Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tea "Biscuits"

Ah, one of the joys of being an American is that a "biscuit" brings to mind something that you use as a side dish -- to pretty much any meal. You can have gravy on it (sorry, not my thing) or wedge a sausage patty in it. You can put it as a side to a dinner of meat (or not) and greens. You can spread jam or honey on it. You can do a lot of things to a biscuit. And, depending on where in the country you live, biscuits might be fluffy (Southern influence) or thinner and crispier (Northern influence).


But, Americans don't usually hear biscuit and think "a sweet."

These tea biscuits are definitely more like cookies, if you're an American reader. They're sweet (yet have protein because of the g-bean flour!), and very versatile. The original recipe comes from the Flying Apron Bakery Cookbook, and calls for placing beautiful little berries in the center of each cookie. That's yummy (and frozen blueberries work great, btw). But you can also season these with sweet spices and create something that's (still) totally appropriate for eating with a mug of hot tea (or coffee), any time of day.

I make my tea biscuits much smaller than the original recipe recommends (it recommends baseball sized, mine are closer to golf-ball sized -- but then, I'm also not selling them in a bakery). A thought about this: If you're making them for a fundraiser or something along those lines, definitely make them big. I didn't have to make much of an adjustment to the baking time, so you should only need to leave them in for a few extra minutes. 

I like that these come together pretty quickly (though they do want to hang out in the refrigerator for a few hours -- you can make the dough in advance and just make a few at a time this way), but they will leave your hands sticky (something I'm less thrilled about). I recommend making the dough as listed below, and then modifying it however you'd like (suggestions also below, probably you don't want to try all the variations at the same time).

Tea Biscuits
2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon garbanzo bean flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup canola oil
Scant 1 cup cane sugar
1 cup soy milk
Berries (optional)

Additions (probably only try 1-2 at a time, based on preference):
1/2-1 cup mini vegan gf chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life)
4-5 drops pure orange oil (a little goes a long, long way -- and orange essence is not the same thing)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup minced, candied ginger

Combine the brown rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl (or if you have a stand mixer, in that), beat together the canola oil and cane sugar until well mixed. Stir in the flour mixture and the soy milk a little at a time, alternating, until well mixed. Chill* the dough at least three hours (it can go less, but believe me, you want that garbanzo bean flour to hydrate).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place golf ball sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet that has been greased or covered with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart (these don't spread much). Lightly flatten the balls with the palm of your hand. If you're using berries, press 2-3 into the top of each cookie.

Bake until golden and firm to the touch, about 20-24 minutes.

Stir in the mix-in to some (or all) of the dough before you let it rest in the refrigerator. If you're only making a few cookies and want to try out one of these options, I definitely recommend reducing the amount of ingredient you're choosing to mix in. You don't want to overpower the delicate flavors in these tea biscuits.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Oatmeal Cookie Crust

I knew I wanted to make a vegan French silk pie this holiday season (originally, I'd intended to make it for Thanksgiving), but for various reasons, it kept not happening. I even had a pretty tasty gluten-free crust, from the freezer section, on hand for a bit (and that got used for other things too). Alas, when I finally did find the time/energy/resources to make it, I didn't want to replicate a buttery, flakey crust. That 1) didn't seem fun because 2) it's a lot of work when it's also gluten-free.

I looked online for recipes for cookie-based crusts for similar pies and saw a lot for Oreo crusts (because Oreos are chemically vegan), but that doesn't work for a gluten-free diet (not even if you get the wheat-free Newman's, if you're new to gf baking). Then, I started looking for oatmeal cookie crusts (I love oatmeal cookies). Since this was going to be a very sweet pie, I didn't want any of the super-sweet crusts I was seeing and decided to make my own, less sweet, veganized crust.

This is what I came up with instead, loosely based on a straight-up oatmeal cookie recipe. It's lightly salty and holds together pretty well.

Oatmeal Cookie Crust
1/3 cup non-dairy butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 5 tablespoons warm water*
1/4 cup applesauce
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt, scant
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats

In a saucepan, combine the butter and sugars, and stir until just melted and combined. Remove from heat, and add in remaining ingredients (I used a large enough saucepan, you may need to transfer these to a separate bowl), and mix thoroughly. Grease your hands or the back of a silicone spatula and press into a greased 9" x 11" baking dish, including up the sides. Bake at 350 degrees for about 9-11 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before adding any fillings.

*This is more than you'd normally use for a flaxseed egg, but you want this dough pliable enough that you can push it throughout the pan

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vegan Peanut Butter Blondies (grain-free too!)

It's been nearly a year since I last updated this blog. It's not that I haven't been cooking and baking a lot -- I have. And, it's not for lack of inspiration about vegan and gluten-free things to make. It's that I've been deciding the personality overhaul of this blog. I'm not "flexitarian" anymore, but it's not wholly accurate to call myself vegan.
A lava flow?! That has nothing to do with this post!
Taken at Craters of the Moon National Park, ID
Summer 2013

I eat vegan, most of the time. But, if a non-meat or cheese (cause I really dislike the taste of meat and most cheeses) happens to have egg in it and it's gluten-free and it's chewy (because omg, chewy not-like-bricks gluten-free items are quite the find), I'll probably make it/eat it (shhh, don't tell), if it's free and going to go to waste otherwise -- so, for instance, if it's free at the soup kitchen or another place my roommates and I can glean from. I recently learned that vitamin D3 comes from an animal source most of the time (industrially, it's apparently produced by exposing lanolin to sun) and that it's in a lot of my cereal and I'm okay with that too, cause cereal is easy when I feel like I'm already out of the house a lot / not cooking much.

I'm still not sure what this will mean for the blog. I won't be removing recipes and I'm not set (yet) on changing the name of the blog. If I do, I'll try to create a fair amount of advance notice.

This recipe is something I recently made, a veganized version of a recipe I posted a few years ago. It uses lentils (?!?) which gives the bars a consistency a little like they have chunky PB in them, and they're super-moist. I didn't get pictures before my housemates inhaled them, but if you make them and want to send me pics, that would be great (and I'm happy to give you photo credit of course!). Otherwise, next time I make these, I'll try to get pictures as soon as I pull them from the oven.

The lentils used in this recipe are brown lentils. They'll hold up better when cooked and are definitely still evident when you eat the blondies.

Peanut Butter Blondies (vegan, grain-free)
1 cup cooked brown lentils (salted)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons garbanzo (or oat*) flour
¼ cup ground flaxseed mixed with ½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Puree lentils and granulated sugar in a food processor, until moderately smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Stir well and allow to rest for at least half an hour to give the flaxseed and garbanzo flour time to hydrate.

About ten minutes before you want to put the blondies in the oven, begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the batter into a greased 11x7 pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes (I'm now baking at high altitude and still learning how to convert back down for baking times!), or until the center feels moderately firm to the touch.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

*If you use oats, this is no longer grain free. You could also use coconut flour if you had it on hand. Resist the urge to add any extra water with coconut flour. It's very absorbent.