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 😀

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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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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.

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