Five Things And A Basket Of Peaches – Part One



It’s peach season and baskets of these delicious, fuzzy juice spheres are everywhere. They’re beautiful and so many peaches for next to nothing, it’s practically produce robbery!
Or worse, they have slices out at the Farmer’s Market. Golden orange fuzz, as far as the eye can see…. just a little taste, then I’ll leave, or so you think. The next thing you know you have a basket at home and you’ve eaten only 3, then they are all suddenly ripe. If you don’t get to them faster they won’t look as vibrant in your kitchen as they did in the warm, morning peach like summer sun. How does this happen, that they are all ripe and they have to get eaten right now?

Since we’re right, smack in the middle of peach season, I’ve decided to devote the week to the juicy beauties. Why? Well tomatoes and zucchini just don’t lose the same luster as a perfect peach – quite as quickly, and so far, I haven’t tried a toasted peach sandwich. But then again, it is only Monday.

INDIVIDUAL PEACH PIES

1 Round of Pastry Dough (Pate Frisée), enough to roll one crust.
5 – 6 Peaches, peeled & sliced, about 2 1/2 Cups
3 Tablespoons Unbleached Flour
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Ramekins

Prepare the pastry dough, or thaw and leave wrapped pastry round in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the peaches.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Other than being slippery, it’s especially easy to slice and peel peaches when they are freestone, firm and ripe.
I just halve, then quarter the peach, cutting along the stone.
With a slight twist, or a turn of the knife, the stone will either be freed completely or stay in just one of the quarters.
With a sharp, paring knife, catch and drag the skin between your thumb and the knife. The skin will more than likely peel off all together or in two attempts.
Cut the quarters into 1/4″ thick slices and reserve in a large bowl until all of the peaches have been pitted and peeled.
Sprinkle over the sugar, flour and cinnamon, if using; tossing to coat.
Allow the peaches to rest while you roll your dough.
Lightly dust a board with flour and roll your dough to a 1/8″ thickness.
Using either a small bowl or a 2 cup measure as a guide, trim the dough to four 6″ circles; repeating rolling as necessary.
Fit a circle of dough into each of the four ramekins; patting to fit.
Using a fork, dot the bottom and sides and bake for about 10 minutes.
While the crusts are baking, roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1/2″ strips.
Fill the crusts with the peaches and interlace a basket weave top crust by interlocking the strips of remaining dough into a lattice pattern.
Place the pies on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Drunken Cherry Brownies


In honour of my older brother’s birthday, I fixed up a little brownie gift. My Brother, shameless carnivore that he is, also loves cherries, so this couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

I’ve been planning my next brownie ever since the last Brownie Babe round up. I felt so close to tying on that apron last time, I was inspired to do even better. Luckily after Myriam’s round up, cherries came into season and I went to work on the luscious, juicy fruit. With my fingers stained red, I pitted the pint, placed them into a jar, poured over the remanence of my best French brandy in the house and a few spoonfuls of sugar. Sealed, I left them to this very moment of birthday and brownie celebration.

Perhaps it’s the drunken cherries I’d taste tested along the way, but by the time this little birthday gift of love reached it’s cooling rack destination, I knew I was already a winner. Initially I was finding it hard to figure how I’d go about creating my next brownie. There are so many hip thickening varieties of the one true cocoa delicacy, but in writing a vegan blog, I’ve theoretically stuck myself in a fridge without eggs or butter to bail me out. How does anyone make virtually the same thing again, only better? I’ve already covered off that my brownies must be fudgy, not cakey; gooey, but not uncooked and c h o c o l a t y. So with the help of Arden, who was my Blogging By Mail buddy, I had the good stuff. I had the good quality, 70% semi-sweet dark chocolate, direct from Deutschland. Now, the quality of a brownie solely lies in the quality of the chocolate in it (Kind of like cooking with wine, or in this case brandy.) and boy do I believe it. Arden’s chocolate has been so good for my 3 o’clock Sweet Sneak, but when I began to melt it down for the brownies, I could just see and smell the difference. Just in case there wasn’t quite chocolate gold, I blended the batter with a little more dutch process cocoa; can never be too careful with these things, you know.

When the batter was complete, I was ready for the cherries – oh my cherries. I’ve been sampling for doneness over the past couple of weeks and I have to say, cherries macerated in brandy are pretty “close your eyes and smile” generating. Full of cherry goodness with a backhanded burst of brandy.

This wonderful chocolate paired with the boozy cherries made for a very perfect after dinner birthday celebration or a mid afternoon pick you up kind of brownie. Decadence at it’s best.

DRUNKEN CHERRY BROWNIES

1/2 Package Silken Tofu (3/4 Cup)
1/3 Cup Margarine
1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 Cup Dutch Processed Cocoa
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar, Organic
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup Unbleached Flour, sifted
1/3 Cup Brandied Cherries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Line the bottom of a brownie pan (9×9) with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the tofu until it is just smooth.
Prepare a double boiler, or place a heat proof bowl over a simmer saucepan of water. Melt the margarine and add the chopped chocolate; stirring occasionally, until melted.
To the tofu add the cocoa, salt, sugars and vanilla; combine well.
Stir the melted chocolate into the tofu mixture.
With a spatula, fold in the flour, combining until it is just moist.
Stir in cherries, do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until just set and shiny. (Try not to over bake or scorch the edges.)
Cool to remove the brownies from the pan.

BRANDIED CHERRIES

1 pint Bing Cherries, pitted
1/4 Cup Sugar
Good French Brandy

Pit the cherries and place in a sealable container or jar.
Sprinkle over the sugar and pour over enough brandy to cover.
Seal, shake, wait.
Store in the fridge or any other cool dry place.
Shake occasionally and test, if necessary.
Sugar should dissolve and cherries should absorb the brandy anywhere from 4 – 6 weeks.

Summer Fresh Tomato Sauce


Can’t you just imagine the tomato flavour? Pure as the day it was grown, this no cook sauce is a cinch to make and creates a perfect way to highlight light or stuffed pastas.


FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

2 Tomatoes, skinned and seeded
1 Clove Garlic, Puréed
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Prepare a bowl of ice water.
Score the bottom of the tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for about 1 minute.
Remove and plunge them into the cold water.
Core the tomatoes and remove the skins; slice and remove the seeds.
Mash the tomatoes with a fork and add the puréed garlic, salt and olive oil; mix well.

Cuppa Mudcake



After being asked to create a muffin of childlike proportions for the Muffin Monday Round-Up, I was left thinking back, with one memory only.

After attending countless birthday celebrations as a child, cake memories tend to blend together; all but one at least. Funny enough, I couldn’t dare tell you who’s birthday it was, or how old we were, but I, and I’m assuming every other kid there, hadn’t ever been served anything like this before.

Before us, my friends and I, were presented a bright blue plastic pail of DIRT – with worms…
Temporarily paralyzed by our bewildered excitement, we eventually dug in. Oreo Cookie crumbs, chocolate icing, pudding, devils food cake, you name it, if it was dark, gooey and made from chocolate it was in there. The best part? Intertwined in the mess of cocoa, stretchy, fruity, gummy worms.
Now the worms aren’t vegan, but I’ve found “Fruit Squiggles“. The same as flat fruit leather, this stuff has been reshaped to be more exciting for kid snacks and mudcake creations alike.

CUPPA MUDCAKES

1/2 package Silken Tofu
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Vegan Margarine
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3/4 Cup All Purpose, Unbleached Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Line a muffin tin with papers.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer, cream the tofu then add the vanilla.
In a saucepan, melt the margarine and add the brown sugar. Once everything is melted, whisk in the cocoa, until it’s smooth and thick.
Add the chocolate to the tofu mixture; blending well.
Mix in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder until just combined.
Pour by tablespoon fulls into the prepared muffin tins and bake for about 18 minutes or until the muffins are puffed and spring back when touched.
Cool on a rack completely prior to icing.
Makes 6.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ICING

1/2 Cup Margarine
2/3 Cup cocoa powder
2 Cups powdered sugar
1/3 Cup Soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the margarine in a small bowl, I microwave it.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add cocoa and stir well.
Add powdered sugar and soy milk, then beat on medium for about a minute, or until it’s a spreadable consistency.
Stir in the vanilla extract.

TO DECORATE:

Chocolate Icing
1 Cup Oreo Cookie Crumbs
Fruit Leather
Ju-jubes
Licorice
Gummy worms or fruit leather “squiggles”
(What ever else you have on hand to get creative with, have fun!)

Top the cupcakes with the chocolate icing and dip them into the Oreo crumbs.
Slice the ju-jubes into crescents and other petal shapes or use a cookie cutter for the fruit leather to create other garden-esq shapes.
Stick the worms in and out of the Oreo “dirt”.
Think garden and have fun!

Vegan Pastry Dough


The versatile, baking staple of pie dough is not as intimidating as you think.
I remember when dough was on the board in culinary school. I had a quirky pastry chef who liked food science and instructing with the help of charts and graphs which for pastry helped in removing the great fear of the “Pate Frisée”.

The explanation given around achieving the flakiest crust was not about how much butter was used, but why.
Finally I understood why you’re not supposed to touch it much, it’s not that it’s overly sensitive, it just doesn’t like hot little hands. I figured with my poor circulation and ever frozen fingers, I was a shoe in for an “A”.

Butter in pastry is not a mandatory, yes, like most things, it makes it taste oh so rich and lovely but it’s just the fat that’s needed; so vegetable shortening works perfectly well. It was explained that the larger the “fat flakes” were before finally adding ice water to bind the dough, the larger the flakes in the pastry. When the shortening is added to the flour, it’s cut in, usually with a pastry cutter, a fork, by hand or with a food processor. The object of doing this coats the soon to be tiny pea sized pieces of fat with the flour that, when baked, will melt, crisping the flour, leaving lovely, gaping FLAKEY holes.

Tada.

BASIC PIE PASTRY

Single Crust

1 1/4 Cups Pastry Flour
1/2 Cup Frozen Vegetable Shortening
3 – 31/2 Tablespoons ICE Water
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar, optional

Whisk flour, salt and sugar.
Either with a food processor or a pastry cutter, add the shortening to combine with the flour.
Work into pea sized pieces, which will resemble a coarse crumb.
Add ice water, beginning with only 3 Tablespoons, mixing enough only to form a ball.
Wrap and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour before rolling out.

Eggless Asparagus Quiche


It finally rained – in two ways.
Thankfully the ground is now moist, our tomatoes will grow and the grass might turn away from it’s current shade of tan. Yay!
Yet, unfortunately, during our trip to the farmer’s market yesterday, we were informed that the asparagus must be left to shoot up into it’s destined willowy trees, bringing an end to our supply for the season.
Asparagus is one of my favourite summer vegetables, so I’ll be sure to freeze what I can. The rest inevitably became lunch for today in this vegan version of a classic, light meal.

EGGLESS ASPARAGUS QUICHE

1 Package, Firm Silken Tofu
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Thyme, dried (or a good sprig of fresh, chopped)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Zest of 1/2 Lemon (about 1 Tbsp)

1 Pre-made Pastry Shell, Tenderflake (I know, not me, but they’re such a time saver.)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Bake the pastry shell for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the crust is firm and light golden. Set it aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
Snap the ends and blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 2 – 3 minutes or until bright green. Rinse in cold water, then trim tips to 3″ and reserve. Trim the ends to 1/2″ pieces.
Drain the tofu and add it to the bowl of a food processor. Blend it to a smooth consistency.
Add the nutritional yeast flakes, salt, pepper and spices, mixing well to incorporate everything.
With the motor running, sprinkle the arrowroot powder through the feed tube, combining well but not over mixing.
Finish with the lemon zest and stir in the 1/2″ asparagus pieces.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry shell and top with the reserved asparagus tips.
Bake uncovered at 350º until set, about 20 -25 minutes.

Great warm or chilled.
Serve with a salad.