Sunday, February 27, 2011

Croissants

Vegan croissants! This is not the first recipe of its kind (Vegan LunchBox had one years ago), but I find these ingredients and method produce a wonderfully light and flaky pastry.

Makes 14
INGREDIENTS
Dough
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp warm water
- 1 cup cold plain soy milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp melted margarine
- 13 to 14 oz all purpose flour

Margarine Block
- 1 cup Earth Balance margarine (not the whipped kind)
- 2 tbsp flour

METHOD
1. Whisk the yeast and sugar into the water. When yeast is hydrated, whisk in soy milk and salt. Add in melted margarine and flour and bring into a very soft dough. Do not overknead.
2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll/shape into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins, or until well-chilled.
3. While dough is chilling, make the margarine block. Use the method described here, but shape it into a 6 x 8 inch rectangle.
4. Laminate the dough: place the margarine block in the bottom half of the dough, making sure there is a about a 1/2 inch border.
Fold the top half down and seal the edges. Take your time to make sure everything is sealed properly.
5. Making sure your surface is properly floured, place the folded side on our left and roll the dough into a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. Take your time, rolling from the centre to the edges first. Try to square everything up as best you can. With the short side towards you, fold the bottom third up, then the top third down, like a letter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins.
6. Repeat step five 3 more times, always placing the folded side on your left. After the final turn, refrigerate for a few hours to chill all the way through.
7. To make the croissants, roll the dough into a 9 x 32 inch rectangle. Starting in the bottom left corner, make a notch every four inches along the length of the dough. Then, from the top left corner, make a notch 2 inches in, then every four inches thereafter. With a pizza cutter, cut from the bottom notches to the top to make triangles. (You can make mini pastries with the leftover edges)
8. Gently pull the bottom of the triangle wider then, with the point pointing at you, begin to roll up the pastry. Hold the tip/point with your finger so you can pull the pastry as you roll it up. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure the tip is on the bottom. You can curve the ends inwards to get the crescent shape if you like. (You can freeze them at this point, then thaw, let rise, and bake later)
9. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours, until nicely swelled. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the croissants with soy milk, if you want.
10. Place the croissants in the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 mins, then rotate the pan and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for another 15 mins, until a golden brown. Let completely cool in the pan before serving.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Schnecken and Pinwheels

Now that you have made your Danish pastry dough, it's time to make some delicious treats! The first method gives you the classic shape people think of when they are offered a danish, the second is a pinwheel sure to impress your friends. The glazes and baking method come from Peter Reinhart, but are fairly standard fare.

SCHNECKEN (makes 12 reasonably-sized pastries)
Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper)
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/2 of the pastry block into a 12 x 9 rectangle. Cut into 12 one inch strips (i.e. they will measure 1 x 9 inches).
2. The dough will shrink back a bit from the cutting, so gently pull each end then twist each end several times to make a spring. Coil the dough and tuck the end under the coil. Place on the prepared sheet, cover with plastic, and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until nicely swelled and risen.
3. OPTION: Instead of letting the dough rise, you can freeze the formed dough. Place the sheet in the freezer, and when pastries are frozen transfer to a plastic bag.
PINWHEELS (makes 8)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper)
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/2 of the pastry block into an 8 x 16 inch rectangle. Cut into 8 equal squares (4 x 4 inches).
2. Cut a notch at a diagonal from each corner to the center, leaving enough space in the middle for the filling. Take the same side of each corner and fold it into the middle, pressing the dough into the middle to hold its shape. Place in the prepared sheets, cover with plastic, and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until nicely swelled and risen.
3. OPTION: Instead of letting the dough rise, you can freeze the formed dough. Place the sheet in the freezer, and when pastries are frozen transfer to a plastic bag.
TO BAKE
If you are using frozen pastries, place on a prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic, and let thaw/rise until nicely swelled. This will take a few hours. Then proceed as follows:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Once pastries have risen, use you thumb to depress a section in the middle for the filling. Fill depression with fruit filling (I find it easiest to put the filling in a piping bag).
3. Place pastries in the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 6 mins, then rotate pan and bake for another 6 mins. Pastries should be golden but not too dark.
4. Brush each pastry with hot glaze (see below), then let cool in the pan for 5 mins. Drizzle with a bit of icing and enjoy while still warm.

FRUIT FILLING
- 1 cup frozen blueberries (or other fruit, chopped if too big)
- scant 3/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- splash of lemon juice
Whisk water, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice together, then bring to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in fruit until well mixed. Let cool.

HOT GLAZE

This recipe will do 12 pastries, so double if you are making more
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
Bring ingredients to boiling, then simmer while the pastries finish baking.

ICING
Double if you like a lot of icing
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp soy milk
Mix all ingredient together, adding more icing sugar or soy milk to make a thickish glaze that can be drizzled with a fork.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Danish Pastry Dough

Here is installment two of my laminated dough series: danish pastry dough. The recipe is adapted and veganized from Williams Sonoma's Essentials of Baking. It is basically an enriched and yeasted laminated dough--I used Tofutti cream cheese to enrich the dough, but you could use a flax egg or just forget about it altogether. Since the dough has yeast it is a little less forgiving than puff pastry in that it can't hang around in the fridge for days. The great thing is that you can form the pastries and freeze them, unbaked, then thaw and bake them later. More on that in my next post!

INGREDIENTS
Dough
- 19 to 21 oz all purpose flour
- 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 cup warm plain soy milk
- 3 tbsp Tofutti cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Margarine Block
- 1 cup Earth Balance margarine (not the whipped kind)
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour

METHOD
1. Whisk 19oz of flour with the yeast and salt. Heat water, soy milk, and cream cheese together until warm and whisk until smooth. Add to the flour with the vanilla and bring together into a dough. Add as much flour as is needed to make a smooth and soft dough. It should not be sticky, but can be slightly tacky.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 10 x 16 inch rectangle (I like to do this on a pastry mat). Square everything up as best you can. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30-40 mins, or until well chilled.
3. While the dough is chilling, make the margarine block. Use the method described here, but make the block 8 x 7 inches. Keep cool until ready to use.
4. Laminate the dough: with the short side of the dough towards you, place the margarine block on the lower half of the rectangle, leaving a 1 inch border. Fold down the upper half, then seal the dough. Take our time to seal everything properly. Place the folded side to your left, then roll into a 12 x 20 inch rectangle. With the short side towards you, fold the bottom third up, then the top half down. Refrigerate for 15 mins.
5. Repeat step 4 three more times, then refrigerate for at least one hour, or until very well chilled, before making pastries.

NEXT TIME: Danishes and Pinwheels!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Yes, I am a little early with my valentine salutations, but today my three sons and I entered some pieces in a food art competition held at our local public art gallery. If you follow me on Facebook you already know that my concept was to make Sweetheart candies out of cake and emblazon them with vegan slogans. The idea was to juxtapose the familiar colours and shapes of the candies with the more shocking realities of eating animals, and I figured since it was being displayed at an art gallery I could get away with it. I guess the concept worked because I took home first prize! I tried out this recipe for the cake: it was durable (and therefore perfect for this project) but chewy. A little more oil needed, perhaps, or just more liquid in general. I used this buttercream fondant recipe for the icing: it worked perfectly but did not taste very good. Perhaps a 50:50 margarine to vegetable shortening mix is needed.

Son #1 made these mini cupcakes (chocolate from VCTOTW), decorated to look like a box of chocolates.

Son #2 made this "cup"cake. I baked the batter right in the cup with the spoon and all, and he added the topping and chocolate shavings.

Son #3 decorated this little heart cake. Too cute!
So have some fun with your food this Valentine's Day. I don't suggest giving your sweetie a cake with E. coli stamped into it . . . unless that is his or her thing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chocolate and Strawberry Napoleons

So this is a take on the classic French dessert and is perfect for when you are throwing a dinner party and want to impress your guests with the amazing world of vegan pastry. It also helps if your guests are not worried about their daily caloric intake. In this version I make a strawberry gel with agar, but you could use some quality jam instead. Fresh berries would also be awesome, too, but since it is the dead of winter I don't have access to any (save the ones from California in the un-recycleable plastic clamshell). On the other hand, the gel helps give it a nice layered look and keeps the final dessert from getting too messy. The trick here is not to go overboard on the creme, and to make sure that all the components have cooled so the creme does not melt. You will have some left over (and some gel) but there are worse things that could happen to you.

INGREDIENTS
Makes 9
-1/4 block of puff pastry (i.e. make this recipe and cut it into 4 blocks)

Ganache
- scant 3 tbsp soy milk
- 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp maple syrup

Creme Filling
- 1/2 can coconut milk, refrigerated (not low fat)
- 1.5 tsp brandy
- 2 tbsp icing sugar

Strawberry Gel
- 2 cup frozen strawberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp water, divided
- 1 tbsp agar flakes

- icing sugar for dusting

METHOD
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
1. Roll out the well-chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into a 6x6 inch square. Roll the sides with the folds in them slightly longer, then trim to 6" with a sharp knife (this will help the pastry bake up straight). With a sharp knife, cut the dough into nine 2" squares (i.e. make a # pattern). Transfer to the baking sheet, leaving some space in between them, cover the another piece of parchment, and refrigerate for 30 mins.
2. While the pastry is cooling, make the creme filling. It is essential that the coconut milk be very cold, so make sure it has been in the fridge at least overnight. Drain off the water and place 1/2 the remaining fat in a bowl. Whisk until smooth (this will take a little elbow grease). Add the brandy and icing sugar and whisk well. Place back in the fridge to keep cold.
3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. When dough is done chilling, gently poke through the layers with a fork 2 times, then bake for 22-25 mins, or until nicely golden.
4. Transfer to a cooling rack. As soon as the pastry can be handled, separate each square into three (it should easily divide along the fold lines). Let completely cool.
5. While the pastry is baking, make the strawberry gel. Combine frozen berries with sugar and 1 tbsp of water. In a separate bowl, sprinkle agar over the remaining 3 tbsp of water. Place berries over med-hi heat and bring to bubbling. When berries have softened, mash them with a fork or potato masher. You don't want to completely pulverize them: small chunks is the way to go. Add agar and water and let bubble away for 5 mins over medium heat. The mixture will get a bit thicker. Pour into a 9x13" pan and place into the fridge to cool down.
6. Make the ganache. Heat the soy milk to bubbling, then take off the heat and mix in the chocolate chips. When melted and smooth, mix in syrup until smooth.
7. To assemble:

  • dip the top of the bottom layer of pastry in the ganache, as well as the bottom of the top layer. Place in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.
  • Cut the strawberry gel into 2" squares
  • Start with your dipped bottom piece, then place a square of strawberry gel on top, then a dollop of creme filling. Top that with your middle piece, then another dollop of creme. Top that with another square of strawberry gel, then your top piece.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately (with a fork).