Saturday, 31 May 2008

Daring Bakers - April Challenge: The Failed Opera Cake

This is what happens when you are sent to work across the country for nearly a month, then come home and realise that a daring bakers challenge is due.

Now opera cake, something that has always intrigued me, but I have never really personally bothered with. Somehow, it just seemed like an really arrogant cake- yes, if a cake could display emotion, this opera cake would be full of it, to the point where you want to knock it down a notch, but you don't because you realise that this cake has every right to be full of itself.

As a part of the challenge, the aim was to make a 'light' opera cake- traditionally they are made of yummy stuff like chocolate. I ended up using the flavours of ground almond, orange and white chocolate in mine.

Sadly, I did not give this cake the time it deserved- it still tastes nice, but it is not up to my usual standards. Oh well, I had a lot of fun juggling around all of the components!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Cherry Pie

As April is coming to an end, so is my month of baking from The Joy of Vegan Baking. However, it is not the end of a long list of recipes I wanted to try from the book, so rest assured you will see more of it in the future.

I have wanted to bake a cherry pie for ages. Like, years- but have never seemed to get around to it. I am obsessed with cherries and the combination of sweet cherries in a buttery short crust just makes me salivate all over the keyboard.

Thanks to some left over canned dark cherries, last weekend was spent making and inhaling the Cherry Pie from JOVB.

Recipe notes: This recipe required two components to be made 1.) the cherry pie filling and 2.) the short pastry crust. Since the cherries in the filling where already in sweetened syrup, I decided not to add any extra sugar. Also, I replaced the corn flour for arrowroot powder to make the gelled part. Turned out fine.

Now, for the short pastry crust- I have to admit, using vegetable shortening is not something I have ever done in pie making. I used 100% Nuttelex and the pastry turned out perfect. The only shortening available in Australia is Copha and I strongly suspect it has high amounts of trans fat, despite the nutritional label saying otherwise. Of course, I am not a big pie maker, so I had some trouble decorating the damn thing.

Review: Well, I think the pastry on its own needed a bit more sweetness. But it complemented the sweet cherry filling perfectly.

Will I make this again?: Yep.
I might try with fresh cherries and a dollop of cashew cream next time though.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Daring Bakers - April Challenge: Veganising Cheesecake Lollipops

Daring Bakers? Why, they are a group of lovely people who once a month bake the same recipe and compare the results.

For a sweet loving maker like me, it is heavenly.

Even more so that there are a number of alternative bakers - including vegan - who rise to the challenge of turning many recipes into sumptuous vegan-friendly versions.

For this month, the challenge was Cheesecake Lollipops. Now, back in pregan (a term to denote life before veganism) days I adored cheesecake. Now that I am vegan, I find that I love the alternative cruelty-free cheesecakes, just as nice, wether the "cream cheese" base made from a soy based substitue or from ground nuts (yes you heard me right- 'cheese' made from nuts. It is tastier than you think!). So, this challenge was right up my alley.

Except that I kept pushing it back- until this weekend where I was in a panic, as all those expensive pots of faux 'cream cheese' had disappeard through the Not Chef's gullet. Finally I did manage to come up with something like this:

They aren't as pretty as Hannah's, Gail's, or shellyfish's but oh my, do they taste fine!

I ended up halving the recipe- there was no way I could afford all those tubs of faux cream cheese required (about 1kg's worth!!). To replace the eggs + cream in the recipe, I used a combination of firm silken tofu and egg replacer (Organ's No Egg). I was going to try vegan sour cream and egg replacer, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere where I live sadly. I amped up the vanilla flavour and coated with a dark swirl of organic, fair-trade chocolate. Some I covered in chopped almonds.

And you know what? They taste just like creamy ice cream- like Magnum I used to have back in the omni eating days.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Bienenstich (Beesting)

You wouldn't believe me that I have been baking all week, with no posts to speak of, would you? Long story about my battery recharger being recharged with non-compliant batteries (lost of explodies), therefore the ability of my energy-hungry digital camera to take pictures was significantly compromised.

This week we have been enjoying the deliciously decadent and mostly-bad for you Bee Sting. This makes a lot, so be prepared to share. Actually, you have to share because of the amount of fat in the creamy filling alone (250g margarine. I kid you not. I freaked out after seeing how much margarine was required in the creamy filling). Though that didn't stop us from grabbing a few extra slices. This batch was made up to send to K's workplace, where it was a hit (as well as the Fig Date Nut Loaf, Apfelkuchen and Black Cherry 'Strudel' - all from The Joy of Vegan Baking). Needless to say, I am still recovering, though I have a lot more baking adventures on the horizon. This recipe comes from a vintage Dr Oetker recipe book, translated by my mum and veganised by me.


You'll need a set of measuring scales, large bowl, a lamington pan (a rectangular pan with the following dimensions: 31cm x 25cm x 3cm (12in x 10in x 1.2in) or 18cm x 28cm x 3cm (7in x 11in x 1.2in)) and lots of human power for this one

Beesting (Bienenstich)


  • 500g (1.1lb) plain flour
  • 1 sachet of dried yeast (about 7-8g (0.25-o.3oz))
  • 1t sugar
  • 125mL of lukewarm soy milk
  • 75g (2.6oz) sugar
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 100g (3.5oz) of melted margarine
  • Egg replacer to the equivalent of 2 eggs (I use Organ's No Egg)
Mix the yeast with the teaspoon of sugar and milk. Allow to stand in a warm place for about 15 min. The yeast mixture should become bubbly and rise.

Sift the four into a large bowl stir in the sugar and then make a well in the centre of the four. Add the yeast mixture to the well and cover with some flour, you should have a little flour mountain in the centre of the bowl. Distribute the remaining ingredients (margarine, vanilla extract, egg replacer) around this.

Now starting from the centre and using a wooden spoon start beating the mix together. Once it is all mixed find a comfortable chair and holding the bowl between your knees. Using both hands to hold the spoon, beat the mix vigorously until small bubbles form (this is the human energy required part- I guess you could mix using a beater with a dough hook, but I have always done this by hand. You may need a 'volunteer' to help if doing this by hand). The dough should be soft and shiny. Cover the dough in the bowl (with plastic wrap and a tea towel) and put in a warm place until it has doubled in size (usually takes about an hour, maybe less or more depending on the ambient temperature).

Butter and flour a lamington tin. Once the dough has risen, roll and shape it to fit in the tin- roll out the dough to a rough rectangle, then smooth out edges to fill inside the tin. Cover the dough in the tin while you make the topping.

  • 100g (3.5oz) butter
  • 150g (5.3oz) sugar
  • 1t vanilla essence
  • 10mL liquid glucose (corn syrup)
  • 2T vegan milk (I used rice)
  • 200g (7oz) of flaked almonds
Put all the ingredients, except the almonds, into a saucepan and stir over gentle heat until dissolved.

Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds. Allow it to cool to lukewarm, then spread it evenly over the dough in the lamington tin.

Again cover the dough and allow it to rise in a warm spot.

When risen bake at 180C (355F) for 15 to 25 minutes or until cooked. Use a skewer to check for doneness- start checking after 15min.

Be aware that the sugar syrup in the topping may bubble over- have a tray underneath in the oven to catch in drips- just in case.


Okay, for the filling you need a stiff creamy-custard recipe. What I ended up doing was modifying the Pastry Cream recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

  • 500mL vegan milk (I used rice)
  • 2.5T plain flour
  • 4.5T cornflour
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 250g vegan margarine

Mix the plain flour, corn flour and sugar together. Add about 60 to 90mL of the rice milk and mix until it is a smooth paste.

Place the remaining milk in a saucepan and heat until it starts to simmer. Scoop out about 85mL/1/3 c of the warm milk and rapidly beat it into the flour/milk paste, using either a wooden spoon or a whisk. Turn down the heat to medium-low and quickly mix the paste into the simmering milk.

Keep stirring continuously until it is nice and thick. Take the saucepan off the stove, transfer to a bowl and beat in the vanilla extract. Cover and cool.

When the pastry cream is cooled, beat in all the margarine until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Once the cake is cooled, slice it horizontally and spread on the filling. I tend to slice it into large pieces first then sandwich the filling in between. Replace top, and refrigerate for a bit before slicing into smaller pieces, as the filling may ooze out if too warm.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Are you sick of JOVB yet? Fig Date bread, Butterscotch Pudding & Pear Tart

Ok, so it may seem like all I have done the past few weeks is bake from the Joy of Vegan Baking, but it is not true!

I have been working on my (almond) croissant recipe. So far I am nearly there, just a few more technical improvements. It will be a while before I am satisfied though.

So in the meantime....

Fig Date Bread

This went so quickly that I didn't manage to take a picture in time. The Not Chef and I pretty much bought this tasty delight into work everyday as a wonder snack. And I am telling you now, RUN don't walk to your favourite fruit and veg provider to get fresh figs for this one. (To be honest, I had never seen a fresh fig before until I moved over here from the west coast! How embarrassing...)

Recipe notes:
I thought the amount of sugar was too much, considering the amount of dates in the recipe. So, I took out my handy-dandy US sized tablespoon (There is a 5mL difference between Aus and US T) and put in about 3-4 T of golden syrup instead.

Review: I used one of those new strange silicone baking pans for this recipe. So I don't know if it was that, my oven, or the much-later head-palm discovery that a huge heavy metal pan thingy may be blocking the essential heat to my baking, but it took almost double time to cook. Regardless, the bread turned out well.

Will I make this again?: Yep.
Maybe next time I may be quick enough to include pictures even!

Pear Tart

This was gone in just under 2 days.

Recipe notes: I made this exaclty as-is. No changes at all. Well, I did make this with a springform pan instead of a pie tart. I was worried at first when making the crust, as it contracted a bit during baking, but after adding and cooking the filling, it contracted about the same amount, so all was well.

Review: Yumyumyum.The only downside is that is requires as 'cream cheese' analogue, which depending where you live may be hard to find &/or expensive. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at how delicious this tart was. I didn't think it would turn out special, but it was our favourtie of the lot I made.

Will I make this ag
ain?: YES.

Butterscotch Pudding

Recipe notes: Another one I made 'as-is.' The exception is the white chocolate whipped tofu topping. What I did was blend 1/4c soy milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice), 300g firm silken tofu and 200g of melted vegan white chocolate (the only brand I know that is relatively easy to get in Australia is Sweet Williams). I let it set for a few hours, pumped it into a piping bag and added big towering swirls. Then I grated some vegan dark chocolate over the top.

I was worried that it might be too sweet, but as the pudding cools, the butterscotch flavour is more pronounced. And the white choc tofu cream/butterscotch pudding combo was a tasty winner.

Will I make this again?: Maybe.
Only because I am not a major pudding person.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Apfelkuchen from The Joy Of Vegan Baking

I have been flipping through all my cookbooks recently and have realised that I have not baked much from most of them. Like most humans tend to do, I find a few dishes I like first time cooking and keep making them, forgetting about all the other recipes. To circumvent this, I have decided to occasionally set aside a month were I bake recipes from predominately one book I have.

The upside of me doing this too is that if a particular vegan cookbook has captured your eye, but you want to know more about the sweet baked recipes, you can come here and have a look to see how I did. I find this valuable, especially when looking at other's blogs to see if a recipe from a book turned out the same way or wether I might have done something scarily wrong to produce a wonky result.

So, the cookbook I am focusing on in April is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Colleen's book is fantastic, especially for those new to vegan baking. She details different replacers for eggs, milk and butter, explaining how the replacements work and in which baked goods to use them in. The book is divided into sections (ie cakes; pies and tarts; quick breads; etc) and at the start of each section she has even more helpful information on how to bake the goods successfully. More small helpful tips are on the page of most individual recipes, with some having little 'food lore' blurbs with tidbits on the origins of the baked good. If the recipe requires a little more work than usual, she will label it as 'advanced preparation required'- helpful if you need to bake something fast.

As with Colleen's book, I have been guilty of only making and remaking two recipes from it- Cinnamon Rolls (MAKE THESE NOW) and the Holiday Nog (creamy, delicious and drool-worthy). So, the first non-cinnamonynoggy I have tried was the German Apple Cake (Apfelkuchen). This cake comprises of a cake base with a sugar and sliced apple topping. I chose it because we had some left over apples after making sauerkraut and dumplings for dinner. Delicious organic granny smith apples, the perfect amount for this recipe.

Recipe notes: This recipe didn't take long to make- the longest time was spent waiting for my damn oven to heat up to the right temperature and peeling + slicing the apples. Collen calls for ginger + cinnamon as spices- I did not have ginger, so I replaced it with allspice. For the cake itself, I reduced the amount of sugar to 1/3 c- I find most US recipes are just a tad too sweet for me. When I finally popped the cake in, I had to use the extended cooking time of 40min. My electric oven is a temperamental darling.

Review: This cake is delish! The cake part itself was perfect- not too moist or dry and a bit fluffy. The apples and topping went well together- the brown sugar slightly caramalised the apples. Together, it was the perfect balance of sweetness, flavour and texture. The cake itself is not pretty- sure I could have spent time laying out the apple slices perfectly, but uh, I was hungry.

Will I make this again?: Most assuredly! Now onto the next recipe!

Monday, 31 March 2008

Scones- my daily breakfast

Most vegan cookbooks I have are from the US. Although I have some Australia ones, I can count them all on one hand- and they are less than 5. It is always interesting to see the differences in US and Australian cooking- different names for ingredients, utensils, even baked goods.

Once such example is cookies- we don't have cookies over here - we have biscuits (although the word is getting more usage). And what are called biscuits in the US are called scones over here (and in the UK/NZ).

I have been missing scones for the past few weeks, dreaming of the flaky buttery morsels drenched in raspberry jam and topped with a cloud of cream.

After a few attempts, I have mostly perfected my own vegan scone and cream recipe. Although the cream is not an exact representation of the dairy version, when placed atop a jam-covered scone it has the same "mouthfeel,"making it difficult to assume that the scone could be any different.

You will need wait to prepare the cream at least 4 hours before making the scones. Resist the urge to use the cream early- tofu's strength comes from its ability to absorb other flavours while receding its own 'beany' flavour, to the point where you would never guess that the food had tofu in it.

Vegan Cream:

- 300g silken firm tofu
- 1/4 c vegan margarine (I use Nuttelex)
- 1/4 c icing sugar (make sure it is pure sugar and free of cornstarch)
- 1 t pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 c water
- 2 t agar powder

First blanch your tofu. The instructions here are very good - bring a pot of water to boil, remove from heat and add the roughly chopped tofu. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Set aside to drain well in a strainer for at least 30 minutes.

Place the tofu, margarine, vanilla and icing sugar in a blender. Set aside.

Place the water and agar powder into a small saucepan. Heat the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens. Quickly remove from heat and place the mixture into the blender.

Blend all ingredients together, scraping down the sides occasionally.

Pour the cream into a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours. This will allow the cream to solidify and the creamy vanilla flavour to develop.

Now for the scones- make sure your oven is hot and at the correct temperature- use an oven thermometer!

Scones - makes approximately 8 scones:

- 1 1/2 c plain flour
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 T sugar
- 1/3 c vegan margarine, chilled + cut
- 1/3 c soy milk

Preheat oven 220 C (430 F). This may take a while, so start preheating at least 15 minutes before making the scones.

Lay a piece of baking paper over a baking tray.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.

Add the margarine into the flour mix. Using a knife, start cutting the butter into the flour. When they resemble small lumps, rub the butter and flour together between your fingers. Use rapid motions and continue until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Add the soy milk and stir the dough together with a knife. It may look like it won't come together, but it will. Once this happens, bring the dough together with your hands and lightly knead it for two turns- this should only take less than 30 seconds.

Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand, until it is roughly 1.5-2 cm in height. Grease the inside and outside rim of a glass drinking cup- this will be your scone cutter. Use the glass to cut circular scone shapes out of the dough.

Place scones onto the baking tray, put in the oven and bake for 15 - 25 min or until the scone tops are lightly golden.