Tuesday, 13 May 2008

"i wanna be a chocolate god" post 3: savories

Frankly, chocolate shouldn't be limited to sweets. Despite appearances on this blog, I actually prefer using the stuff in savories when I'm not making it for presents or bake sales or whatever. So, I give you further chocolatey goodness. Chocolate pasta, chocolate chapatti, and eggplant-cocoa spread. Chocolate pasta (pasta flour + buckwheat flour + cocoa, water, olive oil, dash of vanilla salt, dash of sugar) with mole-inspired veggies (onion, celeriac, vermouth, veggie stock, toasted cumin, ground sesame seeds, smoked paprika, hot paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, coriander seeds, chopped currants, crushed peanuts, swiss chard, lime, fresh coriander, coco nibs, salt....all sprinkled with more sesame). The chapatti is actually made out of some leftover pasta dough. I ate it with garlic hummus and tomatoes. I also (in the name of science) made some chocochapayti using a more conventional recipe, and I just subbed 1/4 cup (out of 2 cups) unsweetened cocoa for the same amount of flour. That also worked. The chapatti is dangerously good with a very tomato-ey cauliflower curry. Toasty eggplant dip (used as a starter at a dinner party): eggplant toasted on a flame (oh the joys of having a gas stove!), mashed up with cocoa, tahini, coriander, cumin, plus smoked salt and lime. This could have easily been made with unsweetened melted chocolate instead of cocoa, but uh, that would have required more groceries. The dip is totally yummy and non-photogenic.

kitchen dancing to: hedwig and the angry inch

Sunday, 11 May 2008

"i wanna be a chocolate god" post 2: truffles.

A friend of mine is becoming Dr.Friend. This is a cause for celebration, and she loves truffles, so I decided to send her some. I started making vegan truffles 8 or 10 years ago for fun and gifts, so here's the method I use. Some unapologetic notes: I like dark chocolate, and I don't like fussy truffles. These are dark, a little on the bitter side, and very intense. Also, I've had people email me and say "I made your truffles starting with vegan chocolate chips and they didn't work. Why?" If you start out with crappy chocolate, you will end up with crappy truffles, no matter how carefully and lovingly you make them. I start out with untemperered chocolate, either from Callebault, Valhrona or Michel Cluizel. Also, if you start out with tempered chocolate (bars or chips), the truffles won't be as melty. And if you skimp on fat, they also won't be creamy. So deal. That means making these truffles is expensive, and required finding good chocolate. It is, in fact, more expensive than buying truffles in a lot of cases (depending on how fancy your truffle purchases tend to be). While it is cute and heartfelt to make truffles from chocolate chips, you can't really temper chocolate chips, they have too little cocoa and too much sugar, and they often use random vegetable fats. All of this will affect your truffles. When you make truffles, you dilute the chocolate quite a lot with extra fat and with other added flavours (if you add flavours), which means you should start out with a high-cocoa content chocolate, like 70-80%. I like Callebault best, because it's creamier than the other chocolates, though for sharper flavours (for example, I sometimes make balsamic vinegar, olive oil or vanilla salt... those are three flavours, not one) I like to use Michel Cluizel, and that's my favorite, but this is just a matter of taste. Valrhona is great if you want a plain truffle that is super exciting all on it's own. So if you can taste your chocolate before buying it, that's always nice. These truffles are made with Callebault, because Dr.Friend usually likes sweet milky stuff. I don't make omni truffles, and I usually don't even take requests, but for a PhD defense, I made an exception on the request-taking.
In terms of added fat, you have 2 steps, each with some choices. For step 1: You need a fat that's solid at room temp but melty at body temp. Margarine will ruin your truffles beyond redemption, so your actual choices are coconut oil and coco butter. I prefer coconut oil, because it's just that little bit meltier. Depending on the brand, you may or may not be able to taste it in the final product. I use KTC (available in many indian/middle eastern groceries), and you can't taste it. When I make coconut truffles that I want to be more coconutty, I use some fancy organic cold-pressed stuff that you can really taste. For step 2: you need cream. Your options are coconut milk (which you can taste, but that's a good thing if you're making coconut or garam masala or clove truffles), you can use soy cream, which is neutral and will leave you with very melty truffles (this is my default), or you can use blended soft silken tofu, which will give you a slightly crumblier and inexplicably richer-tasting truffle. Silken tofu truffles only keep for a week. The other two keep for about 2 weeks. I usually make a batch and split it in half, using coconut milk for half and soy cream for the other half.
One last thing before we start: this takes a lot of time. You can't really speed it up without ruining your truffles. I find a good way around this is to invite friends over to be on the truffle chain gang. Who's going to say no to an afternoon of chocolate?
The method to the madness:
Truffles, like gremlins, cannot come into contact with water. Everything that touches, or even thinks of touching, the chocolate MUST BE DRY. All these instructions are for a kilo of chocolate. The minimum batch size is about 250 grams of chocolate.
1. Temper your chocolate: This is the only tricky part. Just go slow, k? Chop the chocolate and divide it into three piles. Melt two of the piles over very very very low heat with at least 250 mL of coconut oil. You can add up to 350mL if you want meltier truffles. When the chocolate is melted, it should be just above body temp. Now, remove it from the heat, and if possible, pour it into a new, cold pot (I never pour it into a new pot, cuz that would waste too much chocolate). Add the other 1/3 of chocolate. This will cool the melted chocolate down. Stir, stir, stir. It should take a fairly long time for this last 1/3 of the chocolate to melt, and when it does, you should have a liquid chocolate that is BELOW body temp (I just test with my finger). If it's not below body temp, keep stirring until it is. This step takes some time. Drink tea while you do it. Talk with your friends. Watch a movie. Just don't stop stirring, and don't reheat the stuff or put it in the fridge.
2. Solidify the truffles: Add the cream (200mL) while stirring. The chocolate will turn the consistency of pudding. Continue adding more cream slowly while stirring. The pudding will get thicker. When it stops getting thicker (actually, when you feel it start to get slightly thinner), stop adding cream. ou waYnt to add as much as possible, but if you add too much, you'll just end up with a really expensive vat of chocolate pudding. We used 200mL + about 150 mL of cream in these. Then, add half a shot of vodka to any truffles not otherwise destined to get alcohol or vinegar. This makes the truffles meltier. You can see photos of the cream being added, and then of me threatening to do some serious "quality control" on the pudding-like result.
3. Flavour the truffles: Each flavour needs it's own bowl. This time we used: rose water + candied rose petals, toasted garam masala, toasted cumin and laphroig whiskey. In the past I've done almond, pistachio, balsamic vinegar, salt, coconut, plain, violet, basil, olive oil, and truffle (like the fungus) and chili, plus some others that I've forgotten at the moment. The rose water is a bit tricky. Add the flavours. Remember that they will intensify over about a day. Now leave the truffles in a cool place, like the fridge, for a few hours while they solidify. You can see the solidified version just under the quality control photo.
4. Roll the truffles: First, you may need to break up the solid truffle goodness using a spoon, but your hands should have enough heat to melt the truffle dough enough to form it into balls, unless you are undead and have no body heat. In this case, enlist some live friends to help. If you look at the clever photo, you can see that the truffle dough is really stiff. Also, that our hands are really covered in chocolate (as were some shirts, trousers, faces etc., but this is not strictly necessary). You need about 2 c of unsweetened cocoa powder here. Pour about a cup of it on a plate and coat your hands with it. Form truffles, roll them in cocoa, and put them on a plate. Leave them to dry overnight. The cocoa will pull the moisture out of the outer tiny layer of the truffles. If you have a sweet tooth, you can also roll them sugar. If you want to make dipped truffles, put these in the freezer, temper another batch of chocolate with coconut oil, and dip the frozen truffles in the molten chocolate using a potato masher (or put them one by one on a mesh, like a wire collander and pour molten chocolate over them). Meh. I don't do this. Why mess with something that's already perfect?
Truffles keep about two weeks in theory. I've never actually had anyone test this. I mail them out, and I find the best way to ship them is packed in coco in tupperware containers.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

"i wanna be a chocolate god" post 1: chocolate stout cake

I should warn you. The next two (possibly three) posts are going to be all chocolate, despite the fact that it's spring, so I'm all about mangoes. However, I will resist the urge to blog about them, since I just eat them. As many as possible. Yesterday I strapped a box of them to the back of my bike. Right. Back on track. The first installment of chocolatey goodness is for a fundraiser at work, selling cake to omnivores to raise money for a charity that helps homeless people. Lately, I've seen a lot of stout chocolate cake recipes knocking about. The omni ones, especially the one at epicurious, looked rich and decadent and like the kind of cake that people let out contented sighs after eating and then talk about for days. They had vast amounts of real chocolate and a respectable measure of stout. They had sour cream. And And whipping cream. Gross (dairy), yet I can see how the creamy ingredients would complement the stout and let you make a very rich dessert that wasn't too sweet. Some of the vegan versions looked, um, well.... Gone were all the rich ingredients, and they had been replaced with nothing more than oil! (I don't have an ethical problem with oil, but who wants to eat oily chocolate cake? Ew.) And the chopped up chocolate had been replaced with cocoa! Gasp! WRONG! There were positive comments about these cakes, but I think that just mixing chocolate and stout will get that, regardless of any other factors. I wanted something rich and decadent and not-oily. I wanted the omnivores to think "Sheesh. I should go vegan. Vegans have all the good cakes. I wonder if Ducky will give me that recipe if I offer her massages and my undying adoration." And, deep in the recesses of my little chocolate-addicted soul, I refuse to even contemplate the possibility that coco powder is an acceptable substitute for actual chopped chocolate in baked goods. Augmentation, yes. Something altogether different, yes. Substitute, noooooooo. So now that I've offended both omnis and vegans alike, here's my version. This cake is quite fudgy and not too sweet and very chocolatey. I like the stout. I like the way the sour cream and melted chocolate let the bitterness of the stout and cocoa play nicely with the other flavours instead of taking over or being relegated to a minor component (by using very little stout or a lot of sugar). Spanky has a batch of chocolate stout on the go, so I will do this again when we have our own homebrew. And guess what? The recipe is here, and free. Though proclamations of undying adoration are always appreciated.

dry ingredients:

3 c flour (I used self-raising white)
1/2 c sugar (next time i'll cut it to 1/3)
1/2-3/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla salt (i grind up a vanilla bean in about 1/2 c salt and just keep it for occasions like this).


1 (mori-nu size) block worth of tofu sour cream (use your favorite recipe), minus 3 tbs. (you will need these later)
1c depitted prunes. place in cup. do not pack. now fill the cup with soy milk. let it soak for a while. or just microwave it if you forgot to do this in advance, like i always do.

blend not-so-dry ingredients together

melt 200g dark chocolate (I used green and blacks 85%) in
400mL stout (I used kelpie seaweed ale).

mix dry ingredients.
add not-so-dry and wet ingredients. mix some more.

place in an oiled and floured cake pan and bake at 180C for 35 mins. check. mine was done after 40 mins, but my oven is a speed demon. i suspect ovens who aren't always in a big rush will do this in a more leisurely 45 mins.

then, to bring the holy trinity of snack foods (beer, peanuts, chocolate) together in a single glorious cake, I topped the whole thing with peanut-crumb topping swirled with chocolate icing.

remaining sour cream
icing sugar

I used a lot of cocoa and a little icing sugar, but use your own judgement/sugar tolerance/cocoa tolerance here

peanut crumb goodness:
1/2 c salted roasted peanuts
1/4c flour (i used rice flour)
1 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbs olive oil (the more olive-ish, the better)

mix peanuts, flour and sugar in blender until you have fine-ish chunks. put on a little tray. add oil and mix with fork. when you take the cake out of the oven, turn the oven off and pop this little tray of peanutty goodness in and it will kind of crisp up like very very unhealthy granola. put it on top of the cake. if you are very industrious, talented, or just trying to get into someone's pants by impressing them with your cake-decorating skills, make a pretty swirl or a pirate flag or something else artistic. otherwise, just put the icing on the cake, thus forming a layer of edible adhesive, and sprinkle the crumbs on the icing.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

saffron and spring

Feed me!

Lately, I have been in love with saffron, especially since I found some saffron vinegar. So, I decided to make a saffron themed dinner. Leek pie (potato crust that I use for pizzas + thyme), leeks cooked in white wine and then mashed together with okara+miso+vinegar+salt, along with lemon zest, lemon juice and sumac. The crust is prebaked, and then filled and then the whole thing gets baked again. Lentil salad (puy lentils in veg stock, drained, then mixed with multicoloured tomatoes, toasted walnuts, roasted cumin, saffron vinegar, pomegranite molasses, pink peppercorns, chopped capers, salt and some cocoa. Topped with pomegranite seeds. Spring salad: strawberry and asparagus. Dressing is just saffron vinegar, sugar, salt, a few drops of very good olive oil, and a bit of black pepper. Oh, and that's all on my favorite plate, which is polkadotted and has *ears*. I found in at the Cologne flea market. It is the happiest plate I've ever met. Dessert: little rice puddings (jasmine rice cooked in almond milk, with saffron, rosewater and a little sugar and a pinch of salt added at the end, though it wasn't all that sweet. Topped with melted chocolate, a fig, and candied rose leaves.

It was a lovely afternoon and a wonderful dinner. I love making food for people I love. Mmmmmmm on so many counts. And this dinner was extra fun because M was here dealing with the lentils. I think that M and lentils have a special understanding.

running through my head: you and me, from Victor Victoria.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


These are not muffins. Or cupcakes. I'm not that kind of vegan. They are tiny breads, as you can see by my helpful universal sign for "tiny" as I hold the microbread up to my spycam. A muffin tin is simply a convenient way to make tiny breads, because having actual tiny bread pans is just way too chichi for me. The tiny breads aren't sweet. Just yummy. You see, I love gingerbread in theory, but in practice I usually find it too sweet and not gingery or spicy enough. Plus, I think ginger goes well with black pepper and the kind of heat you get from mustard. Just to put this in perspective, I'm one of those people who thinks that salmiakki (salt licorice) is the best candy EVER. In fact, it is the only world I can remember and pronounce reliably in Finnish, and also the only thing that I remember fondly from the week I spent in Helsinki on a population genetics course. In fact, if somebody in Finland sends me a vegan package of salt licorice, I will send them a batch of these tiny breads. Leave a comment (not in finnish....yes in english or french or german...extra credit for irish gaelic or latin) if you are a Finnish vegan reading my blog (hell, I think that there might just be a prize if you're a Finnish vegan reading my blog....).

Getting back to the tiny breads: Spelt flour (3 cups), baking powder (1tbs), a tiny bitof cornstarch (2tbs), cardamom (1/2 tsp), nutmeg (1/2 tsp), lots of ginger powder (1-2 tbs), salt flakes (1 tsp), coarsely ground black pepper (1 tbs), applesauce (3 small apples worth), blackstrap molasses (1/2-2/3c), dijon mustard (1 tsp), okara (1 c, sub soy yogurt if you don't have a constant okara infestation in your fridge because of soy milk making), fresh grated ginger (1tbs, but I would have used more if I had more), candied ginger (5 chunks). I sprinkled these with salt flakes before cooking them at 180C for about 25 mins. Depending on how dry your okara is/if you use soy yogurt, you might have to add water or soymilk. The consistency of the uncooked batter is very thick, but not dry at all.

M and I scaled the big hill (Arthur's seat) this morning. We had a 5 am rendezvous. It was beautiful and made me wonder why I don't go climb a big hill for the sunrise every morning.

unmuffin unmusic: the angry hippy podcast