Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

Since making the decision to go vegan 7 1/2 years ago, I’ve been in search of a challah recipe that can compete with my favorite eggy versions from my childhood. The kind I liked best was extra eggy, soft and cake-like challah with an extremely rich flavor and delicate crumb.  I could eat slice after slice, coated with the unsalted, pareve margarine my mom kept on hand for meat meals.  Although water challah exists in the US, it’s not nearly as popular, and can be quite difficult to find.  In fact despite reassurances from several friends, there was only one store in all of Manhattan that I knew would reliably have an accidentally vegan challah.  Given the scarcity of options, I spent many a Friday night dinner unable to participate in the cornerstone ritual of blessing and breaking bread at the start of a meal. This is less of an issue in Israel, as it is much easier to find egg-free challah here, and at most meals there’s also a pile of soft pitas sitting next to the braided loaves.

IMG_0012
My quest for the perfect challah recipe has been ongoing since a very young age.  Even when I knew where to buy my favorite brand, I still always had an itch to make my own, and no matter how masterful I became in pastry creation, my challah was a perpetual disappointment, eggy or vegan.  The first egg free recipe I tried called for the unholiest of sins in my book, most especially as an egg replacer: banana. There is nothing you can say or do to make me believe that “you can’t even taste the banana!” because yes, I can, even in those super chocolatey brownies.  Even the slightest hint that banana is lurking beneath the surface, and the brownie/cake/smoothie/muffin/challah is ruined.  I still wanted to try that first, sinful recipe, however, so I subbed the banana for another sweet and starchy plant, namely pumpkin.  I continued to use that recipe for several years, but nothing about it was even close to the challah I was trying to approximate.  Several years later, I adapted a recipe from a friends mother, by merely leaving the egg out.  The ratios of sweetness to breadiness was perfect, but it came out as slightly too oily.  Still, it was the best challah I’d ever made.  Because I didn’t own a blender or food processor when I lived in Manhattan, blended tofu was out as an option, but my other go to egg-replacer–non-dairy yogurt–was still on the table.  Before I happened to bring that experiment to fruition, I happened upon the brioche recipe from Bittersweet Blog, which used a chickpea flour based custard as the egg replacer. The sticky sweet brioche dough made a decent braid (and tasted delicious to boot), but it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a challah.

FullSizeRender (1)For Rosh Hashanah last year, I decided to embark on yet another challah experiment, drawing inspiration from both the brioche recipe as well as from some of the other recipes I’d liked the best.  The chickpea custard gave the dough just the right amount of enrichment, so the crumb was soft and tender, with a sweet almost cake-y, but not overpowering flavor.  For the glaze, I mixed together a bit of soymilk with a touch of silan (date syrup), which helped give the loaves a bit of sheen and that same rich color that traditional loaves have.  The recipe will either make one large round loaf, or one large braid (which I prefer to bake in a loaf pan in order to retain more height).  You can sprinkle the top with traditional toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, or you can have a bit of fun and try za’atar or paprika!

May all our meals be a little sweeter this year! שנה טובה ומתוקה! Have a happy and sweet new year!

IMG_0011Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

  • 1/4 c chickpea flour
  • 1 c non dairy milk
  •  1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/3 c maple syrup or silan
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp black salt
  • 5-6 c all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 3 tbsp nondairy milk mixed with 1-2 tbsps of silan
  • sesame seeds, poppy seeds, zaatar

In a small saucepan, mix chickpea flour with some of the milk to form paste. Whisk in the rest of the milk, and cook on medium heat until significantly thickened and pudding-like, stirring constantly.  Let cool until just warm to touch.  In a large bowel, stir together the chickpea custard with the yeast and maple syrup or silan.  Allow the yeast mixture to rest for a bit.  The yeast may start to bubble slightly (which is a good thing).  Add in the salt and the oil, and then begin to add flour.  I usually start with about 4 cups, then knead it in to see how sticky the dough still is.  Add more flour if necessary, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.  Knead about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and bounces back when lightly pressed.  Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with a bit of plastic and a towel and place in the fridge to ride overnight.  In the morning, punch down the dough, then preheat the oven to 350F (about 175C).  Shape the dough according to your preference.  For a round loaf, roll the dough into one long rope.  Tie the rope into a regular knot, tucking one end underneath the loaf, while letting the other stick out just a bit. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size.  Brush with milk and silan mixture, then sprinkle the topping over evenly.  Bake on a large cookie sheet (for the round loaf) for about 30 minutes.  If after that time the top is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil and bake for about another 30 minutes.  When done, a knife inserted into the center (do it between coils, not in the exact center of the rope) should come back clean, and will slide in easily.  You can alternatively check that it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  If braiding the loaf, it will probably only need to back for about 30 minutes.

 

Advertisements

Fluffy Vegan Matzoh Balls

Oh matzoh balls; the quintessential Passover delicacy. For the past few years, I’ve been on a quest to create the perfect vegan matzoh ball. The first recipe I tried used tofu—which I prefer not use being Ashkenazi—to replace the egg. The matzoh balls definitely held up well, but I found them to be rather dense, and I would have preferred a matzoh ball with a fluffier consistency. But then, it was no matter, since I was just excited to be eating matzoh balls for the first time in several years.

20140414-134004.jpg
My next attempt at vegan matzoh balls saw the tofu replaced with flax seed, but I found the density to be about the same. So the year after, I eschewed matzoh balls altogether, and made a potato leek soup instead. I had all but given up hope that I would one day make a matzoh ball that was vegan, kitniyot free, and fluffy.

Enter flax foam.

A few innovative individuals took it upon themselves to experiment with different ways of using flax seed as an egg replacer. Rather than simply grinding the flax and mixing it with water, they boiled the flax to extract a thick gel, which looked an awful lot like egg whites. They then whipped the flax “whites,” and either folded them into recipes in order to add airiness, such as mousse, or (in whatever consider a stroke of genius) created vegan meringues. I followed these developments through this thread, and thought, hey maybe this would work for matzoh balls. I set to work, boiling and straining the flax, freezing the goop, and whipping it into a light and fluffy mass. I then used the whipped flax in a traditional matzoh ball recipe I found in one of the many Pesach recipe books my mom has floating around.

The results were perfect. I rejoiced in the eating of a light and fluffy matzoh ball that didn’t disintegrate in broth (and tasted great to boot). I served my matzoh balls in an herb scented mushroom broth, but really they can go in any kind of broth you like.

Fluffy Vegan Matzoh Balls

  • 1/4 c flax goop
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp of water
  • 1/8 tsp salt (I prefer Indian black salt to add just a touch of egginess
  • 1/4 c matzoh meal

Combine the group flax seed with the whipped flax “whites”. Gradually add the matzoh meal, stirring gently until well combined. Let rest for 10-20 minutes.

In a large pot, heat some vegetable broth or salted water until boiling . Wet hands with cold water, and form the matzoh mixture into small balls. Gently drop each ball into the boiling liquid, and then cover and simmer about 20 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend cooking the matzoh balls in the soup you plan to serve them in because they will soak up a lot of liquid.

Remove the matzoh balls from the cooking liquid and serve in your broth of choice.

Chag Pesach sameach (חג פסח שמח)!

Grandpa Maurice’s Famous Mushroom Paté

For the longest time, my grandfather’s mushroom paté, or as we usually call it, “mushroom stuff” was pretty much the only way I’d swallow a mushroom, and only after it was doused in salt.  Mushroom stuff as my grandfather made it was a combination of sautéed mushrooms and onions, mayonnaise, and a hard boiled egg.  While this is certainly an acceptable vegetarian take on chopped liver, converting even liver fans like my dad’s side of the family, it definitely wasn’t vegan.  Additionally, replacing the egg and mayonnaise on Pesach is considerably more challenging, than if I were adapting it for any other time of the year.  First, for the egg, I decided to use soaked walnuts, in order to give the paté a the same kind of body that the egg brings.  I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts, but they do have a lighter texture and slightly more neutral flavor than hazelnuts, pecans, cashews (all of which I otherwise prefer).  To replace the mayonnaise, I went for the flavors of mayo, namely, fat in the form of olive oil, and some tang, in the form of red wine vinegar.  For a little extra “eggy” punch, I like to season the paté with Indian black salt (kala namak), which tastes exactly how I remember sunny side up eggs…because I also used to douse my egg yolks in salt.

The result tastes almost exactly how I remember Grandpa’s paté tasting.  It’s even good enough, that some years my mom has just asked me to make a larger batch, so that she doesn’t need to take precious time away from cooking other elements of the meal to make a batch of the original.  My version is punctuated by the sweet richness of the fried mushrooms and onions, mixed with a little tang from the vinegar, all married together in a smooth and creamy dip.  It’s perfect for spreading onto matzah, whether it’s as an appetizer, at your seder, or a part of your mid-Pesach lunch.

A Very Shtetl Pesach.  Fiddler On The Roof cast (including shtetl Ashley front and almost center) at Columbia University, April 2010

A Very Shtetl Pesach. Fiddler On The Roof cast (including shtetl Ashley front and almost center) at Columbia University, April 2010

Grandpa Maurice was far from vegan, but he always appreciated good food. I like to imagine he would be proud of my interpretation.  He died a little bit before I really started cooking for myself (which was also when I went vegetarian), so I never really got to share my culinary creations with him, but I love that I can still enjoy food he made for us, even if it is adapted to fit my lifestyle.

I’m giving quantities for a fairly small amount of paté, but this recipe is very easily increased.  It also does not need to be super precise, so feel free to play with the seasonings according to your tastes.

Mushroom and Onion Paté

  • 1 pint white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large white or yellow onions, sliced
  • 1/4 c raw walnuts, soaked for a few hours or over night
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp kosher for Passover red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper to taste

Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, and sweat slowly for about 5-7 minutes until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms have cooked down, and the mixture is golden brown and fragrant.  The volume of vegetables in the pan should be considerably reduced from when you started.  Let cool at least 10 minutes.  Add the mushroom and onion mixture to a food processor.  Drain the walnuts, and add them as well. Begin to chop the mixture in the processor, and stream in the oil and vinegar while the machine is running.  Add the salt and pepper, and pulse again to combine.  Taste for seasoning.  The mixture should chopped very, very finely, and should be fairly smooth (but not entirely pureed).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sorry I have no pictures of this, but I will say, while it’s completely delicious, it’s not the most photogenic dish out there.

Vegan Passover (פסח טבעוני)

As Passover creeps ever closer, my usual worries begin to take hold. What will I eat, where will I eat it, what do I do about cleaning my kitchen etc, etc. What was once one of my favorite holidays has become the bane of my vegan existence. I used to actively look forward to cleaning the kitchen with my parents, despite being a rather messy child (now as my friends can attest, I apologize for having a messy room if I’ve left out one shirt). I would get to explore the deep mysteries that were hidden in the attic when my dad allowed me to come up with him to bring down the Passover dishes. Even now, I’m hit with a nostalgic whiff of excitement whenever I open the pink plastic box containing the dairy dishes, as I remember how special it felt to use something that we only saw for one week a year. Even better than the attic and the dishes though, was waking up the morning of the first night to find the kitchen completely covered. The counters were covered in plastic, the stove and sink in foil, while the table had a pink tablecloth. To my young eyes, it was like entering into another world; the alternate universe of Pesach land (never actually gave it that name).

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake with Cashew Cream

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake with Cashew Cream- April 2012

As for the food, I loved all of the homemade, traditional Pesach food we would eat throughout the week. I also loved a simple piece of matzoh spread with real butter (not margarine…Pesach margarine is actually quite gross) or cream cheese. After the kitchen was cleaned and covered, I would spend the rest of the day helping my mom prepare food for the seder that night. We would fry up pounds of mushrooms and onions, to be used in everything from “mushroom stuff” (mock liver) to farfal (matzoh based stuffing). My mom would make chicken soup from scratch, and then shortly before the seder, add big, fluffy matzoh balls. It’s funny to recount this now, but one of my favorite dishes to help make was the brisket. It’s not that I was ever an ardent meat lover (though mom’s brisket was one of my favorites), but her recipe called for browning the meat in brandy before going in the oven, and really, what child wouldn’t like lighting a pan on fire.

Soaking all the nuts (almost) March 2012

Soaking all the nuts, plus dates and sundried tomatoes – April 2012

Pesach was also the very last time I ever ate meat. When I was 14, Take Your Child to Work Day happened to fall in the middle of Pesach, and so I went to work with my mom in order to get off from school for a day. While I had long ago made the decision to go vegetarian, back then, I would ever so occasionally eat a small amount of animal. By this time, those occasions were very infrequent, but being 14 and rather unprepared for a Passover lunch, I was hungry.  After (possible) fierce deliberation, I broke down and ate some of my mom’s chicken salad on matzoh. I’ve learned a lot since then, especially after giving up eggs and dairy, since much of traditional Pesach cuisine is egg based. I’ve been flexing my creativity and finding ways to veganize the traditional foods of my childhood within the confines of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Passover customs, which is to say, without beans or rice.

Beautiful raw lasagna- April 2012

Beautiful raw lasagna- April 2012

I am the first to admit that it isn’t easy, but for those of you looking to do the same, don’t lose hope! I’ve spent the last few years compiling tips and recipes that are super delicious, can be featured at a seder, and are kosher for Passover. In the next few weeks leading up to Pesach, I’ll be posting some recipes, but in the mean time, here is a list of what I usually make:

Herbed Brazil Nut cheese (in bad lighting I might add)

Herbed Brazil Nut cheese (in bad lighting I might add) – April 2012

Seder Stuff

Raw blood orange cheesecake, tastes like a creamsicle! March 2013

Raw blood orange cheesecake. It tastes like a creamsicle! March 2013

Rest of the Week

  • Matzoh lasagna (I’ve also made raw lasagna if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter)
  • Potato Gnocchi
  • Quinoa with Vegetables
  • Salad!
  • Kale Chips

    Potato Leek soup, a nice alternative if you're too lazy for vegan maztoh balls- April 2012

    Potato Leek soup, a nice alternative if you’re too lazy for vegan maztoh balls- April 2012

This year is going to be an interesting Pesach, considering it’s my first in Israel (and without my family). While adapting to cooking here has been incredibly easy, I’m used to relying on my mom’s food processor for Pesach (in order to deal with all the nuts that become a staple when I can no longer eat beans). Additionally, I may be going on a week long Pesach program in Tzfat, where we will be doing our own cooking apparently (yay!), but I have no idea what kinds of equipment and ingredients will be available to me. No matter, every year, I remind myself that now is a good time to really bump up on my whole foods and veggies. Maybe this year will be the year I actually listen.

Thanksgivukkuh Recap!

20131220-221449.jpg

Almost the whole gang!

First off, I need to apologize for how long it took me to get this written. I’ve been in the throes of opening a show ever since Thanksgiving (which entails quite a bit of craziness), but I’ve wanted to give an update as to how everything went, especially given the complexity and breadth of the menu I’d planned. Most fortunately for me, we got an oven and stove in my apartment a week before the holiday, so I no longer had to worry about where to cook everything. Really the most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to serving large holiday meals is to plan and cook in advance. While I’d written a shopping list and plan of action far in advance, when it came to the week before Thanksgiving, my planner was no where to be found…so I ended up frantically rewriting both my shopping list and action plan on a napkin in a cafe (how J.K. Rowling of me…also, I did end up finding my planner, after the fact).

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

I started my week off by taking a long, late afternoon trip to the shuk (the outdoor market, where produce prices are best). After experiencing the absolute craziness that is the shuk on a Friday, it was delightful to be able to go on a Monday afternoon and meander up and down the stalls, looking for the lowest prices. While this dinner was not exactly cheap, I was still amazed at the sheer amount of produce I could get for a relatively small amount of money. Two boxes of mushrooms for example cost about 10 NIS. I think potatoes (or maybe onions) were 4.50 NIS per kilo. After loading myself with as many kilos of produce as I could carry, I (foolishly) walked home (which was about 2 km, not a bad walk, just not when you’re carrying your weight in veggies), and resolved to get the rest of the produce the next day.

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

So many mushrooms and onions!

So many mushrooms and onions!

I started out, as I usually do by making the cornbread. I also caramelized onions for as many dishes as I remembered needed them (aka I forgot and had to caramelize more the next day), baked the sweet potatoes, and roasted the huge hunk of squash I got for the pumpkin baked ziti. Because my beautiful, new Vitamix had to remain in the US, I didn’t have a blender or food processor of my own, which did make preparations a little tricky. A friend of mine had an immersion blender with food processor attachment, which she kindly let me borrow, so I spent the better part of a day making anything and everything that needed blender, from soup, to the pumpkin, to the french onion dip, the cashew ricotta, the sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, and caesar dressing. Unfortunately, this blender wasn’t exactly what you’d call powerful, so I had to take breaks quite frequently in order to not kill the motor (and then be completely out of luck). This definitely put me a little behind schedule because despite all my planning, I woke up bright and early Thursday morning, only to cook literally until the last moment, with maybe an hour break.

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Due to time issues, I decided to bake off the stuffing, rather than attempting to fry it while I had hungry guests over, which I think turned out for the best. I also decided to make broccoli instead of brussel sprouts, because I could only find those in the freezer section, and nobody wants frozen brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving. I also couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries anywhere, so I used dried cranberries in the apple sauce (as detailed in the soufganiyot post). The last thing I had to coordinate was the reheating of all the food. I live too far from where the dinner was being hosted to have food stay warm, but two of my friends live closer and graciously warmed food in their ovens. I cooked the tempura at my friend’s place in order for it to be hot and crispy when I served it.

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

Cranberry apple sauce isn't very photogenic.

Cranberry apple sauce isn’t very photogenic.

As I expected, literally everyone was running late (we’re on Israeli time after all), but it gave us a chance to complete some last minute preparations. Our guests were a nice mix of Israelis, Europeans, and Americans. I was so happy to be surround by such wonderful, caring people. From my friends who insisted on helping and got the food set up more quickly than had it been just Cathleen and I, to the friends who made me drink, and the friends who made me sit down and eat. Quite a few jokes were tossed around about me actually being a Moroccan mother (whereas in the US we would just say Jewish mother), or else asking me if I thought I made enough food (there was a tray and a half of ziti leftover and I was still worried). In fact, the only thing we actually finished that night were the latkes, though the soufganiyot came close.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Friend peruse their options

Friend peruse their options

I do think the soufganiyot trifle was the surprise hit of the evening. Initially I’d planned to fill some with apple sauce and some with a macadamia nut creme, but due to my makeshift filling equipment (ziploc bag with the corner cut off), the creme wasn’t cooperating as a filling. In a stroke of genius (aka great way to salvage dessert mistakes), I decided to turn it into a trifle (pulled the same stunt last year when I had an excess of chai cake). I cut each soufganiyah in half, arranged them on the bottom of the bowl, and proceeded to layer the soufganiyah halfs with the macadamia creme. Right before serving, I dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar. It was so good, some of my friends even went back for thirds! All in all, it was a wonderfully successful meal, with great company, a mix of traditions new and old, and last but not least, I made it all vegan!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot with Apple Cranberry Filling

While I really wanted this post to be a Thanksgivukkuh recap of the party last Thursday, I felt like given my time constraints this week—between recovering from Thanksgiving, plus ulpan, and my internship (where we’re getting ready to put up a musical in less than a month)—I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and still get this recipe up before the end of Hanukkah. And, since the end of Hanukkah is imminent, there’s no better time to post a recipe than now (or last week).

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Not that I ever disliked doughnuts, because let’s be honest, there were very few desserts I disliked growing up (except cheesecake. I was always picky about the whole cheese thing), but I feel like I really got into doughnuts when I had amazing, unique doughnuts readily available to me. Aka, when I started working in the city and could get doughnut plant doughnuts on the reg, or when the Cinnamon Snail started parking in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. Surprisingly, vegan doughnuts entered the New York City food scene late in the game. I’d already had the best ice cream ever (from the shop formerly known as Lula’s) and some pretty good vegan cheese, as well as a myriad of other vegan desserts. And yet, the doughnut was fairly elusive. Despite attending the Dun-Well Doughnuts launch party, they weren’t easy to come by, even after they opened their shop (because their shop is pretty much in Bushwick). But once the Cinnamon Snail was in my ‘hood, I found that there was many a Thursday morning, I only got dressed and left the house as early as I did because an artisanal vegan doughnut sounded like a good idea for breakfast. And boy oh boy how I missed doughnuts. Even at work it was a special treat when Kristin made doughnuts.

Peppermint patty and smore's doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail.  NYC, June 2012

Peppermint patty and smore’s doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail. NYC, June 2012

Here in Israel, especially at this time of year, soufganiyot proliferate, but there is nary a vegan one to be found. While doughnut making isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, as a once a year Hanukkah treat, it’s really not so bad. I was in finals during Hanukkah last year, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment, and oddly enough, though I know I made some the year before, I can’t at all remember what kind they were, or even which recipe I used. Regardless, (as I say every year) this year’s batch was the best to date. Of course, as I’ve written about for the last month or so, I had to up the ante and not only make doughnuts, but make something special to celebrate the convergence of two major holidays. And thus, the sweet potato soufganiyot (aka doughnut) was born. I actually wanted to have two Thanksgiving inspired fillings: cranberry sauce and macadamia nut creme (paying homage to my family’s tradition of macadamia nut pie). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries here, so I settled for making one big batch of cranberry apple sauce for both soufganiyot and latkes, made with a mix of fresh apples, dried cranberries, and a hint of cinnamon. The macadamia nut pudding, I did manage to execute to an extent. It turned out to be an utterly delicious creme with a little brown sugar and some crunchy macadamia nuts; however, for fear of ending up with macadamia nut concrete, I under thickened, and my pudding was a little too runny for filling (especially with my make-shift equipment). In the end, I did what any good housewife would do, and turned it into soufganiyot trifle. It was a hit, and in good form, I finished it for breakfast this morning.

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Now onto the recipe! I combined two recipes I found, one for vegan doughnuts, and one for non-vegan sweet potato doughnuts, originally found here and here. The result was a divinely soft and fluffy doughnut, with the faintest hint of nutmeg, and a little bit of natural sweetness from the sweet potato. It was the perfect compliment to both the creamy pudding and the sweet and tangy apple sauce.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot:

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 c lukewarm non dairy milk
  • 1/2 c non dairy milk plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 c +2 tbsp brown sugar
  • sweet potato puree (from about 1 medium sweet potato)
  • 4 c flour+ extra for flouring the board
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a least 1 quart of oil for frying

Combine half the warm non dairy milk with the yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup and let sit. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the starch with the 1/2 c milk and cook until thick like pudding, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the margarine and stir to melt. Then incorporate the sugar, and the remaining almond milk. Combine with the yeast mixture, stirring gently.

Add half the flour, salt, and nutmeg and mix in with a wooden spoon (or dough hook if you have one of those fancy contraptions). Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and sticky. You may have to add a little extra because of the sweet potato. Knead the dough until it’s just smooth. You don’t want to over knead, or else you will have bready doughnuts.

Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise about an hour, until doubled in size. I actually made the dough the night before and let it rise fully, then punched it down and let it rise halfway again and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature. Don’t punch it down, but flour your work space and lightly pat the dough with flour. Roll out until it is 1/2 in to 3/4 in thick. Using a cookie cutter or glass that measures about 3 in in diameter, cut out the doughnuts, then set aside to rise. When you finish cutting out the doughnuts, begin heating the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until the oil reaches 365 degrees. You can test this by pinching off a little piece of dough and dropping it in the oil (if you don’t have a candy thermometer). If the oil bubbles around the dough, and the dough floats to the top, the oil is ready.

Fry the doughnuts 3-4 at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan) several minutes on each side, til both are a beautiful golden brown. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels or brown paper bag and let cool.

Hot tub shot

Hot tub shot with latkes frying in the background

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • 2 (or more) tart apples (depending on how much you wanna make), peeled and chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 dried cranberries
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring to a bowl, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the apples are completely soft, and pretty much turn to mush just by stirring. The cranberries will have plumped up, and then hopefully broken down a little more. Using a spoon, mash the apple mixture around the pot. Remove from heat when thick and saucy. This apple sauce is on the tart side, but feel free to add some sweetener if you’d like. Let cool.

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

To assemble:

  • small paring knife
  • piping bag
  • powdered sugar

Take doughnuts and use the knife to cut a small opening in the side, making sure you push the knife all the way through, but not breaking out of the other side. Fill the piping bag with the apple sauce, and squeeze into the hole you made in the doughnut, until the doughnut feels significantly heavier. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. To serve: dust with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

I feel like I’ve somehow managed to go overboard on the pumpkin this year, at least recipe-wise, which is funny since the pumpkin craze doesn’t really exist in Israel. All the sensory phenomena associated with pumpkin season in the US are absent here so far. It’s been almost continuously warm and sunny since my arrival in early October (much to my delight), so food cravings tend to be more for things that are light and fresh, rather than warm and comforting, rich with cinnamon, pumpkin, and other warming spices. Nevertheless, I had an idea for a second pumpkin themed cupcake that I was dying to try out. A cupcake spiked with a little bit of the ever popular pumpkin ale. I’m honestly not sure if pumpkin ales can be found here, but I had someone bring me back a bottle from the states for the sole purpose of making these cupcakes.

20131123-150616.jpg

Pumpkin ale cupcake, maple frosting and toasted pecans

While these would definitely make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table, I made these for a going away party for a friend who was moving back to Boston. They were a hit among all in attendance, which was more of a pleasant surprise not because I was worried about the combination of flavors, but because in making them in a borrowed kitchen, I lacked even such basic equipment as measuring cups. In the end, I guesstimated using a small disposable plastic cup (on which was writtenThis is 1 Cup), by assuming it was actually equivalent to about 6 oz, and measuring the ingredients from there. Luckily, ratios are really the most important part of baking, so despite my make-shift equipment, everything was in proportion.

20131125-112727.jpg

Pumpkin ale batter

Of course, I didn’t see any pumpkin puree in the grocery stores here, so for efficiency, I chose to use mashed sweet potato in the batter, which was equally nice. I also threw in some vegan white chocolate chips, mostly because we had them (and they’re so easy to find here!). The cupcake is topped with a salted maple buttercream and toasted pecans. I used pure maple syrup in the frosting since it was easier to request bottle of maple syrup from the US, rather than maple extract. The salt was added to counterbalance the sweetness of the maple and sugar combination. The pecans provide a buttery crunch that tops the cupcakes off perfectly. I would actually recommend choosing either the frosting or the white chocolate chips, since the chips made the batter a little bit more sweet than I would have liked.

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake:

  • 1/2 c canned pumpkin puree (or mashed sweet potato)
  • 3/4 c pumpkin ale
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 c vegan white chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners

In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin, ale, sugar, oil, and and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir with a fork until just combined.  Fold in the white chocolate chips if using.

Fill liners 2/3 full and baking for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Maple frosting:

  • 1 c vegan margarine ( or 1/2 margarine and 1/2 shortening)
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar

Put the maple syrup in a small saucepan of medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Simmer 5-10 minutes until the syrup has reduced a bunch.  You want it to be 1/4 c or less.  Add a tablespoon or two of the margarine and let cool.  Beat the margarine until fluffy, and add the sugar and salt.  Beat until combined.  Add the vanilla and the maple syrup.  Beat til fluffy, then put in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes.  Beat again before using.

Top cupcakes with maple frosting and toasted pecans.

The Crispiest Vegan Latkes Around

One of the things you hear most frequently about vegan cooking and baking is “but what do you do about eggs?” Generally speaking, especially in pastries, eggs aren’t really necessary and can be easily substituted by making vegan “buttermilk”, where some acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice) is added to nondairy milk, which then reacts with baking soda to create a stable structure. If it’s the richness that eggs bring, using some blended tofu or soy yogurt are easy options. As a last resort, there is always EnerG egg replacer, which is made with a combination of starches, and then, there is flax. When ground and mixed with water, or boiled whole in water, flax releases a viscous, gooey gel, which makes a brilliant egg replacer. The ground flax works particularly nicely in smaller things, like cookies, or in latkes! The boiled gel is a different animal all together, but some wonderfully experimental vegans figured out it can be whipped like egg whites to make foam! (but more on that later).

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Making exceptional vegan versions of the traditional Jewish foods of my childhood has proved to be much more difficult a challenge than vegan baking. The first vegan latke recipe I used, I found to make rather dense latkes, due to its reliance on extra flour as it’s only binder. The were ok, but not exactly what I was looking for in a homemade latke. I was looking for something light and crispy, faintly scented with onion, that was perfectly warming in the dark of December.

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Enter the latke recipe from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Her recipe included ground flax as a binder, which freed the potato pancake from it’s floury, glutinous density. In fact, these latkes were exactly as I remembered them, light, crispy, and the perfect compliment to a dollop of applesauce. I am sharing her recipe in all it’s glory, so you too can have the perfect vegan latkes this year.

Crispy Latkes (adapted from the Vegan Table)

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c water
  • 4 c peeled and shredded potatoes (about 5 medium sized potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tbsp al purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Applesauce for serving

In a food processor or blender (a fork works too honestly), whip the flaxseed and water together, until mixture reaches a thick and creamy, almost gelatinous consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside

Spread potatoes on a kitchen towel or cheesecloth, and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.  You may need to do this again with a second towel.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add flax egg to potatoes, along with onions, flour and salt.  Use your hands to combine ingredients.  You want the mixture to be moist, but not too wet.

Heat some oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Using a tablespoon, scoop a large spoonful of potato mixture unto hot oil, pressing down to form a patty.  You are not trying to create dense patties, but the batter should stick together enough to be flipped without falling apart.  Slide a spatula underneath the latkes while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick to the pan.  Brown on one side, turn over, and brown on the other side.  You may need more oil as you add more latkes to the pan.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.  Season with salt, and serve with apple sauce.

Vegan Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Despite the proliferation of holidays we have to celebrate throughout the year–Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim etc.–my family really only makes stuffing twice a year: Thanksgiving and Pesach.  On Pesach, our stuffing of choice is invariably farfel, which is made out of small pieces of matzah, but on Thanksgiving, it somehow became tradition to have cornbread sausage stuffing, even though we’re a bunch of NY Jews through and through.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with all those other bread based stuffings because (real) bread is pretty much always delicious, but cornbread stuffing has always been my favorite.  Maybe it’s the interplay of the sweet cornbread–I like to speckle with a fragrant mix of herbs (usually herbes de Provence) as an homage to the herb flecked bag of croutons one can find in grocery stores–with the contrast of the succulent and savory (vegan) sausage.

Now in my family (well on my mom’s side anyway) we always did several incarnations of stuffing.  The first incarnation was the stuffing actually used “to stuff” (gross), which was fully done up with mushrooms and onions.  Then, there was out of bird run off with sausage (back then it was meat sausage) as well as mushrooms and onions.  There was a version without sausage for my vegetarian cousin (and eventually me, which became my vegan version that I make today!), and the last was what we called “nerd” stuffing, which had sausage, but no mushrooms and onions, for my aunt who didn’t like the vegetation.  Why nerd stuffing? Because when my cousin was a kid she asked why our aunt didn’t eat the regular stuffing, to which her mother responded, “because she’s a nerd.”  And thus, nerd stuffing was born.

Nowadays, I always put mushrooms and onions into my stuffing, because they just add to the depth of flavor, with the mushrooms enhancing the umami flavors in the sausage, and the onions lending a nuanced carmel undertone to complement the cornbread.  Then to top it all off, I save some of the mushrooms, onions, and sausage and make a really tasty gravy.  I will confess, despite my inclusion of mushrooms, I only do it for the flavor it adds…and then I pick them out and leave them on my plate (or now give them to my brother).

The cornbread is really super easy (my dad even started it for me last year) and can be made several days in advance before turning it into stuffing.

Cornbread (adapted from Veganomicon)

  • 2 c non dairy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c cornmeal
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/2 c (or one 6 oz container, not scraped) plain, non dairy yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in baking pan.

Combine the non dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle as you prepare everything else.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and herbs.  Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture, oil, and yogurt.  Use a wooden spoon to mix together until just combined; some lumps are ok. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick or slim knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Stuffing

  • 1 recipe cornbread
  • 1 package (of 4 links) vegan sausage, my favorite in the US is Field Roast apple-sage variety
  • 2 c sliced onions (sweet or white is fine)
  • 2 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c prepared vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté about 5 minutes on each side, until just starting to brown.  Add the onions and salt, and sauté another 5-7 minutes, until they have begun to look translucent. Add the mushrooms and salt and saute until everything has cooked down and begun to look slightly brown.  This will take about 10-15 minutes. Reserve about a 1/2 c of the mushroom, onion, and sausage mixture for gravy.

In a large casserole pan (or even the same 9×13 baking dish) crumble the cornbread, and stir in the mushroom mixture, until fairly evenly distributed.  Begin to slowly add the broth, stirring to evenly coat the cornbread.  Only add as much broth as is necessary to sufficiently saturate the bread, you aren’t making soup.  Bake in a 350 degree oven, about 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, and the stuffing is no longer super wet.  Serve with mushroom gravy.

Gravy

  • 1/2 c sauteed mushrooms, onions and sausage, reserved from stuffing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or vegan margarine
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 c vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat (or you can use the same pan you originally cooked them in) and add the mushroom mixture.  Saute for about a minute, then add the flour, stirring until evenly distributed on the veggies, and well mixed with the oil.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to ensure that the flour is adequately dissolved.  Add the broth and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced.  If you like a thicker gravy, feel free to add more flour and reduce more.

This recipe can easily be multiplied if you are feeding more people, but usually I am the only one consuming the gravy, and this is a fairly adequate amount for one person (with plenty of leftovers!)

I’m sorry I somehow have zero pictures of this to share!  I’m actually a little shocked considering how many years I’ve been making this recipe, but I guess stuffing isn’t exactly the most photogenic of foods.  I promise to take plenty when I make stuffing this year (though I am going to attempt to fry it, rather than bake it…wish me luck!) and will update this page after the fact.

Better Than Buzzfeed’s Thanksgivukkuh Ideas

About a month ago, there was a link being passed around the interwebz, that happened to not be about a certain pop star, but rather about what could quite possibly be the best holiday ever: Thanksgivikkuh. After reading their suggested menu, I found I was rather let down. While many of the items were Thanksgiving classics re-imagined, I felt that in some aspects, it missed a lot of what I love about Hanukkah. As usual, it took me about 10 minutes to imagine what I would make, and I wanted to share that menu with you here.

5th Night of Hanukkah, December 2012

5th Night of Hanukkah, December 2012

While much of the inspiration for this menu is centered around the oil theme of Hanukkah (aka frying) I couldn’t quite bring myself to fry everything. I also don’t have a list of things I always make for Hanukkah because Hanukkah was the first holiday meal I got to plan (and execute as I say on my resume) myself. When I was 16, I decided I really wanted to make the family Hanukkah meal for my dad’s side of the family, so instead of paying attention in Chemistry for a month, I planned a menu, down to the timing of when I would make everything. While my very first Hanukkah dinner wasn’t entirely vegan, I gave the meal a theme of olive oil/Italian inspired dishes. The next year, I had a second chance to make Hanukkah (this time entirely vegan!) so I chose a Southwestern theme, and based everything, including the latkes (to which I added cilantro) around that theme. While I had told myself the next Hanukkah theme I was going for was an Asian inspired meal, with Thanksgivikkuh happening for the first and probably only time, I knew this years theme had to be Thanksgiving. (Of course it’s also the first time I am not in the US for Thanksgiving, but yay for having so many American friends over here who want to celebrate Thanksgiving, and so many non-American friends who are interested in seeing what this Thanksgiving thing is all about.)

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

The way I’ve decided to tackle this is by posting my menu this week, and then posting what recipes I can from it once or twice a week in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Unfortunately, several of these items are (as usual) things I’ve dreamed up in my head, so I won’t be able to give recipes until after Thanksgiving. But on the bright side, Hanukkah is 8 days long! So there will still be plenty of time to make everything.

I’ve organized the menu into Appetizers, Mains and Desserts, but let’s be real, categorization is arbitrary, I say eat what you want when you want it. In fact, when I serve each of these things is definitely subject to change (I’m looking at you Kale Caesar salad!)

Appetizers

  • Mushroom crusted green bean tempura served with a cool and creamy French onion dip. How about that for green bean casserole in one bite!
  • Sage flecked latkes with Cranberry Apple sauce (the sauce is the one thing I liked from the Buzzfeed menu).
  • Massaged Kale Caesar salad with spiced pecan “croutons”
  • Roasted squash soup with fried sage leaves (and maybe some fried capers because they rock)

Main Dishes

  • Mama’s “Shabbos” tofu cutlets (marinated with sherry and tarragon)
  • Cornbread sausage stuffing fritters with sherry mushroom gravy
  • Pumpkin baked ziti (rather than sweet potato noodle kugel) from Veganomicon
  • Oven roasted brussel sprout fries

Desserts

  • Sweet potato soufganiyot (that’s Hebrew for doughnut) filled with either cranberry or pecan pie*

*I actually don’t usually make pecan pie. My mom started a tradition of making macadamia nut pie, so as long as I can find macadamia nuts here in Israel, I will be making macadamia filled soufganiyot.

Macadamia nut pie, November 2012

Macadamia nut pie, November 2012

A note on the menu items: a few of these things are definitely items from Thanksgivings past, such as the cornbread sausage stuffing, which I make every year, just like my mom (though of course mine is vegan). I also made the Kale Caesar with pecan croutons several years ago for a Thanksgiving spent with my dad and their neighbors. Everyone loved it so much, I figured it needed repeating. The pumpkin baked ziti is one of my mom’s favorite recipes that I made for the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago, but I put I’m adding it to this menu because of the sweet potato noodle kugel suggested on Buzzfeed’s menu. It’s a pretty similar concept, and boy is it good. As for the mains,I don’t usually make any kind of “centerpiece roast” because despite all of my cooking and food loving, I always have more than enough food between the side dishes the host makes, and the 2-3 sides I make. However, I wanted a delicious protein packed main that is easy to make (and can be made in advance) that I will also be able to make here in Israel, so I added the tofu, inspired by the Shabbos chicken my mom used to make when I was growing up. As I’m sure everyone has also noticed, I’ve completely reimagined green bean casserole for this menu. To be quite honest, I’ve never had it because no on either side of my family likes it. But at my friends’ insistence, I wanted to add something that was a nod to the classic dish, while also updating it, and giving it more of a Hanukkah twist. Let me know if you make any of these and how they come out, or how you plan to celebrate Thanksgivikkuh!

Up next: Recipe for Kale Caesar salad with spiced pecan croutons.