A casserole is my idea of "good returns". Somehow baking anything in layers of starches and sauces in a large casserole dish until the individual ingredients become one massive slab of goodness is very satisfying. And the best part is that it's an excellent way of emptying out the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator.
I never seem to have room in my refrigerator. There is no reason why a refrigerator that feeds one person should be so full to the brim that I have to rough it up in order to get the door to shut.
I suppose this was something of a lasagna, sans the lasagna, replaced with sourdough bread. Oh, and it's vegan, but if you have no need for vegan constraints I suggest the addition of ricotta cheese layers and and a top layer of grated parmesan reggiano.
4 large tomatoes (I used a variety of very wonderful heirloom tomatoes, which I think makes a difference)
2 large onions, sliced into strands
2 cups mushrooms (I used a combination of both brown and white)
3 large eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch discs
1 loaf slice sourdough bread, toasted very well
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 1/4 cup Marinara sauce
1. in a large saute pan add 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance (just butter if not vegan) with a pinch of sugar
2. when the Earth Balance has been melted add the onions on low heat and caramelize, stirring often. This will take a good 15 minutes. Make sure the heat is on low to avoid burning
3. preheat oven to 400
4. lay the eggplant discs on a lined cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and then salt liberally
5. bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or under very tender and slightly browned
6. meanwhile, saute the sliced mushrooms in olive oil under tender
7. in a large casserole dish make a layer of the toasted sourdough, trying not to leave any open space
8. put a layer of the baked eggplant discs on top of the bread
9. spread a layer of marinara sauce over the eggplant
10. sprinkle 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
11. layer with mushrooms
12. layer with caramelized onions
13. start the layers over again until the casserole dish is full
14. when the casserole dish is filled, top with sliced tomatoes and then salt and pepper
Last night I went to a movie night with a newly formed film club that I am very fond of. I am also fond of the way we've decided to incorporate food into our movie nights, potluck style. My contribution was the vegan crumb cakes (below), an eggplant bread casserole (above) and these cream puffs.
I feel like these cream puffs may have triggered an anxiety attack. I'm blaming it on the cream puffs.
I made the cream puffs in the morning and they were adorable and thrilling in a way because I've never worked with choux pastry and my pastry bag sprung leaks all over the place and I was almost positive that the puffs weren't going to come out well. But they did. They were crispy on the outside and airy and delicate on the inside. I wanted to make a pillow out of choux pastry.
But here's the unfortunate part: I overlooked the fact that choux pastry does not hold up very well when left in sweltering apartment heat all day. By the time I was ready to fill them with whipped cream and take them to the film club the puffs had lost their crispness. I don't know why I become so upset by things like this. I tried to crisp them up again by throwing them in the oven for 5 minutes, which worked for the most part except that the internal temperature became too warm to fill them with the cream. But I was going to be late and so I filled them anyway and immediately regretted it because the whipped cream started to deflate immediately. My solution was to stick them in the freezer. By that time the cream puffs had been through such a variety of temperatures that they were pretty useless.
Here is a second vegan option for the Les Figues auction.
My friend Jared assumed the role of my vegan dessert taste tester and helped me decide on this crumb cake for the auction. This decision was made mostly because these cupcakes are almost ridiculously easy to make and really I don't think that it being vegan meant that taste had to be sacrificed. I've done a fair amount of research on vegan desserts and a few years back I was making a lot of vegan desserts with Ener-G Egg Replacers and fancy dairy substitutes but in the end I decided that these ingredients led to inconsistent results. These ingredients were expensive and for the most part I've had the best results with simple, practical replacements like soy milk and Earth Balance. Canola oil is pretty key in vegan desserts, I've realized.
I think I will add either hazelnuts or walnuts to this recipe for the auction.
Please come to the Les Figues auction for these cupcakes plus here are the other things I am making for the event:
1. lemon cupcakes with chamomile honey icing
2. chocolate and matcha cupcakes with bittersweet chocolate ganache
3. vegan crumb cake
4. fig and pear mini galettes
5. lavender chocolate sable cookies with cream cheese filling
6. vanilla sables with sour cherry filling
7. chocolate sables with honey peanut butter filling
I will also be auctioning two items at the event:
1. a basket of 7 homemade farmers market preserves
2. an alchemical baking commission: you dream up any dessert your creativity can conjure and I will design a recipe according you specifications, bake the item for you, and give you a copy of the recipe. The wilder the commission the better. Here are some starter suggestions : lychee cheesecake, strawberry and azuki bean cupcakes, tamarind cheesecake, olive oil raisin pound cake, root beer cake, mochi blondie bars, black sesame brownies, blueberry goat cheese tarts, ginger and strawberry cake, and avocado cake
Part 2 of the desserts I brought for Janice's Labor Day bbq--this part, not so much vegan. I wanted to make something lemony because that seems appropriate for an outdoor event and I had bought some French prunes from the farmers market the other day. Prunes are fascinating. I've never seen them in their non-dried form. I just assumed that "prune" was the term given to a dried plum, but apparently I was wrong. According to wikipedia, they are a small plums with easily removable pits. Okay.
These mini prune and lemons cakes were very simple to make. I used cupcake tins to make a small grabbable sizes and just inverted the cakes so that they wouldn't be mistaken for muffins. Ah, the versatility of bakeware. Also I made a lemon glaze to go on top just to give it an stronger lemon kick but you go without out the icing if you'd like. Without the icing I'd imagine that they'd make a very nice breakfast tea cake. I love tea cakes.
16 prune, split and pitted
The zest of two large lemons (about 3-4 teaspoons)
1 cup granulated sugar + 1/8 cup sugar for muddling with the zest+1/4 cup sugar for cupcake tins
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature + 8 tablespoons of butter for the cupcake tins
1 large egg at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1. preheat oven to 375
2. muddle the lemon zest with 1/8 cup of granulated sugar and set aside
3. sift together flour, baking powder and salt
4. with an electric mixer beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy (approx. 3-4 minutes)
5. add the egg and beat for another minute
6. add the buttermilk and beat for another two minutes (at this point the batter will seem oddly curdled but do not fear, this is normal)
7. add the vanilla and lemon zest/sugar mixture
8. slowly add the flour/salt/baking soda mixture in three separate additions, folding very gently
9. grease 16-17 cupcake tins with vegetable oil or shortening
10. at the bottom of each mold put about 1/2 tablespoon of butter
11. over the 1/2 tablespoon of butter but about 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
12. place the sliced prune on top of the sugar
13. divide the batter among the cupcake tins, about 3/4 full
14. bake for 20 minutes
15. let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes
16. while the cakes are still in the pans, take a serated knife and cut of the domes of each cake so that they will sit flatly when inverted (save the cake tops by wrapping and plastic wrap and freezing)
17. invert the cakes by taking a butter knife and gently running it along the edges of each cake and then place a large cookie sheet on top of the cupcake tins and then flip. The cakes should unmold easily.
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1. whisk together
2. put the icing in a sandwich bag and push contents into one corner of the bag
3. snip and small corner off the bag and then ice the cakes.
Happy Labor Day! I don't really understand what Labor Day is, but all the same, it's nice to have an excuse to have a bbq with friends. Janice, Jeff, and Jared (oh! i just realized they are all "J" people) invited me over for an afternoon bbq. This was also coincidentally a good opportunity to test out some dessert possibilities for the Les Figues auction this Saturday. Among the multitude of anxieties I am feeling about this event, the vegan portion of the desserts that I am catering is causing me a fair amount stress. Good stress though. I find the experimentation phase of working out recipes pretty exciting, but only when the recipes turn out well.
When baking vegan desserts, my stipulation is that it should be unrecognizably vegan, that it should be plainly good regardless of its non-dairy-ness.
I think this apple rose tart is 75% there. The pate brisee dough was a little too crumbly, maybe. I can work with this. I wanted to try veganizing this recipe because I'm very comfortable making non-vegan apple tarts and it seemed like an easy transition. And because the primary ingredient of this dessert is fruit, it felt a little safer to me.
I have a couple more recipes I want to try before I settle on a decision for the Les Figues Event.
vegan pate brisee:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Earth Balance, cubed and chilled
1/2 Vegetable Shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons ice cold water
4 small apples or 3 large ones (granny smith preferably), cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup apricot jam
1. Pour the flour onto a clean surface
2. Make a well in the flour and put the vegetable shortening, earth balance, salt, and sugar in the center
3. slowly work the flour into the center of the well until the mixture is crumbly (the dough will not hold together at this point)
4. add the ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time and work the dough until it begins to hold together
5. divide the dough in half, pat into discs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap
6. chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or you can freeze for up to 3 months
7. roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness and place into either 12-15 tartlet pans or two large tart pans
8. arrange the apple slices in a single direction, going around the tart pan so that it looks like a rose
9. dot the apple slice evenly with Earth balance
10. sprinkle with generous amount of sugar
11. bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until the apples and crust look golden
12. let the tart cool
13. heat up the apricot jam in a sauce pan at low heat
Yes, these scones were very delicious. But that's besides the point. These are sad scones because their baker is sad. Half way through making these I realized that this is precisely the kind of thing Saeyoung would love. Peachy, barely sweet, moist, and kind of has the texture of a fat fat baby. If scones were the type of thing one could ship, I would do so, immediately. Unfortunately scones have a very limited shelf life. They should probably be eaten within the same day of being baked.
Really, what is the point of baking if not to fatten up the people around you? I certainly don't want all that butter around my hips. no no.
I think I'm in a bit of mourning from having my sister on the other side of the country. But on the up side, we've already started planning a trip to New York together in January, so there's something to look forward to.
Okay, mourning aside. These are very good scones, though perhaps not the most traditional. Most scone recipes call for very cold butter that it cut into the dough to make for a flaky crumb, but more often than not scones are dense and really very clumsy door stop like things. I softened my butter and used sour cream rather than heavy cream, making for a very light and delicate scone--golden and crusty on the outside and so soft on the inside that I wanted to stick my face in the center. I can't take credit for the sour cream/softened butter idea--that came from The Steamy Kitchen Blog where she wrote about a recipe for blueberry scones with lemon curd. I adapted the recipe a bit, adding a little bit more sugar and substituting the blueberries with peaches.
Also, the peach whipped cream was pretty key. I didn't sweeten my whipped cream at all. I just pureed some peaches and very gently folded it into the batter (fold vveeerrry gently into your whipped cream will just become soupy). And then I topped the whole thing with honey.
Peaches and cream and honey. I love breakfast.
Peach Scones With Peach Whipping Cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
2 cups sour cream
1 large peach (or 1 1/3 small peaches), small dice with skin still on
4-5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
Optional: egg wash and sanding sugar for sprinkling
Peach Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup peach puree
1. preheat oven to 350
2. in a large mixing bowl sift together dry ingredients
3. cut in softened butter with a pastry cutter, or use hands to work the dough until it resembles the texture of coarse crumbs
4. mix the vanilla extract into the sour cream
5. fold in the sour cream and vanilla mixture into the dough very gently
6. fold in the peaches
7. use a 1/4 measuring cup or use a very large heaping ice cream scoop to measure out the dough onto a lined cookie sheet
8. bake for about 30 minutes
9. while the scones are baking use an electric mixer to beat the whipped cream until it peaks