August 29, 2008
Once again, I find myself having to apologize for my unexplained absence. The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind—I went to California (Millennium Restaurant absolutely lives up to its reputation) and Milwaukee (I must retract my snarky comments about Cream City’s vegan offerings; I ate quite well), then packed for school and am in the process of moving into my apartment. But I have been cooking and documenting—now I just need to update.
My second try with the ice cream maker yielded results similar to the first time: good but not perfect. I think the texture on this one was a little better because I just used soy creamer, which has a higher fat content than soymilk. Getting a better soy creamer might improve the ice cream, too (I’ve been using decent-and-widely-available Silk creamer). Again, I’ll provide the recipe because I liked it well enough to serve to others, but I don’t consider this my final pronouncement on coffee ice cream.
But first, a word or two on starches. I used arrowroot powder the first couple times I made ice cream because that’s the standard on A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. After two quarts of ice cream, however, my $6 container of arrowroot was almost gone. My wallet could not support my ice cream habit. I’ve heard cornstarch doesn’t freeze well so I decided to look for tapioca starch. I found it at my local Thai grocery for 89¢ a pound. The arrowroot was $6 for a 50 gram container (a spice bottle). At about 450 grams per pound, that means arrowroot costs more than sixty times as much as tapioca starch. Sixty! Arrowroot may come a bit cheaper in bulk, but any way you add it up, it ain’t worth it. So, budding vegan ice cream makers, find an Asian grocery, inconvenient though it may be for some of you, and stock up on dirt cheap tapioca starch.
Coffee Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 ½ cups soy creamer
1 ½ cups very strong coffee
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Stir the tapioca starch into ¼ cup of the soy creamer until dissolved. Set aside.
2. Heat the remaining creamer and coffee in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.
3. When the liquid boils, turn the heat down until the liquid is at a simmer.
4. After 3 minutes, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then whisk in tapioca mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker to solidify it. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.
July 29, 2008
There are Philadelphia vegans, New York vegans, Portland vegans (of course), Texas vegans, and even Canada vegans. But where in the blogosphere are the DC vegans? I don’t want to say there aren’t any, but I haven’t seen the US capital make more than a cameo appearance on any of the vegan blogs I read. Further, vegan publications consistently overlook DC. Herbivore travel issue, anyone? Milwaukee made the destination list, but we got skipped! (And it’s not like Herbivore was trying to win points for obscure locations—Portland, San Francisco, and NYC all made the list. Who needs a vegan guide to Portland, for god’s sake?)
Anyway, to bring this rant to a point, I live in DC (well, the suburbs thereof) and I think it’s a great place to be vegan. There are plenty of restaurants and markets in the area with wide vegan selections, but what I find really exciting is to look at a menu and realize I can order anything on it. It doesn’t happen often. And what I find really really exciting is when that menu primarily comprises sweets. Enter Sticky Fingers.
Sticky Fingers Bakery has been a DC vegan staple for a few years now, but the old location near Dupont Circle was…well, kind of dingy. It occupied a small, rather dark basement store. One went for the apple tart, not for the atmosphere. But it recently moved to as-hip-as-Dupont-once-was Columbia Heights, and the new place is beautiful. It’s a real café, it’s light and cheery, and I think it may have an expanded menu, too. I don’t normally go for pink, but it works.
I went to Sticky Fingers twice over the course of a week, purely to fulfill my duty to you and DC’s reputation among spoiled Portlanders, and here is what I ate.
Actually, I didn’t eat this chocolate peanut butter cupcake. My friend did. She was craving peanut butter and to the best of my knowledge enjoyed it.
This I did eat. It’s an almond crème cupcake and it was very satisfying. It made me want to go home and bake some immediately, but instead I just went back to Sticky Fingers two days later. Whoo!
After I ate the cupcake it occurred to me to eat breakfast. My friend pointed out the breakfast sandwich. This ain’t your mama’s Egg McMuffin. It’s your vegan aunt’s Egg McMuffin: vegan egg, vegan sausage, vegan vaguely cheesy sauce. That explanation makes it sound kind of shady, but it was actually quite good. (Never having consumed an Egg McMuffin, however, I cannot compare the two.)
Finally, I had to have Sticky Fingers’s signature item, the sticky bun. It’s their trademark for a reason; I can make good cupcakes myself, but this was truly a treat. I recommend putting it in the microwave for ten seconds—it almost feels oven-fresh.
There was a surprise treat in here, too. Can you find it? (Ooh, it’s just like I SPY.) If you said the latte, you win nothing. The latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Vegan lattes are harder to get right than dairy lattes because both the beans and the soymilk must be good; I’ve found that even good cafés often have inferior soymilk. Yet another advantage of the all-vegan institution—it does not just humor vegans but caters to us. Here’s hoping that this post single-handedly attracts a mass migration of vegans to the DC area, creating a vegan community to rival Frisco’s. Our motto: “Better than Portland.”
July 20, 2008
Tea, tea, tea. I cannot get enough tea. Everything about it delights me: the wares, the process, the associated foods…not that I’m even very knowledgeable about tea, as became clear to me when I looked at a few tea blogs. But anyway, I decided that for my first foray into ice cream-making I should attempt not vanilla or chocolate but green tea. I had the matcha powder, I now had the ice cream maker, so I had no excuse not to make it.
For ideas about how to proceed I started with Veganomicon. Its one ice cream recipe is based on coconut milk, however, and I wanted to avoid a strong coconut taste in this case. So I turned to the internet, recalling that I’d come across a vegan ice cream blog once before. It’s not too good to be true! I used a template from the extremely useful A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, with my own add-ins. So while the recipe is mine, the credit is not.
Onto the verdict. The ice cream was really good—the ingredients were well-balanced, the tea came through nicely, it wasn’t too sweet, and (paramount for me) it was satisfyingly creamy. It fulfilled my ice cream needs and I would definitely make it again.
It’s not perfect. The texture is not quite right. It’s not sorbet, which I’ve never cared for much; it is creamy. Yet it’s not quite ice cream either—not full-fledged, silky-smooth ice cream, anyway. It’s sort of 85% ice cream, 15% sorbet. This may be an issue of veganness, but I doubt it: I have had both store-bought and homemade (well, restaurant-made) vegan ice cream that did not suffer from this flaw. My mom also said she remembers having this problem with dairy ice cream, and that the solution was to make a custard first. So I don’t know if cooking it longer would help, or increasing the creamer-to-milk ratio, or what. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Still, I’m posting the recipe because I’m mostly happy with it and I still recommend it to other vegans craving ice cream. I used an ice cream maker, but apparently there are other methods.
Green Tea Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 cups soymilk
2 cups soy creamer
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder), sifted to remove lumps
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1. Stir the arrowroot into ¼ cup of the soymilk until dissolved. Set aside.
2. Heat the remaining soymilk and creamer in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.
3. When the liquid is gently bubbling, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then matcha until dissolved (it will not actually dissolve, but will be in suspension).
4. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in arrowroot mixture until dissolved. Then stir in the extracts.
5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker if you desire a thicker texture. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.
July 9, 2008
My girlfriend and I both celebrated our 21st birthdays this summer, two days apart. (I’m older. Ha!) Two birthdays means two parties in our book, and that, in turn, means cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes. Say, five batches of cupcakes.
All of these came from trusty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which is now so well-loved that the pages are falling out. (Advice, anyone?) I’ve made many a cupcake from this book before, but these ones revealed new favorites. Actually, one them is a new/old favorite—the Green Tea Cupcakes, pictured above. I’d made and liked them before, but lacked pure green tea powder (matcha); mine was mixed with dextrin. I finally found the good stuff at a small Asian grocery in Ohio. And look at the difference!
Here are the ones I made last winter with the compromised matcha. Pretty, yes, but…
…these ones are, you know, green. Rich, dark green. And they actually taste like green tea, instead of generic yumminess. Now that look at these together I realize the pale ones are prettier, but that can be attributed to my laziness in making the second batch. (Marzipan and I don’t get along.)
While I made the Green Tea Cupcakes my girlfriend made these Margarita Cupcakes. I mean, I’d take tea over tequila any day, but we were turning 21, after all. And these dolls were good. I think the fresh lime juice really makes them, and if you’ve read this blog with any frequency you know there are few things I love more than beverage-themed cupcakes (two so far this post, one to go).
For a pre-birthday celebration we made the Hazelnut Cupcakes with Hazelnut Mocha Creme. I haven’t been able to hunt down hazelnut extract, so we made these with almond extract instead; it also calls of hazelnut liqueur, which we omitted. They were good but not my favorite, though I bet the hazelnut extract and liqueur would make a difference.
I’d been eyeing the Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes for months, but the rosewater I had is kind of tasteless. As birthdays provide a great excuse for extravagance, we got superior rosewater and beautiful pistachios and set to baking. These are my new favorite cupcakes. The rosewater is delicate and fragrant and complements the pistachios superbly. The only other spice is a bit of cardamom—no vanilla or other flavorings. The texture is perfect, light and moist. These feel far fancier than I thought a cupcake could and they aren’t even hard to make. I made these again yesterday and I’m resisting sneaking into the kitchen right now. (A few tips for those planning to make these: buying shelled pistachios and putting them in a spice grinder or food processor, rather than shelling and chopping them by hand, will cut out the only labor-intensive parts of this recipe. Also, the recipe doesn’t actually say when to add the pistachios to the batter, but putting them in with the rest of the dry ingredients works fine.)
And last, the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes. I can’t take credit for these, either, as I was busy making the ones above, but I will make them in the future. (With even more cayenne. I like a kick.) The spices in these cupcakes make them more complicated than the basic chocolate ones. Next time I’m in the mood for chocolate, I’d make the Mexican variety first.
July 7, 2008
Hi there. Remember me? I enthusiastically reported a Wheeler’s tasting in March, then mysteriously disappeared. Sorry! In truth, my disappearance was not so mysterious; it can be summed up in the word “college.” College has a tendency to swallow people whole and only spit them back out come summer. Summer came, and then I traveled here and there, but I’m finally back home and I’ve been itching to blog.
Please know that during my hiatus I continued to read my beloved vegan food blogs—I was too ashamed to comment—and I continued to cook and photograph the results. So I have a handful of posts for you, and I plan to cook the rest of the summer and even in the fall (with more success, I hope, than I had last semester). Without further ado, onto the three-and-a-half-month-old Wheeler’s tasting.
Although I could only stay long enough to try four flavors of the much-blogged-about vegan ice cream, it was enough to convince me that Wheeler’s is for real. Meaning, as delicious as I’d heard. Pictured above is peanut butter.
This one, peanut butter banana, was my favorite. It was creamy and thick, plus I’m a sucker for ribbons of peanut butter in ice cream. God, how I wanted to ask for another sample, but the Wheeler’s representatives knew my face.
Here’s pink champagne sorbet. It’s made with real champagne and you can definitely taste it.
The last one I had, chocolate baby coconut, is not pictured (it was rather unphotogenic, and I got some weird looks diving under tables in search of decent lighting). It was more sorbet-ish than the other ice creams, which I wasn’t wild about, but it was satisfyingly rich and well-flavored. Asylum, where the tasting was held, is pretty cool, too—I had home fries and vegan sausage and met some great people, including a woman from Compassion Over Killing, the DC-based organization the event benefited.
I just got an ice cream-maker for my birthday, so you’ll be seeing my creations on here, too! Tips welcome; I think I’ll start with the Veganomicon recipes.
March 8, 2008
Yes, these would be Beverage–Themed Cupcakes #4. And there are still more I want to make (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, Margarita Cupcakes). Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World has not yet failed me. I made these for last weekend’s dinner party and they went fast. Even the leftover Cappuccino Creme filling went fast. For the record: my agar-agar flakes mysteriously disappeared, but the filling worked just fine without them (I increased the arrowroot powder to make sure it got firm enough). Here’s the cupcake-filling saga; it begins with the unadorned cupcakes above.
First you stick your (clean) finger in the cupcakes, hollowing out a little reservoir by pushing around the sides of the hole. In my first attempts, the holes weren’t big enough—that means less Cappuccino Creme. No. You want lots of Cappuccino Creme. Make a big hole.
Then you use a pastry bag (or, in my case, a Ziploc-knockoff resealable bag, the poor man’s pastry bag) and fill those cupcakes. This part is a lot of fun. You’d be surprised how much creme can fit in those nice holes you’ve made.
Et voila! Your filled cupcakes, dinner party-ready. If you like you can spread more of the creme on top—I had plenty left over. Or you can let your cupcake eaters spread their own. Either way, you are sure to win friends and influence people with these cute caffeinated cupcakes.
February 17, 2008
I was hoping to make these lemon bars from Veganomicon before I came back to school, but life (and packing) took over and I never got the chance. When I got here one of my (omnivorous) friends raved about them to me. That was all the motivation I needed to make them.
I had never made anything with either agar flakes or arrowroot before. Thickeners are crazy! The bars weren’t hard to make, but I wasn’t sure whether I was handling the thickeners properly. A word of advice: don’t get boiling agar on your hands. Not only will it burn, it will stick to you most persistently. Eventually everything mixed smoothly and I filled the crust and set the bars out to cool.
Having had a half dozen tasters for these, I can say confidently that they’re a hit. Whatever reservations my friends had about the lemon bars’ radioactive hue (hard to detect in this picture) disappeared after the first bite. Want testimonials? “Oh my god, I’m majoring in lemon bar eating.” Fact: making these lemon bars has been proven to increase your popularity by at least 46%.
That said, I should point out that their texture is different from that of the lemon bars I used to eat. The agar makes it quite gelatinous, smooth, and firm (“like a petri dish,” said the lemon bar majorer, and with good reason: most petri dishes are made of agar). The lemon bars I remember from my pre-vegan days were basically thick lemon custard over shortbread. I might try to recreate them someday. Please don’t let that turn you off, though—the only reason we have one lemon bar left is that I’m saving it for the friend who recommended them.
February 2, 2008
Aren’t beverage-themed cupcakes inexplicably delightful? I can’t seem to stop making them. I love chai lattes, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
Oh my god, let’s just start with the batter. I could have called it a chai latte and drunk it from a cup. The spices were exactly right and it was so creamy and delicious. (Yeah, I lick the bowl. No salmonella risk, right?) Since I was aiming for a solid version of the drink, though, I restrained myself and put them in the oven.
Actually, I think I might have kept them in the oven a tiny bit too long. They were a little spongier than the other cupcakes I’ve made from VCTOTW, but it was certainly nothing grave. They were still good. The only thing I would change in the future is the frosting, actually; I thought they could have used something moist and creamy on top instead of the sugar and spices they recommend. If you wanted to make it really authentic, you could even top it with vegan whipped cream. Ooh, I should do that next time.
January 31, 2008
A couple nights ago a family friend came over for dinner who seemed a bit leery of vegan food. I decided to recycle two of our favorite recipes that I’ve posted about before—no experimenting when doubting omnivores come to dinner. Sure, my dad’s an omnivore, but he’s related to me, so it’s no disaster if I make him something less than dazzling. I made VeganYumYum‘s Pan-Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles and Veganomicon‘s Tea Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce for dessert.
These recipes worked before and they didn’t fail me this time, either. I may not have dispelled the idea that vegans subsist on tofu, but I hope I at least demonstrated that we eat good tofu. Our friend seemed to like both components of the meal; he’s not the type to gush, but he did compliment. Good enough for me.
January 25, 2008
Ever since I got Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World back all I want to do is bake hand-held desserts by the dozen. After the green tea cupcakes, the apple mango crisp, and the almond scones, the time was ripe for something chocolatey.
I’ve made the Basic Chocolate Cupcake from VCTOTW a handful of times, so I was looking for something new. Why not continue the Cupcakes Baked With Beverages theme and make something with chocolate and beer? Now there’s a winning combination. No Guinness in these stout cupcakes, though—Guinness is refined with isinglass, from fish swimbladders. I used Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, but there are a number of other vegan stouts. [Edit: I should clarify that these do come from a recipe in VCTOTW.]
Despite my absentminded errors—I accidentally added the beer to the dry ingredients instead of the wet, I forgot to top the cupcakes with the chocolate crumble till they’d been in the oven eight minutes—these came out quite well. I like them better than the Basic Chocolate Cupcake; the stout makes them richer and even more chocolatey-tasting somehow. They’re a little on the muffiny side (although that might be due to my bungling the directions), but that doesn’t diminish them for me at all. How can twelve cupcakes seem like so few?