Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Today’s breakfast

Fig anise bread with hazelnut butter, watermelon and some Russian tea I bought over the weekend (isn’t the tin pretty?).

Note to self: hazelnut fig granola. make it.

The Other Night’s Dinner

I’ve recently discovered tofu for two and made their three-pepper tofu for dinner the other night. I breaded and baked the tofu at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping the slices half-way through. Maybe less crispy than if I’d fried the slices, but still yummy. I had it alongside some cucumber, Grated Carrot and Daikon Salad from Vegan Express and brown rice. A very satisfying meal. Just to prove that I eat healthy savoury things too (not just sweets, I swear!).

The next night I made baked paprika yam sticks from Extraveganza to serve with some of the leftover baked tofu, and, inspired by some of the yogurt dipping sauces described in tofu for two, I devised one of my own:

Impromptu Yogurt Chili Dipping Sauce


½ cup soy yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 pinch cayenne

¼ teaspoon salt

1 pinch cane sugar

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Makes about ½ a cup.

Sorry, no photos, but you can imagine it, right?

Spring Salad: Greens + Strawberries + Pecans = Yum!

This is the salad I’ve been enjoying for lunch all week: mixed greens, mixed sprouts, a sliced strawberry or two, a handful of toasted pecans, and a dressing of fresh lemon juice and hempseed oil. Too simple to call a ‘recipe’, but so tasty, I think I could eat it for another week and not be sick of it still. Spring = lots of fresh salads. I love spring!

Danish Braid v.1

On my quest to satiate my longing to travel with cooking instead, I decided to make a Danish pastry. Canadian danishes never appealed to me, with their fake-looking cherry and lemon fillings – I’d always go for almond rings or croissants instead. Now another digression (just indulge me here): so after second year, I went back to Europe (partially) by myself and traveled to a few different countries. I started out eating ok (again, I wasn’t a vegan back then) but by the time I got to Vienna, Copenhagen and Paris, I got into the habit of eating a healthy homemade breakfast and dinner at my hostel, and during the day I would eat a pastry and tea instead of lunch. Not very healthy, I know, but damn, I’d give anything to replicate those sweet-cheesy and nutty fillings. Those Danish danishes were nothing like the Canadian ones. I have dreams of perfecting vegan pastry-making one day.

I made an amalgamation of this recipe and this one.

Danish Braid (makes 2 braids)

Ingredients for the dough:

4 tablespoons cane sugar

¼ cup water
1 tablespoon dry active yeast

¾ cup almond (or other non-dairy) milk
zest of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds of ½ a vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) cold earth balance margarine

3-4 tablespoons almond milk, for brushing of the dough just prior to baking

Warm the water and almond milk in a saucepan just until tepid (watch carefully!). Transfer to a bowl, add the yeast, and let it sit for a few minutes to foam while you prepare the rest of the dough. Combine the flour, salt and cardamom in a large bowl. Cut the cold margarine (it must be cold) into ½ inch cubes and add to the flour mixture, mixing a bit but not too much. Add the orange zest and vanilla extract and seeds to the yeast mixture. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the yeast mixture in, mixing gently but not too much. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours (that’s right, it’s got to rise in the fridge or the margarine will melt and you won’t get the necessary flaky pastry goodness).

Lightly coat a clean surface with flour, and bring out the dough, shaping it into a rough square. Warning: if the margarine appears to soften at any point in the rolling-our process, put the dough in the freezer for a bit to cool down. Roll out into a 16-inch square, and fold into thirds (like you’re folding a letter). Now roll out into a 10x24 inch rectangle, and fold into thirds again. Roll into a 20 inch square, then fold in thirds again. Finally, roll into 10 x 24 inch rectangle and fold into thirds one last time. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Take the dough out of the fridge, and cut in half. If you don’t want to make two braids at once, wrap the second half in plastic and keep in the freezer until you feel like making another one (it’ll keep for a couple of weeks, at least). When you’re ready, transfer to the fridge and allow to thaw for a few hours or overnight, then proceed from here.

From here on, I’m assuming you’re using one half of the dough, like I did. So if you’re making both at once, assume I’m talking about each half (maybe a no-brainer, but I just thought I’d warn you).

Cover a cookie sheet with some parchment. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the dough to the parchment and make slightly angled parallel cuts down both of the long sides of the rectangle, about 1/3 of the way in (good images to show how this is done can be found here.
Spoon your filling of choice (I’ll describe what I used below) down the middle of the rectangle, and fold the flaps (alternating sides) over it, tucking in the ends. Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place it over the braid. Place in a warm-ish place and let rise for two hours or so, preheating the oven to 400 degrees toward the end of the rising time.

Brush the almond milk over the top of the braid, pop it into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until golden brown.

For my braid, I made a filling of cream cheese and strawberries:

Cream Cheese Filling (makes enough for two braids)


1 container tofutti cream cheese
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean

Blend all ingredients together.

I sliced up 1 ½ cups of strawberries and layed them out on the dough, then I spooned out half of the cream cheese mixture on top.

After I took the braid out of the oven, I sprinkled on some powdered sugar, and it was so pretty, I didn’t want to ruin it by cutting it up. But I had to eventually, and I have to say that it tastes most delicious warm from the even, or reheated in there. Mmmm…

I still have half the dough in the freezer, so probably next week I’ll make another braid with a different filling, maybe something with almonds?

Cinq-Cinquièmes à la Pistache Végétalienne

When the weather gets warm and sunny, I want to go to Europe. It’s a curse or something. The first big trip I ever took was to Spain – it was with my school after first year, it was May, and we toured around like mad, spending no more than three days in each city, for three weeks straight. Not sure that I’d do that again, but I digress. We’d get up early every day, eat breakfast at our hotel (usually coffee with hot milk and some sort of pastry – I wasn’t a vegan back then) and then off into the city we were, to look at museums and buildings. Something about the sun (it was sunny every single day) and the morning breeze, and the activity of big cities like Barcelona and Madrid… I am reminded of it every year around this time and I want to go traveling.

Unfortunately I have not the means to go traveling this year, so I like to indulge in my nostalgia and make European-style food (in my mind, at least) instead. Not just Spanish, either - this one’s French. When I was making it, I thought of that scene in Amélie where she’s making her plum cake and realizes she’s out of yeast. I love that movie. Now I want to make plum cake, too.

So I found this recipe online, and adapted it a bit:

Cinq-Cinquièmes à la Pistache Végétalienne


Egg replacer to replace 3 eggs (I used the powdered kind)
¾ cup earth balance margarine

¾ cup dark cane sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rosewater

½ teaspoon cardamom

1 1/3 cup flour (I bet spelt would work well, in which case you’d need an extra 2 tablespoons)

1 1/3 cup raw pistachios, roasted and chopped
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.

With a hand-blender, mix the margarine and sugar until creamy. Add the egg replacer slowly, and then the vanilla and rosewater, mixing well. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine the flour, pistachios, baking powder and cardamom. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Pour into the cake pan (don’t worry if the batter seems too thick – it’s supposed to be) and smooth out the top.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

This isn’t the healthiest cake ever, but it was pretty yummy – light and fluffy, and the cardamom/rosewater addition was quite nice. Next time I’ll play with using spelt flour and reducing the amount of sugar/margarine. And maybe I’ll try soy yogurt instead of the egg replacer, we’ll see.

On a side note: I really wish someone would write a French vegan cookbook. Maybe someone already has and I don’t know about it – if so, please tell me!