Monday, January 29, 2018

Vegan Zebra Cake

This is a lesson in how you sometimes can (or must) deviate from a recipe. I started by making this chocolate torte with ganache frosting, and somehow the ganache calls for 8 ounces of chocolate and 1 ¼ cup of milk, and goddamn it, I knew it was too much milk, but I did it anyway. I should have trusted myself and deviated from the recipe. Of course it turned into soup, but I was able to salvage it by dumping the remnants of a bag of chocolate chips into it and refrigerating it. I ended up with a decent chocolate cake frosted in a sort of chocolate pudding, but I didn’t like it as much as my husband did. (The same was true for a chocolate sour cream cake that I just wouldn’t bother making again, even though I mostly stuck to the recipe for that one, simply changing pan sizes and omitting cream in the glaze.)

Then, since we had a total of a liter of rice milk to use up from our emergency kit before it expired, I decided to make this vegan marble cake, since it calls for 2 cups of plant milk. But I was overzealous and didn’t really want a marble cake so much as a zebra cake, which is easier than it looks (but I’d never attempted one before). The batter was too liquid for my taste, and I trusted myself this time, so I added 1 cup of flour (those are the amounts I’m using below); even then, I had to bake the cake almost twice as long as recommended, so you could try baking at 350 °F and reducing the time. And since I didn’t have a heart-shaped pan, I used a 9-inch springform one. So I changed the recipe a bit, but I stand by my decision. Two things of note: First, I actually wouldn’t recommend rice milk in this recipe, because I could really taste it in the cake and it’s not my favorite taste – I’d perhaps use almond milk or oat milk next time. Or coconut milk beverage? Second, I’d make the effort to weigh each “half” of my batter next time as I’m separating it (or, more precisely, I’d weigh the total amount and make sure I pour out only half of that into a separate bowl – and ideally I’d remember to weigh my bowls in advance, too). As it was, I ended up with too much chocolate batter, so there’s a heck of a lot of that in the center of the cake. Nonetheless, I really liked it! Both the Engineer and the Little Prince loved it, so it’s a keeper. I chose not to frost or glaze it, but do as you wish.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups plant-based milk (see note above)
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. chocolate extract (optional; I didn’t use it)
½ tsp. almond extract
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan; line the bottom with wax paper and grease again, then flour the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Mix the milk and vinegar in the measuring cup and allow to curdle for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Add flour mixture gradually while stirring with a wooden spoon until just incorporated (do not overmix).

Separate the mixture in half into two smaller bowls (see note above). In one half of the mixture, mix in the chocolate and almond extracts along with the cocoa powder until just blended.

Pour a ladleful of vanilla batter into the center of the prepared pan, then pour a ladleful of chocolate batter centered right on top of it. Continue pouring batter in ladlefuls, alternating color, until all the batter has been used up.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Vegetables

I tried two recipes that, come to think of it, are fairly similar: pasta with vegetables. The first was orzo caramelized with fall vegetables and ginger, and while I really liked it, the Engineer did not. The second was crispy sheet pan gnocchi and vegetables, which I made for lunch for myself, with plenty of leftovers that reheat surprisingly well in the microwave. I absolutely loved it, and given how easy it was, I’ll be making it again! The only catch is that I haven’t found lactose-free gnocchi yet (I know I could make my own, but that would definitely not be as easy). So this is one of the rare recipes on this site that isn’t lactose-free – use the lactase tablet of your choice (mine is LactoJoy as long as my supplies last). This dish is so good that it’s worth it. The gnocchi get crisp on the outside, but are still chewy on the inside. The tomatoes are essential, as they add moisture to what might otherwise be too dry, but I think you could mix it up for the rest of the ingredients according to what you have in your pantry.

1 lb. fresh, shelf-stable or frozen gnocchi (see note above regarding lactose)
1 (12-oz.) bag mixed baby bell peppers (or 2 medium bell peppers), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
¼ tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves
grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, for serving

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the gnocchi, bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, rosemary, salt, and a few generous grinds of black pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and gently toss to combine. Spread the gnocchi mixture out evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast, stirring halfway through, until the gnocchi are plump and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 18 to 20 minutes total.

To serve, spoon the gnocchi and vegetable mixture into individual bowls (or deep dishes) and garnish each bowl with the basil and grated cheese.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Blueberry Yogurt Cookies with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

I was trying to use up some frozen blueberries at one point and decided to make these soft blueberry yogurt cookies with lemon cream cheese glaze. (Well, I made blueberry breakfast bars first, but those didn’t turn out right. The dough was too crumbly and didn’t hold together, so I’m not posting about them.)

If you play your cards right, you could get about 24 cookies (I got 21, but had no idea what the yield should be). They don’t keep more than a few days, but I’d wager they freeze well once baked. I found that I had about twice as much glaze as I needed, so I reduced the amounts for you below; I also found the glaze a bit too liquid, so go easy on the lemon juice. I even wonder whether these would be better without the glaze in the first place…

For the blueberry yogurt cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups lactose-free plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen blueberries)

For the lemon cream cheese glaze
4 oz. lactose-free cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

For the blueberry yogurt cookies
Preheat oven to 375 °F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and yogurt, then blend in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined; gently fold in the blueberries.

Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake for about 10 minutes (this took closer to 15 minutes for me, but my blueberries were frozen), until the cookies start to barely brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, and then move the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the lemon cream cheese glaze
Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Spread on top of the cooled cookies. These cookies are best eaten within 1 to 2 days.

Frozen Yogurt

I had made this frozen yogurt recipe before, using Greek yogurt and vanilla bean paste, and I loved the taste. The tang of real yogurt is unbeatable, and the vanilla bean paste was the perfect accompaniment. Unfortunately, it turned rock hard in the freezer (I think I had used non-fat Greek yogurt), but it was so good that I wanted another go at it.

This time, I made sure to use a full-fat Greek yogurt, which thankfully are more readily available than they used to be (just make sure your yogurt has the right active cultures, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, to be lactose-free). If you want to use your favorite brand of plain yogurt instead, you can strain it overnight – just keep in mind that you need to start with roughly double the amount you need, so to end up with 3 cups of strained yogurt, you should start with 6 cups in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I also decided to use corn syrup in an effort to keep the frozen product softer. It worked to a certain extent, but I think next time I’d use vodka instead. To be fair, it was fine for the first few days, and I did use the whole container of yogurt (which worked out to 907 grams instead of the recommended 720 grams); but after a week, it was too hard for my liking.

This is where it comes full circle: the recipe that I linked to is on 101 Cookbooks, but it turns out it was originally developed by David Lebovitz. It just so happens that the page I randomly pulled up on Google about whether to use corn syrup in certain recipes was written by him, too. Then I looked back in my previous recipes for frozen yogurt and came across this one, which, as it turns out, was also originally by David Lebovitz. And it called for vodka, so I’m adding that below.

3 cups (720 g.) full-fat Greek-style yogurt
¾ cup (150 g.) sugar
2 Tbsp. corn syrup (or 2 tsp. vodka; see note above)
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Mix together the yogurt, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla bean paste. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Roasted and Charred Broccoli with Peanuts

Y’all, I’ve found a new palatable way to eat broccoli! It was a bit more labor-intensive than my salad, but still it wasn’t complicated. The broccoli stems and florets are prepared separately, and it totally works! The mix of rice vinegar and nutritional yeast creates nice flavors (plus, the roasting!), and the addition of green onions and peanuts is genius. Okay, so without further ado, here’s the recipe, originally from Bon Appétit.

1 bunch broccoli (about 1 ½ lbs.), ends trimmed, stems peeled
3 Tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
½ tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, plus more
4 scallions, thinly sliced
flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preheat oven to 450 °F. Slice broccoli stems on a diagonal ¼” thick. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, toss with oil, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Gather up loose pieces of left-behind florets and finely chop. Roast stems until browned around edges, 15–20 minutes. Add vinegar; toss to coat.

Meanwhile, heat a dry medium skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Add florets. Season with kosher salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until bright green and lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add peanuts and sugar. Cook, stirring, until nuts are golden brown. Stir in 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast; season again.

Serve broccoli stems and florets topped with scallions, sea salt, and more yeast.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sweet Potato Blondies

Hello everyone! It’s been almost a month since I last wrote, but it’s not because I had nothing to write. I just can’t seem to find the time! We spent a few weeks in Montreal over the holidays, and even though it was relaxing and less work that being at home, I still didn’t exactly have much “free time” (I did get to complete two images on a coloring app while watching the evening news, which is as much as I had colored in the entire previous year, but that’s not time when I would have blogged anyway – I guess it basically replaced knitting). I think the main reasons I have less free time these days are that I have two kids (duh) and also that I’ve been spending more time in the sewing room, completing projects in an effort to declutter. On the bright side, it’s working, and I think I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but on the downside, well, obviously it’s taking time from something else. So here’s a look back at some desserts I made before the holidays, with a blondie recipe that is definitely worth making.

I tried almond cloud cookies, which I found much more sticky than chewy – so much so that I dubbed them “dental emergency cookies” and stopped eating them after the second one because I was genuinely afraid of losing a filling or a crown on those things. Maybe it was just too humid when I made them.

I also tried puffy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which were just okay – I actually thought they lacked peanut butter. (Honestly, I could have sworn I’d posted a similar recipe already, but can find no record of it.)

There was also a new brownie recipe, and while the Engineer and the Little Prince liked them well enough, I thought they were disastrous and much prefer my stand-by. I’m also starting to think it’s odd that so many people are wrong about what good brownies should be (there’s the great fudgy vs. cakey debate, frosting, etc., and I know what I like).

So perhaps because I was still thinking of brownies, I decided to make blondies with a sweet potato base. They seemed both healthier and more satisfying than the regular version, plus I knew that the Fox would enjoy any leftover sweet potato purée! As it turns out, these were definitely a winning dish. I’ll be making them again!

2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ lbs. total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup white whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups granulated maple sugar or dark brown sugar
8 Tbsp. (1 stick or ½ cup) lactose-free butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Bring several inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add sweet potato to steamer basket, cover and cook until tender when pierced with a knife 14 to 18 minutes. Cool completely. Transfer to a food processor and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. You will only need 1 ½ cups purée for this recipe; reserve any remaining purée for another use (if I didn’t have a baby to eat it right now, I’d freeze it for later).

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl on medium high speed until smooth. Add sweet potato and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat on low until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Spread dough into the prepared baking dish and bake until golden and set up, 22 to 26 minutes (this took longer in my oven – I’d say to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, but even then, my blondies were still borderline too moist, so use your best judgement).