Tuesday, December 28, 2010

baking fun

blurry molasses sugar cookies

My aunt Pauline invited me over for some post-Christmas cookie-making. We looked through her recipe box on Christmas evening for a recipe that wouldn't take too long (no overnight chilling or anything like that) and would be easy to veganise. We settled on molasses sugar cookies, which have no butter and only one egg, and only have to be chilled about an hour before baking. Pauline hadn't made them in a while, but remembered that they were easy to form and then flattened and crinkled up in the oven, becoming 'very professional looking.' She got the recipe in Chicago in 1956. Rachael thought they were the best molasses cookies she'd ever had, and ate her share right up!

Molasses Sugar Cookies

makes about 4 dozen

3/4C shortening
1C sugar
1/4C molasses
1 egg or its equivalent
2C flour, scant (recipe called for sifted flour, but I can't be bothered)
2t baking soda (that seems like a lot, but I think it's so the cookies will over-rise and then collapse with attractive crinkles)
1/2t cloves
1t cinnamon
1/2t ginger
1/2t salt
more sugar for rolling

Melt the shortening in a 3-4qt pan. Let cool briefly, then beat in the sugar and molasses, and then the egg. Sift the remaining ingredients into the pan and mix in thoroughly. Put in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Roll dough into 1" balls, roll them around in the sugar, and arrange them 2" apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they seem almost done but are still a little too soft and puffy. Let sit on the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Friday, December 24, 2010

another hippie casserole

work lunch

I recently bought some Scottish fake cheese (Sheese, available at the Pigs Peace Sanctuary's grocery store in Seattle, or by mail from Food Fight in Portland), which I hear is the best available around here now that Heather Mills has stopped US distribution of Cheezly (one more reason to hate her!). When I showed Rachael, she got all excited and said I should ask Annie for the recipe for a wonderful casserole they'd had in which cheese was an essential ingredient. It would be a good way to try out my new cheese! Annie emailed me the recipe and it turned out to be a favorite of my childhood, Spinach Casserole from Diet for a Small Planet. It had eggs in it as well as cheese, but that was easily remedied! Here's my cruelty-free version of

Spinach Casserole

makes enough for 2 or 3, depending on their appetites

2T chickpea flour
1T flax meal
1T tapioca flour
1/3C water
3/4C raw brown rice, cooked (that's one rice cooker cup)
1/2C grated Sheese, strong cheddar style
1 bunch fresh spinach, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2t salt
1/4t pepper
2T wheat germ mixed with 1T olive oil

Heat oven to 350°. Whisk the flours and meal together with the water in a big bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients save the wheat germ and oil, and mix well. There will seem to be far too much spinach in proportion to the other ingredients, but it will all work out. Press into a greased 8"x8" pan, and scatter the wheat germ mixture over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Xmas cookies 2010


This year I made eight kinds of cookies, though again I didn't start in time to make Aachener Printen or my previous favorite lebkuchen (I have a new favorite, which I'll tell you about below).

Starting at the top and working around clockwise I made:

  • Cinnamon Roll Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, Rachael's favorites. She thought maybe we should eat them all ourselves, but they were easy and fun to make so I'll be happy to make them again just for her.

  • My new favorite lebkuchen, Mabel's Lebkuchen from the Christmas Cookie Book. My old favorites, Mrs. Schmidt's Lebkuchen are also from this excellent book.

  • Clove hearts from Fine Cooking's 2008 Cookie magazine.

  • Bourbon Balls from The Gourmet Cookie Book--they were the editors' pick for the best cookie recipe from Gourmet magazine in 1980.

  • Better 'n Biscoff, from Baked Explorations. They weren't actually quite as good as real Biscoff--they tasted really good, but their texture wasn't quite right. I think I rolled them out too thin in an attempt to make more cookies out of not very much dough.

  • Dutch Caramel Cashew Cookies, Gourmet's best cookie of 1972. These were very tasty, even though they melted and spread out unattractively. I had the same problem with a similar cookie a couple of years ago, and my theory is that it's because I baked them on a Silpat. I'll have to try them again with parchment paper and see if they turn out prettier.

  • Candy Cane Cookies from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion These are fun to make and pretty festive looking.

  • And finally, in the center, Pfeffernüsse. Last year I made them with this icing, which looked pretty good but never got as hard as real royal icing with real egg whites. I heard that this icing from the BBC would get harder, so I tried it this year. It was a failure! It's less opaque when dry than last year's icing, and it got even less hard! Plus it had a funny, grainy texture and somehow tasted too sweet.

And here, at Lori's request, is the recipe for the best Lebkuchen ever. These don't need to cure or soften up with a slice of apple or anything, so you still have time to make them before Christmas!

Mabel's Lebkuchen

makes about 20 big cookies, more if you make them smaller

1C honey
3/4C grown sugar
1 egg or its equivalent
1T lemon juice
1t lemon zest
2 1/2C flour (310g)
1/2t baking soda
1/2t allspice
1/2t grated nutmeg
1t cinnamon
1/2t cloves
1/3C finely chopped candied peel (I used grapefruit)
1/3C finely chopped almonds

2/3C sugar and 1/3C water for the glaze
halved blanched almonds and halved glacée cherries and/or
finely chopped pistachios

Bring the honey to a simmer in a big pan, then let col and add the sugar, egg, juice, and zest. Whisk the flour, soda and spices together (sifting the soda first), and stir into the honey mixture. Mix in the almonds and peel, then stick the whole thing in the refrigerator to rest overnight.

The next day, heat your oven to 375ºF. Roll the dough out to about 1/2" thickness and cut into flowers. circles, or rectangles. For the flowers or circles, decorate with almonds arranged as daisy petals with a cherry half for the middle. Leave the rectangles alone for now. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze by bringing the sugar and water to the boil in a little pan and cooking till it spins a thread. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, brush with this glaze. If you've made rectangles, sprinkle them with pistachios as soon as you've glazed them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

pretty pink sauerkraut (I hope!)


I started a batch of sauerkraut today that should be pretty and festive if it turns out. It had three heads of white cabbage and one of red, totaling 3265g after coring, 680g of cranberries, and a couple of big sprigs of rosemary and bay leaves. Salt should be about 1% of the weight of the vegetables, so I added 40g of kosher salt.

When you're picking out cabbages to make sauerkraut with be sure to get the heaviest, most compact feeling ones you can find--they'll be easier to cut up thinly (you want to aim for slices the thickness of a dime), and ought to be pretty juicy. The thinner you can cut the cabbage, the easier it will be to squeeze out the juice--and you want to get out enough that the cabbage is covered with its own juice. Every time I make sauerkraut I wish I had a slaw board, but I don't make it often enough for it really to be worth it.

I'll be able to peek in a couple of weeks to see how it's doing, and I'll let you know!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

flaxy eggs for cookies

I'm finally feeling a little less grinchy, so decided to make some Christmas cookies. When I'm going to do a lot of baking requiring veganising omnivorous recipes I like to make a big batch of flax gloop to take the place of the eggs. I like how it works in cookie and cake recipes where the main function of the eggs is binding. It has kind of a funny flax smell, but I've never noticed it in a finished cookie, even a really mildly flavored one like a sugar cookie. I doubled the recipe since I'm planning to make more than five eggs worth of cookies.

Flax Gloop

makes about five egg-equivalents

4t flax seed
1C water

soaking flax

Put the water and seeds in a little pan and let soak at least an hour, or overnight. Simmer them together for 20 minutes, then pour into a cheesecloth-lined funnel set over a jar.

straining flax

When it's cool enough to handle, squeeze the gloop through the cheesecloth. It'll come mostly in one big glob, and you'll be pleased to see how slimy and viscous it is--remarkably reminiscent of egg whites!

Use two to three tablespoons to equal one egg.

flax gloop

Friday, December 10, 2010

a tasty salad for a meeting

celeriac apple salad

I had a work meeting requiring treats yesterday, and had some nice apples and apparently nice celery roots from my vegetable box, so I decided to make this salad. It turned out a little different than I'd imagined it--I thought it would be a sort of grainy Waldorf salad, and it was a little sweeter and a lot fluffier than that--but I really liked it and wanted to record it here so that I remember to make it again. I made it just as the recipe said except that I used my rice cooker to cook the quinoa, supplemented the celery root with regular celery when I turned out not to have enough of the root (see picture below), used aleppo pepper instead of a fresh chile, and added the arils of a pomegranate to make it look extra festive.

I used a magic vegetable peeler to julienne the apple; I would have tried it on the celery root too if I hadn't hacked it up into such tiny pieces to get the yuck out of the middle.

Yucky celery root