Monday, October 25, 2010

I've been baking! The Sundae Cupcake, Hazelnut Biscuits, and Whole Wheat Bread

As much as I love my vegetables, I have to admit (and you can probably tell this from reading this blog) I really love to bake. One of my goals in the somewhat near future is to open a small, handcrafted vegan bakery here in my new hometown of Roseville, California. There really isn't anything like that in Roseville and I think this market would definitely embrace a healthy, but still tasty alternative! The bakery will probably have to wait a bit, but for now I am having fun practicing and developing recipes that I hope to use in this someday bakery. 

I have been very busy lately, especially as I am still working in San Francisco a few days a week, which is a lovely 2-3 hour drive (each way) depending on traffic. As you can imagine this takes away from my beloved time in the kitchen, but I have still kept up my cooking and baking as much as I can ... homemade food just tastes so much better than store bought food. It has been a good challenge for me to cook foods that I can take on the road with me, some days for all three meals. 

Anyways, in an effort to be efficient, here I thought I would combine some of my favorite developments of the past month or so:

1.) The Sundae Cupcake. OMG this came out so good. We had some of our SF friends coming to visit a couple of weeks ago, one of whom was celebrating a birthday. I wanted to make some cupcakes and couldn't decide between a fruity cupcake or a chocolatey cupcake. I had the thought to  make an ice cream sundae sort of cupcake! So of course, all vegan, this cupcake was: a Vanilla cake with Strawberry filling, topped with Chocolate Buttercream, chopped peanuts, and a cherry on top! Oh  sweet heaven, were these good! This is definitely going on the list of must haves for this future bakery. If you haven't made a vegan cupcake yet, I highly recommend it. You will see that there is absolutely no reason to make non vegan cupcakes, when dairy and egg free versions are just so good! If you want a good place to get down the basics, pick up this book

2.) Hazelnut Biscuits. These I thought of as a nutty, crunchy treat for coffee/tea time, or as a not too sweet afternoon snack. I love the rich flavor of hazelnuts, and these biscuits are full of it! The biscuit is a simple combination of hazelnuts and oats, processed in a food processor, to which I added brown rice syrup, salt, a little hazelnut oil and a touch of maple syrup. The consistency is a little loose, but easy to form into shapes. ( I am considering forming them into either a biscotti shape or a madeleine shape next time) After forming them into a ball with a little well in the center, I added a dollop of dark chocolate which is the final richness and complexity that the biscuit needs!

3.) Whole Wheat Bread.
I love to make quick breads, but I don't usually make traditional yeast risen breads. My dad has made homemade bread with a bread maker my whole life, which I have always loved. He is hardcore, he grinds his own wheat, and then makes a whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread that is to die for! Anyways, I just go ahead and buy good quality whole wheat flour. Save myself a little hard labor. I miss homemade bread and decided that I should start honing some bread making skills. I started here with a simple whole wheat bread. I adapted it from a recipe that a friend uses for white bread and loves. It is a simple recipe, and I successfully subbed a mixture of whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour (it is a lighter color of wheat, but still whole wheat... not white flour). The other ingredients are just water, yeast, sugar, and a touch of oil. No surprises there, but the ratios are perfect. I like this recipe for it's moisture and tenderness, and by using half white whole wheat flour, the color was this really gorgeous blonde color instead of that super dark whole wheat bread. I ate bread with earth balance and cinnamon or jam for at least three days straight after I made this, it was just so yummy.
I think next time, I need to spend a little bit more time in the kneading phase though. I think if I had kneaded it a little longer it would have been even more aerated than it was. I have this great oven with our new house that has a proofing mode, and man is it great! But not a bad start with breads... I am going to keep practicing, and maybe this Christmas everyone will get a loaf of bread a la Rebecca.