Tag Archives: baking

Carrot-Ginger Cake with Orange Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

This weekend was my friend Peter’s birthday and I promised him a carrot cake (his particular favorite). I made a magical carrot cake transporter. Carrot cake is one of my favorite cakes to make and I prefer cream cheese frosting over buttercream or whipped frosting. This particular recipe is courtesy Martha Stewart.

I started this recipe on Friday night after a particularly long, hard week at work and school. The new job is exciting and draining, not leaving much time for cooking or even eating. I’ve lost about four pounds since starting this job, which I am happy about, but I wish I did have more time in my day to fuel my body. I’ve broken down a couple times because my blood sugar has been so low.

I was excited to bake this cake. I’ve been looking forward to baking something for a while now. This recipe caught my eye because it takes you beyond the typical carrot cake with walnuts and raisins. It contains ginger and toasted pecans instead of raisins and walnuts. I love ginger and prefer pecans over walnuts. The orange-ginger cream cheese frosting was just perfect, particularly since this cake is not the typical moist carrot cake.

 

This was four layers of deliciousness. I was happy the cake wasn’t overly sweet because this frosting is quite sweet.

I thought the cake turned out hideous, but everyone else seemed to think it was beautiful.

 

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Macarons Attempt #1

Today Amy and I attempted our first batch of macarons. I have been waiting to attempt this allusive French cookie for a while now and finally took the plunge. The rumors floating around the internet are that this is incredibly difficult and there are many ways to fuck it up. There are also rumors floating around that Elvis is still alive and Madonna is a woman, but you can’t believe everything, now can you?

Whipping the egg whites to soft peaks.

Now macarons are difficult to make. They are not straightforward, simple, or quick. They are time consuming, require multiple steps, and you need to pay attention to what you are doing. They are more complicated than souffle, but I think a lot of things are more complicated than souffle, such as unlocking my front door after I’ve had a couple of beers. They are definitely worth the time and really it’s quite fun to make these little guys. Having a partner in crime definitely made the whole process more enjoyable.

My partner in debasing French food: Amy

We started with a journey to Safeway where they did not sell almond flour. They sell three million different brands of peanut butter and a package with three thousand boneless, skinless chicken breasts but they do not sell almond flour. Bummer. This meant we had to take an extra trip to Whole Foods on 41st Avenue to get almond flour. Before going to Whole Foods we bought a pastry bag (it was actually called a cake decorating bag) and an assortment of tips, which we ended up using none of. At Whole Foods we bought our almond flour which was ridiculously expensive. Seriously. They’re almonds. Ground up. Why do they cost twelve dollars for a pound? Sigh.

Our stiff peaks could have been stiffer.

When we got back to Amy’s apartment, we started the macaron making process. And yes it is definitely a process. We used Martha Stewart’s macaron recipe because we both find Martha to be an anal retentive, attention to detail kind of gal which is perfect for this sort of endeavor. We started with two egg whites in the stand up mixer on medium and mixed them until they were foamy. When they are foamy add a pinch of cream of tartar. Then beat some more until you achieve soft peaks. Soft peaks will fall over. Your eggs will look like marshmallow fluff. When your egg whites look like marshmallow fluff, then add a 1/4 of superfine sugar and beat on high until you achieve stiff peaks. To tell whether or not your peaks are stiff enough hold the bowl over your head for ten seconds upside down. If they do not come out then they are stiff enough. If they come out then well you need to start over again.

The mixture after the flour/sugar was added as well as food coloring. 

*In the real world, stiff peaks will not fall over at all. They will look like stiff, puffy clouds. You do not need to hold a bowl upside down over your head. *

Now while this is going on, the other person should have been sifting the cup of confectioner’s sugar and 3/4 cup of liquid gold (almond flour). We did not sift it enough. IT WAS FINE. NOTHING BLEW UP. In retrospect we could sift it more.

When your peaks are stiff (ours could have been stiffer and STILL NOTHING BLEW UP), then begin to fold your sifted flour and sugar mixture in. You want to fold it gently in a figure eight pattern just like you would with a souffle or any other sort of meringue. Make sure that you are only adding in about a 1/4 cup of your flour/sugar mixture at a time as to not overload your egg whites. Once you have mixed in all your flour then add your food coloring. We decided on yellow. I used five drops of yellow and it came out a nice, light buttercup yellow.

Now you get to do the messy part or what for us was the messy part because our twelve inch pastry bag was too small. Scoop your mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a crescent moon tip or be like us and just go bareback. It worked fine. We got mostly circle shapes. We had a kidney shape. It was cute. There were also Mickey Mouse ears but we’re not going to talk about those. Now squirt out your mixture in a circular shape on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Oh by the way you should have pre-heated your oven to 375 at this point.

Once you have made your circles let them sit for about ten to fifteen minutes to develop a skin. Yes, they start growing organs. They are magical. During this time also decrease the temperature in your oven from 375 to 325. Once your macarons have grown skin, put them in the oven for five minutes. Then rotate the cookie sheet and cook for another five minutes. Then take them out of the oven and let them cool before removing them from the cookie sheet. Fill with buttercream frosting, ganache, a mixture of marscapone and jam, or coagulated blood.

We got feet and our tops were smooth. We achieved a lot this first batch, but we still need to work on it.

If you would like more exact instructions check out Martha Stewart’s recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons

V.E.S.P.A. Cake

Unfortunately this is not a cake in the shape of one of those cute Italian hipster scooters. No, this is something as equally hipster, but not as cute. In fact, it came out rather ugly, but very tasty and moist, especially for a vegan baked good. Vegan baked goods tend to be dry due to the lack of eggs, but this was very dense and moist.

Why is it named V.E.S.P.A. cake then? Well, it’s an adaption of the Vanilla Yogurt Pound Cake from the Veganomicon. I never seem to be able to follow a recipe exactly. I always need to change something a little bit to make it my own or I’m lacking an ingredient, or maybe I just like being deviant. V stands for Vanilla & Vegan, E stands for Extract & Eggless,  S stands for Spelt, P stands for Pound Cake, and A stands for Almond Milk and Almond Extract. It is definitely not as pretty as the one from the Veganomicon because I used spelt flour, but I bet its just as tasty.

Here it is the V.E.S.P.A. Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup blended silken tofu (blend before measuring)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (the original recipe called for soy milk)
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 sunflower oil (original recipe called for canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (original recipe called for 1/2 tsp. orange extract and 1/2 tsp. lemon extract, but I wanted to do almond)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (original recipe called for 2 cups all-purpose flour)
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt  flour
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (I used kosher)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 325º F. Lightly grease and flour a loaf pan. Blend tofu.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the soy yogurt, tofu, almond milk, sugar, oil, and extracts. Using the whisk attachment on the mixer, mix until everything is smooth (about two minutes). I still had some chunks of tofu, but I don’t think this mattered too much in the end.

3. Sift in the flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine, and then beat for about two minutes or until batter is very thick. Do not overmix.

4. Pour battered into prepared loaf pan. Baking for 60-65 minutes, until a sharp knife comes out clean. In the Veganomicon they recommend not opening the oven for the first forty-five minutes. I opened the oven just to make sure my bakeware wasn’t going to explode (I couldn’t see if the ceramic I was using was ovenproof, so I wanted to check this) and everything turned out fine. But do err on the side of caution always.

5. Remove from the oven and and let cool in the pan for about ten minutes. Run a knife or spatula along the sides to loosen the cake. I flipped mine over onto a silicone baking mat to cool off. You could gently lift it out of the pan and put onto a wire rack to cool, but I do not own a wire rack and I am not good at being gentle with my baked goods. Once it is cool slice it and enjoy.

Strawberry Scones Via Cindy

My blog will be taking a new turn. I’ve invited my friend Cindy to start sending me recipes and pictures of the food that she cooks. She mostly cooks vegetarian, but does eat some meat occasionally and she bakes a lot. She cooks things that are very different than what I cook and her boyfriend has an amazing garden with gorgeous squash blossoms. I’m quite jealous. Hopefully, once Andrew and I find a place we can start growing some vegetables and I will feel more comfortable cooking more complicated dishes. At this point, I don’t feel comfortable cooking in my kitchen because my landlord is always there. When we have our own place I suspect that I will cook a lot more complicated and interesting food.

She used the recipe from the Confessions of a Tart blog, which I highly suggest checking out. She seems to make beautiful baked goods and takes excellent photos that I’m extremely jealous of.

Strawberry Scones

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (granulated)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, in cubes, slightly softened
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half or cream or cold buttermilk

Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Sprinkle fruit with 1/2 tablespoon sugar; set aside.
2. Combine remaining sugar with flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter with a pastry cutter or you could be like Cindy and put yours in the oven to soften it. If a recipe calls for room temperature butter I do take the time to put it out and get it to room temperature, but Cindy is admittedly impatient. Stir in fruit; then add cream/half-and-half/buttermilk all at once. Use spatula to gently stir dough until it holds together.
3. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to incorporate dry ingredients. Sprinkle dough with flour if it gets sticky.
4. Press the dough into a circle 3/4 inch thick. If any berries peek out, push them into dough. Cut circle into 6-8 wedges, then transfer wedges to the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between them. Bake 15 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with sugar and bake 5-10 more minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown and spring back when you push them.

I can’t find the picture that Cindy took of it.

The Thing that Killed the Spatula

Here I have the thing that killed my landlord’s rubber spatula. It was supposed to kaju katli, that delightful Indian sweet which is somewhere between cashew butter and brittle, that melts in your mouth. Well, mine is delicious but it is not kaju katli and it killed my landlord’s spatula.

I first encountered kaju katli with my friends Rachel and Lindsay. We bought some at an Indian market next to a head shop in a seedy strip mall in Simi Valley. This does not really narrow down the location since there are a lot of seedy strip malls in Simi Valley with head shops, but this one has a great little Indian market with Indian sweets. The kaju katli was delicious. It is sweet and a little salty and melts in your mouth. I loved it and I was really excited to find a recipe for it on the VeganYumYum blog.

Kaju Katli

Recipe Adapted from VeganYumYum

  • 1 cup cashews, raw and unsalted
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

1. Grind the cashews into as fine a powder as you can.  The writer at VeganYumYum suggests using a coffee grinder or a high powered blender. I do not have a coffee/spice grinder or a high powered blender so I used my little two cup food processor. I could not get a very fine powder with this so my cashews were still fairly chunky.

2. Mix cardamom powder, salt, and cashews together. Heat water and sugar in a pan until boiling. Add cashews and stir well with a rubber spatula. Cook for abut 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Now here is where things started going wonky for me. My cashew mixture started to burn and it melted my spatula in half. Seriously, in half. I wish I took a picture of it. Pretty amazing stuff.

3. Pour out the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and let cool. Once cooled knead until glassy and roll out a 1/4″ thick. Then cut into diamond shapes. Now, I never got to the kneading or rolling part because mine was wrong wrong wrong looking and I had to rush to work. I did taste it and it was delicious.

I’m not sure what went wrong. Maybe I had the heat on too high but she never specified if you were supposed to lower the heat after adding the cashews. The burners on my stove are really hot and strange. Low is hotter than medium and high is burn your entire kitchen down high. It’s all messed up.

I would definitely make this again though with the expectation that it would not be kaju katli, but cashew brittle instead.

Linguine “Alfredo” and Fruit Grunt

Today I decided to try out some recipes from the Vegan Yum Yum blog. I love her photos and I’ve looked through the cookbook as well. I hadn’t tried any of her recipes yet, but today I changed that. I decided to make rice linguine with “alfredo” sauce and a blueberry/raspberry grunt.

First, what in the world is a grunt and why would my fruit be grunting? What would I have to be on for my fruit to be grunting? Okay, enough with the lameness. A grunt is a kind of cobbler:

Grunts, Pandowdy, and Slumps are a New England variety of cobbler, typically cooked on the stove-top or cooker in an iron skillet or pan with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings—they reportedly take their name from the grunting sound they make while cooking. -Wikipedia Article on Cobble

In other words, delicious! Berries were luckily on sale today at Scotts Valley Market. I got raspberries and blueberries. I wanted a mixture of berries as opposed to just doing blueberries. The raspberries were absolutely perfect and delicious. The blueberries were also very good. I did not make my grunt on the stove-top, instead I cooked in a soup crock in the oven.

How do you make something heavily based on dairy vegan? Well, there are many recipes for vegan cheese sauces out there. These mostly rely upon nutritional yeast powder and cashews. This is one of those recipes and I have to say, I did not dig the consistency, but the flavor was good. The alfredo was runny and not creamy as I would expect an alfredo sauce to be.  The taste was a little heavy on the soy sauce, so next time I would reduce the soy sauce. I think I would also to pureed white beans instead of cashews.

Linguine  with “Hurry Up Alfredo” Sauce and Asparagus

Recipe adapted from VeganYumYum

Hurry Up Alfredo
Makes 2-3 Servings

  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 Tbs Low-Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbs Vegan Margarine
  • 1 Tbs Tahini
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 oz. brown rice linguine
  • 3 spears of asparagus

1. Add all sauce ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. It never actually gets creamy, but until it is processed.

2. Cut two large and one small spears of asparagus. Remember to snap off the woody stems. I’m saving mine for a vegetable stock later this week. Boil a pot of water. Once boiling add rice linguine and boil until cooked. Add the cut asparagus now. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus in the sink. Add the sauce and enjoy.

Blueberry and Raspberry Grunt

Adapted from VeganYumYum

I have to say this was an amazingly easy dessert. It does take some time, but its relatively simple. I adapted this recipe to make two portions of grunt filling and one portion of biscuit. I’m goint to use the leftover filling in my oatmeal tomorrow morning, yum! At first, I thought the biscuit was going to overwhelm the filling, but it was well proportioned.

Blueberry Filling

  • 2 Cups Fresh Blueberries (or frozen)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Simple Biscuits

  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1Tbs vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

1. In a large, heavy bottomed silk, add filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmmer for fifteen minutes until raspberries come apart and the liquid has turned a dark purple.

2. Mix together biscuit ingredients, working the margarine into the flour before adding the almond milk.

3. Add half the filling to an individual grautin dish or individual soup crock. Then spoon biscuit dough on top of the filling. Bake in 400º oven for twenty minutes.




Cupcake Rage

This is another pictureless post. After the success of the grapefruit cake on Wednesday, I wanted to make another citrus flavored dessert. I chose to make two kinds of cupcakes: lemon cupcakes and lemon coconut cupcakes  both with lemon buttercream frosting, shredded coconut, and fresh berries.  I was baking these to celebrate my friend Katie being accepted into grad school at University of Edinborough.

The lemon cupcakes tasted good to me, but they were a bit heavy and dense. Andrew really didn’t like the way they tasted, but I think that’s just his unnatural abhorrence of buttery flavored things. He could also have been tasting the powdered egg replacement and it might have trigged something in his palate that it doesn’t do to me. I didn’t get around to tasting the lemon coconut cupcakes, but they looked fluffier (I doubled the amount of baking powder I put in).

I was satisfied with the cupcakes. If they were dense oh well, I can blame that on them being vegan. I started on the lemon “butter”cream frosting. I had noticed earlier the weird separation thing that Smart Balance does with lemon juice and I was worried about it in my frosting. This is exactly what happened, I had these strange floating butter bits after I added the lemon juice. Even if I added more powdered sugar it didn’t really change the weird bits or the runny texture. Still, I forged on, not willing to give up yet. I tasted the frosting: it tasted fine. I put it on a cupcake with some berries and tasted it…not what I wanted. The combination of one delicious thing (the berries) with two things that were okay: made me really ANGRY.

I threw them all into the waste basket. I was pissed. Why can’t I ever make frosting? I have never made a succesful buttercream frosting vegan or otherwise.