My mom has always had the ability to seemingly effortlessly whip something crafty together and it always turns out beautiful. She’s especially good at making wreaths and floral/green arrangements so I decided to give it a try myself. Dan and I wandered around a nearby park and walked around the forest edge and found lots of grape and honeysuckle vines, a few pine and holly sprigs, and also gathered some wisteria vines from the backyard. I started out with a hoop that was actually from an old lampshade I took apart a few years ago.
This next step was a terrible idea, but I thought that if I fattened the ring up a bit with newspaper then I’d need less vines to give the wreath some thickness. What I didn’t realize was that all my vines were so thick that they wouldn’t really cover up the newspaper. By the time I realized this I was too far into it, so I just continued and hoped it would be covered enough, which ended up working. Once I used up all of the vines I had gathered, I stuck a few of the greens on one side, salvaged a ribbon and stuck it on the door. I might keep my eye out for some red berries (holly or winterberry) to pop in for some more color.
We unexpectedly got about four inches of snow today, which didn’t really change our plans for the day (crunch time with schoolwork), but made the day cozy and put us in the mood for baking. With all the recent talk of the potential shutting down of Baltimore’s Berger cookie bakery because of the ban on trans fats, we decided we’d give making them a try. We used King Authur’s recipe and veganized it with the obvious substitutions of butter, milk, cream, and egg (vegg), and we also used agave syrup in place of corn syrup. They turned out delicious and the icing is pretty close to how I remember the original Berger cookie icing, but the cookie isn’t much like the original. But at least they are trans fat free!
Other notes on the recipe in case your going to try it: we cut the recipe in half and it made 9 Berger-sized cookies, but they didn’t need 10 minutes in the oven, they started to burn a little- so keep an eye on them.
Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Yes, we know.
Summer is over and it’s time to take advantage of local pumpkins in Maryland. I’ve made a few yummy pumpkin desserts and soups and such, but haven’t added it to bread… yet. Well, now I have. But first, let me suggest to you, freezing pumpkin, in an ice cube tray. Throw two tablespoons of puree into each ice mold, freeze, then pop them into a freezer bag. The result: 12 cubes of 1 ounce pumpkin which you can use on a moments notice to add in bread, pancakes, milkshakes… the list goes on.
Pumpkin is a bread bakers friend. It can be substituted cup for cup for water and can also be used to enrich dough, in lieu of egg. Ever since I made myself a sourdough starter I have wanted to make sourdough bagels. Originally, I thought my first ones would be sourdough blueberry bagels, but the extra moisture in the blueberries scared me, so those will have to wait until the spring.
These bagels are great. They are rich, slightly sweet from the cranberry, chewy and take really really well to pumpkin spice cream cheese. For the cream cheese, mix about 2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and allspice each into an 8 oz tube of your favorite vegan cream cheese and blend.
I hope you make these and enjoy them. They take two days with the sourdough, but worth the time, for sure. Let me know what you think and what else you like to do with pumpkin.
- 5 oz sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 11 oz bread flour
- 3 oz whole wheat flour
- 7 oz warm water
- 8 oz pumpkin puree
- 0.5 – 1 oz water (optional)
- 18 oz bread flour
- 0.5 oz barley malt syrup
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 0.7 oz salt
- 4.5 oz dried cranberry
- The day before you plan to make the bagels, make the firm sourdough starter by mixing the 5 oz of 100% hydration sourdough with 11 oz bread flour, 3 oz whole wheat flour and 7 oz of water. Mix until it forms a ball, knead briefly, then coat the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rest for 4 hours. Then lightly degas, reform into a ball. Place this ball back into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate over night.
- The next day, an hour before making the dough, remove the starter from the fridge, cut into small pieces, place on a silpat and cover with plastic to allow to warm up a bit.
- Mix the rest of the bread flour (18 oz) with the salt and yeast. Add the pumpkin puree and malt syrup and mix until a ball forms. Add in the cranberries and switch to hand kneading (or use the hook attachment of your stand mixer) and knead until everything is incorporated, all the flour is hydrated and it feels pliable, but not tacky. Add more water if you need to allow everything to mix together, but a firm dough will yield a chewier, more shapely bagel. It is often easier to let the dough rest a few minutes and knead again a few times to ensure everything is mixed and the gluten is developed.
- Immediately divide the dough into 4.5 – 5 oz balls (mine were 4.8 oz) for 12 bagels. Let these balls rest a few minutes, then shape into bagels with whichever method you prefer. For shaping, I like to take the ball of dough and force my finger through the center, stretching it out, remembering the dough with expand and shrink the hole some when it is boiled.
- From here, I brushed the bagels with oil, covered with plastic and let rest in a cool part of the house for 2 hours to bake that day. Alternatively, in theory, you should be able to brush with oil, cover and retard in the fridge overnight. The goal is to not allow them to rise so that they get puffy, otherwise you end up with wrinkly, malformed bagels.
- When ready to bake, bring a large pot of water to boil, dissolve a 1-2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp of sugar in the water. Have the oven at 500°F with a steam tray in place. With my 12 bagels, I decided to bake in two batches, so I boiled my first 6 (two at a time), for 2 minutes (one minute per side). Then I placed these 6 on a baking sheet lined with my silpat and placed in the oven. I immediately threw about a cup of water on the steam tray and closed the door. After 30 seconds, I spray the bagels with a spray bottle of water and closed the door, repeating this 2 more times. After the last time I set the timer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I rotated the baking sheet, reduced the heat to 450°F and baked for an additional 4-6 minutes, until they were golden.
- After the bagels were finished, I removed them to a cooling rack, brushed lightly with melted butter and repeated the process with the remaining 6.
- Let cool and then serve with pumpkin spice cream cheese- vegan, of course.
We made our first cornhole set for our wedding reception. It wasn’t too difficult by following directions from Cornhole How To. It does take some time and the lumber is surprising expensive (about $50-70). Even still, for Dan’s older sister’s wedding, we decided to collaborate with his younger sister and her boyfriend to make them a cornhole set as a wedding present. Lessons learned: an outdoor duck cloth fabric is crucial for the bags! We thought we’d get fancy with a cool canvas pattern, but unfortunately, the bags ripped after a few games… (cornhole is an intense sport).
Even still, one of her bridesmaids liked the idea so much that she asked us to make a set for a party celebrating her wedding. We saw this as a perfect excuse to buy a table saw- which we found at a yard sale. The table saw made it a lot easier and we used sturdy fabric and simple color patterns. She was happy with them.
I get most excited for the first pumpkins to mark the fall harvest. I bought two sugar pumpkins last week and used it all up in a week. Since we did such a great job canning tomatoes, I was hoping to do a lot of pumpkin preserving for the winter. However, I was disappointed in finding out that you can’t safely can pumpkin puree, though you can do pumpkin chunks, which I plan on trying.
Since I immediately pureed my pumpkin, I had to find ways to use it all up (which wasn’t so hard). I made double batches of our pumpkin granola, delicious pumpkin cake (recipe to come), pumpkin red lentil curry, and these tasty cookies.
The cookies are soft and chewy with a hint of pumpkin and spice, though they probably could have taken more of each. The brown butter idea is from some similar recipes I found that used it to add flavor. Since Earth Balance doesn’t have as much lactic sugar as dairy butter, I added some Amaretto to add some toffee notes.
Makes 24 cookies.
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
- 1/4 tsp Amaretto (optional)
- 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp Vegg powder + 1 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups AP white flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- Brown the butter in a small sauce pan on medium-low heat and melt, stirring in the Amaretto. Let bubble for a few minutes (no more than 5) until a slight, but noticeable color change (light brown) and a nutty odor occurs.
- Add the now browned butter to a large bowl (or one of your stand mixer) and beat with the sugars. Add the Vegg powder and water and combine. Then add in the pumpkin puree, spices, vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Sift in the flours, cornstarch and baking soda and fold with a rubber spatula, then fold in the chocolate chips.
- Scoop tablespoon sized balls on a baking sheet (parchment or silpat) and bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are browning (the tops will still seem soft, but they’ll firm up out of the oven).
It’s been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We started this summer with a goal to can as many tomatoes as we could, and we’ve done pretty well. We’ve picked a dozen or so large tomatoes per week and made a few cans of salsa and sauce. We found this great asparagus pot at goodwill- and it works PERFECTLY for canning a single jar without wasting a ton of water to fill a large pot.
Since canning a few here and there from our garden just doesn’t add up we decided to find some to buy at a good price. Dan found a great deal at a local farmer’s market and we bought 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes and canned them whole. It took a while but we ended up with 12 jars of whole tomatoes. I think with a few more from our garden and my mom’s garden we might just last the winter without having to buy tomatoes! Much better than our canning efforts in 2011.
It’s that time of year again…our awkward yearly anniversary photo. This year we were too busy to even remember our anniversary and we didn’t get around to taking our photo until 11 days later. Oh well, we’ll make it up next year!
The options for Year 3 materials were leather or glass. I think you can probably guess why we picked glass…
We didn’t quite have the focus right on this one, but it’s goofy so I wanted to share it anyway…
It’s always such a task to be the first one out of bed on a weekend morning and make what everybody is craving- pancakes. So far, we have utilized two pancake recipes, one for fluffy hand-sized pancakes and another for thin, silver-dollar ones. The latter, by the way, is terrific since you make it in a blender.
In our recent efforts to use Vegg in our cooking, especially from the Vegg Cookbook, we decided to try out the lemon poppy seed pancakes from the cookbook. This recipe, from Meggie Woodfield of The Vegan Adventures of Meggie and Ben, was one of the best pancake recipes we’re ever had! “I forgot what pancakes tasted like”, Susanna surprised me after eating them Saturday morning. But she was right, these were not just good pancakes, but delicious. They were light and very fluffy and the lemon poppy seed was icing on the
pancake. And so of course, I had to do that cliche pancake photo shot: staked up high with maple syrup running down.
I used 1.5 cups of white flour and 0.5 cups of whole wheat and stirred everything until just combined (with a few lumps), then fried them without letting the batter rest for 10 minutes as the recipe suggests.
I got the idea about a year ago to make a quilt with all naturally dyed fabrics. Even though I haven’t finished my second quilt, I got started with the dyeing process this past weekend. Most of the plant material I plan on using is “ready” this time of year. My first experiment was using black walnuts. This isn’t meant to be a full tutorial, there are lots of good sources online and books. I’m simply documenting and presenting what worked (and didn’t work) for me.
Before dying, I scoured the fabric by simmering with some washing soda. This removes any waxes or junk on the fabric that would keep it from dyeing evenly.
At first I didn’t mordant the fabric. I gathered about 10 black walnuts from the ground below a tree, they were mostly green, some browning slightly. Then, following directions from two books I got from the library (Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess and The Handbook of natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr), I cracked the hulls and separated the nuts (which I left in our backyard and hopefully someone will eat them).
Then I put the hulls in a 5 gallon bucket and added water and let fester in my basement for 2-3 weeks. The water quickly became dark dark brown and stinky. Once it seemed ripe, I strained the liquid into a pot and brought the liquid to a boil, then simmered with the fabric for about 30 minutes. I had two pieces of fabric in the pot, so I decided to see what difference time made. I took the first piece out after 30 minutes of simmering, the second piece I let steep overnight. Then I rinsed and rinsed the fabric until the water ran clear(ish), let dry, and here’s how they looked:
While the colors were lovely (they both kinda appear white in this picture, they were actually much darker), I was expecting a much darker brown rather than a light gray. I had done lots of research and a lot of people said a mordant was unnecessary with black walnuts, but I also read that some people used one so I decided to experiment. I kept the darker of the original fabrics (the one that sat in dyebath overnight) and mordanted the lighter fabric and redyed it. I created an alum mordant by simmering 20% alum per fiber weight, then let fabric steep for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Additionally, I decided to try boiling the black walnut water with the black walnuts for an hour to try and extract more of the dye from the husks. After boiling for an hour, I added the fabric and soaked for about an hour on medium heat. Then I let it steep overnight and rinsed the next morning.
What a difference those extra steps made! It’s now a much deeper brown, almost olivey. So I have my first 2 colors- I need about 10 more to create the quilt I have in mind! This may take a few years.
One of the things I’m most excited about with using Vegg is with desserts. I bought a “Chocolate Bible” from a discount store a while ago and every cake recipe calls for 7-10 egg yolks. I tried one once, using a combination of flax meal and Ener-G Egg replacer… it was a thick, dense disaster. I’m optimistic that I can figure out how to veganize a sponge cake eventually, and maybe the Vegg is in that equation.
The best-sounding dessert in the Vegg cookbook, in our opinion, was the Tiramisu Cupcake recipe by Matthew Calverley of Vegan Heartland. We made it for a family dinner with my parents and siblings to see how they felt about a Vegg dessert.
Overall, approval was high. The cupcake, was much denser and chewier than cupcakes I’ve had before (vegan or not). The cream cheese frosting was very tasty, though a bit runny on a hot summer day.
The reason for the chewiness, I believe is over mixing. The recipe called for whipping the wet ingredients. Then, folding in the dry ingredients. Then, stirring in additional milk and vanilla extract. I think this caused too much mixing and thus too much gluten development, thus a denser, chewier cupcake. I think the milk and vanilla extract should have been added to the wet ingredients to reduce the amount of mixing.
Also, the tiramisu flavorings came from cocoa powder in the frosting and a coffee glaze poured over top the cupcake. Unfortunately, I don’t think this provided enough flavor, especially since the coffee glaze didn’t really soak into the cake. Instead, next time I would add some coffee liquor/ground coffee powder and cocoa powder into the batter from the start.
I didn’t have enough cream cheese on hand for the frosting recipe, so I subbed in enough shortening to make it hold together. This worked pretty well and made a nice frosting which was easy to pipe onto the cake.
Overall, we were really pleased with how these cupcakes turned out, we can’t wait to experiment a little more with them.