Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm a Daring Baker!!

(This photo was taken by my brother. I have never thought to put food on the floor and take a picture of it! An obvious idea to many of you I'm sure but I'm glad my brother introduced me to this.)

I'm extremely excited to have participated in my first Daring Bakers' challenge! I wasn't sure if I'd have time for it with school keeping me busy but I decided to just make the time since I knew it would make me really happy. For those of you that don't know, the Daring Bakers are a group of bakers who choose one baking recipe a month and all make the same thing, following the recipe without alterations, then post about it on the same day. This month Mary at alpineberry chose the bostini cream pie for us all to make.

(I had my brother take a photo of my adorable niece holding the cake. She knew exactly how to pose with it!)

I was hoping for something with pumpkin for the October Daring Bakers' challenge, but I know my boyfriend was happy to find out it was something that combined orange and chocolate. I've never heard of bostini cream pie before so it was definitely something new for me. The recipe didn't seem like it would be too difficult, just putting a few separate parts (orange chiffon cake, vanilla custard, chocolate glaze) together.

I've never made a chiffon cake before and haven't actually made that many cakes at all. I thought it would go okay but when it came time to folding in that massive bowl of whipped egg whites into the cake batter, I started to get a bit anxious. I found it really hard to fold the egg whites into the batter without collapsing the egg whites and at the same time making sure everything was properly mixed. It seemed like the batter didn't want to be pulled up from the bottom to mix with the egg whites. Perhaps using a giant spatula (like ridiculously giant) would've been more helpful for that amount of batter.

I was really happy when I took the cake out of the oven and it smelled good. The recipe just said to gently press the middle of the cake with your finger and if it springs back then it's done. I stuck a toothpick (or three) into it just to make sure. The next problem was when I thought it wasn't going to come out of the pan (I made it in a sheet pan type thing), but a little coaxing with a spatula, and thankfully it fell out.

(The goo on the cake.)

When I took the cake out of the oven, the top was dry. But after cooling for a couple of hours, the top became wet. No idea why that happened or if that was supposed to happen or how I could've avoided it. Another problem was the bottom of the cake looked like it had all these little lumpy things (which I'm glad I didn't notice when I was eating the dessert so they didn't end up being that big of an issue.) I picked one out with a spoon and tasted it and I think it might've been a bit of the batter that hadn't mixed properly with the egg whites? Even though it seemed like I might've overmixed the batter. So overall, I was not really happy with the cake making experience. I tried a little piece of it separately and it tasted okay. It's pretty spongey, not sure if that's what it's supposed to be like.

Now the custard, I love making custards (though I do get quite hot standing over a hot stove for at least 15 minutes.) And I loved the taste of this custard. It had a really comforting homey taste to it (if that makes any sense). Some people are really good at pie crusts, at cakes, or whatever else, but for me I think it's custards. I know some people are scared that they won't stir fast enough and it will burn or curdle, but I think the trick is to use a big pot so you have lots of room to whisk. I really enjoy the whole process. Mixing a bit of the hot cream into the egg mixture to temper it and then quickly whisking the egg mixture back into the cream and watching it all thicken up.

This recipe definitely made a huge amount. Since I cut the cake into pieces to put on top of the custard, I just mixed the leftovers together (custard, cake, chocolate) and put it in the fridge. When I had the dessert after it was first put together, I thought it was okay but not my favourite or something I'd want to make again. After it sat all mixed up in the fridge overnight, it was so insanely delicious. The chocolate had hardened a bit (but was still a bit soft due to the butter in the glaze) and the cake had soaked up some of the custard. I almost couldn't believe it was the same dessert because it just tasted so different. I would definitely make it again and do it that way, with putting it in the fridge all mixed up overnight, but probably try a vanilla cake instead of the orange (since I'm not a huge fan of orange). I can't wait for next month's challenge!

For the recipe, check out Mary's post, which has some beautiful photos. To see all the other lovely Daring Bakers' bostini cream pies, you can go to the Daring Bakers' Blogroll.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Panko-Crusted Tofu Cutlets with Lemon-Caper Sauce

I know that this picture does not look so awesome and it's possible you're thinking the food itself doesn't look so great either, but I'm telling you it is! This is another recipe I tried out from one of my quick vegetarian meal cookbooks, Quick Fix Vegetarian, though unfortunately this was not a quick meal. It was actually kind of aggravating to make when I just wanted something fast.

Nevertheless, it turned out very tasty. You're supposed to coat slices of tofu in panko (Japanese bread crumbs that I've wanted to try out forever) and then pan fry them (and this was supposed to be a healthy cookbook?) Well the panko didn't want to stick to the tofu in the way the recipe suggested it would, so that part of the recipe was not so successful. Part of that could be due to my weak frying skills. The incredibly delicious and successful part was the sauce though! Oh what a wonderful wonderful sauce. I really wasn't expecting much from it but it far surpassed any expectations and made the longer preparation time worth it.

There was something so tasty about the combination of flavours - wine, onions, lemon. Next time I would chop the capers though as getting a bite of one is a bit too much for me, but I do like what they add to the sauce. And I know I could more finely chop my onions but I don't have a lot of patience to finely chop vegetables, especially when the knives we have aren't that sharp (ie. if I'm chopping leeks, I have to saw through them). I wouldn't make this exact recipe again but I will definitely make the sauce again. Maybe I'll use it on baked tofu, or over mashed potatoes, or sweet potatoes mmm. Let me know if you have a good idea for what I can do with this sauce!

Panko-Crusted Tofu Cutlets with Lemon-Caper Sauce
slightly modified from Quick Fix Vegetarian (Robin Robertson)

serves 2 as main or 4 as part

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup water
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional as needed
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup onions, minced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons margarine/butter
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish

Combine the tahini and water in a shallow bowl until blended. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Place the panko in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tofu slices with salt and pepper to taste, then dip them into the tahini mixture and then into the panko crumbs. Fry the tofu on hot oil, turning once, lightly browned, working in batches as necessary. Remove the tofu from the skillet and keep warm.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the capers, white wine, and vegetable broth and reduce by one-quarter. Stir in the margarine, lemon juice, and the 2 tablespoons parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the tofu and garnish with parsley.

My notes: I didn't end up using all of the panko, or even half of them so I would just pour out a bit to start and add more as needed. I also didn't use up all of the water/tahini paste, so you could try halving that as well. The paste was very watery so perhaps add more tahini than the recipe calls for, which will hopefully help the panko stick to the tofu.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

bill's Coconut Bread

I must've seen the recipe for bill's coconut bread at least a couple of years ago. Being a coconut fiend, I mentally added it to my list of things to bake. Finally I got around to actually making it recently. As for the results, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be but I'm happy I made it and would try it again with some modifications. It's like a very thick dense loaf mixed with bread - not as moist as a loaf and not as dry as bread. I loved how the exterior was crispy when it first came out of the oven - unfortunately it became completely soft the next day. The addition of cinnamon was interesting and people seemed to like it (in fact my boyfriend I think said that it was the thing about the bread that made it special) but personally I wouldn't put that much cinnamon in next time - maybe I'd add lots of vanilla extract, and extra coconut flakes sprinkled on top before baking? I made coconut nutmeg cookies once and that experience might still be traumatizing me from enjoying coconut with spices.

My loaves always puff up so much in the middle so I must remember to try and make sure the ends and corners have ample amounts of batter (assuming that would help fix it). I do love that this is unabashedly a real coconut bread. I think it would be wonderful made into French toast, and more simply, it's good toasted with some butter. And as for the lowercase b in bill's, it's not a typo - it seems to be typed that way for his show and on his site, etc.

bill's Coconut Bread
Adapted from Sydney Food by Bill Granger found on Baking Bites

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla
350g (2 1/2 cups) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
225 g (1 cup and a bit) granulated sugar
150 g (2 cups) shredded coconut
75 g (1/3 cup) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 180C /350F.

Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. Stir in sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center and pour in egg mixture. Stir until just combined.

Add butter and stir until just smooth, being careful not to overmix.

Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until tester comes out clean.

Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pasta with Tofu Red Pepper Sauce

Since I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time to cook when I went back to school, I got a couple of cookbooks to help me prepare quick and healthy meals (The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet & Quick Fix Vegetarian). I don't like agonizing over what recipes to make each week so I'm not too picky when choosing my meals (though recently I haven't been using any recipes because I've had so many exams.) I've found some pretty good recipes for the most part, though some (particular in The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet) were too bland as is so they need to be modified a bit for next time, and some recipes were certainly not quick.

This recipe for pasta with red pepper sauce was one of the recipes that is an interesting idea but needs some additions to make it delicious. It's definitely not your ordinary pasta sauce as it uses silken tofu for its base. Two great things about this sauce are that it's super easy having only 2 ingredients (roasted red peppers and silken tofu, though in the future I will modify it to add more) and that it uses something I need to eat more of (tofu!) I had never thought of using tofu in a pasta sauce before so I was really intrigued. It turned out alright but wasn't super flavourful. I've already started composing a list of things I would add to it next time to make it better, such as: garlic, herbs, more mixed veggies (particularly green onions or sauteed red onions), nuts, parmesan cheese, and pureeing in wilted spinach. The recipe definitely has possibilities and I'm glad I tried it!

Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted from The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

12 ounces whole wheat pasta, any short chunky shape
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon butter
12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 package firm silken tofu
salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the peas in for the last minute or two to heat them. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in butter to melt.

2. Meanwhile, combine the peppers and tofu in a food processor and process until smoothly pureed.

3. Combine the sauce with the pasta and peas in the pot and stir together. Cook just until the sauce is heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Optional add in ideas: garlic, herbs, more mixed veggies (particularly green onions or sauteed red onions), nuts, parmesan cheese, and pureeing in wilted spinach

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Fail Granola

I've been wanting to make my own granola for quite some time now. So you can imagine that I was really excited when I came across this incredibly easy and versatile recipe at Everybody Likes Sandwiches. It does take longer than I'd like to make since I chop up all the fruit and nuts, but it's definitely worth it.

I use apple juice instead of oil so I assume that's why the granola doesn't turn out hard/crispy at all, which is how I would prefer it but I don't want to add oil. At first I tried eating just a bowl of this granola with milk (as I would cereal) but it was so soft and soggy. Then I started doing half box cereal (Vector or Special K usually) and half this granola, with an extra sprinkling of almonds, and I really love it. I also love knowing that without even trying, I'm eating lots of things that are good for me every morning!

I extremely adore this jar for keeping my granola in. Originally it was purchased for cookies but I think the granola has now staked its claim on the life of the jar. (It's from Ikea.)

On top of the oats, flax and wheat germ in the granola, I like to have a real mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit so I've been doing:
1 cup of seeds (half sunflower, half pumpkin)
1 cup of nuts (half almonds, half walnuts)
1 cup of dried fruit (mix of raisins, apricots and apples, though I'd really like to add blueberries, pears and figs - if only the dried blueberries I've seen weren't packaged using some oil!)

No Fail Granola
slightly adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

4 c rolled oats
3/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c flax seeds

Plus 3 cups of any of the following suited to your tastes:
Nuts* (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc)
Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, etc)
Dried fruit* (raisins, apricots, apples, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, pears, peaches, coconut, figs, etc)

Mix all of your grains and nuts together and add some spice:
1 T cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground cardamom

In a large measuring cup, mix together the following:
1/3 c + 2 T apple or pear juice, ideally the cloudy kind
1/3 c sweetener (honey, brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup)

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix well with a wooden spoon until everything is well coated.

Pour onto a cookie sheet or large rectangular pan and bake in a 300 degree oven. Stirring every 20 minutes or so for about 45 minutes until mostly dry. Remove and cool. Store in a tight lidded container.

*I always chop up the fruit and nuts into raisin size pieces. Obviously I do not cut up the raisins!
Note: Next time I might try baking everything without the dried fruit to make sure it gets all nice and toasty (and adding the fruit in after).

Monday, October 8, 2007


I want to like hummus because it's a really healthy dip and I know I need to eat more beans. I've never really liked it though. I was flipping through How It All Vegan for bean recipes and saw that they had Holy Moly Hummus. This series of vegan cookbooks has never let me down and I'm always pleasantly surprised with how things turn out so I figured I had to try it.

It turned out really well and will now be my go to hummus recipe. I'd like to try adding roasted garlic next time. This post is pretty unexciting but trust me, the delicious hummus recipe makes up for it! You must try it, whether you are a hummus lover or disliker (as I was).

Holy Moly Hummus
adapted from How It All Vegan

Makes approximately 2 cups.

1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
splash of olive oil
2 1/2 cups cooked OR canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup tahini (about 200 grams)
1 1/2 tbsp Braggs OR soy sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice OR 1/4 cup water + 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt

In a small saucepan, saute onions and garlic in a splash of oil on medium heat until onions are translucent. In a blender or food processor, blend the sauteed onions, chickpeas, tahini, Braggs/soy sauce, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne and salt until you reach desired consistency.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Coconut Cream Pie

For my birthday this year I decided to make a coconut cream pie. I was extremely looking forward to making my own birthday cake (originally I was looking for a cake recipe) since it meant I would have a great excuse to make something elaborate, only myself to please and I wouldn't feel bad eating a bunch of it. I was tempted by a brownie mosaic cheesecake on Smitten Kitchen that looked challenging and delicious, and an eight-layer chocolate peanut butter cake in Saveur. But I wasn't able to find a cake that really appealed to me (a sign that I need more baking books!) I knew I always wanted to make this coconut cream pie so I thought why bother searching for a random cake recipe - I should just make something I've wanted to make for years even if it's not as complicated as some of the cakes out there.

I saw Martha Stewart make this pie on some TV show I can't remember now. This was years ago, but I always remembered it. Probably because she puts this thin layer of chocolate on top of the crust before putting in the coconut custard. Mmm hidden chocolate layer. You might think it's a good idea to add extra chocolate and make the layer thicker (the more chocolate the better right?) Well I do not recommend it, as this is what I did. It made the crust really difficult to cut through. I was not at all thinking about how hard chocolate gets when it's sitting in the fridge. Ah well, it was delicious even though it was hard to bite through!

I don't think I heated the custard long enough because it wasn't very thick. I got really tired of waiting for little bubbles to come up, while also trying to avoid it boiling and burning. This was after I did something incredibly stupid that I don't even know why I did - I heated up an empty pot at medium-high heat on the stove, then poured the custard into it. WHY?? Why did I do this. I really have no idea since I know that it was not something I should've done. Thankfully only a little bit of the egg cooked and I was able to salvage most of it. The coconut custard had an interesting light but definite coconut flavour, versus other coconut cream pies I've tried which have a stronger and sweeter coconut taste. My mom described this pie as "fluff", which I know custard is not supposed to be but hey we all liked it.

I'm still a little bit scared of making crusts, but this one turned out well so my crust making confidence can increase! I made a full recipe and only needed half so I have the other half sitting in my freezer. Not sure what I should do with it but I would hate to throw it away. Maybe the earl grey white chocolate cream pie I created in my head?

I was really happy with how the coconut cream pie turned out and I would definitely make it again. All of the components were delicious and the chocolate layer added something extra (though next time it will be a much thinner layer of course).

Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

makes one 9-inch pie

all-purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 recipe pâte brisée (recipe follows)
4 large egg yolks
3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
chocolate curls*
coconut curls or shredded coconut, toasted**

1. Preheat oven to 375F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round, a bit less than 1/4 inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim crust to a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold under overhang so it extends slightly beyond edge of pie plate. Crimp edge. Prick dough all over with a fork. Chill pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

2. Line chilled pie shell with a round of parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges of crust just turn golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights. Return crust to oven, and continue baking until golden all over 15 to 20 minutes more. Place pie shell on a wire rack to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3. Place coconut curls (or shredded coconut) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. (Watch closely.) Set aside.

4. Prepare an ice bath; set aside. In a bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks; set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Whisk a quarter of hot-milk mixture into egg yolks; whisk in remaining milk mixture. Strain into a clean saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in center, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Set in ice bath until completely chilled, 30 to 35 minutes. (Filling can be kept in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 day.)

6. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch the water), or in the microwave. Stir until smooth, and set aside until cool to touch, stirring occasionally.

7. Using a pastry brush, coat inside of cooled crust with melted chocolate. Place in refrigerator or freezer until firm to touch, about 10 minutes

8. Fill crust with coconut custard, spreading evenly with an offset spatula. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine cream and confectioners’ sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Using a small offset spatula, spread whipped cream on top of custard. Refrigerate pie at least 3 hours before serving. Garnish with toasted coconut curls and chocolate curls just before serving.

*Take a block/bar of chocolate and use a vegetable peeler to scrape off curls. I didn't heat the chocolate up at all beforehand but I think it helps to heat it up a tiny bit. Not enough so that it melts though, of course.

Pâte Brisée
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

makes enough for one double-crust or two single-crust 9-inch pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)

2. With machine running, add ice water through feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.