Vanilla Buckwheat Cookies

This was my first time baking with buckwheat flour so I acted like a child; easily excitable, uninhibited, happy. As soon as I woke up this morning my mind was blaring BUCKWHEAT BUCKWHEAT BUCKWHEAT. I tried my best to be amicable and understanding of Matt’s presence, but it was tough to see the point in making oatmeal for breakfast and then patiently chewing said oatmeal while a bag of pristine buckwheat flour sat a few meters away. I did help make oatmeal and I did enjoy my time with Matt, eating and chatting and eating. Then I proceeded to ignore the dirty dishes and combine a handful of things to create these cookies!! It was a fun start to the day.

This golden cookie is entirely vegan and yummy and not entirely void of healthy things.

I made these cookies because: A) I was in dire need of vanilla cookies for my vegan banana pudding and B) I received a bag of buckwheat flour in the mail a couple of days ago. Score????

Ingredients~
Makes 8 small cookies

1/3 cup & 3 tbsps buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tbsps coconut oil, soft/melted
1 tbsp banana puree/applesauce (or sub with more coconut oil)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2 tbsps rice malt syrup or other liquid sweetener
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of baking soda (about 1/8 tsp)
Pinch of salt

Instructions~

1. Stir together the coconut oil, banana puree/applesauce if using, vanilla extract, and syrup until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and dash of salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until a thick, goopy batter forms. The dough will be too sticky to mold into balls, so cover the bowl and set it in the fridge for at least 20-30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 C/356 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Working quickly, form balls of cookie dough and lightly flatten the top of each one (very lightly flouring your hands if necessary) Bake for 9-13 minutes (depending on size) or until visibly crisped up and golden. Allow them to cool for a little bit before enjoying!

Important note: this recipe was inspired by Dish by Dish’s Gluten Free Buckwheat Cookies.

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Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice Pie

Ingredients~
Makes enough filling for one 6-7 inch pie. Simple add on 1/3 of the ingredients to fit a standard 9 inch pie.

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 medium spotty banana, mashed (not too black/ripe)
2 1/2 tbsps maple syrup or honey (add up to two tbsps more for a sweeter pie)
1 egg
3 tbsps soy milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Scant 1/8 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of salt
Plus: one partially pre-baked pie crust

Instructions~

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Low Fat Vegan Pie Crust

I don’t want to slow down my current baking pace, but I don’t want to consume inordinate amounts of fat and sugar either. Thus, in an effort to satisfy both of the voices in my head, what I want: PIE and what I should have: HEALTHY PIE OR ELSE LESS PIE, I have been experimenting with lower fat and sugar pie/tart crusts. This pie crust has been tried, tasted, and tasted some more, because it turned out so delightfully scrumptious.

All you’ll need is flour, coconut oil, and banana puree. I opted for all purpose flour this time because I just received a 3 kg bag of it in the mail. Hehe. Buying in bulk saves money and trips to the grocery store (or in my case TOMIZ, the online shop haven for bakers in Japan). I’m sure swapping out the white flour for whole wheat would work almost as well, almost because it would likely be a bit denser and chewier. I’ll have to give it a try and report back.

The banana puree may stand out for the wrong reasons, but trust me, you can’t even taste it! The crust is more banana infused than banana flavored. Plus, my pumpkin pie filling was veeery low in sugar, allowing the flavor of the crust to stand out a lot more than it would have in a standard, white and brown sugar, sweet pie. It is important that you use a moderately spotted banana and not the ones suited for banana bread, as the banana-y flavor will be too strong. If you’re still spooked, you could replace the banana with more oil, but that defeats the purpose of a lower fat/calorie crust, doesn’t it? Apple sauce should be a suitable banana replacement, but I have yet to try it. I was skeptical at first as well, hence why I decided to make a small batch of dough and test it in the tart tins. Wasted food really annoys me, but I can say that none of this coconut oil banana crust was wasted. Crumbs were plucked from empty tart tins and every excess piece of dough was pressed back into the crust!!

Ingredients~

Makes enough dough for about five mini tarts (my pans are 2 inches wide)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsps solid coconut oil (refrigerate until firm)
1 tbsp banana puree

Instructions~

1. Cut the solid coconut oil up into the flour with a fork until a crumbly mixture forms. Next, stir in the banana puree until a wetter dough begins to form (quite like play dough). Quickly form the dough into a ball, cover it, and set it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill.
2. Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F. Once chilled, roll the dough out onto lightly dusted parchment paper, about 1/8 inch thick. Using an upside down tart tin, shape and cut circles out of the sheet of dough. Lightly oil the tart tins if necessary and place a circle of dough on each one, lightly patting it down around the edges to fit the mold. Cut off any excess, hanging dough, and press some of it back into the dough if you’d like. Scoop your pie filling into the center of the tarts. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the crust is noticeably golden and the center of your pie doesn’t jiggle much (if it had a wet filling).

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White Chocolate Chunk Matcha Cookies

Ingredients~
Makes about 6 cookies

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat
1/4 cup traditional rolled oats
1/2 medium spotty banana (not too ripe/black)
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsps soft coconut oil
1/3 tsp lemon juice (alternatively, use vanilla extract)
1/2-3/4 tsp good quality matcha powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Tiny pinch of salt
A small handful or about 30 grams of white chocolate chunks/chips (dairy free if vegan)

Instructions~

1. In a large bowl, mash the banana until creamy and stir in the maple syrup, coconut oil, and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, oats, matcha, baking powder and soda, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until well combined (and a deep shade of green!!).
2. Chop chocolate chunks if you haven’t already done so and stir them into the batter. Cover the batter and let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to harden up. In this time, preheat the oven to 176 C/350 F.
3. Dollop the dough onto a pan lined with parchment paper and lightly flatten the cookies, leaving at least half an inch in between them. Bake for anywhere between 9-11 minutes; mine took 10 minutes but the size of your cookies and your oven’s strength will affect how they bake. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before enjoying!!

Important note: this recipe was inspired by Oh She Glow’s maple syrup sweetened Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

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Whole Wheat Vegan Banana Bread

This morning I woke up with a tension headache, it’s claws buried deep into my neck and shoulders. I had been eagerly anticipating today, it was the day my haul of baking equipment was due to arrive, so I did my best not to let the headache sour my giddiness. Long story short: it’s almost impossible and very expensive if possible, to find baking supplies in Tokyo (by ‘supplies’ I mean: flour other than highly refined white and pancake mix, a good brand of instant yeast, vanilla extract, bread/cake/muffin tins, and so on…). Baking isn’t as popularized of a pastime as it is in Australia or America; however, despite this, and as is the case in Taiwan, bakeries are everywhere! In fact, I would have to say I unintentionally come across more bakeries in Taipei and Tokyo than I did in Melbourne or NYC. I’m not sure what lies at the heart of this fascinating situation, but I’d like to find out. Perhaps the more recent introduction of bread and pastries to Asia means people don’t have recipes and techniques passed down from generation to generation? Perhaps Japanese people are less likely to bake a loaf of bread at home than, say, an American, due to the simple lack of conventionally western ovens in most homes. The oven in my Tokyo apartment is actually a multipurpose microwave; it has an oven feature that can reach 250 C and a grill feature as well, pretty neat, huh!?

Anyone who has perused bakeries in America and European countries will be able to notice the glaring differences between the baked goods on sale; the discrepancies between English and French bread and pastry are innumerable!! Bread is bread is bread, but Parisian French bread is not Taiwanese bakery french bread and Japanese croissants are undoubtedly a distant, twice removed cousin of French croissants.

Having had the privilege of being to Paris and now, Tokyo, I can say that both types of croissant surpass tolerable, but the Parisian one exists on a far more unique plane than the Japanese one, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s because a French croissant is the most perfectly flaky, buttery pastry to exist? One cannot simply whip up a batch of croissants, it takes days and lots of rolling and turning and rolling and turning, and having enough knowledge and luck to keep microscopic layers of butter (and there are many, many layers!!) from even slightly melting into layers of dough (the former mishap is what kept my first ever batch of croissants from achieving flaky galore). The croissants I’ve had in Tokyo, so far at least, are noticeably more bready and sweet; and while that’s not to say they aren’t pleasant to taste, it is the case that they share more genes with sweet bread than the O.G. croissant.

With my new whole wheat flour and bread tin in hand I was ready as ever to put something with a sweet-smelling finale into the oven. As you may have already guessed, I opted for my all time favorite homemade good: a hearty banana bread loaf. This recipe only calls for body and brain nourishing ingredients, but if you decide to swap out the maple syrup for honey or rice syrup, or use a chicken egg rather than a chia egg, that won’t negatively affect the final product. Also, I decided to give my new cocoa powder a try and ended up loading up this banana loaf with a thick layer of chocolate, so if that’s not for you, half or third the chocolate sauce ingredients and swirl it into the batter for a pretty marble effect, or simply omit it. And now for the goodies~~

While the dark chocolate topping paired well with the sweeter banana bread, it fell a little short in the looks department. From another, more imaginative perspective (i.e. the other voice in my head), it does kinda resemble volcanic rock, which is pretty cool and not something you see everyday on your cake plate. On the other hand, it is a little not-so-pretty. Ah well, I’ve come away from this baking experience with a knew item to add to my ‘To Master’ list: chocolate sauce/drizzle. I’m guessing I ought to be more specific than that, as chocolate sauce that’s swirled into a bread should be different from the chocolate sauce that’s drizzled over profiteroles or a freshly iced cake, no? Perhaps there is no difference, if one is after the most basic, stripped to the essentials, dark cocoa drizzle, as I usually am. I suppose I should do some research.


Ingredients~
Makes one small loaf or 9-10 half inch thick pieces

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
1/2 cup traditional rolled oats
1 1/2 medium bananas, very spotty and ripe
1 chia egg (1 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 2 tbsps water)
3 tbsps maple syrup
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Chocolate sauce:
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsps soy/nut milk

Instructions~

Preheat oven to 176 C/350 F
1. If making the chocolate sauce, simply combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the clumps of cocoa powder dissolve and the consistency is smooth. Set aside to cool.
2. Next, mash the bananas in a large bowl until creamy and only tiny chunks of banana remain. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, chia egg, and milk, stirring until well combined.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, whisking until a slightly lumpy batter forms. Stir in chopped nuts, dried fruit, or, better yet, dark chocolate covered fruit (I opted for cranberries!)
4. Line a bread tin with parchment paper and pour in the batter, smoothing out the top to make an even loaf. Dollop the chocolate sauce on top and use a chopstick or knife to spread it out or swirl it into the batter (if you want a marble design start by adding one spoonful of chocolate; adding all of it will result in a thick layer like mine). Bake for 40-50 minutes, covering the top with aluminum foil about 1/3 of the way through to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn (depending on how thick your layer is). Enjoy with a generous spread of plant based butter or nut butter!!

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Whole Wheat Pretzels (Savory & Cinnamon Sugar Varieties)

I’m in the process of moving errr, putting off preparing to move cities and then countries. My time in Melbourne is nearly up and soon I’ll be off to Brisbane, but just for two weeks before saying see ya later to Australia and flying to Taiwan, where I’ll be for nearly a week before excitedly boarding a plane to Tokyo! It’s hard to not get stuck in the future when you have such highly-anticipated plans. Sometimes I have to remind myself you still have time in Australia to utilize and enjoy, let the idea of Tokyo rest for now! Given all the wonderful, wacky things I’ve heard about Tokyo, I’m a little fearful I’ll grow attached to the city. Originally, Matt and I were going to visit for a month or less, as people typically do, but given that he has the freedom to work from pretty much wherever he wants, and I have a wide, gaping space of time before returning to more structured life, i.e. college, we decided to temporarily live in Tokyo for three months, hoping to explore it well beyond what a brief trip would allow (but definitely not enough to warrant never returning).

Of course, we’re very, very lucky that the elements usually hindering people from traveling, namely finances, timing, and freedom, happen to work out in our favor this time around. If I had barely been earning a livable wage in Australia or had a young child or needed to save my money to pay off a debt, I would not be able to pick up and travel to Tokyo for so long, let alone have come to Australia in the first place. With this said, I am also not in possession of a trust fund or cushioned by tens of thousands of dollars in savings. Instead, I actively avoided spending any unnecessary money over the last 6 months. Living frugally meant I had a grocery budget, and if I overspent one week I would deduct the extra money spent from the following week’s budget. Yep, it meant I had to be strict with myself when no one else was going to be. I also rarely ever ate out. Eating at restaurants is an obvious no-no, but I also had to strip myself of the freedom to buy menially costing things, i.e. coffees, bags of chips, alcohol, packaged treats, etc., as they really, truly, do add up. I bought clothes when I needed clothes (aka when my only pair of long pants that aren’t made of leather were stolen from the laundry balcony) and I scanned the shelves at grocery stores for very uncool lengths of time to deduce which brands were cheaper and which were cheaper but also sound in the health and ethics department (100% recycled paper toilet paper is cheaper than the soft white stuff AND it’s not new paper that has to be sent to a landfill or ocean).

Another fact worth mentioning is that I’m traveling with a partner, so I’ll be splitting the cost of a small apartment (aka 1 small room, tiny kitchen, and bathroom) with him. We just so happened to stumble upon a traditional (aka cheaper) style apartment in a nice neighborhood in West Tokyo; it’s a 15-20 minute subway ride into central parts of the city, which isn’t too far away to be a hassle but isn’t too close to empty our pockets, and because we are staying for three months we received a sizable discount. Home owners on Airbnb have the option of offering a discount for one or several month stays, and while some don’t make use of it for obvious reasons ($$), we were able to shave over a thousand dollars off our rent budget by finding a listing that allocated a 30% monthly discount for long-term stays. With a more decent weekly rent in mind, it was easier to get the ball rolling on the idea of actually traveling to Tokyo. Transportation, food, and air fare are all necessities you can’t get around, but you can crunch the numbers and make it possible, while still comfortable, on a budget. Also, remaining in Tokyo for so long rather than traveling all around the country means we don’t have to spend massive amounts of money on the high speed rail ($150 dollars one way from Tokyo to Osaka) or domestic flights, and it also means we have the option to cook in our own kitchen rather than spend hundreds of dollars a week on food.

Soon I’ll be writing and posting pictures from a kitchen the size of my current shower, stuffing my face with taro-filled mochi, and trying to convey in words how impossibly delicious fresh, Japanese handcrafted mochi is. Until then, I’ve got some pretzels to tide us over.

One pretzel, two pretzel, three pretzel, four. And no more than that, folks! I only made four pretzels this time around because I have a croissant recipe in the works and one can only consume so much butter and white flour before their body catches up (which you may not mind at all, but I do). The classic buttery and salty pretzels left me in awe of my own baking abilities (or rather, butter-lathering and salting abilities) and the cinnamon sugar one confirmed my suspicion that sugary toppings only make you want more sugary toppings (luckily I only made one of these).

Ingredients~
Yields 4-5 pretzels

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup & 1 tbsp slightly warm water
1 tsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1 tbsp melted butter
Scant 1/4 cup baking soda (for boiling)
5 cups water (for boiling)
For topping:
1 egg yolk
About 1 inch-by-inch cube of solid butter
Ground rock/sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon combined with 1 tbsp granulated sugar

Instructions~

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Rich and Healthy Chocolate Pear Cake

This morning I woke up earlier than usual, much to my body’s dismay, ate a toasted blueberry bagel with cream cheese, downed a warm coffee, and proceeded to scan my ever-growing list titled Cakes To Makes ASAP.

I ended up having to mediate a clash between this chocolate pear cake and a date and prune chocolate cake (oh and somewhere in the mess was a lost pear pie/tart… not a cake, but still deserving of a place on an important list). The chocolate pear cake initially won but my fickleness got the best of me and I had to morph the two cakes together. This post should really be titled Chocolate Pear AND Date Cake. Suffice to say the initially unwelcome dates did their job. Not only is this one chocolatey mass of a cake, it’s also decadent without throwing you under the bus health-wise.

Some people use the word decadent to describe lifestyles or wardrobes, but I think it’s most appropriate in conjunction with the word CAKE. Using dates rather than processed sugar allows for a richer, but not overly bittersweet, chocolate flavor. Also, dates are a whole food. Despite what people say about them (dates are no more than sugar bombs, they’re practically a candy), the fructose-dense guys are also dense with good stuff like fiber, magnesium, minerals, and… read more here if you’re intrigued. While I’m not about to chow down on a cup full of dates everyday, the facts say that they provide a fair bit more helpful nutrients to the body than plain old cane sugar. Opting for dates doesn’t mean I enjoy indulging in bland cake that tastes like earth. Nope. Eating dirt is for worms. Instead, it means I opt for slightly less tooth-achingly sweet treats. Think dark chocolate. And a little bit of sugar. And maybe some ground almonds and peanut butter because… cake making time is the time to go nuts. This cake certainly isn’t for the ALL THINGS SUGAR 7 year old in us, but it is for the more matured dark cocoa lover who strives to eat healthy (so long as healthy includes cake).

 

Ingredients~

1/2 cup flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose, but all of one kind is fine)
1/4 cup almonds, ground
1/2 cup dates, soaked and blended into a paste
2-3 ripe (but not mushy) pears, thinly sliced
4 tbsps cocoa powder
1/4 cup & 1 tbsp rice malt syrup
1 egg
2 tbsps unsalted butter
2 tbsps peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsps unsweetened soy milk
Pinch of salt

Instructions~

Preheat oven to 176 C/350 F
1. Melt butter and peanut butter in a saucepan on low heat. Stir through the rice malt syrup, date paste, and vanilla until well combined and immediately take off the heat. Beat the egg and soy milk together separately and then add them to the wet mixture.
2. Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a medium-large bowl and gradually pour in the wet mixture, blending with a handheld mixer as you go along. The resulting mixture will be stickier than brownie batter but still pourable.
3. Line a cake pan with baking paper and lightly oil the sides. Pour the batter into the center and use a spatula to evenly spread it out, ensuring an equal width all the way around. Add sliced pears to the top, making sure not to push them too much into the batter. Bake for 15-22 minutes, or until the cake no longer wobbles in the center and batter does not stick to an inserted chopstick/toothpick. Enjoy warm with vanilla ice cream or a cup of hot coffee!!

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Golden Cinnamon Raisin and Blueberry Bagels

My drive to make bagels has increased tenfold since yesterday. Although my first batch turned out decent (okay, I was very happy with my first-timer result), I know there is bountiful room for improvement. I decided to up the oompf with my second round of bagels by adding cinnamon and mixed dried berries to half and blueberries to the other half. I also increased the kneading time, left them in the fridge overnight to further ferment and increase in flavor, and allowed them to boil longer in baking soda water. So, just how much better were these guys?

Other than the added cinnamon and berries, I don’t think the fridge hibernation changed the flavor or consistency of the dough. However, to my joyful surprise, the blueberry bagels puffed up a fair bit more than the plain bagels did yesterday. The cinnamon bagels, on the other hand, were pretty stubborn. My only hypothesis is that the juice in the blueberries somehow contributed to further feeding the yeast? I know yeast thrives in a moist environment, so this is likely what happened, no? I don’t really know. The cinnamon raisin bagels weren’t unpleasantly dry or flat, but they would’ve looked prettier and tasted more airy/less dense had they truly doubled in size.

In an effort to better understand the complexities of bagel making (aka why aren’t my bagels perfect?) I discovered that, according to a couple of sources, for every 50-60 grams of whole wheat flour used you should add a tbsp of water. I suppose this is meant to help balance out the denser, earthier texture whole wheat creates. There’s no denying that classic bagel flour, white pastry, is optimal for achieving the chewy, pillowy bagels we all know and love (and hate to love so goddamn much). However, despite realizing the slight subpar nature of whole wheat bagels, I’ve decided to continue on my trek to bettering them, in texture and taste. Also, I’m currently in possession of a lengthy list titled “Cakes To Make ASAP”, so I’d rather reserve the white flour for said cakes and ingest more fiber-full stuff in the form of bagels.

Ingredients~
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1 heaping tsp rice malt syrup
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
3/4 cup & 1 tbsp warm water
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup dried mixed raisins, cranberries, currents, cherries, etc.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsps baking soda

Instructions~
Same as the bagel post below but with these additional notes:

1. If making both kinds of bagels, separate the dough into two equal balls after kneading for allotted time.
2. For the blueberry bagels~ lightly coat the blueberries with 1 tbsp of white flour before folding them into the dough in few batches. For instance, add 1/3 of the berries, fold/gently knead, and repeat. The blueberries will likely wet the dough so continue to sprinkle on large pinches of flour as you combine. I wanted the noticeable blue-purple streaks in my bagels so I didn’t hold back from lightly squashing the blueberries and adding extra flour as I went along. Place the ball of dough in it’s own light greased and cover tightly with plastic wrap before setting it in a warm place to double in size (usually 1 hour minimum).
3. For the cinnamon raisin bagels~ soak the dried fruit in hot water for 5 minutes before draining, patting with a dry cloth/paper towel, and combining with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the fruit and spice together, ensuring an even coating of cinnamon. Add the fruit to the dough in a few batches, folding the dough together/gentling kneading in between each addition. Once combined and the cinnamon has nicely peppered the dough, set it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise.
4. After following the instructions for shaping the bagels, place the tray in a warm place to rise for about 20-30 minutes before setting them in the fridge overnight (if opting for this route. I honestly didn’t find much difference taste wise or texturally, but it would be convenient for fresh bagels in the morning).

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Easy, Chewy Whole Wheat Bagels

It’s a whole new world, folks. The flood gates have been thrust open and I am now welcoming bagels of all shapes and sizes and flavors into my home.

I was able to overcome my vague, senseless fear of yeast long enough today to make bagels. Now all I can think about is how much of my life was wasted not making and eating homemade bagels. While it was wildly foolish of me to ever have avoided yeast, I can sympathize with my former self. The less you know about yeast, the more daunting it sounds… the more you know about yeast, the weirder it sounds. Yeah, so, like… yeast is alive and related to fungus (yum) and your job is to make sure it has plenty of sugar to eat and a warm enough place to hang out. Pretty wacky, huh? I’m enthralled by the aliveness of it. Sure, flour comes from a plant that was once alive and eggs from a chicken that is alive, but yeast is alive. In fact, it’s alive enough to be branded high-maintenance. I was so hesitant about working with yeast because I’d heard tales about how sensitive it is to temperature and how crucial it is that you mix it with the correct ratio of fats and sugars. While the former is all true, I’ve come to realize that the most important element about success with yeast is patience.

I’m certainly not a walking, talking, patience-brewing machine, but, like any virtue, I think patience can be specially cultivated (…for bagel making days, of course! I clearly payed attention in Sunday school). So, with a little help from patience and A LOT of help from vivid imagery (insert imaginary projection of freshly buttered bagel here), I was able to get through the kneading, kitchen pacing, and life pondering that comes with ballooning dough. Yes, these bagels will require a little chunk of your time. And yes, you could be chowing down on store-bought, perfectly delicious bagels in said time. But in all honesty, yeast doesn’t really ask for much. Just give it a warm bath in sugary water, bury it in flour, and let it fall asleep in a warm place; it will do the magic for you.

Ingredients~
Makes 4-6 bagels 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tsps granulated sugar
Scant 1 tsp table salt
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
Sesame seeds for topping

Instructions~

1. Heat up the water and let it cool if necessary until comfortably warm (test: you should be able to easily stick your finger in without retracting it). Stir through the sugar until mostly dissolved and then pour in the yeast, leaving it to sit for about 7-10 minutes. As the yeast does it’s thing, whisk together the flours and salt and in a large bowl, leaving a well in the center. Once the yeasty water appears fuzzy and bubbly on the surface, pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until it no longer appears to be taking shape/sticking together. Gradually add another 1-2 tbsps of water until the dough begins to hold together in one large mass but isn’t too sticky to handle.
2. Plop the ball of dough onto a surface lightly dusted with flour and begin to knead, continuing for at least 10 minutes (drift off to your happy place and think of the soon-to-be wonderfully chewy bagels). You will likely have to pinch flour onto the dough as you knead or dust your hands with it.
3. Once finished kneading, place the dough in the bottom of a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place (I preheat the oven to 70 C before switching it off and leaving the door ajar) to double in size, roughly 1-1 1/2 hours tops.
4. Once the dough has ballooned, transfer it to a clean, lightly floured surface to separate into 4-6 pieces (depending on desired size). I find that it helps to weigh each piece before forming them, so as to ensure an evenly cooked batch. In order to avoid dry bagels, return all but one chunk of dough to a covered bowl as you begin shaping. Using the palms of your hands, lightly roll each piece until it resembles thick rope. Join the two end pieces together, ensuring that they overlap by about 1/2 inch, before lightly pinching the ring closed. Repeat for each bagel, setting them on a tray lined with baking paper and covered with plastic wrap as you continue shaping. Ensure the plastic wrap is tightly sealed before returning the bagels to a warm place to rise for 20-30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 220 C. Bring a large saucepan of water (about 4 inches deep) to boil and slightly reduce heat once rapidly boiling. Add the baking soda to the water and drop bagels in, adding 2-3 at a time; note that the bagels should immediately float to the surface. Cook for 30 seconds minimum (I opted for a chewier exterior and let them sit for almost a minute on each side), before flipping and repeating on the other side. Transfer the bagels to a plate or tray to rest as you finish boiling the others. Once done, place the tray (lined with parchment paper) of bagels on a lower rack in the oven and cook for 15-17 minutes or noticeably golden in color. It’s best to rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through cooking so as to ensure even browning. Enjoy fresh or store in the freezer and toast/thaw before eating!

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Raspberry Vanilla Cake Made with White Beans

I’m going to be baking a lot more cakes from now on. Last night I suddenly became energized by the idea of cake. Sure, cake is usually full of sugar, hence the energy, right? No. I was simply enthralled by the visual I had created in my mind; a slideshow of cakes being imagined and created and frosted and polished. I eventually moved on to imagining cupcakes (still cake, I know), muffins, cookies, bars, brownies, and the rest of cake’s brothers and sisters and cousins and second cousins.

I don’t know why baking and confectionary make me wanna dance while savory dishes bore me. There is no doubt an element of devilishness weaved into the narrative of baking. When a batch of brownies are in the oven it’s suddenly only a matter of minutes until they will self-actualize and begin to tempt you. Sometimes it requires a lot of unpleasant self-control to stop from devouring half a batch, let along an entire batch, in one sitting. I’ve had this problem countless times. And yet, the annoying dilemma, to eat or not to eat, doesn’t stop the baker from baking. And sometimes, baking and baking and baking, until said baker is forced to share their delicacies with coworkers they don’t even like or neighbors they’ve never so much as said hello to. It’s a bit of a silly conundrum, having too many baked treats on your hands. The baker possesses an abundance of what people either want but are too tired or lazy to make, or want but try really, really hard to avoid being within sniffing distance of. The baker is not too tired or lazy to bake a three tiered cake, being within nose-hair-brushing distance of it all the while, and yet, the baker doesn’t feel any itch of frenzy over how much to eat or not eat. The baker makes the cake because that’s what they want to do. 

And so, back to me. Am I a self-proclaimed baker? Maybe. I’m not sure. The word ‘baker’ is usually reserved for individuals that support themselves financially through baking and that is something I do not do. I bake because it’s what I want to do. I’ve had not formal training. Sometimes a decent tasting cake will create itself in my kitchen as I fiddle around, but that’s it. Or rather, that was the case up until recently. I still fiddle around, but I fiddle around a lot more, so much so that the other day I began to feel a little uneasy with my extreme desire to bake cakes. Great, thanks self, what am I supposed to do with this urge? Not only is there the financial cost of buying ingredients and making ‘unnecessary’ edible things with them, but there is also the question of health and fitness, waters that start to become murky with the presence of so much fluffy dough around.

Despite the former considerations, I don’t want to limit myself to baking a cake once a week. Heck, even twice a week won’t cut it. I can’t remember the last time I was so effortlessly transfixed by a pursuit/task/idea. As for the practical side of things, I think my mind and body would only take a toll (from all the cake) if I dropped my care for exercising and eating platefuls of vegetables in between cake tasting. And moving right along onto the sour question of money, well, cake really doesn’t ask for much. Whole wheat and white flours are cheap, as are dates and eggs and butter (unless it’s all organic of course), so within sane, healthier limits, I should be able to jump full fledged into this new interest obsession. While you definitely won’t be seeing any fancy cakes that call for macadamia nuts or almond meal or coconut flour, you will find cakes that are saturated in genuine, unadulterated love and enthusiasm. And there will also be lots of dancing involved.

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