May 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I think it should be abundantly clear from my previous posts that I FREAKING LOVE SUMMER [see post: Vegan Lemon Barz]. Do you know what else I love? AMERICA. And so in honor of the Great American Memorial Day Three-Day Weekend, I present to you a vegan, All-American Buckle. What is a buckle you ask? A delicious cobbler/crumble/pie/cake treat that might just be as old as America itself. It was probably/maybe invented by some of the first colonists, who were pretty good at adapting English recipes to their new homeland. This is one thing I love about Americans…WE ARE RESOURCEFUL. And I mean, while some of our inventions might seem a bit superfluous and extravagant, and some may even contribute to the stereotype of Americans as lazy, obese wastes of space, like the LiquiGlide condiment bottle lubricant and the fashion abomination that is the Skechers Shape-Ups; there are also some examples of American ingenuity and practicality, like:
- Smoke Detectors
- Crash Test Dummies (Not the band—they’re Canadian).
- Paper Clips
So I wanted to celebrate this great nation that I love the best way that I know how…with treats. And what looks more American than some dessert covered in raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and topped with ice cream??
(Okay, maybe like apple pie or something. But I am trying to step outside the box here). Now, while this buckle could be made with virtually any type of fruit, unless you are a communist or hate America, I recommend sticking with red and blue hued ones. (This recipe is adapted from the Summer Fruit Buckle Cake in Vegan Pie in the Sky).
To make America, you will need!!
3/4 C Sliced almonds, ground into a coarse meal
1 1/2 C Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Cardamom (I recommend leaving this out, as I maintain that Cardamom is the Devil’s spice, and will ruin any otherwise perfectly delectable treat. Sorry if you disagree, this is just how I feel.)
1 C Non-Dairy Milk
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2/3 C Sugar
1/4 C Canola Oil
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1 lb Fresh Fruit (By God, it better be red and blue.)
Now the recipe also calls for a streusel-like topping made of cinnamon and sugar. You might want to add this…or you might completely forget about it because you didn’t read the recipe through all the way because you are soooo excited to toss this guy in the oven and get it baking. Either way, things will be fine, and it will be delicious. (If you want the added excellence of more cinnamon and sugar, also have at the helm an additional tablespoon of sugar mixed with another 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon).
Preheat the old oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ cake pan (or a 9.5″ pie pan if you, like me, do not own such extravagant baking dishes) with parchment paper and grease with oil. Then, mix the milk with the vinegar and leave it for a few minutes to curdle. This is not gross, we are just making vegan buttermilk. Get over it. While this is happening, chop up any fruit that needs chopping and mix the dry ingredients together (for reasons I never fully understood, sugar does not count as a “dry ingredient.” It is always added in with the wet ingredients when recipes call for mixing the two categories separately. This does not make sense to me. Sugar is clearly dry. I digress). Add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar, WTF) to the buttermilk mixture.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed. Your batter will still be lumpy. Pour the batter into the baking dish of your choosing. Dump the fruit on top of the batter (or as the recipe recommends, carefully place the fruit in a spiral formation… BUT SRSLY? WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT. I WANT TO EAT THIS NOW, DAMMIT. Unless you are realllllly trying to impress someone, spiral formations just waste time in my opinion). If you had the foresight to prepare some topping, sprinkle that on top too. If you didn’t, oh well!
Bake the buckle for 50ish minutes… I KNOW. This seems like a long time to wait. And it is. But maybe you can entertain yourself by watching Wet, Hot American Summer (featuring an all-star comedic cast, this happens to be one of my all-time favorite summer movies). About half way through the movie, check on the buckle. You could do a knife test and see if the knife comes out clean…or you could just sort of jiggle it and make sure it appears semi-fully cooked. I did a sort of combo; the knife definitely didn’t come out clean, but the cake didn’t appear RAW. Perhaps a bit undercooked, but I didn’t feel like waiting any longer and I mean, it’s vegan, so it’s not like I am going to get salmonella or anything. Now you could wait for it to cool for 20 minutes, flip it onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper, let it cool a bit more, and flip it over AGAIN onto ANOTHER plate… I mean if you have the patience to do this, KUDOS!!! If all you can think about is HOWMPFing (I believe this is the noise I make when I rapidly ingest delicious treats) this as quickly as possible, you could just give it five or so minutes and then slice it like a pie/scoop it like a cobbler. Add some ice cream and quickly get back to the movie. You should make it back in time to see Molly Shannon receive marriage advice from the 9 year olds in her craft class.
Now off with you!! Go celebrate your day off!!!* Go to the beach! Go to a barbeque! Go to a pool! Make a treat! Ride a bike! Watch a movie! BY GOD, JUST TREAT YOURSELF!
*Sorry if you are not American and must work this day…you can still enjoy your buckle and all things red, white, and blue.
May 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
As a 26-year-old woman, I feel as though I’ve truly moved into that phase in my life where it is no longer acceptable for me to prepare and eat a meal that features Ramen Noodles, Pop-Tarts or canned Progresso chili. I actually eat vegetables now, and soy products, and other foods that don’t even come with microwave directions. For the most part I don’t miss the slightly drunk feeling I get from consuming astronomical levels of sodium or high fructose corn syrup. There’s just one item from my Fast-Track-to-Type-2-Diabetes Diet that I can’t get away from.
Lillian can attest to my Problem With Frosting. In college, there was usually a tub of half-eaten Pillsbury frosting in our fridge. If you opened the top, it was obvious to the observer thatsomeone had the habit of scooping out the contents with his or her (her) index finger. I mean sometimes I’d use a spoon, like, if we had company. But really, once you’ve done away with the customary baked good vehicle on which frosting is traditionally spread, what’s the point in getting all fancy with utensils? There’s just something about eating straight frosting out of a plastic tub that causes you to lose all semblance of etiquette…or self-respect. Honestly, I’m no hillbilly.
Anyway. Fast forward 4 years (AHHHHH how am I so OLD?) and I’ve now done away with most of my Disgusting College Eating Habits. I also live in Costa Rica, where imported tubs of Pillsbury frosting cost the equivalent of a barrel of crude oil. As I am being paid in mangos and hugs, buying pre-packaged American frosting is no longer an option. Making frosting, however? That I can do. And so can you, my darlings!
Which brings me to my point. I made a batch of frosting this weekend, and since I needed to take this frosting to a baby shower as a potluck contribution, I even made a cake on which to display the frosting. The cake itself was inconsequential (albeit tasty) and so I’ll just say that it was a Craisin and sunflower seed quickbread recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything book. It was easy to make and would have made for a boring post. In reality, it served as a scaffold for the frosting, which was LEMON-VANILLA BUTTERCREAM in flavor and TASTED LIKE HEAVEN.
Here’s what you’ll need to frost a 9-inch cake round:
½ stick butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg yolk
Start by creaming the butter (with a mixer, if you have one), then add in the vanilla, egg yolk, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix very well to combine. Then begin working in the confectioner’s sugar in small doses. Sift that sugar, if you have the means—I did not do this step, and thus my frosting turned out a tad lumpy. The whole procedure should only take about 10 minutes. If you’re like me, the quick timeframe will probably make you reconsider the whole frosting-making business. As in: why don’t I make frosting more often? Why have I not explored several, nay, DOZENS of frosting recipes in my life? How on Earth have I not created and sampled a smorgasbord of frosting delights as part of my recent quarter-life crisis?
Which brings me to my point, which is also the title of this post: The Icing on the Cake. We think of icing/frosting as the extra, bonus stuff. Let’s be real. It’s the best part. It doesn’t have to be some rare, only-sometimes-attainable, ambrosia-like substance. It takes 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to assemble, and doesn’t require electric gadgets or even any heat. It’s hard to screw up, and if, like me, your frosting comes out lumpy, just do what I did: cover that cake with sprinkles and commence to shoveling it into your pie-hole.
Icing on the Cake? Screw the cake. Get down to business with the icing, which is what you’re here for anyway. If, for the sake of pretense, you need to eat this frosting on a baked good, then do so. But if you don’t, then stop being a snob and eat it with your fingers or a spoon. You won’t regret it.
March 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Thought you couldn’t make the jellied lemon goodness of lemon bars without gelatin?
You thought wrong, my friend.
The unseasonably warm weather we have been experiencing in Chicago has led me to the following conclusion: global warming is not so bad, when you only look at the short term, immediate effects (namely, that I am not cranky anymore because I am getting a suitable amount of Vitamin D). It also reminded me that I LOVE SUMMER. Love it so much, that if the temperature threatens to drop below 65 for more than a day or two in a row, I will probably spiral into a deep depression, mourning the delay of all the wonderful summertime activities I have been planning. What does summer mean to me you ask? Bike rides, beaches, picnics, festivals, swimming, climbing (OUTSIDE), shorts, skirts, NO SOCKS, sunglasses, flip flops, smoothies, long walks, open windows, ceiling fans on 24/7, cold salads, roof top reading, day drinking, listening to summer music (cue up Sublime and Minus the Bear), fireworks, and getting the good sun. My first summer in Chicago, my jobless roommate and I used to head out to the beach mid morning, just about every day, to “get the good sun.” This meant getting there before it got to crowded, and soaking up the sun prior to like 3 pm, when the rays were most direct and we could get the best tan. (I realize this might not have been the safest habit, but I wore sunscreen okay!?) I have since appropriated the phrase “gotta get the good sun” to mean taking advantage of things while you can. SO. In the spirit of enjoying the gift of summer in March, and riding this weather high before the Fates (or a cold front) take it away from me, I decided to make lemon bars. Because lemon is a total summer flavor. It is so happy and yellow and in your face. It’s all “HEY, I’M YELLOW. I’M HAPPY AND YOU PROBABLY SHOULD BE TOO. HEY LOOK AT THE SUN, IT IS YELLOW TOO. WE ARE THE SAME COLOR, THAT’S NEAT.”
SO HERE’S THE INGREDIENTS (as taken from Veganomicon):
Lemon Goo Filling:
1 1/3 C. Plain Old Water
3 TBL Agar Agar Flakes (See rant in disclaimer below).
1 1/4 C. Granulated Sugar (that means regular).
1/8 tsp Turmeric (or omit, like I did, if you don’t care how yellow your lemon barz are).
2/3 C. Lemon Juice
3 TBL Arrowroot Powder (or substitute more cornstarch, as I did)
+1 TBL Lemon Zest
1/4 C. Soy Milk
Now. While this recipe (and well virtually every lemon bar recipe in the world) calls for powdered sugar… I COULDN’T FIND ANY IN CHICAGO?! (Okay, so I actually only looked at two stores and then got annoyed and just came home). But, because I had this knowledge under my belt–POWDERED/CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR IS JUST NORMAL SUGAR GROUND UP FINER –I went all hardcore and made my own powdered sugar, no big deal. I just threw some granulated sugar into my little Cuisinart and ground it up into powder. Voila. I sure my neighbors appreciated me doing this at 11 pm.
Another part of this recipe that made me feel hardcore…JUICING THOSE LEMONS. I think it only took me about 3 lemons to get the 2/3 cup of lemon juice. But I absolutely dessicated these lemons. I squeezed the ever-living outta them. By the time I was done with them, they looked like Bunnicula had gotten to them. (This book was a LOT more frightening as a child. Speaking of my childhood, I had this strange habit as a young’un. Way back when I was a shy, quiet little carnivore, my parents tried to feed me meat. I am told I would chew the daylights out of it and then spit it back on my plate once it was “dry as sawdust.” I am not sure exactly what this means, other than I was a freak as a kid, or why I thought it necessary to do this, but I felt like it had some relevance to the Bunnicula reference). ANYWAY(Z) if you do not want to hurt your fingers, you might just want to buy more lemons…or invest in some sort of a juicer as opposed to repeatedly cranking a rogue fork into the lemon’s pulp, narrowly missing your fingers with each twist. Also, it is probably not the best idea to make these the day after you tear up your hands doing some rock climbing in Wisconsin. Remember, lemon juice stings even the tiniest, invisible cuts. Please learn from my mistakes.
[DISCLAIMER]: Now, this recipe is not HARD per se. It is just a bit time consuming. But most of the time is just waiting for stuff to bake or cool/chill in the fridge. During which time you can do any number of things. For instance, you can pet your cat, water your plants, read a book, go for a walk (probably not while the oven is on), do a few cartwheels, check your mail, etc. I’ll let you figure it out. Also, it begs mentioning…these agar agar flakes. This is the sort of weird junk that gives vegan baking a bad rap. But if you are categorically opposed to gelatin, sometimes you have to use weird junk. I am not going to lie to you. Agar agar flakes WEIRDED ME OUT. I mean, they are described as a “sea vegetable,” a “seaweed gelatin substitute.” And frankly, they don’t smell great when you reconstitute them in water. Kind of salty, watery, briney. They smell even worse when they start boiling. When I was making these bars, I kept thinking “WHAT’S THE POINT, THEY ARE JUST GOING TO TASTE LIKE SUSHI.” BUT TRUST ME, THEY DID NOT. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TASTE ANY AGAR AGAR WEIRDNESS IN THESE LEMON BARS. I WOULD NEVER LEAD YOU ASTRAY. The lemony goodness that you create completely masks any oceany flavors you might be afraid of. PROMISE.
OKAY. Let’s get back on track. Let’s make these lemon barz. We shall start with the crust. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan. Now, the actual recipe called for 1 CUP OF BUTTER. I decided to try using just 3/4 cup because the idea of using two whole sticks of butter made me a little queasy. Especially when I considered the fact that Lillian was out of town, and I would inevitably be eating this whole pan of barz myself. Just pulse all the crust ingredients together in your (mini) food processor (in batches) or cut it all together like you would pie crust. I was a little worried that the crust would end up being too crumbly and not be cuttable, or support the lemon goo. But it worked out fine! I just packed the crumbly crust mixture down into the pan really, really hard. Once you’ve got it all good and packed in your pan, pop it in your fridge for 30 minutes. THEN bake it for 25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. I am not sure why you have to do this, but I did, and it worked, so let’s not mess with it.
While this is baking (and then cooling), you can make the lemon goo. Time to brave those agar agar flakes. (I feel like a joke is in order here…”the sea vegetable so nice, they named it twice?”). Mix them with the water in a medium saucepan. Let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until the flakes start to get gooey/rehydrate. I kept smelling them, thinking, maybe they will smell different after they soak a bit. Do not do this, you will psych yourself out. Just leave them alone.
Note: Don’t breathe this.
While they are soaking, maybe you can juice/zest your lemons. If you have a zester, kudos, use that. I just used my mini grater from World Market. It is cute and easy to clean. Mix the cornstarch in with the lemon juice.
After 15 minutes have passed and your nostrils are now filled with a pleasant lemony aroma, put the agar agar/water solution over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil for 10 minutes, until you can no longer see any flakey particles. Stir in the granulated sugar and stir to dissolve. The recipe also called for some turmeric at this point. I opted out. I am 99.9% sure this was just to add yellowy color to the barz. Since I was already a little freaked out by the agar agar flakes, I did not want to add a spice that I normally associate with savory curries to my (hopefully) sweet lemon barz. So I omitted this, and I do have to say, the pale yellow that the barz ended up being was quite pretty indeed. Anyway(z) after assessing the risk/benefit of adding turmeric, add the lemon juice/cornstarch mixture and stir. Then add the soy milk and the lemon zest. (It is safe to smell your lemon goo now). Whisk this over medium-low heat, until it starts to thicken, but try not to let it boil. I think it took mine about five minutes. Then pour it over your (cool-ish) crust. Tilt the pan to spread the goo around. Let this settle/cool for a few minutes and then pop it into the fridge until your goo settles up. Or as long as you think you can wait. I waited about an hour, then tentatively poked a spoon in, to try some…after realizing that they did not taste like seaweed, I helped myself to a few more spoonfuls. And then a few more.
Now. At this point you are probably thinking, “BUT WAIT. Lemon barz alllllways have powdered sugar sifted on top?!” Here’s where I tell you, “Not this time girlfriend.” Because I did not have any more homemade powdered sugar on hand (or store bought for that matter), and because I had a little extra time on my hands… I decided to make STRAWBERRY SLURRY. I don’t know if that is the real name for it. In my family, we (okay, actually I think it is just ME) call it ELIXIR. It is actually just strawberries sliced up and allowed to macerate (a fancy word for “soak” that will leave more immature crowds stifling giggles) with some sugar so it gets all sweet and syrupy. SO. Add some sort of topping if you want, or not, and call it a day. You still gotta go get the good sun.