Beautiful Restrictions


I was recently invited to attend a wedding celebration for good friends of ours.
Ecstatic, we did the usual most people do to prepare; plan a gift, get a new outfit, a hair do…
but you see I also had the pleasure of being asked to cater.

For the small gathering, I was asked to bring the desserts, only there were a few little catches.
Being vegan was a given, so any baked goods were to be egg and dairy free, but add a few more allergies and the offerings now needed to be gluten and nut-free too.

I am a girl who loves a challenge. And this day was to be all about love, wasn’t it?

I wanted to have a few selections, so I opted for small, and the mother of the groom suggested that it would be great if we didn’t need to cut cakes or fumble with too much extra cutlery. Small and quaint, that was the goal.

With weeks of research in, I gave myself two days to prep and begin baking. Thankfully, I had a Daring Baker deadline looming, and, like always, I figured it would fit into what was going on in my life this month.

Of course, ever since a botched my daughter’s first birthday cake, I’ve always seemed to find gluten-free baking a little daunting.
Since that day, of any research I could muster, I’ve realized that it take a good number of replacement  flours to create a good combination. Different flours do different things. Some are starchier, heavier and most create a much drier batter than you might be used to. Considering this, I thought I’d create a bit of a safety net by combining my little cakes with a touch of fruit.
That and I put together a few recipes, you know, just in case.

CARAMEL APPLE GATEAU TATIN

1/4 Cup White Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Flour
3 Tablespoons Spelt Flour*
2 Tablespoons Cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
1/4 Cup Hot Water
1/3 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

5-6 Firm Apples, I used Empire
2 Tablespoons Butter, vegan
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Apple Juice

*To go gluten-free, substitute the spelt for 3 Tablespoons of rice flour.

Peel and slice the apples 1/4″ thick.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, then shake over the sugar.
Once the sugar has begun to melt and bubble, add the apples in an even layer.
Cook until the apples are tender, then add the apple juice, stirring to incorporate. Coat the apples well before removing from the heat to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the flours. (If not going gluten-free, 3/4 cup of an unbleached AP, may be substituted.)
Add the cornmeal and baking powder and sift together.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut oil and the sugar with a stand or hand mixer until well combined.
Mix the ground flax and the water, then add it and the vanilla to the sugar mixture.
Alternate adding the flours and the soy milk until everything has been added.
Spoon about 3 slices of apples, along with a little “caramel” into a oil sprayed miniature muffin tin.
Next drop the batter, by the tablespoonful, over the apples then bake for 18-20 minutes.
Cool slightly, then gently run a knife around the edges to release the cakes.

If desired, garnish with dried apple chips.
To make, thinly slice one apple with a mandoline. Squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Drop onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and leave in a 200ºF oven for at least 2 hours or until crisp.

Happy New Year


Wishing you all the very best in 2009!

I contemplated many a champagne cocktail and after trying, maybe a few too many, this year’s winner is a classic:

KIR ROYALE
1 Part Crème de Cassis, Blackcurrant Liquor
4 Parts Chilled Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Easy and delicious to celebrate for the upcoming year.
All the health and happiness to you!

Nice Socca


Eons since I’ve visited the south of France, I was whisked to my memories of the Mediterranean first, by a post by David Lebovitz and again by this book.

The books recipe missed elements, like being tested apparently, but it reinforced this Nice institution.
Chick pea flour, at least within my reach, tends to be bitter but seasoned and sweetened -whoa, this is good stuff.

Go with tradition and eat it while it’s hot, it won’t be hard. Pour a glass of chilly rosé to wash it down and find yourself too, whisked away with an authentic Mediterranean street treat.

SOCCA

1/3 Cup Dried Apricots
1 Cup Chickpea/Garbanzo Bean Flour
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
Pinch Salt
4 Tablespoons Pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 scant Cup of Cold Water

Thinly slice and soak the apricots in warm water.
Preheat the oven to it’s maximum setting (525ºF in my case).
In a bowl, combine the flour, 2 Tablespoons of the sugar, and salt.
Mixing well, add the water, followed by the olive oil.
Let the batter rest for about 20 minutes.
Add enough oil to lightly coat a cast iron pan and heat in the oven as it comes to it’s full temperature.
Shell and roughly chop the pistachios and drain the apricots.
Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Pour in the batter in a thin, even stream.
Evenly sprinkle over the apricots and pistachios. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over top and return the pan to the hot oven.
Bake for about 5 minutes or until it is dry, golden and coming away at the edges.
Remove from the oven, sprinkling it evenly with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar.
Serve warm.

Daring Bakers May: L’Opéra Cake


It’s terrible but it’s the truth. I almost didn’t attempt to veganize this month’s Daring Baker Challenge.
Daunting to say the least when a cake has a dozen eggs in it to somehow replace. (…And that’s not including the other two that were in the buttercream recipe.)

After making the original version I had to share. I mean, what’s the point of this site if everyone can’t share good food together?

I halved the recipe (because the other cake was enormous) and started in on my trials. I stuck to the traditional recipe as close as I could without those eggs but having had the other I had a general idea as to what I was after. This cake is very light without too much flavour. It’s a perfect canvas to add your own and it this case we, The Daring Bakers, were able to get creative just as long as we kept it light in colour. Again having the other version I knew what I liked and didn’t so choosing a flavour this time around was pretty easy. In my traditional version, I really wanted to go give it a Taste of Yellow in honour of one great and Daring Baker, Barbara of Winos and Foodies, who hosts the Livestrong event. For that I made an Earl Grey with a lemon buttercream so for this version I wanted to keep the citrus but add some kick with just a little brandy syrup, and boy did my little cake sing.

L’OPÉRA CAKE

JACONDE

1 Cup Ground Almonds
1/4 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 1/4 Cups Soy Milk
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Vinegar

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Line a 5 x 8 inch loaf pan with parchment then lightly spray with oil.
Add the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
Combine the soy milk and the vinegar, then add to the dry.
Mix vigorously with a fork.
Once combined, consistency will be similar to a pancake batter.
Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the prepared pan to cover the bottom to the edges.
Bake for 5 – 7 minutes or until the top appears golden, begins to dry and the edges come away from the sides.
Loosen edges with a knife, if necessary and top with an additional sheet of parchment or waxed paper.
Flip pan to remove the cake, cooling on a rack to room temperature.
Reline the pan and repeat with the remainder of the batter, baking three cakes.

COGNAC SYRUP

4 Tablespoons Sugar
1/3 Cup Water
1-2 Tablespoons Cognac

Add everything to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
(May be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge for up to a week.

ORANGE “BUTTERCREAM” ICING

2 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted
1/2 Cup Earth’s Balance Margarine, room temperature
Juice and zest of one large orange
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine half of the sugar with the margarine.
Add the orange zest and juice and mix on a medium-high setting.
Add the remainder of the sugar, half a cup at a time.
Once it has come together, then add the vanilla to incorporate.
Continue to up the volume with a higher speed until light and creamy.

ASSEMBLY

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Place one cake layer on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the second layer of cake and moisten again with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third layer of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

At this point a glaze of white chocolate may be made. I omitted this tradition but for a vegan white chocolate try this one from Bittersweet. Melt 7 oz of the chocolate with 1/4 cup of soy milk. Once it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Trim the edges 1/2″ to reveal the layers.
Garnish with additional orange zest, candied or not, if desired.

Montréal, March Break, Maple Syrup & Madeleines.


Mmmm.

Hopefully this is the post worth waiting for. Since being whisked off for a quick French get away, I ate my way through all of Montréal’s renown food samples.


Squeaking a flight through a crazy snowstorm, even for Québec standards, safe at home I brought out my sack of goodness from a small approvisionnement de cuisine shop, still wet from the cookie sized snowflakes that were tumbling down around me. In it, my newly treasured Madeleine pan…

Madeleines are one of my most favourite things. Yes, Proust would be proud. I love these delightful tea cakes so much I named my first born after them. Really.

I couldn’t have been more excited while tredging my better half through this snowstorm to make it back to a little shop I’d originally peered through the window of as this recipe serendipitously came together.

You see, most of Northeastern Canada and U.S.A produces everyone’s supply of maple syrup, and it’s at this time of year, when the temperatures are at their crazy best that the maple sap begins flowing. Thankfully for where I’m at, Québec is one of the number one producers of the stuff – so imagine my pure delight, as I was picking up a few morning groceries, to discover Maple Flakes, even being Canadian I haven’t seen this stuff in the flesh and it hits me that these are where the French Petite Madeleine meets French Canadian. I have certainly found what I have been trying my hand at veganizing these “invasions of the senses” for.

MAPLE MADELIENES

1/4 Cup butter (or to make it vegan, lactose free margarine), melted
1/2 Frozen banana, thawed and pushed through a sieve to puree.
1/3 Cup Soy milk
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
1 Cup All Purpose Flour, sifted
1/4 Cup cornstarch, sifted
1/4 Cup Sugar,
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Sift dry ingredients together.
Add juice to the soy milk and let rest.
Melt butter/margarine and let cool.
Beat banana and sugar together until very smooth.
Add the soy milk and maple syrup and zest to the banana mixture and combine well.
Whisk in the melted butter then, gradually whisk in dry ingredients with the wet until combined.
Allow the batter to set for about an 1/2 hour in the fridge while you
evenly grease and lightly flour your Madeleine pan.
While the oven preheats to 375ºF, fill each shell 3/4 full with batter and let the batter rest in the pan, popping any bubbles that rise to the surface.
Bake until centers have puffed and the edges are crisp and browned; about 15 minutes.
Cool completely before drizzling over the glaze and sprinkling with maple flakes.

MAPLE GLAZE

1 Tablespoon Margarine
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar

Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan.
Add the maple syrup and continue to heat until bubbling.
Whisk in the confectioners sugar until smooth.
Reduce heat but continue to simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and dip, dunk or drizzle, since the glaze will begin to harden and crystallize as it cools.