Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge Reveal Day!

A few months ago I kept seeing the very cute Daring Bakers logo on several food blogs, so I decided to investigate. Daring Bakers is a group of bloggers (and some non-bloggers) who make one recipe per month as close as possible to the original recipe instructions, then blog about it on a pre-determined date. Well, today is that day...and having just joined the Daring Bakers, this is my first challenge. So without further ado, I can now reveal...


OK. So, cheesecake pops for a new vegan baker is probably not the best first challenge, but it was a challenge indeed. Each month there is a host/hostess who chooses the challenge recipe. April's challenge was hosted by Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms. The original recipe is not vegan, and one of the main rules of the Daring Bakers is to make the recipe exactly as it is written. However, there is a loophole for who Daring Bakers refer to as "Alternative Bakers", that is, vegans, gluten-free, anyone with allergies, etc. So as an Alternative Baker, I set off to veganize the recipe. In place of the cream cheese I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and in place of the eggs I used silken tofu. I also replaced the heavy cream with vanilla hemp milk.

I seriously dislike everything by Tofutti. I was very nervous to use the Tofutti cream cheese for that reason. I had not had it in a long time and was hoping that perhaps my memory was too harsh. Well, it wasn't. I think that stuff tastes like chemicals. I know plenty of people like it just fine, but it just really bothers me. I did not like the taste of my cheesecake batter because of it and was afraid my first challenge would flop.

An interesting thing about this challenge is that it required a hot water bath for the baking cheesecake. I had never used a water bath before so that was new to me. I poured my batter into my cake pan and then placed the cake pan in a larger roasting pan and filled that with boiling water until it reached halfway up the sides of the cake pan. The instructions were to bake for 35-45 minutes. However, at 45 minutes the center was very jiggly so I ended up keeping it in the oven and re-checking at 5 minute increments. It took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

The next step was to let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. I refrigerated for about 6 hours and then was eager to make my pops! I scooped the cheesecake into little balls, inserted the Wilton lollipop sticks that I found at Michael's, and stuck them in the freezer. I froze them for about three hours, and by that time I was dying to roll them in chocolate. I melted some Tropical Source chocolate chips and coated the cheesecake pops,, and they looked really good. I put them in the refrigerator to keep cool, but soon enough couldn't resist trying them.

Well, there was that Tofutti taste again, but covered in chocolate it wasn't as bad (which is just further proof that chocolate makes everything better!). I still wasn't loving it, though, and was kind of disappointed. To my surprise, Nate ate 3 of them! He didn't think they were great either, but he at least thought they were edible. The next morning I tried another one and it actually tasted better to me now that it was nice and cold. So all in all, it was pleasant-tasting, just not great.

I did not decorate my cheesecake pops like many of the other bakers did. Be sure to check out the blogroll and see some of these beauties! I did consider making some vegan caramel to drizzle over the pops which probably would have been tasty.

Despite my less than stellar results, I still found this challenge extremely exciting! It was great to learn some new general baking techniques, such as the water bath, and how to make a cheesecake since I had never tried that before, as well as some vegan trial-and-error, such as the whole Tofutti thing. If I make this recipe with non-dairy cream cheese again I will not use the silken tofu, or at least as much, in addition. I think it made the texture a little too mushy, although it did help to mask some of the Tofutti taste.

The best part of the challenge was the Bake-along organized by Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go. Several of the Alternative Bakers started our recipe at 7 AM on 4/12 and chatted via Gmail as we baked. It was like having tech support!

So thank you Daring Bakers! I had fun making a huge mess with my cheesecake pops! I am looking forward to May's challenge...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Now I can't get the Nick Drake song out of my head...

I had to look up which full moon we would be in tomorrow, and it turns out that it will be the Pink Moon.  A couple of years ago I started the ritual of celebrating every full moon by preparing a special dinner to correspond to that particular moon.  Unfortunately I have fallen away from that since having the kids, but I think now would be a good time to start again.  So I have to come up with some pink specialties for tomorrow night.  I think mango lassis are definitely in order...I have had a taste for one for the last several days but am out of silken tofu, so I'll do some grocery shopping tomorrow.  Perhaps a dessert with strawberries?  Hmmm...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

experimenting with paneer

A few posts ago I mentioned the Vegan Indian class that Nathan and I took at the Detroit Evolution Lab.  One of the dishes that was demonstrated and served was a vegan palak paneer, which was incredibly delicious.  Angela's recipe included cashew cheese, however, so that is not an option in our house.  Angela was nice enough to help me via e-mail to come up with another way to try this recipe.  So last week I took a stab at it, substituting a miso and silken tofu blend for the cashew cheese.  The taste was quite good, but the texture was weird.  Once I put the pieces of paneer into the vegetable/spice mixture, they just kind of dissolved.  So it still tasted good, but did not look very appetizing as it was just a lot of mush.  I ended up rolling it up in some leftover lavash, and it made a very tasty sandwich, but not exactly what I was going for.

So today I tried again.  This time I used a blend of tahini and extra firm tofu, as well as lemon and salt, and blended then baked it.  I think it came out much better this time!  I haven't made the whole dish yet, the paneer is in the fridge for tomorrow's dinner.  We'll see if this one holds up any better.  The texture was totally different this time.  Angela's version was very smooth and creamy.  This one was  bit chewier, but had a texture that sort of resembled farmer's cheese.  I was worried about the bitterness of the tahini so I did end up adding more lemon and more salt than I would normally be comfortable with, but it seems to have done the trick.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bubbling Over With Vegan Joy!

Well, I was bubbling over yesterday...but came home to two kids with coughs and sneezes so I had to save the blog post for today.  

Yesterday Amanda and I went to The Great American Meatout.  I had two main purposes for going:  1) Detroit Evolution Laboratory would be selling bottled dressing, and 2) Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was speaking.  I bought a bottle of Angela's Signature Lioness Dressing and it did not disappoint.  We had it on our dinner salad but I also managed to dip my entire dinner into this stuff, it was so good (ftr, we had smoked tempeh sandwiches, so it wasn't that weird to dip it in this dressing).  For anyone reading who has made the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, this dressing would be the perfect accompaniment.  It is a mustard-y, tangy sauce with just the right amount of sweetness.

I also bought Colleen Patrick Goudreau's DVD.  I needed an excuse to go talk to her at her table, lol.  She seems like a very genuine, sweet woman and I honestly HAD to thank her for her work.  I am not the type to gush over celebrities, but strangely enough I found myself so overwhelmed with gratitude to this vegan author/podcast host, that I was most certainly gushing.  Her presentation was wonderful, and even though I had heard her say all of those things before, hearing them "live" was especially powerful.  

On top of the two main reasons I went, we got to sample some great food.  The carrot-cardamom cake from Inn Season Cafe was delectable!  So needless to say, I am very glad that we went.  Driving home I felt a great deal of gratitude to all of those in our world who are examples of compassion, sustainability, and healthy living.  I was lucky to see many of those folks at the Meatout.  Thanks to them and the many others who inspire me every day, I am also compelled to do better!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Top Secret Baking...shhh!

This morning I am baking a top secret recipe that I am dying to blog about but can't until the end of the month.  It's my first Daring Bakers challenge and, kind of like Fight Club, the first rule is I can't talk about it...yet.  Keep fingers crossed for me as this concoction turns out and I will "reveal" my end result at the end of this month!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

a lovely way to eat chocolate cake!

You know you've been doing lots of baking when your 3 year-old tells you, "Mommy, you forgot to bake me a cake today!"

I seem to have had several chocolate cake occasions over the past couple months, so I've been making the Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake from the Moosewood New Classics cookbook.  So yesterday, Luka asked for a chocolate cake and really, who am I to refuse anyone a chocolate cake??  I made the Moosewood cake but decided that this time some sort of icing was in order.  Vegan frosting and I do not get along's something I just can't seem to make work no matter how hard I try.  So instead of going that route, I decided a chocolate topping sauce would be the way to go.  I mixed a bag of Tropical Source non-dairy chocolate chips with a 1/2 can of coconut milk and a little bit of maple syrup and melted it in a pot.  I am too lazy for the double-boiler thing so I just kept an eye on it so it wouldn't burn and did lots of stirring.  I flipped the warm cake upside down and let it cool for a few minutes, then poured the warm chocolate sauce over it...YUM!!  It turned out like a pudding cake, the sauce kept the cake moist and seeped around the sides drowning the whole thing in chocolate goodness.  It was better eaten with a spoon than a fork.  I refrigerated it after we all had some and then today after lunch I had a (big) piece and it also tastes really good cold.  I'm having one of those days where the boys are making me a little crazy, so chocolate cake is awfully nice to have around! :)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

a very pleasant evening with amazing food!!

Nate and I took a class tonight at the Detroit Evolution Laboratory.  It was a Vegan Indian cooking class.  I have to say, I was so ridiculously excited to be there!  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, and the experience was wonderful.  The Lab is a beautiful loft in Eastern Market.  The fact that the city of Detroit is seeing so many great new businesses such as The Lab and other positive changes cropping up was one of the reasons for my excitement as the city was my first home and always the home in my heart.  But Angela Kasmala's cooking...OH MY GOODNESS it was amazing!  During the course of four hours, we watched Angela prepare a beautiful vegan feast that included a curried beet salad, channa masala, and palak paneer.  I can't wait to try out her recipes on my own.  After she prepared all of the food, we all sat down to dinner together.  The Lab is getting plenty of press and attention these days, and it is more than well-deserved.  I am just thrilled that I can find support for a vegan lifestyle in the heart of Detroit!  I will be anxiously waiting to see their schedule of next month's cooking classes...