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Waffles à la Mode

31 Mar

I love waffles! I don’t make them often though because I usually go crazy and end up making and eating them for several days in a row. My friend Jeannie came over for breakfast on Sunday and I made waffles, roasted potatoes, sautéed kale and Field Roast smoked apple sage sausages. We stuffed ourselves full of, well, everything. I think I ate three whole waffles (on top of everything else) so you’d think I’d be sick of waffles the next day. But noooo! First thing I did when I got home Monday was make more waffles.

When it comes to waffles, I like them thick with crispy outsides and fluffy insides, and plain so I can use them as a blank canvas for toppings, kind of like what you get at waffle shops in Brussels. This waffle is not a true gaufre (or even veganized version of one), however, but a plain–and delicious!–American-style waffle that is neutral enough to be topped with just about anything you want. As a late-afternoon treat, I topped mine with sweet strawberries that Jeannie gave me (thanks, Jeannie!), tangy non-dairy frozen yogurt I’d made on Saturday and bittersweet ganache I’d made earlier in the week.

I don’t like things very sweet, so this was perfect for me. If you want something sweeter, you can substitute ice cream for the frozen yogurt, use caramelized fruit or compote in place of fresh fruit, drizzle the waffle with caramel sauce, etc. The options are endless!

Waffles à la Mode

Yield: varies depending on your waffle maker; it made 5 large waffles for me

Ingredients

Waffles
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups soy milk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar OR 3 Tb agave nectar
extra oil for brushing

Frozen Yogurt
1 – 24 oz container of vanilla non-dairy yogurt (I used Whole Soy brand organic vanilla soy yogurt)

Additional Toppings
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
1/2-1 cup ganache/chocolate sauce (depends on how much you want to eat!)

Directions

Waffles: Combine dry ingredients together in medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until thoroughly combined. Small lumps are OK! Don’t over mix or you’ll get tough waffles. I like to let the batter sit for 15-30 minutes before using, but you can use it immediately. Tip: For nice, crispy outsides, I turn my waffle maker to the max temp and brush oil on both plates before cooking each waffle.

Frozen Yogurt: It doesn’t get easier than this! Empty the container of non-dairy yogurt into your ice cream maker and run according to your machine’s directions. It should yield about one pint of frozen yogurt.

To assemble: Top waffle with sliced strawberries, a scoop of frozen yogurt, and drizzle chocolate sauce on top.

If for some reason you have more waffles than you can eat in one sitting (I’m not sure how this is possible!), store them in ziplock bags and freeze them. When you next have an hankering for waffles, simply toast them in your toaster or oven — they reheat really well!

Coconut-Sesame Banana Fritters

7 Mar

Even though I’m vegan, I really enjoy perusing non-vegan dessert books for inspiration. Every so often, I come across a recipe or two that’s already vegan and needs no adjustments, as I did with this banana fritter recipe from Pichet Ong’s The Sweet Spot: Asian Inspired Desserts. Last fall, I served these fritters with a side of cashew-and-coconut milk-based vanilla bean ice cream that I made as one of the desserts for my final for my plated dessert class.

For my final, I had to present a printed menu and four plated desserts–including one “special diet” item–to a panel of four (non-vegan) judges, of whom two are professional chefs. Call it a “vegan complex” or what have you, but I’m always debating whether or not to tell people the dessert I’ve just given them–whether it’s a cookie, cupcake or anything else–is vegan before or after they’ve tasted it. I usually opt to tell the unsuspecting subjects after, so that I can get their honest, unbiased opinion and not have them start imagining that there’s cardboard and alfalfa sprouts in their dessert. In this case, however, I decided to be upfront about it and put it right on the menu that everything was free of animal products.

I really just wanted to show the judges that vegan desserts can not only taste good in their own right, but be presented as elegantly as one would expect in a non-vegan establishment. And that vegans have high standards, too! Since this fritter recipe calls for rice flour, I used it for my “special diet” (gluten-free) dessert. For the plate, I swiped a stripe of pomegranate sauce I’d made to add a little color, and added a lacy rice noodle garnish for height. On the other side of the garnish was the scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. During the judging, I could see that the judges were visibly enjoying them (and none of them could believe the ice cream was vegan!). In the end, I got high marks and positive feedback all around, which was not only a nice ego boost, but reinforced my belief that vegan desserts have a real place in the pastry world.

Anyway, if you’re looking to be inspired by Asian-influenced desserts, The Sweet Spot is worth checking out. And these fritters are truly delicious, so definitely go make them! Right now!

Coconut-Sesame Banana Fritters
from The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts by Pichet Ong (called “Fried Bananas” in the book)

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups glutinous rice flour
1 1/3 cups shredded  unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, divided
Canola or veggie oil for frying
16 baby bananas (I cut up 5-6 regular bananas into two inch chunks)

Directions
1. Whisk the flour, shredded coconut, sugar, salt, half of the sesame seeds and coconut in a bowl into a smooth batter and let rest for an hour.
2. Heat oil to 350 F (you can just test it without a thermometer by dropping a little batter in the oil, which should sizzle when ready). While the oil is heating up, chop your bananas into two inch pieces (or just have the peeled baby bananas ready if you’re using those instead). When the oil is ready, coat the bananas with batter and and lower into the oil. Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
3. Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on the fritters. Serve warm, with ice cream.

Sweet Corn Muffins

24 Feb

This recipe is from my old blog so I feel like I’m cheating a bit by reposting it, but I really like it and want to share it with those of you who haven’t seen it yet. I enjoy a good cornbread, but I’m very particular about it. I like it just so. While this recipe isn’t perfect, it cures my cornbread cravings every time. I love the crispy, crackly tops, which give way to a dense, moist muffin inside. The agave nectar gives the muffins a slight sweetness that I also love. When in season, I dress up these muffins by adding corn kernels or blueberries for some extra flavor.

Sweet Corn Muffins
Makes 12 small muffins

Ingredients
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 six oz container plain soy yogurt (I recommend Whole Soy & Co brand)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/8 cup canola oil

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the soy yogurt, agave nectar and canola until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently stir until thoroughly combined. The batter should be very thick — too thick to pour.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way. Use a small spoon to smooth out the tops of the muffins. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Devour!

Apple Strudel

13 Jan

 

Oh — strudel, strudel, strudel,
I made you out of dough
And when you’re baked and ready
In my tummy you’ll go

I’m not kidding, that’s exactly what came into my head as I put my apple strudel into the oven. I crack myself up sometimes! But seriously, if you’ve ever had apple strudel, you know it’s frickin’ delicious! And you know what? It’s pretty easy to make, too.

For those of you who followed the show Top Chef: Just Desserts, you may remember the quick-fire challenge that involved the two competing groups having to pull strudel dough as fast as they could without tearing it. It’s like that, but without the pressure of the clock, or judgment from teammates if you tear a hole or two. Really, it’s not that bad at all.

To make the dough, what you need is a big table, a clean tablecloth that you don’t mind getting oil stains on and your knuckles. I did my best to provide directions below. If you’d like detailed photos illustrating what the process, however, the bloggers at Chef in You do a fabulous job here.

Anyway, I like to play around with ingredients in the kitchen so I decided to flavor the strudel filling with currants and garam masala, a blend of spices that is commonly found in Indian cuisine. My blend, which I found at a local Indian store down the street, includes coriander, chili, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, amchur, salt, anise, fennel seeds, black pepper, mace and bay leaves. The flavor ended up being more subtle than I intended, so if you’d like more of a spice kick, I’d suggest adding a little more. The strudel dough recipe is from The Pie and Pastry Bible, and is already vegan (score!).

Apple Strudel

Ingredients

Strudel Dough
(from The Pie & Pastry Bible)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tb + 1 tsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup warm water

Apple Filling
1 pound of apples (I used 3 large Granny Smith)
1/4 cup dried currants
2 Tb lemon juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Streusel Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

For brushing
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted

Directions

For the strudel dough:
Mix ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly combined. If needed, add water by the teaspoon. On a floured surface, knead dough for a couple minutes. Lightly oil the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. While your dough is sitting, prepare your filling and streusel topping.

For the apple filling: Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4″ slices. Combine with rest of ingredients in large bowl and toss to evenly distribute ingredients.

For streusel topping: Combine ingredients in a bowl and using your hands, mix ingredients together until they form course crumbs.

Putting it all together: Preheat oven to 400* F and have a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat ready. Spread out a clean tablecloth on your table. Roll out your dough to a large round (how large? I didn’t measure exactly, but so the dough is about 1/4″ thin). Brush the top of your dough with some melted coconut oil to keep it from drying out. Slide your hands under the dough and using your knuckles (not your fingers!), gently pull the dough. Continue to stretch it from every side to a rectangular shape, as thin as you can get it–until it’s almost transparent if you can–while being careful not to tear it. It’s OK if there are a few small holes, but you don’t want too many because the filling will poke through. When you’ve stretched it as far as you can, using your brush, sprinkle some coconut oil across your dough.

Next, leaving a few inches around the edges, sprinkle your streusel topping  across your dough. On one of the short sides of the rectangle–again leaving a few inches around the edges–spread your apple filling in a thick layer. Now, using the tablecloth, flip the edge of the dough over the apple filling layer. Lightly brush the layer with oil. Flip the strudel over itself again and oil the next layer. Repeat until you get to the end of the dough. Brush the ends of the dough with oil and tuck under the roll. Brush the top and sides of the strudel with more oil and top with brown sugar. Cut a few steam vents in the roll. Transfer to your baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the strudel is a dark golden brown.

Serve warm with ice cream. Yum!

Chocolate Pear Napoleon

30 Dec

The end of the year is always a little bittersweet for me. It’s a time when I start reflecting on the year past, looking back fondly on some experiences, with regret for others. It’s also a time filled with both hope and fears for the year ahead. Of all of the desserts I’ve made these past few months, the chocolate pear napoleon best reflects the mood of this experience for me with the melding of flavors of dark chocolate, sweet pears and tart cranberries.

This dessert is also a reminder of my favorite experience this year, which is when I took the plated dessert class at Laney College in the fall. In this class, all students were responsible for creating a menu item for the bistro on a weekly basis, and preparing and plating that item daily for the week. The program at the school isn’t catered towards vegan baking at all, but the chef instructor of this class allowed me to do all vegan desserts, which was very exciting! The plus side of this was that I was given free reign to experiment and had access to culinary professionals and students to critique my work on a daily basis. The negative was that every Monday morning–when we had to figure out who we wanted work with for the week–felt like being chosen last for the dodge ball team at recess. Actually, more like not being chosen at all because I ended up working alone a lot of the time.

It’s not so much that I minded working alone (a lot of the time, I prefer it) or that anyone was rude or mean to me (everyone was actually very, very nice), but being The Vegan Who Uses Her Special Ingredients Stored in Her Own Cabinet and Doesn’t Use Eggs or Dairy or Gelatin or Even Milk Chocolate Like the Rest of Us means the non-vegans automatically assume they can’t or shouldn’t work with you. When I did work with someone, it was almost without exception with my longtime-vegetarian classmate, Irene (us veggie folk have a way of finding each other!).

Vegan baking is still an icky, foreign concept to most people and seems to intimidate even the most confident and experienced baker. In attempts to combat any negative preconceptions about vegan desserts (of which there are usually many), I tried to pick desserts that were sophisticated and visually appealing but would also have a familar feel to non-vegan desserts. Basically, challenge people’s ideas of what vegan desserts can be, but nothing too out of the norm that may scare people off.

The chocolate pear napoleon with cranberry compote, derived from a recipe by acclaimed pastry chef Gale Gand, was one of the desserts I worked on. To create a vegan version, I adapted various components of the recipe that called for butter or cream. Also, rather than using poached pear, I decided to use pears that I caramelized in a pan with sugar, vanilla bean and brandy. I was skeptical of serving cranberry compote with a chocolate and pear dessert at first, but the tartness of the compote worked really well with the chocolate and sweetness of the pears. It was a delicious combination, and apparently a real hit with the omnivores as well. If I recall correctly, this was one of the desserts that completely sold out during the week. One of the bistro workers came up to Irene on the second day to verify the ingredients in the dessert, saying that one customer didn’t really believe that it could be vegan!

Give this napoleon a try and let me know what you think!

Chocolate Pear Napoleon with Cranberry Compote
Adapted from Chocolate Napoleon recipe by Gale Gand

Serves 5

Ingredients

The Phyllo

1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted, or canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 sheets phyllo dough (9″x14″)
1/4-1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Caramelized Pears
8 ripe, medium-sized pears, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
1 cup sugar (you can adjust depending on how sweet your pears are)
pinch of salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 Tb vanilla bean paste or extract
2 Tb lemon juice
splash of brandy

Ganache
8 ounces dark chocolate, coursely chopped
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup regular-fat coconut milk
1/4 c  agave nectar

Cranberry Compote
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup sugar

Directions

For the phyllo: Preheat oven to 350* F. Mix together the melted coconut oil or canola oil with the cocoa powder. If using coconut oil, you can keep this mixture over a bowl of hot water to keep it liquid while you’re working with it. Lay a piece of phyllo on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush a light layer of the oil-cocoa mixture and sprinkle some of the sugar. Top with another layer of phyllo and repeat the process with remaining layers. Using a cutter or knife, score the the phyllo stack into 2″x3″ pieces (21 pieces total). Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the phyllo layers are crisp. *Tip: The cocoa makes it difficult to tell when the phyllo has baked long enough so include a plain phyllo layer on your baking sheet and use it to gauge when they’re done.

For the caramelized  pears: Combine the sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon juice in a large skillet. Toss pear slices in the mixture until all pieces are coated. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure even caramelization. Sauté pears until golden and softened. Stir in brandy at the end. Transfer pears to a pan and let cool to room temperature.

For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a small bowl. In a small sauce pan, combine the non-dairy milk of choice, coconut milk and agave nectar to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let stand for a minute. Whisk mixture until smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

For the cranberry compote: Combine and mix all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. On medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and continue to simmer until the cranberries have popped and softened, and the juices have thickened. Transfer to a bowl and chill until cold. This can be made and stored a few days in advance.

To assemble: Place a dab of ganache at the center of each plate (this keeps the napoleon from shifting around when you move the plate). Place a piece of your 2″x3″ phyllo on top, gently pressing it down. Top with a thin layer of ganache and pear slices. Repeat until you have three layers of ganache/pear. Top with a fourth piece of phyllo. Dust top layer with powdered sugar. Spoon cranberry compote around the napoleon.