Monday, June 30, 2014

Gone Vegan

Raw Vegan, to be exact.
If there's any reason that can explain or justify my prolonged absence from this blog, I guess that would be it. Let me elaborate.

About six months ago, I stumbled on a blog at work written by a person who had done a thirty day Raw Vegan trial. My first impression was, wow, this is weird. As I kept reading, about the lifestyle, about the benefits, I started thinking it sounded amazing and, doable. At the time, I was not eating well or balanced at all and I thought it might be a good opportunity to make a change. And make a change I did.

The transition to raw veganism has wrought many changes. It has taken time to get to know the ups and downs of this diet, what makes me feel good, what my body needs, what it doesnt. The changes are mostly positive ones. (You know those people who tease you for eating differently? Never fun.) Without counting a single calorie or weighing myself once, my weight dropped significantly, I wake up with plenty of energy and have noticed a positive change in my moods. I've eliminated all processed foods from my diet and revamped my pantry in the process. Naturally, that effects my baking. Eating Raw Vegan aside, when people asked me to bake or bring dessert somewhere, I had to decline. I found the idea of buying or baking with margarine and other processed ingredients physically painful. Although I wouldn't eat it anyway, it was hard to stomach the thought of deliberately making things and having people I care about eat them.

So where does that leave me and this blog? I, for one, am very happy and feeling good. I didn't want to take this blog and turn it into something I never intended it should be. I didn't think it appropriate. Maybe one day I'll pop up somewhere else on the blogosphere but for now, I think this is where the blog comes to an end.

So there you have it. To all the people who may have read my blog, made any of my recipes or left a comment, thank you! It meant, and still means, a lot.

Be happy and healthy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spelt Challah

My first experiment with spelt challah turned out to be quite a successful one. I was inspired to experiment with it by my good friend A who recently decided to remove wheat from her diet. I like to think that it's possible to make adjustments to your diet but not to the standards of eating that one is accustomed to. After eating by her for lunch, I decided I would take the bag of 70% whole spelt flour sitting at home in the fridge and try to coax it into light textured, fluffy challot. And so, after reading and researching the nature of spelt a good bit, I took the opportunity this Friday to test out the recipe on the back of the flour bag (because after all, who knows better?!) that sat in the refrigerator. I put together the dough the exact same way I usually do. I noticed that the dough did feel slightly different than its white wheat counterpart but so far so good. I gave it its usual long rest before proceeding to knead and after a few minutes of gentle kneading, I had a perfectly smooth, round ball of dough. I set it aside in a greased bowl to rise and do its thing. Fingers crossed, I checked on the dough periodically to see it rising just as it should. (I don't know why a different grain would effect yeast activity but I was nervous!) Rolling out and braiding the challot were quite interesting steps. The dough behaved totally differently than with white flour. Rolling was not frustrating at all! The strands rolled and stretched beautifully, no springing back whatsoever. I let them to rise again and baked them. The final product surprised me a bit as well. The coloring of the bread was a creamy beige, notably different than whole wheat. What's more, the braids didn't split open and spread at all. The way they went in was the way they came out, save for the rise. Definitely something I wasn't expecting but aesthetically pleasing, nonetheless. These challot were really fantastic. Texturally, they were spot on, light and fluffy. The flavor was lightly sweet from the honey and almost whole wheat like. While it was apparent that this was something other than wheat, it most certainly didn't feel like health food, of the brick variety or any other. It was wonderful with all of the traditional Israeli salatim. Put on the hot plate before dinner toasted the bottoms into perfection. A home run all around.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dried Fruit and Nut Tart

Happy belated Tu Bishvat! I am kind of late to the party but only post wise! This past week we celebrated Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees. Some of us celebrated with the traditional eating of dried fruit, some even had seders, and many went out to plant trees. I think I may have sufficed with some dried fruit but I can't remember. I definitely made it up on Shabbat, though. My friend A hosted me for lunch and asked me to bring a Tu Bishvat related dessert. Anything fruit related really would have been okay but seeing as the connection between this holiday and dried fruit is so strong, I knew I would have to go that route. The solution? The dreaded fruitcake. I was ready to go down that route and have a bunch of people hate me for choosing that (in my head, I don't see what the fuss is, it sounds perfectly delicious despite its repuation.. in any case, I made peanut butter cookies as a back up) when I remembered that there was a dried fruit related recipe in Flo Braker's wonderful book Baking for All Occasions. I flipped open the book to discover that my (freaky) memory for recipes hadn't let me down and there indeed was a recipe for Autumn Dried Fruit- Nut Tart. It may not be autumn around these parts, heck, it's practically summer (it's meant to be winter!), but that didn't stop me from making this tart, especially since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. Well, most of them. I tweaked the rest. The tart calls for a sort of jam to be made by cooking some dried fruit together with water, alcohol and orange juice. That is spread onto the bottom of a blind baked tart shell and then topped with a frangipane-like topping and then baked to perfection. The result? Well, by the looks of it this tart won't win any contests on looks alone- the crust is beige as is the baked almond topping. Nonetheless, this tart is delicious. Subtly nutty and cookie like with a layer of yummy jam in the middle, I likened this to a hamentashen, but different. I was a big fan and it went pretty quickly. I used dried peaches and pears because I didn't have any apricots and omitted the whole nuts from that layer. I also swapped out a different recipe for the crust for one I thought was easier to make and work with. I thought the almond mixture was very subtle and by the time it hit me that I should have added a touch of almond extract to it to heighten the flavor, it was already in the oven. Whoops. I guess there's always next year.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rum Cake

It's been quite a long time since I've posted anything on this blog. I know I say that every time that I find the time to start writing again and it's hard to explain the lack of motivation and inspiration to get back to blogging. Life, I guess. In the past months, though, people have casually mentioned it and recipes that they've successfully made from it. Gratifying though it may be to hear those things, I still didn't feel inspired enough to make a comeback. Have I been baking? I get that question all the time. The answer? Plenty of challot here, the occasional dessert there... But definitely not with the enthusiasm of a one-time commander who once had soldiers to spoil. I will say that I recently took out my KitchenAid for the first time in months and it's out to stay. That's a promising start as far as I'm concerned. It'll take some time, but I'm getting there.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce. Those two words are enough to conjure up childhood memories of Friday visits with my sister to the local candy store and then on to the nearest TCBY shop for some Cotton Candy flavored ice cream dripping with liquid amber deliciousness. Caramel. Sugar never tasted so good. But making it in my own kitchen? I've only ever heard horror stories about burning the sugar time after time and having to scrub the pan clean afterwards with nothing to show for it but an empty bag of sugar and some cracked fingernails. So it came as a surprise when a couple of months ago I made my first attempt at caramel sauce and succeeded. And then tried again this past Friday and was once again met with success and the the most addictively delicious topping to ever grace ice cream. The first time it was made for an engagement party as an accompaniment to chocolate peanut butter ice cream and this time for a "showerette" for a dear friend, as a topping for peanut butter ice cream and cookies and cream ice cream. You're right to think that I couldnt resist. I caved and had some. Yum. This recipe comes from David Lebovitz (only logical to make his sauce to go with his ice creams) and was pretty easy. I did find that the sauce came out pretty thin but when allowed to boil takes on a thicker consistency, and obviously when it cools, it thickens as well. The first time, quite a bit of sugar hardened, the second time less, perhaps because my ingredients were at room temperature. Heat on low while stirring to melt the sugar and smooth out the sauce. Your patience will be rewarded. I served this in a glass soda fountain-ey coca-cola glass to add to the ice cream-parlor look.