taking a toll on my health, my happiness, and that the small amount of hours I get isn’t enough to justify the evilness…but I have to quit. I really like my co-workers, and I feel like I’m breaking up with them or something…which is probably why I haven’t already walked out – so many times I’ve almost walked out…in my mind anyway. By sharing this with you all I’m hoping not to lose my nerve and just getting it over with tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

And thanks, guys.

I need all the moral (or immoral, cause that’s fun, too) support I can get!

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!

Raw Tuesdays – Mardi Tout Cru! (yeah, I know, it’s Thursday…)

Yes, yes, I know…but I’ve been one very busy Fish! I wasn’t too busy to carry on with Raw Tuesdays, though…just too busy to post about it. As I was discussing with “Bob” the other day, the Guppy started school on Tuesday. I know, she’s only 3! We could have started her last Fall, but Mr. Fish & I decided to give her one more year of toddlerhood (because 2 is just so freaking early!). I actually think it’s great that kids – and parents – have access to free, public education as early as 2 here in France as it makes childcare easier for those who need it, but that is young.

Anyhow, on to the Rawness of Tuesday :

Pre-run I had two “Carob Confections” left over from last Tuesday. They are so yum! I also had a few for a mid-afternoon snack. Now they are gone, however, and that has made me sad :( Post run was my new favorite smoothie evah : just tons of spinach, banana, almond milk, about 4 dates and half of a vanilla bean. My spinach from the marché was very “rustic” (big old honkin’ bitter dinosaur-sized leaves) and needed a little sweetness, so I added the dates & vanilla bean. Tasted like a dessert. Cool.

I have no picture of the smoothie, because it was ugly, but look at these:

Des tomates anciennes bios or in the language of Shakespeare, organic heirloom tomatoes. These puppies were huge. Freaking science experiment huge. When I saw the stand at the market, I asked for two tiny ones, because these are like the babies of the huge mamma sized tomatoes they had. How big were they you ask?

Well, how’s about 620g or almost 1 and 1/2 pounds (1.3 to be precise)! I know, tomatasaurs. I enjoyed them in a large salad with some “Sunshine Paté” from The Raw Gourmet for lunch. The “Sunshine Paté” is a sunflower seed-based raw paté which I really liked…and it’s a good thing, because it makes an enormous amount (the better to go with the tomatasaurs, I know). The other good little tidbit about the Paté is it keeps for 12ish days, so we’ve been still enjoying it – because even Mr. “I disdain raw cuisine” Fish has been loving this stuff. Go Ms. Shannon, Go!

These are some Sunshine Rolls before they met with certain doom in our tummies at dinner time. Rolled up with sliced carrot, red pepper, large lettuce leaves, and fresh cut pineapple. You may notice some of the rolls are a little sloppy…I was assisted in my rolling by Ms. Guppy who was very excited about them, because she loves eating nori rolls as much as she loves making nori rolls. The kid’s going to roll me under the table before she hits 5.

And we dipped our rolls in one of the lovely raw dipping sauces from The Complete Book of Raw Food which is the kind of book you want to have around when you’re going to be killing any large, aggressive insects invading your kitchen or defending yourself from home invaders because it weighs a ton. It’s huge, has like a zillion recipes from many different Raw Food Peeps in an anthology-type format. I have only skimmed through the recipes in there, though many of them seem to require a dehydrator which is a big, fat bummer. This dipping sauce was also great with fruit :

It also made a huge amount, so we’ve been snacking on that for the past few days as well.

I am really behind on your blogs…lo siento…but I will be catching up tomorrow (hopefully!).

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.

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.