Sunday, July 21, 2013

Triple peanut butter chocolate no egg cookies!

I feel like I should be apologizing for the following recipe. It's actually pretty awesome. But I use butter, and I haven't been using butter for, hmm, years? But in the PMS cloud that overtook my mind and body last week, I did buy a pound of butter. And yes, I fully intended to make me some tasty period-friendly goodies with it. Of course, I forgot to stock my pantry with essentials for baking, such as sugar, vanilla extract, brown sugar... all I had was what I had handy, including some whole wheat flour, ground flax, an almost empty bag of powdered sugar, etc etc. No cookie recipe matched my ingredients, so I decided to MacGuyver my own peanut butter cookie recipe. The fog did, after all, demand cookies, stat.

The results are light and almost fluffy, not at all like your run o the mill, rolled in granulated sugar, chewy pb cookies you might be used to. And those "peanut butter kisses" made with Hershey's candy? I don't eat conventional candy. I had 55% Valrhona chocolate discs on hand and used those. Divine!!

Here is the recipe. I've included instructions on veganizing them... if you are so inclined.


Preheat oven to 350, or 325 convection.

Ingredients and method:

1/2 c unsalted butter or Earth Balance (or be hardcore and just use more peanut butter!!)
2/3 c no sugar all-natural stirred peanut butter
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh ground peanut butter (hey, you can also do <1 cup of whatever pb you have on hand, but let's be real, all-natural and fresh ground tastes amazing)
2 Tbs. pb2 powder (this is not totally necessary, but for few extra calories you get an extra whomp of peanut flavor and protein!)
1 tsp salt
Mix all the above together until creamy and super fluffy.

Then add, in order and mixing after each addition: 1 Tbsp molasses, 1 tsp almond extract, 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp ground flax,1 flax-egg (in this case, 1/4 c vanilla rice milk stirred with 1 Tbsp ground flax).

Separately stir together 1.5 Tbsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp baking soda, and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour.

Mix flour mixture with liquid mixture until combined. Roll into balls, place on parchment or silpat on baking sheet and bake for 10 min in 325 convection oven or 350 regular. Then press chocolate discs into tops and bake for another 5 minutes.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Herbivore's newest book is a gem!

There's a lot to tell since my last post. I will have to devote a night to writing about what's going on in my household soon. For now, I want to talk about the Happy Herbivore Abroad book, the newest cookbook by Lindsay S. Nixon. I just got the book yesterday, but I've already used it for several meals (hi--no planning needed. Love her books for this very reason: healthy, low key, low maintenance, and inexpensive (many recipes feature meals you can make with simple pantry staples). I'm awful at following recipes to a T, but look at another's and get inspired. I have brownies cooling, had quick queso (kinda--added veggies to the mix and went sans gluten with the sauce) for dinner with baked no salt corn tortilla chips last night and made the migas (kinda--added tomato and jalapeƱo, and omitted the sides of refried beans and salsa) tonight. Amazing. I recommend the Happy Herbivore cookbooks to everyone, as they support a no added oil vegan diet, are extremely inexpensive recipes (often pantry-friendly--I usually add more fresh veggies, but the base is great for anyone and makes vegan cooking easy), and just are simply delish because Lindsay knows her way around a spice rack.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Easiest Gluten Free Vegan Sandwich Bread Ever

Today, on a whim, I decided I felt like baking bread. Yup, in the middle of my work day, I suddenly thought about the two packets of dry active yeast in my baking drawer, my fridge and freezer empty of anything to make a sandwich with. Must make bread. When I get a wild hair, it needs to happen.

I've made bread before. I'm kind of a big deal in the quick breads department, and in the last couple months have made quite a few loaves of beer bread. I'm no stranger to yeast and kneading either. My first ever loaves of French bread were made when I was in high school, wonderfully perfect and so simple I was a little surprised. I owned a bread machine for awhile, though I preferred kneading by hand. But what I was looking to make today was a different beast altogether.

Gluten free bread. I've been down this road before, jumping into a GF recipe with little research and it has ended disastrously more than once. Today though, I felt prepared.

Starting with the two gluten free baking books we've gotten in the last few months, I began searching for a good recipe to jump off from. Our pantry is well stocked at the moment with quite a few GF staples, but as I searched first those cookbooks and then online, I quickly realized that what I was looking for was like the holy grail of GF recipes. No eggs, no egg replacer, no flax or chia seeds (I had no idea of the movement away from xanthan and guar gum that some in the GF community are making, and these can be subbed for them--either way, I had no chia or flax on hand). No garbanzo flour or Bob's Red Mill baking mix (I had both of these on hand but find the resulting beany flavor unappealing). What I did have was a pretty decent assortment of starches, flours, whole grains, gums both guar and xanthan, and a Vitamix. And then, I found it. The perfect recipe.

Alright, hold on. You probably want to know about the bread. Let's cut to the end. The crust was lightly crunchy, with a perfect hollow sound when I tapped it with the knife. And just underneath, when the knife crunched through, was bread, with tiny air pockets from a successful rising! When I saw that, before even taking a bite, I felt that same sense of amazement I felt with my first loaf of french bread. The texture was fairly light, yet not fluffy. It cut like... bread! No crumbling, no grittiness. It held together without being too dense. The taste was balanced with the blend of flours. It was a little sweet, but this was definitely an overall success.

This is bread you can spread peanut butter on thick. Toast it. Make French toast from it. I ate the first piece slathered with coconut Earth Balance. YUM.

Back to the recipe. I finally found it here: http://www.hopes --
what looked like an almost perfect recipe for what I had on hand (and it included a photo that looked delicious). My recipe below is essentially hers, which was adapted from another recipe, which was adapted from another recipe... phew! I subbed a few of the flours, using this helpful page explaining a little of the science behind making up your own flour mix:

My flour mix was more 50/50 than 40/60 whole grain flours to starches, because that was what the recipe called for. Once I broke down each ingredient's purpose, it made subbing different ingredients much easier. I was then able to sub in grains for flavor--since half the GF flour mix is basically flavorless starch, you want to incorporate grain flours to impart flavor. The amaranth grain has a peppery, nutty, slightly malt flavor. Teff has a flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts. The amaranth and sweet brown rice flours I whizzed up in the dry container in the vitamix.

Because I worried a little that my grains might be heavier than what was called for (and, to be honest, because I half thought it wouldn't rise at all), I increased the amount of yeast from one teaspoon to one whole packet. Next time I probably will use regular brown rice instead of sweet to make the flour, and cut the amount of sugar in half because it was just a tad sweet. Feel free to do the same, but don't take the sugar out completely. Gotta give that yeast something to eat! And the recipe is vegan if Earth Balance and vegan sugar is used. I happened to use butter, which tasted great. As it always does.

Here's my recipe. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out!

My GF flour mix, consisting of half whole grain flours:
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sweet brown rice flour
1 1/2 cup sorghum flour
And half starches:
1 1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup potato starch
*This makes more than enough GF mix for 2 loaves. Use a whisk to stir these up well in a large bowl. Bigger than you think you need. The starches get messy, and once you get the grain flours in, they really start to stick together. Once you've mixed them completely, pour into an airtight container to store, and use at room temp.

Easy Gluten Free, Vegan Sandwich Bread

1 teaspoon butter or Earth Balance (for pan)
1 tablespoon GF flour mix (for pan)
3 cups GF flour mix
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 teaspoons melted coconut oil
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance (for buttering after baking)

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Butter and flour your loaf pan, shaking out the excess flour.

Combine GF flour mix, xanthan gum, salt, sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil and warm water, and immediately add the dry ingredients at once. Mix on high for 2 minutes--no more, no less. Your yeast will be dissolved, activated, and all ingredients incorporated, and it will be the consistency of batter, not of bread dough.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and cover with a clean towel. Turn OFF the oven and place the covered pan in the warm oven immediately. Set timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove pan from oven. What you should have now is what is recognizable as risen bread dough. Set it aside and keep covered. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the towel and place loaf pan in preheated oven, on the lowest rack. Bake for 50 minutes, testing with a toothpick. If still doughy, add 5-10 minutes.

Brush or rub the top of the bread with butter or Earth Balance just after removing from the oven. Remove loaf from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely before cutting. Wrap tightly to store.