Virtual vegan potluck: Sidekick-good[boy/girl]-biscuits

November 16, 2013

Yay, potluck time! Welcome!

The virtual vegan potluck home

Yowsers, Keepin’ it kind… what a tough act to follow!

This is not exactly the kind of side dish that you are probably anticipating. I wanted to take part in the VVP, but struggled to think of a VVP-worthy dish. I decided to create a “side” dish for my trusty four legged sidekicks that help inspire me daily to try make the world a better place for all animals (human and non-human).

You can sneak one over the side of the table while you are enjoying all the other lovely VVP dishes you have made… I know it should not be encouraged, but it is a special occasion – we do not have a potluck like this every day.

“A well-trained dog will make no attempt to share your lunch. He will just make you feel so guilty that you cannot enjoy it.” – Helen Thomson

yummmnummmnumm peanut butter cookie.  I am a good boy, gimme a cookie!

Jake using his Jedi mind tricks to get the biscuits to him

I have included beetroot pulp in this recipe, since I am sure we are going to have many wonderful beetroot juice recipes and you will have lots of pulp left over, and instead of feeding your worm-farm or chucking it on the compost heap, you can use it as an ingredient in this recipe.

It is also a healthy and affordable way of creating some treats for all of your hunny-bunny-fluffy-fur-kids.

(It is scary to see what rubbish ingredients are included in commercial dog biscuits!)

I have made this in many variations, depending on what I have available at home.

The ratios may change, depending on the ingredients, but the 4 ingredients that are always included are:

  • Flour
  • Peanut butter
  • Molasses
  • Apple sauce

The rest of the ingredients depend on what I have available at home, sometimes I may use the pulp left over after juicing, leftover beans, if I was a bit over enthusiastic at soaking and cooking a batch of beans to be used for the week, sometimes I use flour that may be close to the expiry date… hopefully you get the idea – you can really just wing-it.

Basic guidelines

Makes approximately 50 bite sized biscuits

2 – 3 cups flour (for this batch, I used rice flour)

2 – 4 cups pulp (in this case beetroot pulp)

1 cup peanut butter

1 heaped tablespoon of peanut butter (optional)

1 cup apple sauce

2 – 3 tablespoons sweetener (molasses/syrup)

Water – depending on consistency

Ingredients

Beetroot pulp and peanut butter (just peanuts – the way it should be – so delicious!)

Optional ingredients

Replace some/all of the flour with oats, dash of salt, dried herbs or spices (just to make it smell a bit more interesting, I love cinnamon, so it is often added)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C/350 °F
  2. Prepare a couple of baking trays – I use the Silpat sheets so I do not grease the baking surface – you may need to, depending on the baking trays that you are using
  3. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour/pulp)
  4. The optional heaped tablespoon is for you to snack on, while making the biscuits – this is the point where you may start snacking on the huge lump of fabulous peanut butter
  5. In a blender, add the peanuts/peanut butter, applesauce and sweetener. Blend until it is all combined and a think consistency formed
  6. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl
  7. At this stage, you can add any optional ingredients you want to include
  8. Mix all of it until it forms a stiff cookie dough consistency

    See the lumps of peanut butter… the magic ingredient

  9. Put flour on your work surface (see my tip about how to do this if you are not a pro (like me))
  10. Take some of the dough and roll it out into a square – about 50mm/2in thick
  11. Cut the cookies into the desired shape (see tip) and then spread on the baking trays. You can pack it closely, they do not spread much when baking
  12. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes
  13. Turn off the oven and leave the biscuits there. After about 15 minutes, flip all the biscuits over, so that you make sure they dry out on both sides. I usually leave the biscuits in the oven overnight to dry out properly
  14. Will stay fresh for 2 weeks if stored in an airtight container
Emma can smell peanut butter cookies

I have already sent my brother to start the staring contest…
Soon I will have cookies!

Tips

  • Type of flour: I use any flour that I have available at home. I usually have whole-wheat/brown bread flour available. I always try to buy less processed, more natural type flours that have very few or no preservatives and extra gunk added.
  • Applesauce: We cannot buy applesauce in South Africa. I usually just put a large sweet apple in the blender with 1 – 2 tablespoons of water. When I don’t have apples available, I use pears or bananas.
  • Peanut butter: Depending on what I have available, I either just make my own peanut butter or I use shop bought peanut butter. Check the ingredient list of peanut butter – many of the commercial brands add extra oil (even worse – palm oil), salt and more rubbish. You can use any type of nut/nut butter.
    I once tried to make an oil free batch. I replaced the nut butter with a batch of homemade chickpea “hummus”. It was okay, but my dogs prefer the peanut butter versions.
  • I have a very sweet tooth so I usually make the biscuits slightly sweet. Again, I use what I have available, molasses, agave/maple/barley malt syrup. I don’t usually add sugar (in powder form), it is usually some form of syrup.
  • I love it when you watch all the foodie shows on TV and the baker takes a little bit of flour and very evenly and skilfully ‘dusts’ their work surface with flour. This hardly ever looks that good when I do it. I usually end up with blobs of flour on the counter and when I try to distribute it more evenly, I just make the situation worse….
    I got myself one of those nifty hand-mug sifters (see picture – not sure what it is called). All I do is put a bit of flour in the sifter and then use it to ‘dust’ the counter with flour. I mess less, waste less flour and distribute the flour a lot more evenly on the counter… and I get to use my new kitchen gadget.

    Nifty sifter gadget

    Nifty sifter gadget

  • I do have cookie cutters available to make all kinds of interesting shapes, but I just cut the cookies into blocks. It is much quicker to do and I have not had any complaints about the shape thus far :D

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Being vegan – What motivates/drives you to do the right thing

November 6, 2013

This is a bit of a self-indulgent post.

Very often, I read about some person that has given up being vegan because the lifestyle was just too hard to maintain; or I have to grin-and-bear it when someone tells me all the reasons why it is so hard to be vegan.  I struggle to understand their reasoning, since it seems to be very easy for me to make the compassionate and conscious decision.  I was sadly not born vegan or even vegetarian, I was blissfully unaware of what I was contributing to, for a very long time before I started asking questions about what I was eating and what cruelty and misery I was contributing to.  I thought I would share what inspires and motivates me to always try to do the right thing (even when it seems to be hard).

I thought I’d break some of it down into different compartments (as I have them in my head).

To start with, here is some information about my darling furry babies.

Here are some pictures of my two furry babies.  They are Cocker Spaniels and they are litter mates.

They are very chatty ones and they often tell me when I am too slow when preparing their dinner, getting ready for walks or if I am forgetting to give them their “save-the-rainforest-snack”.   Their names are Emma and Jake, however, over the years the list of their names has expanded, based on their characteristics.  They know most of them and respond to them, which just shows you how clever they are J

Collectively, they are referred to as:

Sp-angels / Cocky Spaniels (because it is a by far more apt description than “cocker” spaniels) / the Noonoos / babies… and many, many more.

  Emma and Jake

Emma is a very clever little girl.  She is a very typical A-type over-achiever type of personality.  Even her hair is naturally always perfect…

She is also known as Emilem (her rapper-gangster-street name) / Girlie-whirl / Hunny-Bunny (or just Bunny) / Rhidwan (her “Indian” name, since she is “the red one”).

She is left-handed.  We realised this after playing many games with her and she definitely uses her left paw more, when she has to do things that requires only one paw at a time…. Like when she pokes us continuously to continue tickling her.

Emma

Jake is a bit of a blonde bimbo.  He is really handsome, so he does not need to be clever, he can just rely on his dashing good looks.  Jacob (when he is super-silly) / Boykie / Moonpie (he gets a bit silly when it is full moon), Fatsquatch (he has lost his hearing and we are battling to keep his weight down since his primary activities now consist of sleeping (about 20 hours a day), eating and going for very slow walks – he cannot hear us, so we are not hurting his feelings with such an insensitive name).  One of his favourite activities is to stare at the bark of the tree (as in the picture) to see the lizzards running up and down the tree… we think it is like watching his favourite TV channel for hours.

SR - Jake

So now for the inspiration and motivation.

I try to be the person that my dogs think I am…

Eating animals

I cannot imagine eating another animal that can possibly be as intelligent, cute and just plain wonderful as Emma and Jake.  I fortunately do not have the blurred line between animals I love (to hug and kiss) and animals I am willing to eat.  It took a long time for me to acknowledge that meat is murder.  No animal willingly goes to their death, not even the animals from the supposedly humane meat industry.  All animals (human and non-human) fear death, and understand what is happening to them.

The fact that I have also read and seen too many reports/undercover investigations about what happens at factory farms and slaughterhouses will always override any of my taste preferences, choices of convenience and discomfort for fellow diners (I always think it is a guilty conscience that makes them feel uncomfortable eating flesh when a veggie is present).  Always!

Cheese and all other dairy products

This was probably my biggest fear of becoming vegan (after being vegetarian for a couple of years) was giving up cheese.  I used to looove cheese.

I do not have children (out of choice, no need to feel sorry for me) but most of my friends have children.  I am always amazed to see how my friends change after they have had their kids.  The love they have for their babies is no different to how other mammals feel about their babies.  Just because they cannot express themselves in the same language as we understand, does not mean that they bond and emotions are not as strong.

I think about the lovely and gentle cows (and all the other gentle animals that we exploit for their milk) and the trauma that they go through when their calves are taken away from them, less than 24 hours after they have been born.

I think about those tiny little male calves that are then confined to tiny little spaces where they can hardly stand up, the fact that they are so desperate to suckle that they will even suck the fingers of the people that handle them so aggressively and cruelly when these little innocent babies are confused and scared.

Again, I would not inflict this kind of trauma in Emma or Jake.  Why would it be different for other animals?

Wool

Mulesing is a procedure performed on sheep where they slice the skin from the buttocks of lambs without anaesthetic to produce a scar free of wool to avoid some forms of infection.  This is just horrible and so unnecessary.  To ensure that I avoid contributing to it, it is very easy to avoid.  There are so many interesting alternatives available

Restaurants

Whenever possible, I will always go to vegetarian/vegan restaurants.  I do believe we should support the places that are making our lives easier and also exposing more people to the fantastic plant-based foods available.  I do still go to mainstream restaurants (I do not want to call them “normal” restaurants because there is nothing “normal” about making your money out of selling dead, slowly decaying flesh of animals), but if a restaurant has any of the following items on their menu, I will not support them:

Foie gras

Veal

Goat

Fish that are on the endangered list

Also, if the restaurant does not have at least a couple vegetarian dishes on their menu, I am not supporting them, no matter how accommodating they may be once I am there.  You clearly do not care about catering for vegetarians, you are just doing it to shut me up and take my money… no thank you!

Companies that test on animals

It is not just about what you eat, it is also where you spend your money.  If I buy “vegan” products from companies that test their products on animals, I am still handing over my hard earned money over to the same people that create immense misery by unnecessarily testing their products on animals.

I would not want the cruel experiments performed on my Noonies, why would I allow it to happen to any other animals?

E.g. if Nestle launch a new dairy free dark chocolate (they may have already…), I will not buy it.  They support child slavery by exploiting the very poor communities where the cacao beans are grown and harvested (some info on this).  They own L’oreal and we all know that L’oreal test their products on animals.  I’d rather not have chocolate or stick to the fantastic range of fair trade dairy-free chocolates available on the market.

No minty fresh toothpaste from the Unilever range, since innocent bunnies have been exposed to all kinds of cruelty to test the products, in case some fool gets some toothpaste in their eyes.

All the other benefits

Plant-based whole-food is delicious.  The healthier the food is that you eat, the more you crave it and want to eat this way.  It may be a slight adjustment at first, but once you have a couple of favourite dishes; it just gets easier and easier.

There is a growing body of evidence that it is the healthiest way to eat.  It helps prevent and in some cases reverse disease.  It is much kinder on the environment and it is also more affordable.

You often have the choice of selecting the restaurant when you go out with friends.  That is really great.  Who would not always want to have things done their way?  ;D

It is not always super easy…

I do sometimes miss the convenience of just walking into a shop, selecting an item off the shelf (based on price/packaging) and just buying it, without reading the ingredient list, determining who produced it, scanning it into the Buycott app, etc.

I do sometimes just have a cup of tea when I go out with my friends because there is nothing acceptable to eat at the restaurant and you do not know whether the wine is vegan… It is a personal choice I made, so it is not really an issue.

Just have your reminders/triggers

I just think we all have our reasons for being vegan.  When there is a situation where you may have to compromise or use it as an excuse it always helps to remind yourself why you are doing it.  After that, it is actually really easy to make the most compassionate choice.  Once you have decided what your reasons are for doing it, it is really easy to be vegan.  You just need to find your reminders/motivation.

What do you use to remind/motivate you when you are in potentially compromising situations?


Virtual vegan potluck: Ooey gooey chocolate pudding cake

May 11, 2013

I am very excited to be part of the VVP again this year.

The virtual vegan potluck homeIt is great to see the same faces from last time and also a whole lot of new ones.  It is great to be part of this community.

This time, I am thought I’d bring you one of my favourite cake/puddings that I managed to veganise after a number of attempts.  My approach to any food preparation is that it should be easy, use simple ingredients that everyone will recognise and of course, 100% plant based.  Technically, it does not seem to be classified as a cake, because it is very moist, but it looks like a cake, so I do not think it should be called a pudding.  So I call it a pudding cake… or should it be a cake pudding…

I hope you saved some space for a bit more dessert, since there are so many great dishes to try.

Without further ado, here is my very ooey gooey chocolate pudding cake.

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

There are 3 parts to this dish:

  • Cake
  • Sauce
  • Topping

Ingredients

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour *

2 cups sugar *

½ cup cacao powder *

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon instant coffee (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cups of plant based milk *

1 cup apple sauce *

¼ cup apple cider or white vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract *

Sauce

¾ tin coconut milk (or if you want it to be richer, coconut cream)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup of sugar *

Topping

¼ tin coconut milk (or cream that you used for the sauce)

2 x slabs (200g/7oz) of dark chocolate *

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C/350 °F
  2. Lightly grease one 23cm/9” pan
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cacao, coffee and salt.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, apple sauce, vinegar, vanilla and baking soda *.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined.  Do not overmix.
  5. Fill the prepared cake pan with the batter.

    Gooey chocolate cake batter

    Gooey chocolate cake batter

  6. Bake for 25 – 30 mins, or until a testing pin is inserted and comes out clean.  A few crumbs clinging to it, is not an issue.
  7. Leave the cake out to cool.
Cake baked,cooled and ready for the sauce

Cake baked, cooled and ready for the sauce

Sauce

  1. Cook all the ingredients together at a low heat until it has a caramel colour, stir continuously
  2. When the cake has cooled, pour the sauce over and let it stand so that it is all absorbed into the cake.

    Saucy cake soaking up all the good stuff

    Saucy cake soaking up all the good stuff

  3. Leave the cake out to cool.
Cooled cake, ready for the topping

Cooled cake, ready for the topping

Topping

  1. Melt ingredients together and pour over cooled cake.

    Cake topped with chocolate topping

    Cake topped with dark orange flavoured chocolate topping

  2. Garnish, if you feel like it.  I just added the cute little heart shaped sprinkles because I thought they looked cute.

Finally, help yourself to a large slice of the cake for just being such a fabulous and compassionate person.  Repeat last step multiple times (I sure will do :D).

slice“Cake is happiness! If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness! If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!” - C. JoyBell C.

Enjoy!

*Notes

  • Flour for cake – you can use plain all-purpose flour.  I use whole-wheat flour that I have available at home.
  • Sugar – the amount of sugar to use is a personal preference.  I usually reduce the sugar used in the recipe by about 25%, but Mr SpinachRevolution prefers it sweeter.  The recipe is based on the sweeter version that he has assured me is the better version.  I use raw organic brown sugar.
  • Cacao powder – I use raw organic cacao powder.  You can also use unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Milk – I use soy milk, but oat, rice or almond milk will work equally well.
  • Apple sauce – we do not have this available in South Africa so I blend a large apple with 2 tablespoons of water in a blender until smooth.  Easy peasy.
  • Vanilla extract – you can also use almond extract.
  • I have read a blog some time ago where the person suggested that the baking soda should be mixed with the wet ingredients instead of the dry, and it will eliminate the potential flavour of baking soda.  I am not sure if it is true, but hey, it is easy enough to do.
  • Dark chocolate – I have used variations with great success.  For this cake, I used an organic orange flavoured chocolate.  It has tiny bits of orange rind in it and also flavoured with orange oil.
  • Whole nut chocolate, e.g. with hazel nuts is always a winner too.

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Fantastic little earthworms

April 17, 2013

TreeGlobeI love growing my own vegetables and herbs in my tiny garden. I am always so proud of myself when I can harvest something from my garden and prepare a meal with it. I am reading Jane’s delicious garden – How to grow organic vegetables and herbs in South Africa by Jane Griffiths (Sunbird Publishers, 2009) – it is currently the bestselling gardening book in South Africa.

I have 2 earthworm farms that use for all my raw kitchen waste and the vermicompost tea (worm compost tea) produced by the worms is a great addition to my garden as well. I think the little red wrigglers are quite interesting and I always am amazed how we have very similar preferences in food (e.g. they also form large clumps around mango, avocados and pawpaws – my favourite fruits).

I thought the following information about earthworms in the above mentioned book is really interesting: Earthworms (P43)

“Earthworms are capable of eating at least their own weight in organic matter in one day. But the really amazing thing is what happens to that organic matter once the earthworm has digested it: it will contain eight times more beneficial microorganisms than before. Earthworm casts have a perfect pH balance for vegetables. They contain more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium than ordinary soil and are also rich in humic aids, which help to condition the soil, as an added bonus, many soil-borne pathogens are killed in the worms’ intestines – so they clean the soil too.”

What amazing little creatures earthworms are!


The dangers of following the professor’s nutrition advice

February 16, 2013

Here in South Africa we have a world renowned professor of exercise and sport science Professor Tim Noakes (Noakes). He is the author of the book “Lore of Running”.

I am reading Scott Jurek’s fantastic book “Eat and Run” and even in this book he references research by Prof Tim Noakes.

A couple of months ago, I was planning on doing my first 32km run and wanted to understand how much water I needed to consume on the run. As with most concepts unknown to me, I Googled it. I was quite surprised how many running sites all over the world references Prof Tim Noakes. The dude definitely knows about running and the science of sport, there is no doubt about that!

In 2012, Noakes made an announcement that he now believes that a high protein/high fat diet is the healthiest diet to follow. The horror! Gone are the days of shameless carbo-loading before a long running or cycling event!
He has even made the statement that everyone should tear the nutrition section out of Lore of Running because he does not believe that a low fat/high carbohydrate diet is good for athletes.

Noakes big fat mistake

Some articles about his theory

  • Heart disease theory
  • Novel dietary ideas – in this article, he mentions the foods that he recommends you eat. Baring the fruit (which you should only eat occasionally and some leafy green vegetables), there is no fibre in the diet. Oh man, can you imagine the constipation! No wonder you will lose weight, you will feel so sick and blocked that you will not feel like eating…
  • Tim Noakes on carbohydrates – in this article, he does admit that this diet is not for everyone “However those who can metabolise carbohydrates efficiently and who have always been lean despite eating a high carbohydrate diet may not benefit in any way from this eating plan. I would not advise any athlete who is lean and quite happy with his or her weight and performances to change to this eating plan since it might not make a difference and might even be detrimental.” – yeah right, it is not for anyone that wants to avoid type 2 diabetes or want to severely overload their kidneys with all the unnecessary protein
  • Against the grains

It seems like many people are excited about this announcement because people love hearing good news about their bad habits.

Just because you have lost some weight, it does not mean it is an indicator that you are healthy; if that was the case, then using cocaine, or undergoing chemotherapy should also be considered as feasible methods of losing weight. Surely by now, we have all realised that all weight loss programmes are not made equal. You should always look at the long term effect of the diet on your overall health and whether it is sustainable in over a long period (i.e. the rest of your life) and benefit your overall health at the same time.

I would like to comment that I do agree that all processed foods such as potato crisps, French fries, pizza, pasta, pastries, sugary fruit juices, cookies, cakes, etc. are not whole foods and should be avoided where possible. The key to eating healthy carbohydrates is to stick to whole foods. If you are going to eat packaged foods, the basic rule should be that the food should only include ingredients that you actually understand (or that your grandmother will recognise, or that a 5 year old can pronounce), identify as food (there are no E927 trees), and where possible not have much more than 5 ingredients listed on the package. Whole foods such as potatoes, all root vegetables, whole grains and brown rice (to name a few) are healthy carbohydrates.

Fortunately many people in the medical profession have responded to his claims and have specified how irresponsible it is to make statements like he has about high protein/high fat diets.

Replies from specialists in the industry

  • Noakes goes too far – Heart disease
  • Doctors warn on Noakes’ diet theory – it causes a huge risk for coronary heart disease!
  • The dangers of high-protein slimming diets – a build-up of ketones can cause all kinds of damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. The build-up deranges the body’s balance of acids and alkalines, causing a condition called acidosis.
    When the levels of ketones in the body reaches dangerous proportions, the dieter finds him- or herself in the same kind of state as a diabetic who hasn’t used any insulin. Unless immediate treatment is applied, he/she can slip into a coma, which may result in death
  • 5 Negative high protein diet effects – Osteoporosis, strain on kidneys, contribute to Cancer, cause damage to internal organs, nutritional deficiencies

This is not a response to Noakes’ new theory, but it reiterates the dangers of high protein diets

In addition to the above referenced articles, if you look at some of the most successful people in the medical/health industry (with proven track records in helping people get healthy AND staying healthy), the statements made by Noakes are really very irresponsible and dangerous.

Further to the replies posted above, I thought I’d include some articles that I feel really explain and justify that a low fat, whole-foods plant based diet is definitely the healthiest diet that can safely be followed by normal people and ultra-athletes alike:

  • A guide to healthy weight loss: Three weeks on a low-fat vegan diet gets you on the road to your healthy weight goal – Of the many ways to lose weight, one stands out as by far the most healthful. When you build your meals from a generous array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans—that is, healthy whole foods plant-based choices—weight loss is remarkably easy. And along with it come major improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and many other aspects of health. The message is simple: Cut out the foods that are high in fat and devoid of fiber, and increase the foods that are low in fat and full of fiber.
    This is an easy, affordable and healthy lifestyle and there are only benefits to this way of eating. Everything benefits, even the environment and animals. It is totally a win-win-win lifestyle.
  • Atkins diet alert – A resource for physicians and laypeople with questions and concerns about high protein diets. If you are going to read only one of the links on this post, this one possibly has the most concise information available.
    The Expert opinions section – provides references to some of the leading experts in the industry
  • High protein, low carb diets – reiterates the risks linked to high protein diets

Some risks/side effects of a high protein/high fat diet

  • Brain fog – It is widespread scientific knowledge that when a person is deprived of carbohydrate, their liver converts organ and muscle protein to glucose for the brain’s energy needs, and also fat to ketones for compensation when the brain can’t get enough glucose
  • Kidney failure – too much protein puts a strain on the kidneys, which can make you more susceptible to kidney disease
  • High cholesterol/Increased risk of high blood-fat levels (most animal based foods are high in fats) – this increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Risk of deficiency diseases – cutting out fruits and vegetables can never be a good idea
  • Osteoporosis and kidney stones – high protein diets have been shown to cause people to excrete a large amount of calcium in their urine – over a prolonged period of time, this can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones
  • Cancer – by avoiding carbohydrate-containing foods and the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants they contain it increases the risks of developing cancer
  • Constipation – there is no fiber in eggs, meat, diary – dietary fiber is only available in plant-based wholefoods
  • Headaches
  • Bad body odour and bad breath

As a last point, a satirical article was written from a cow’s perspective of Noakes’ new theory -  “…“extremely unhealthy for cows”. According to a spokescow, research has shown that every single cow exposed to the high protein diet ended up dead. “Usually on a paper plate, next to some potato salad.”…”

So, run, run as fast as you can past all the fatty, unhealthy animal based foods and rather focus on delicious, healthful vegetables, fruit, leafy green vegetables and grain & legumes.

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Virtual vegan potluck: Good ol’ home baked sourdough bread

October 31, 2012

The virtual vegan potluck home

Welcome y’all to my bread dish as part of this fantastic virtual potluck.  Today we are having an fig and walnut wholewheat/rye sourdough bread… mmmm

“All sorrows are less with bread.”
Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish author. (1547-1616)

I love baking sourdough breads.  The primary fermentation and secondary fermentation (resting/proofing) takes a bit of time, but the actual effort is minimal (about 15 minutes) and the end result is really worth it.

The flavour of the bread is so good, you can actually have it without any topping or spread because the bread actually tastes great.

The basic recipe below is the base for a sourdough loaf. Ingredients change according to the type of the bread, the mixing and fermentation are pretty much the same in all the breads and the last stage may change according to the size of the loaf.

Utensils

  • A pot with a lid (that can be used in the oven). A cast iron pot works well, a ceramic pot will also work – it must be suitable for oven baking at high temperatures with a capacity of about 3 – 5 litres/100 – 170 fl oz.
  • Mixing bowl – preferably glass or stainless steel with a lid or plastic bag to cover. I usually just cover it with a plate.
  • Pastry scraper or spatula.
  • Basket/mould in the shape of the pot/colander.
  • Cotton cloth big enough to cover the dough when proofing/old napkin will do.
  • Tea cloth to cover the resting dough.

Professional and discerning bakers weigh their ingredients (including the water), this gives a more accurate and consistent result, but that seems like way too much effort, and the end result by using easier measurements seem to come out pretty darn well anyway. I will provide the ingredients in all measurements, so you can use the method you prefer.

The yeast referred to in the recipe is the sourdough starter, but you can also use instant yeast. If you are going to use instant yeast, try to find a brand that has as little preservatives and chemicals included. For the best results, I really recommend you get your own sourdough starter/wild yeast.

Ingredients (for basic loaf)

  • Water (Weight: 375g/13.5oz; Volume: 2 cups) – temperature about 20 °C – 24 °C/68 °F – 75 °F
  • Starter OR instant yeast (preferred choice – use starter – for starter – Weight: 70g/2.5oz Volume: ¼ cup)
    (for instant yeast – use ¼ tsp. instant yeast)
  • Flour (Weight: 470g/16.66 Volume: 4 cups) *See general notes about the flour
  • Salt (Weight: 10g/0.35oz Volume: 2 tsp.) *See general notes about salt

Variations (optional ingredients)

Here are just some suggestions of additional ingredients that you can add to the bread, just to make it a bit more special (the measurements of the optional ingredients do not need to be precise (hey, it is not birth control ;) ), it is according to your preference):

  • 2 – 3 grated carrots & 2 table spoons of caraway seeds
  • cup of chopped dates & cup of walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup rosemary
  • cup of dried figs & cup of walnuts (for today’s potluck)
  • 1 – 2 bananas sliced & cup of pecan nuts
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax)
  • 1/2 cup olives & 1/2 sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup raisins (soaked in rooibos tea (redbush tea) or green tea)
  • panettone type ingredients, e.g. teaspoon of almond extract, 1/2 cup almond flakes, 1 tablespoon citrus zest, teaspoon of cinnamon, teaspoon of ginger, chopped dried fruits, replace some of the water for maple/agave syrup

If the optional ingredients are very moist, you can reduce the amount of water added to the batter or add additional 1 – 2 table spoons of flour to the mix.

Instructions

Before you start baking up a storm, please read all the notes first, just to make sure you understand the steps. You will only need to do this once, it is so easy, next time you can just mix up a batch in 5 minutes and then let time and nature do the rest.

1.  If you are making a sourdough loaf (using your wild yeast starter) you will need to first make sure your starter is active. Do this by feeding it and extend it according to instructions 6 – 12 hours before you need to use it. If you have not used your starter for a while, do this 2 – 3 times so that your starter is nice and active.

Before you start using the starter, remember to put some aside to keep your wild yeast starter going!

2.  Mixing the dough and bulk fermentation:

  1. Pour the water into the bowl, add the starter (or instant yeast) and mix well to incorporate.
  2. At this point, I add my variations (optional ingredients) to the mix. It helps to gauge the consistency of the dough.
  3. Add 2/3 of the flour and mix.
  4. Add salt and balance of flour, reserving about 2 tbsp.
  5. Once the dough is mixed well you can judge if you need the extra flour. If you do, add and mix again until no dry flour is visible. You should have a sticky, drop scone consistency. If it is too dry, add a bit more water.
  6. Cover the bowl and leave to bulk ferment at room temperature for 6 – 9 hours.
  7. If you want to retard the dough, you can leave it to ferment for 2 – 3 hours at room temperature, then place in the fridge for a further 6 – 12 hours.

3.  Forming and resting the dough:

  1. The dough is ready to shape once it looks nice and risen with a soft feel.
  2. If you have retarded the dough in the fridge, leave it at room temperature to warm up for about 3 – 4 hours.
  3. Dust your work surface with plenty of flour. Also dust your cloth or basket with flour (else your dough will stick to it… lesson learned :))
  4. Empty your dough gently onto the work surface, trying not to degas it too much.

    Dough after first fermentation is complete. Moved to floured surface to form the loaf.

  5. With your floured fingers and your scraper, pick up one end of the dough and stretch it over itself, repeat the same from the opposite side, then from the top and from the bottom.
  6. Sprinkle flour on the dough and make sure it is very well floured all round. (To reduce cleaning up, I roll the dough around on the work surface to pick up most of the excess flour.)

    Formed and floured dough, ready for 2nd phase proofing

  7. Move the dough onto the cloth with the “neat side” of the folded dough facing the cloth and the rough side facing up (the side will end up on the bottom of the pot.)

    Dough wrapped in floured napkin and in colander for for 2nd phase proofing/rising

  8. Let the dough rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until nice and plump (not quite double, more like 50% bigger). If you poke the dough, it should be quite elastic and the dent should ooze back to its original shape. This stage depends on the weather. If it is quite hot, reduce the time to 60 minutes.

    Dough after rising/proofing for 90 minutes (see difference in size from previous step)

  9. When you start this phase, set your timer for 90 minutes (this depends on the weather, it may be shorter, if very hot). After the initial time (60 – 90 minutes), place your pot and lid in the oven and turn the oven on to 230 °C – 250 °C/440 °F – 480 °F to heat up. You need about 30 minutes to get your oven and pot to the correct heat.

4.  Baking and cooling your loaf:

  1. When the oven and your pot is heated, and the dough is ready to be baked, take the pot out of the oven and empty the bread into the pot and cover with the hot lid.
  2. Give the pot a short shake to settle the loaf and return to the oven.
  3. Bake with the lid on for 35 minutes. (If your dough is slightly sticky/moist, you can leave it for another 5 minutes).
  4. Take the lid off and bake for a further 15 minutes to dry the crust and brown it.

    Bread after it has been baked – last 15 minutes with the lid removed

  5. Once you are happy with the colour of the crust, take it out of the oven, empty onto a cooling rack.
  6. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow if knocked on the base.
  7. Now for the hard part – the bread should br allowed to cool through before it is cut open, because the baking process continues while the steam escapes even though the loaf has been removed from the oven. This would be 2 – 3 hours mimimum.

    Voila! The final product. Lovely slices of fig and walnut whole wheat/ rye sourdough bread

Preparation notes:

  • Put starter aside before you start baking.
  • If you plan to use the starter in a day, leave it out to activate.
  • If you keep the starter in the refrigerator, take it out a couple of hours before replenishing it.
  • There is not much to do, but you need time to wait for the fermentation and rising of the dough. Plan accordingly.

General notes:

  • It is important to use good quality filtered water. You need to make sure that most/all of the chlorine is removed from the water. Spring water is also a great option.
  • Use the best quality ingredients you can find. Wherever possible, use organic.
  • Stone milled fresh flour is the best for nutrient and flavour rich bread. I mix the flours I use, my favourite combination is ½ rye flour and ½ whole wheat flour. You can also use wheat free flours, e.g. chickpea/rice flour, but for best results, try add at least ¼ whole wheat flour or rye flour.
  • Use flours without improvers and that have not been fortified.
  • Rye dough is more difficult to form and will be very sticky to work with, do the best you can, it is worth it.
  • Salt – the measurements are based on fine salt.  If you use rock salt, you may have to increase the measurement slightly.
  • Salt – try to use a good quality salt.  I use fine Himalayan crystal salt (pink salt), but depending on the bread variation you are using, you can add herb salt as well, e.g. sundried tomatoes and herb salt works really well.
  • If you are going to make a “sweeter” bread, e.g. banana pieces, raisins, etc.  you can reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon, but always add salt, it just enhances the flavour.
  • Add yeast separately from the salt. Salt inhibits yeast growth.
  • The dough should be well hydrated and somewhat wet. Depending on the flour you use, you may need to add more water. Do not stick to the measurements rigidly, adjust according to the feel of the dough. It must have a drop-scone consistency.
  • Altitude, humidity and temperature affect the time of fermentation.
  • Humidity affects the consistency of the dough.
  • Adjust the temperature of the water according to the weather – cold water in hot weather and warm water in cold weather.
  • The first fermentation takes the longest, it is the primary fermentation. This is when the bread develops texture and flavour.
  • It is important to ferment for at least 6 hours in around 20 °C – 24 °C/68 °F – 75 °F environment.
  • When in doubt, leave the dough longer during the first fermentation. However, over fermenting can result in a hard crust and poor colour.
  • You can slow the primary fermentation down by putting the dough in the refrigerator for some time – remember, the higher the temperature, the shorter the rising time.
  • If you slowed the primary fermentation process in the refrigerator, give it time to warm up a bit before shaping and baking the bread.
  • The second phase is usually referred to as resting, secondary fermentation or proofing.
  • In this phase, the bread may not always double in size.
  • When in doubt, rather proof for less time. Over proofing can result in a collapsed loaf with bad crumb structure and a hard crust.
  • If you are not sure how to judge the right time to put the bread in the oven, rather put the bread in the oven before it has risen too much. It will still grow in the oven.
  • Make sure that you use enough flour/bran so that the dough does not stick to the bread or proofing cloth.
  • Don’t over bake the bread. It will not keep as long, but will taste okay while fresh.
  • Try not to under bake the bread. It will not keep as long – it will go off in the centre and will have a sticky texture.
  • As hard as it is to do, never cut a hot loaf. It continues cooking while it cools. The larger and denser the loaf, the longer it will take to cool down.
  • If possible to wait that long, the bread will cut and taste better the next day.
  • It may take a couple of attempts before you start getting the bread just the way you like it. If in doubt, always go back to the written recipe and start over.
  • The fermentation times are guidelines – it takes a bit of time and experience to get it right.
  • When you add additional ingredients, the ingredients may absorb some moisture, e.g. if you add seeds and nuts.

Planning your time

  • I usually start the bread in the afternoon/evening before I bake it; leave it overnight for its initial fermentation. Form and bake it the next day.
  • In summer I start it in the morning and bake in the afternoon/evening.
  • A good rule of thumb is to work backwards from the time you want the bread to be ready, including the time it takes to cool down. Many breads can be baked a day before you need them, as a matter of fact, sourdough improves given a bit of maturing time.

I hope you enjoyed the dish and have saved some space for the next dish… Enjoy!

Let me know if you invent any other interesting variations.

Related posts

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Strut your stuff – Johannesburg’s first veg pride walk

October 24, 2012

I am very excited to share 2 fun events with you.  Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa have arranged 2 super campaigns.

1. Vegan week – 24-31 October 2012

Vegan week

2. Johannesburg’s first Veg Pride Walk – 10 November 2012

JOHANNESBURG VEG PRIDE
November 10 at 12:30pm
JUTA STREET, BRAAMFONTEIN ~ ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM THE NEIGHBOURGOODS MARKET

Join the very first Beauty Without Cruelty Jo’burg Veg pride!

Come dressed as a vegetable, or wear it around your neck or on your head (or wherever you think it fits), or just join the fun march. Meet at 12:30 on the corner of Juta Street, just below the bridge. We will end at the entrance to the Neighbourgoods Market.

See on facebook for more details.

Any clever and creative ideas or suggestions for a costume and/or poster?


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