Sticky Vegan Cinnamon Buns: Round Two

I will not stand for next to ordinary cinnamon rolls if I don’t have to, so, after tolerating (okay, enjoying) the first batch of trial and error rolls yesterday with Matt, I took it upon myself to scout out ALL of the information I could about cinnamon rolls; what NOT to do when making cinnamon rolls; how to make the biggest, fattest, fluffiest cinnamon roll; instant dry yeast vs. active dry yeast; lean vs. rich dough in sweet buns; how the hell to cut cinnamon roll dough without making a squishy mess.

Learning from other people allows you to bypass a LOT of possible mistakes before even getting started (that’s more or less a piece of advice I came across ages ago on a baking forum and it couldn’t have rung louder in my ears today). I spent well over an hour on The Fresh Loaf, a website for “Amateur Bakers and Artisan Baker Enthusiasts,” scouring the forums for yeast-related questions and feedback. It turns out there are many smart people on the internet who like to make and eat bread. I don’t get a chance to interact with many bakers in daily, walking life, so it was extra enthralling reading first-hand troubleshooting stories. It’s also super helpful when I come across a line or two of wise words,

Looking for a “right” or “wrong” outcome when considering different varieties of yeast kind of misses the central point: they all ferment your dough and cause it to rise… Rather than asking “Am I using the right yeast?”, ask “What do I want to achieve with this bread?”‘

‘Pmccool’ asking the important questions that I should have posed way before I began dumping ingredients into a bowl. Doing the research takes lots of time and sometimes it makes me feel like I’m being swallowed, me and my whole head and heart. But I don’t. And later, when writing about those moments in the belly of the beast, I recall them with heavily rose-tinted glasses.

Since getting serious and down to business about making top notch cinnamon rolls, I’ve felt a wave of confidence cascade over me. I’ve definitely been humbled by yesterday and now, today’s cinnamon roll experiences, re-re-re-learning the simple fact that good/glorious things take time but that that’s no excuse not to educate yourself and be prepared before starting the clock. As a disclaimer, I thought I should state that despite all of the words I may string together about yeast, working with it is very straightforward. If you’re following a recipe to the T, you’re probably going to get twice-puffed dough and picture-perfect rolls on the first go (although there is no harm in knowing why you are doing what you’re doing!) However, because I decided, yet again, to alter and add ingredients to fit my preferences, things got messier and more complicated and a lot more tiny-number-math was involved.

I went into round 2 of cinnamon bun making with a lot more knowledge to fall back on; I had combed the internet for hours and already tested one specific way of going about it, so I knew a good deal of what NOT to do. Now was the tricky part of feeling my way around for what to do. The dough I began with was immensely better than yesterday’s; it was soft and pliable, without completely coating my fingers. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel like it should have been stickier. Maybe the internet is doing me a bit of bad in addition to all of the good, providing me with an endless slideshow of cinnamon roll pictures and techniques to compare to mine. It’s something to keep in mind. Anyway, I was pleased with the dough and carried on kneading, only this time I kneaded for 4 minutes rather than 9. Again, the dough appeared to be in a much softer state than dough #1.

I cut back on the duration of the first rise from 1 hour and 5 minutes to 50 minutes as the dough definitely appeared doubled in volume. Most all recipes using instant or active dry yeast call for a first rise of 1-1 1/2 hours OR until the dough has doubled in size, but the Serious Eats recipe I chose to piggy back off of last time mentioned 1 1/2-2 hours despite using active dry yeast. More research has led me to believe that the wonky appearance of my first rolls was due to over rising. The yeast in dough feeds on sugar, releasing carbon dioxide and alcohol in the process. This explains the little air bubble that I mentioned seeing in my dough as I kneaded it last time. I may have still been over kneading, but bubbles are not NOT normal. What’s not right is when the dough is given too long to sit; the yeast will continue to do it’s job, bubbling and bubbling, ultimately creating more bubbles than the structure of the dough can properly hold, so the gluten will fail and you’ll end up with melted cinnamon rolls. With that in mind, I managed to gather up enough tenacity to listen to my gut, and reduced the second rise from 50 minutes to closer to 35 minutes.

Because I started making the dough too late in the day, I decided I ought to let it have a fridge hibernation before the quicker second rise in the morning. However, I learned online that long rises in the fridge are only recommended for dough with dry yeast. Instant and active yeast work at expanding dough far more rapidly, and thus, would deteriorate the structure of the dough rather than enhance it’s flavor. Before settling on that reality, I came across a number of forums where people mentioned that, as a disclaimer, it wasn’t ideal to replace dry yeast with instant/active, but you could technically reduce the amount of called-for regular yeast by 20% so that the quicker yeast doesn’t work as fast as usual. I jumped on the opportunity to try something different and set the covered cinnamon rolls in the fridge after shaping and cutting them.

It’s not recommended that the rolls stay in the fridge for more than 8-12 hours, so I was up at 4:00 AM the next morning to give them a warmer, second rise. I allowed them to sit in a partially pre-heated and switched off oven for close to 30 minutes. Like an overly anxious mother, I checked on the rolls at ten minute intervals to see how they were doing. It turns out instant yeast really should stay away from the fridge. I’m sure other people have been successful at it, but my rolls were even less enlarged than the ones yesterday. They held their shape MUCH better, which is a plus worth noting, but they still fell short. The dough was more cakey and dense than airy and fluffy, but in all fairness, the rolls still tasted very, very, nice.

The sweet potato filling from batch #1 didn’t wow me enough, so I gathered together my pretty new jars of nutmeg and ground ginger and went to pumpkin spice town. Pureed pumpkin and pumpkin spice make for the easiest top-notch filling. I’ve used the combo for everything from pie to scones to pancakes, so it was only about time I stuffed it into sweet rolls. As always, I opted for rice malt syrup rather than white or brown sugar to sweeten the filling. If I had maple syrup on hand I likely would’ve used that instead. I also decided to drop the walnuts and gooey sauce on top of the rolls as they baked rather on the bottom, as some of the sauce decided to burn and glue to the pan last time. These rolls may have hit the spot flavor-wise, but they didn’t quite fill up my fat and fluffy cinnamon roll void any more than the first batch did. In other words, I still have a lot of work to do!!!

Ingredients~

Dough:
118 g all purpose flour & 6.25 g bread flour
2.4 g dry instant yeast (about 1/2 very heaped tsp)
1/4 cup & 2 tbsps soy milk (room temperature)
1 1/2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp rice malt syrup
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tbsps rice malt syrup
1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Topping:
1 1/2-2 tbsps rice malt syrup
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp cornstarch
Large pinch of cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

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Vegan Cinnamon Rolls Turned Sticky Buns

I decided to make cinnamon rolls yesterday, not knowing what I was getting myself into. Following a recipe to a T is one thing; you know the ingredients and steps are pretty much foolproof and the people raving in the comments about how successful they were will make it sound all the more promising. For some reason, I don’t enjoy baking according to a recipe. If I can’t stop thinking about a recipe I’ve come across (i.e. it’s drool-inducing accompanying photos), I’ll follow the instructions and make it, but the former happens more often with savory dishes. Over the past 6-9 months of fairly frequent baking, I’ve found that I have the most fun when my creativity and curiosity are directing me. I know, I know, you can shake your head and wag your finger all you want. More often than not, my kitchen shuffling culminates in something sweet smelling and tasty. The Internet offers me an immense library of information about every niche and idiosyncrasy I could ever come across in baking, so it’s no wonder I can learn to do crazy things like make bagels. And when my so-called self-choreographed kitchen moves don’t come together according to plan? Well, I usually don’t plaster the photographs on the internet. This time around, however, I thought I ought to.

I’ve encountered more problems than usual on this baking expedition. Cinnamon rolls can be very finicky things; they contain yeast, a highly sensitive little fella, and require rolling, cutting, and shaping, three actions that increase in difficulty the softer, and ultimately better (depending on preference, of course), one’s dough is. My attempt to make cinnamon rolls that were entirely plant based and truly suitable for breakfast resulted in rolls quite unlike the normal thing. Something tells me I will have to make a few stops on the way to truly glorious vegan cinnamon rolls, so this will probably be the first batch of at least four or five. In fact, it’s probably bad luck to estimate that low a number of trial and error batches. In a day or two I hope to have something a little more desirable looking in front of the camera, but for now, look on for photos of some messed up looking naked cinnamon rolls and a big collection of words about the whole shabang (in an effort to save face, I turned these rolls into sticky buns right before popping them into the oven).

Most cinnamon roll recipes on the internet call for a little over 4 cups of flour, making about 12 medium-large cinnamon rolls. I decided to divide the former standard by four and aim to make 2-3 large rolls. I referred to a Serious Eats (SE for short) classic cinnamon roll recipe when deciding where to begin with my ratio of dry to wet ingredients and most frightening of all, what fraction of a tsp of yeast to use. For the 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour used, SE called for 1 packet or 2 1/4 tsps or 8.75 grams of active dry yeast.

I used exactly 1 cup & 1 tbsp or 147.94 grams of flour (flour for dough + flour from Tang Zhong method, what the heck?!, I know, I know, I’ll get to that later) and 1/2 tsp or 1.75 g of instant dry yeast. Exactly one fourth the amount of yeast from the SE recipe would have been 2.18 g, so I accidentally under added the yeast by .43 g. I am being very precise with the numbers and there’s always going to be a little room for error when using a cheap kitchen scale to measure such tiny amounts, but .43 grams of yeast could have very well made a heck of a lot of difference. How much of a difference it made I may never know, as tens and tens of google searches didn’t uncover a specific answer. Nonetheless, my instinct is that it contributed to the sub-par finished roll. Given that I’m only supposed to work with 2 g of yeast per batch of rolls, .4, which is nearly ONE QUARTER of all that was required, would have been a game changer. Had I accidentally forgotten to add 1/4th the amount of flour or milk to the dough, the entire outcome would have been off big time. So, lesson learnt: dry yeast granules may be tiny, but they are very, very mighty.

The dough rose for an hour and five minutes the first rise and nearly 50 minutes the second rise, yet I had a nagging suspicion that I should have left it to rise longer the first time. I knew the importance of letting dough puff up to it’s potential during the first rise, as it won’t inflate nearly as much the second time around, but I was wavering for too long between to wait and not to wait and eventually got flustered, threw my hands in the air, and said what the hell with it, I’m rolling it out.

From the pictures, the second ball does in fact look twice the size (if not larger??). Turns out my nagging suspicions can be wrong and empirical evidence (which I gathered yet didn’t properly examine at the time?) cannot. You’d think the former photos would eliminate under-risen-dough as the culprit, but after going through the SE recipe again, I’m not so sure. Their recipe, like mine, calls for instant/active dry yeast (the 2 kinds can be used interchangeably, the only catch is that instant can be mixed directly into flour while active has to be ‘activated’ in slightly warmed-lukewarm water) and yet, they instruct a 2-2 1/2 hour first rise and a 1-1 1/2 hour second rise! I thought the very point in using instant/active dry yeast rather than plain ol’ dry yeast was to minimize the rising periods and have rolls in the oven in less than half a day? Perhaps I made an error in judgement by not letting the dough rise longer the first time, but I’m not so convinced that’s where the fault lies. Every other same-day cinnamon roll recipe I came across called for a much shorter rising period. Only if someone was using dry yeast did they extend the first rise to 2 hours and the second rise to 1 1/2 hours. I can only ponder this for now, but hopefully more probing research will give me a better sense of what to do next time.

Another iffy thing I may have done was include too large a ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. After stirring the combined ingredients into a roughly shaped ball, I thought the dough felt too dry and far from the annoyingly sticky, silky dough that is usually pictured in cinnamon roll recipes. I added 1-2 more tbsps of buttermilk by kneading it into the dough; I used the folding method and sprinkled the buttermilk on top, squished it in, folded, and repeated, kneading for almost 9 fat minutes. After a few folds I began to notice little tears/bubbles in the dough, but I wasn’t sure what could be done about it and continued to knead. Perhaps I was too tough on it while kneading and messed with the strands of gluten? A google search brought up varied answers to the question how long should I knead my cinnamon roll dough? A few recipes I came across only called for 1-3 minutes of kneading, while a handful called for 6-7 minutes and yet another (the SE included), recommended 9-10. Does the duration of kneading have anything to do with what ingredients one chooses to add or omit? Maybe the richer the dough, the longer the kneading time, hence why mine (vegan and thus lacking eggs and full fat milk) would have faired better with less handling. I’ll have to dedicate more time to unraveling this long-winded topic. Also, how can you tell when your dough has been kneaded enough? That’s a frightfully simple question that I don’t even know the answer to.

In an effort to achieve the ultimate fluffy AND soft cinnamon rolls, I incorporated both the Tang Zhong method (TZ for short) and buttermilk into the dough. For starters, TZ is a water roux (flour & water or milk thickened sauce) used to make extremely light and soft bread. It started in either Japan or China (my research couldn’t narrow it down), and if you scroll through a Japanese bakery in Tokyo you will not have trouble spotting the ever so tender loafs and rolls of milky bread. I found many people online that had successfully made cinnamon rolls with TZ and had pictures to prove it, so I was convinced it would deliver. The roux is 1 part flour and 5 parts milk or water, and it’s generally recommended that you use between 5-10% of your recipes flour, hence why my ingredients call for 1 tbsp bread flour or 5% of the required all purpose flour. More research about TZ also taught me that using bread flour further aids in softening the dough, as it contains more gluten, thus retaining more liquid and making the bread softer. For some reason, I didn’t stop there in my quest for the softest cinnamon rolls, and found myself incorporating buttermilk into the recipe. According to Joy The Baker,

Buttermilk is an important part of baking. The acidic milk combined with baking soda in a recipe is a baker’s dream. It’s helps add a lightness and tenderness to baked treats. When baking soda is combined with the lactic acids of buttermilk, the acid neutralizes the metallic taste of sodium carbonate.

So…. buttermilk is awesome when paired with baking soda, but what about when it’s incorporated into a recipe sans the soda, i.e. cinnamon rolls? This was not a question I asked before adding it to my dough. I had actually used buttermilk a few days prior for a buckwheat banana bread, so when I saw it in the SE cinnamon roll recipe I though, ‘aha, I know how to make vegan buttermilk!’ and the rest happened as it did. I was also more than willing to close my eyes and jump into cinnamon roll making knowing I was adapting from a tried and tested SE recipe. They used buttermilk, which means buttermilk must be a very necessary ingredient, which means I must use buttermilk. Only after going through the motions of making and baking the rolls did the former mistake appear so glaringly obvious. The SE article called for butter, eggs, and buttermilk using cow’s milk, ingredients that are very rich and high in fat. My dough, on other hand, was stripped of all the classic rich ingredients, and replaced the butter with coconut oil, the eggs with… frankly, nothing, and the dairy buttermilk with vegan soy buttermilk. Was the combination of Tang Zhou and buttermilk too much for the dough to handle? Did my negligence of detail lead to these underwhelming cinnamon rolls? Yes, that is the one certain take away. Perhaps all of my meandering in this post has finally dug me a hole deep enough to bury this cinnamon roll recipe in for good.


Ingredients:

Dough:
1 cup all purpose flour & 1 tbsp bread flour
1/2 heaped tsp instant dry yeast
3-4 tbsps vegan buttermilk
3 tbsps soy milk
1 1/2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp rice malt syrup
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/3 cup sweet potato puree
1 heaped tbsp rice malt syrup
1 1/4 tsps cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg

Sauce bath:
2 tbsps dairy free milk
1 1/2 tbsps rice malt syrup
1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 scant tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Important note: this recipe was loosely adapted from Serious Eats’ Sunday brunch cinnamon rolls and Minimalist Baker’s easy cinnamon rolls. I also referred to this youtube video when making the Tang Zhou.

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Buckwheat Banana Bread

Ingredients~
Makes one small loaf or about 7 inch thick slices 

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup vegan buttermilk*
2 small very ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsps rice malt syrup (add up to 2 tbsps more for a sweeter bread, but reduce the milk accordingly)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of baking soda (about 1/8 tsp)
Dash of salt
1/3 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, etc.

Instructions~

Preheat oven to 180 C/356 F
1. Mash bananas and add them to a large bowl with the buttermilk. Stir in the rice malt syrup and vanilla extract until a slightly lumpy mixture forms. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon if using. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until well combined and the batter has a fairly gooey/slimy consistency (it won’t be gross for long). Finish by stirring in the dried fruit, chocolate, and/or nuts. Bake for 45-55 minutes, covering the top with foil after about 30 minutes or when the bread has browned enough. Allow to cool and firm up before slicing and serving.

*To make vegan buttermilk simply add 1 1/2 tsps fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup and pour in soy/nut milk until it reaches the 1/4 cup line. Wait for 5-10 minutes as it curdles and thickens up. This hack was discovered here.

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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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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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Eggless Chickpea and Spinach Omelette

Chickpeas are probably one of my main sources of protein. I eat them almost daily, buying them by the bagful and soaking them over night. Then it’s only a 45 minute boil in a large pot and voila, you’ve got yourself a big heaping mountain of chickpeas. Usually, I’m overcome with a great feeling of abundance at the sight of the cooked beans; wow, that’s a lot of chickpeas! But sometimes I freak out a little, remembering that cooked beans should only be in the fridge for 4 days and there’s no way I’ll be able to eat that many chickpeas in that little time. So in a state of slight frenzy I’ll begin brainstorming sweet and savory dishes that would help make a dent in the chickpea supply. While this recipe is not the result of one of those brainstorming sessions, my raw chickpea cookie dough is. As is my beetroot hummus.

While you’ll definitely be seeing more sweet and savory chickpea-inspired recipes down the road, the one I’m sharing today shines the spotlight on a lesser known form of chickpea: chickpea flour. Chickpea flour is simply the result of grinding dry chickpeas. That’s all. Toss the flour with some chopped onion, vegetables, spices, and a little bit of water, and you have a very, very yummy pancake on your hands!

Ingredients~
Makes one large pancake

1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 pellets of frozen spinach
1/4 inch-thick slice of red onion (disc shaped), diced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
Scant 1/4 tsp ground rock salt
Pinch of ground black pepper (less than 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions~

1. Saute the spinach pellets in a bit of water on the stove until thawed and water has evaporated. Set aside.
2. Combine the chickpea flour, spices, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the spinach, onion, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir until there are no chunks of chickpea flour and the batter is noticeably thinner than regular pancake batter. It should be pourable. Add more water by the tbsp if it’s too thick/clumpy!
3. Heat up oil in a medium-large pan and, once hot, pour all of the batter into the center of the pan (or reserve some batter if you are making several smaller pancakes). The batter should spread out on it’s own, creating a pancake that’s fairly even in thickness. Gently nudge the spinach around if it’s too concentrated in one area. I cooked the first side for about 6-7 minutes on lower-medium heat, flipping it after my spatula could easily slide under it. If you have to force your spatula under and it appears too wet/breakable, give it another couple of minutes! Cook on the other side for another 5-7 minutes, before turning up the heat and cooking each side until slightly browned and crispy (another minute or two on medium-high heat).
4. I recommend hot sauce, bean salad, raw spinach, and hummus as toppings, but you do you.

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Pumpkin Bread Pancakes

Up until a couple of weeks ago, pumpkin resided in the ‘weird and best avoided when baking’ corner of my mind; it existed on a mysterious plane between starchy, root vegetables (like sweet potato) and toss-in-a-salad vegetables (think carrots and peppers), so no wonder I didn’t think of it as a reasonably normal baking ingredient, right?

Maybe I’d notice butternut pumpkin was on sale, $4/kg down to $2/kg, but no pings went off in my brain. Long story short, my knowledge of pumpkin in baking was limited to pumpkin pie. Only after further pondering did I remember the time I was hooked on pumpkin bread in high school. The snack bar at my school served up moist, dense slices of the stuff and I would have it a couple times a week. Realizing the uniquely flavored success that pumpkin can have in bread-making, I decided to take the risk and venture down a less-familiar route with it: pancakes. And boy am I glad I did.


These pancakes have an incredibly soft and moist interior, while still offering up a bit of fluff. I was pretty overjoyed with the ridiculously good-for-you and good tasting result.

Ingredients~

2/3 packed cup pureed roasted pumpkin (or canned)
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp rice malt syrup or other liquid sweetener (add more to taste)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup & 2-4 tbsps rice milk or milk of your choice
Pinch of ground rock salt

Instructions~

1. Combine pumpkin, lemon juice, egg, syrup, and 1/3 cup milk in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients and whisk until well combined and the batter is goopy enough to drop off the whisk. If it is too thick add more milk by the tbsp (I added 3 more tbsps of rice milk).
2. Heat up a little oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add pancake batter by the spoonful. Each of my pancakes were about 1 1/2 heaping spoonfuls of batter, but add based on your size preference. The batter will initially spread out a little bit but mostly retain it’s plump pancake shape. Cook for 1-3 minutes on low-medium heat, flipping after tiny bubbles appear on the pancake’s surface.
3. Enjoy immediately with syrup, butter, and/or coconut yogurt (<— it makes for a divine combo).

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No Oil Crunchy Golden Granola

Another day, another bowl of crunchy homemade granola. Ignoring the advice from successful food bloggers everywhere (under no circumstances should you post about granola two times in three days), I decided to whip together another batch of granola to share with you. Unlike my previous Coco Puffs inspired granola, this one is oil free and flavored with toasted cinnamon and nutmeg… mm mmm!

Homemade granola used to sound unattainable to me (what do you mean I can easily replicate delicious store bought granola in the comfort of my own kitchen?). Little effort, big reward. Also, making your own granola will save you money. I’m still baffled by how expensive store-bought granola is; even the brands that market themselves as ‘healthy’ and thus, more ‘worthy’ of your dollars, usually have heaps of sugar or oil in one serving (and who honestly sits down and eats one measly serving of granola at a time? The answer is no one. Not even babies).

After some trial and error batches, I learned that chia seeds are crucial in holding together the crunchy chunks otherwise created by more oil and sugar; and don’t let their size fool you, chia seeds are densely packed with fiber, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, making it easier to go without snacking before lunch.

Ingredients~

1 cup traditional rolled oats
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans (or nut of your choice)
2 tbsps chia seeds
2 tbsps sunflower seeds (pumpkin seeds are great too)
3-4 tbsps rice malt syrup/honey or other liquid sweetener
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg (about 1/16 tsp)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup puffed brown rice (optional)
Generous sprinkle of unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

Instructions~

Preheat oven to 165 C or 329 F
1. Mix oats, shredded coconut, nuts, chia, spices, and salt in large bowl. Add syrup and, using clean hands, combine the granola using your fingertips. Be sure to separate any unusually large chunks of granola the syrup may have favored.
2. Lay the granola out on a baking tray, making sure to create one even layer for optimal crunchiness. Bake for 10 minutes, before turning the tray 180 degrees and baking for another 7-12 minutes or until light brown and toasted.
3. Allow the granola to fully cool (this will help it gain more crunch) before mixing in brown rice puffs and coconut flakes (or dried fruit). Serve with icy cold nut or soy milk!

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