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Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

Ugh. You would think that by now I would remember when the posting date is for these challenges, but apparently I don’t have a clue. I was thinking it was tomorrow, when it was in fact yesterday. Sigh.

Well, posting mishaps aside, I have to say I really enjoyed this month’s challenge. We were challenged to make a savory edible container. Our host provided several ideas along with a link to a fantastic edible container round-up article she had written. We could choose any recipe provided or create something totally new as long as it was a container that was edible and had suitable content.

I played around with some different ideas, but the stand-out winner for me where these black bean cups. I got the recipe from Cake, Batter, and Bowl. My only adaption was to bake the cups in a regular sized muffin tin rather than a mini one. This will yield about 7  bean cups. If using a regular sized muffin tin, just place about 2 tablespoons of dough into each muffin cup and spread the dough up the side of each cup (I found that pressing the bottom of my tablespoon measure into the dough helped create nice, fairly uniform sized cups). Then bake the bean cups at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

For the filling I used the Mexican Couscous Power Bowl recipe found at Healthy. Happy. Life. I just adapted it to what I had on hand and decreased the amount of beans since I would be serving them in the bean cups. She provides a recipe for an optional Gave-Rika ‘dressing’ for the dish, and I would highly recommend you go ahead and make it to serve over the bean cups. To me, it really brought the whole dish together. One more note, the couscous dish makes a lot, so if you are making it to serve in the bean cups you may want to halve the recipe or just be prepared to have leftover filling to munch on for lunch the next day – which of course, isn’t an entirely bad thing.

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The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

February was a whirlwind of month with lots of baking projects going on, and while I actually completed this challenge a few days before the deadline I got a case of Oscar fever and completely forgot about posting until now. This month’s challenge was to make a creamy Panna Cotta along with a batch of Florentine Cookies. Our host gave us recipes for a vanilla and chocolate Panna Cotta. We were encouraged to play around with these base recipes and challenged to get creative with how we garnished them. I wanted to do a vegan version, so I set out to find a recipe that would work with what ingredients I had on hand. I got super stoked when I saw a recipe for a soy milk Panna Cotta in the Great Chefs Cook Vegan cookbook. I don’t usually keep soy milk around, so I used what I had on hand, which in this case was hemp milk. The reason this is important to note, is that while the recipe for the panna cotta set up nicely and tasted good, there was a little bit of an issue with how it looked. I’m not sure what happened, but it looked like the hemp milk had separated so there was a bit of a “cloudy” look to the final Panna Cotta. I don’t know if this occurred due to the particular brand of hemp milk I used or the fact that it wasn’t soy or something else entirely (perhaps liquid from the fresh fruit?), but it was a little disappointing to say the least. The Florentine recipe I used however was excellent, and they came out quite tasty. For the decorations I chose to make little agar agar fruit jellies inspired by Nature Insider. These turned out awesome and were quite the hit at the dinner table.

Since I’m late and pressed for time, I’m just going to provide the links to the recipes I used along with any alterations I may have made.

Soy Milk Panna Cotta from Great Chefs Cook Vegan
As previously mentioned, I used hemp milk in place of the soy milk. I also used 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean. I threw in some fresh fruit into the glass before pouring in the Panna Cotta, and I would probably omit that next time. I figured they would sink, but some stayed right up at the top and just didn’t look all that attractive.

Florentine Cookies from Strawberry Pepper
I omitted the orange zest and used whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose. I also chose to use the chocolate to sandwich the cookies together, rather than drizzle it on top.

Fruit Jellies from Nature Insider
Instead of water, I made a half batch (which is more than you need) of the vanilla muscat sauce included with the Panna Cotta recipe and used that as the liquid. I did not add any additional sweetener, but if I were to do it again I would definitely add some. Granted, I neglected to taste the sauce before adding the agar-agar, but once they were set they were not very sweet at all.

It still needs some work, but maybe one day it will turn into something a little more visually appealing.

If you are interested in the original challenge recipes you can download them in a printable PDF here.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

For this month’s challenge we were challenged to make a biscuit joconde imprime that would be cut and fit into a dessert mold for a completed entremets. Are you totally lost? Because I know I was! So let’s go over some vocabulary:

A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets formed in ring molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect.

This joconde requires attentive baking so that it remains flexible to easily conform to the molds. If under baked it will stick to the baking mat. If over baked it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.

Entremets (French baking term) is an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold.

For this challenge the joconde imprime would be the outside cake wrapper of the completed entremets dessert.

Once I got my brain wrapped around the vocabulary, I went into full-on panic mode. I was still recovering from a holiday baking overload, and this challenge was looking pretty out of my league. I seriously almost threw in the towel before I even began. I just didn’t think I had it in in me, but I didn’t really want to start off the new year skipping out on a challenge, so I let it sit for a few days and then reread the challenge. The more I went over the steps (and after watching a few videos of the process) it slowly started to look a bit less daunting.

I began scouring the internet looking for entremets that featured a decorated joconde sponge. For this challenge we were to decorate the joconde sponge using a provided décor paste recipe. I had my heart sent on a vegan version of this challenge and got really hung up on the fact that the décor paste recipe included so many egg whites. I really had no idea how to sub for the egg whites, and I was having no luck finding an already existing veganized décor paste recipe. Then I stumbled upon an image of a joconde sponge decorated with preserves. I got super excited and decided that even though it wasn’t sticking to the original challenge recipe it would still result in a decorated joconde, and I would be ok with that. I decided on raspberry preserves and bouncing off of that decided to go with a raspberry/lemon cheesecake type entremets. There were a number of vegan joconde recipes on the internet thanks to when the Daring Bakers took on Opera Cakes.

From what I could find, in order to decorate the sponge with preserves one would just pipe the preserves into a pattern on top of the sponge batter and then bake. Simple enough. Only problem was that while the sponge was baking the preserves started to sink into the batter, resulting in less than clean lines. I really did love the flavor of the preserves in the sponge, so I am curious if anyone out there knows of a better way to decorate sponge in this manner. It is definitely something I would like to master.

To assemble the entremets I had to build a make-shift mold out of a cardboard cereal box. It actually worked surprisingly well, although I lined the inside with parchment paper and the moisture from the entremets filling made it get all wrinkly (can you tell I really wanted some pristine lines and smooth edges for this thing?). For the base I used leftover joconde sponge and layered that with some more raspberry preserves. I topped the preserves with a layer of the lemon filling along with some fresh raspberries. Then threw in another layer of joconde sponge with preserves and the rest of filling. Topped it all off with some fresh raspberries and powdered sugar and voila – a super impressive looking dessert!

Despite it’s less than perfect appearance, I did really love this dessert. And in the end, it was not all that hard to put together. In fact, because I had leftover filling, and I was feeling guilty about not veganizing the décor paste, I made another quick one the next day!

I had read someone mention decorating the joconde sponge by tinting a portion of the joconde batter and piping that onto the bottom of their baking pan and freezing. They then poured the un-tinted batter over the frozen tinted batter and placed the pan back in the freezer before baking. I tried this approach by tinting my batter with cocoa powder, and it actually seemed to work. I did two different designs and unfortunately totally broke the joconde with the cool pattern on it. Thus, I was left with my failed homemade pastry comb attempt, which really didn’t have much of a pattern.

Since I used cocoa for the joconde I decided to add a few tablespoons of chocolate chips to about 3/4 of the leftover lemon filling and then added some raspberry preserves to the leftover 1/4 of the filling. I layered those in the mold and then topped with more preserves, some toasted almonds, and chocolate chips.

And just to show you the other sponge that broke:

You can view the recipes and how to assemble the dessert after the jump. Please bear in mind that a lot of this was experimentation and could certainly use more tinkering to get the decorated joconde just right.

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Daring Bakers Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I love a good homemade doughnut, so it should be no surprise that I was super stoked to take on this month’s doughnut challenge. Lori was pretty generous with the challenge requirements – asking that we simply make doughnuts! 2 cake and 2 yeast doughnut recipes were provided and the sky was the limit as to how we might want to tweak these recipes – fillings, toppings, shapes, and sizes were all up to the bakers.

Since I still haven’t acquired a doughnut pan, I decided that I would go the yeast doughnut route. I also knew that I would want to be baking these bad boys rather than frying them. Me + hot frying oil = not fun times. I settled on adapting the Baked Doughnuts recipe from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. I halved the initial recipe and veganized it with great results.

I opted for three different glazes (Pumpkin Pie Spice, Southern Comfort, and Apple Cider) and attempted my first filled doughnuts. For the doughnut filling I combined about 2/3c vanilla pudding with 1/3 c pumpkin butter and piped it into the doughnuts – I am telling you, that filling was off the charts! I seriously considered just bypassing piping it into the doughnuts and piping it straight into my mouth. The only things I would change for the future would be to make my glazes a little thicker and to try to show some self-restraint and allow the doughnuts to cool a little bit longer before dunking them into the glazes and devouring.

You can view the adapted doughnut recipe plus the glaze recipes after the jump.

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