Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 I love Spanakopita but I find it varies from place to place.  What I don't like about some places is the overwhelming eggie taste in some.  I'm mostly vegetarian and aspiring Vegan but I go by 'aesthetics, nothing preachy.  So it's not that I hate eggs.  It's that I hate that eggie taste.  You get it in over cooked fried eggs, over-bound fillings, or undiluted egg wash... blech.  Listen, if I wanted a quiche, I'll make a quiche.  But when I want Spanakopita, I don't want a quiche.  Then there's the dairy.  I'm trying to avoid dairy this year.  I've done alot of reading on, not only, the harmful effects with inflammation with dairy and l-casein but, I saw a clip where they perfectly described why cheese is so addictive.  Between, the salt, protein, joyfulness of the 'pull' and the fat.  It's made to be more-ish.  So I'm avoiding it because I can't do cheese half way.  *sigh* Cheese.  So to make the Spanakopita of my dreams, or more specifically, the recipe of an old Greek grannie of a friend of mine (living in Athens!) which had no measurements or cooking instructions, I start with the Feta. Hers wasn't a vegan recipe but she did insist there was NO EGG.

Easy Tofu Feta Balls


1 block Extra Firm Tofu (or Firm, but you'll need to press overnight)

1/2 large Lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 T Malt or Cider Vinegar

1/3 c Coconut Oil or Vegan Margaring IF it's a pudding texture at room temperature.... that only happens for me in summer. (if your Coconut Oil is too firm at room temperature, you can measure in a steel measuring cup and heat on super super duper low on the 'keep warm' element on the stove.  Yes, you can nuke, if you must, not in a metal measuring cup. 😀)

1 T Olive Oil

1/4 c Nutritional Yeast

2 t dried Dill

2 t dried Onion powder (not the flakes)

2 t dried Oregano (Greek, if you have it)

2 t granulated/powdered Garlic (not Garlic Salt)

2 t Chili Flakes (optional, I have to leave them out or the kids won't eat it.  So I sprinkle some on the blocks I will eat myself before storing.)

1 1/2 t Himalayan or Kosher Salt


Preheat the oven to 400F Convect.  I find it helps with the 'drying'.  Hubbo thinks it is a useless function.

Mash the tofu with a big fork (serving) or a potato masher.  I like to leave it chunky like cottage cheese but you can really do it finer if you want.  Just before you think it's where you want it, add the Oils and mash through so it binds evenly throughout the tofu.  

Sprinkle over all the Spices and Nuch.  And Fold in with a big spoon or rubber spatula so you do don't lose any tasty goodness.  

Sprinkle over the Vinegar, Juice, Zest and fold evenly.  

Press firmly in silicon baking molds.  I used the ones I got to make Chocolate Bombs.  The mix made 15.  If the uneveness of that bugs you, then spread out differently to get a full 16.  I wanted to make balls that I could later portion easily or crumble into salad.

Bake on a baking sheet for 40 minutes middle rack.  Then let it sit in the oven after you turn the heat off to settle.  It should be slightly toasted but if your oven is different at they get a bit too dark, turn down the oven, by 25 degs.

After they're cook, pop out and keep in a glass container or lined plastic container.  You can freeze, and I find that Tofu gets a 'chewier' 'meatier' texture after a freeze thaw.  I kept mine in the fridge for a week before I tossed the very few leftovers into the freezer.  

Friday, May 08, 2020

FOOLPROOF Regular Home Baker SOURDOUGH Bread + Starter

Easy Wholewheat Sourdough Bread

I base my starter on Alton Brown's but I have a full time job so his full recipe would have been unreasonable for a real person.  If you want to original recipe, which will obviously work now that we're all trapped at home and it might be entertaining to baby your starter.  To start you will need a kitchen scale. 

Sourdough Starter (bread recipe afterwards)

100 g Flour
100 g Water

Day 1:  Mix the ingredients in a bowl, either Glass or Metal.  Cover with a damp tea towel.  It doesn't need to be wet.  I just wash my hands then wipe them on a clean tea towel.  Leave out on the counter.  I'm firm about the glass or metal bowl.  I'm not fond of food staying next plastic for too long.  I've seen videos using tupperware, probably because of the ease of the lid.  Blech

Day 2-5: Check but don't touch.  A dried out 'scab' might form on top.  That's fine.  Make sure the towel is someone moist but it's not a big deal.  When you see some bubbling (bubbling looks like the way the top of a pancake on the pan appears when it starts to rise and cooks) , you can start feeding.  It might start earlier than Day 5.  If you're hermetically sealing yourself into your house and not opening any of your windows or doors, it might take longer.

Feedings: This is where I veer from Alton Brown. He goes into Daily Feeding and 'Discarding'.  I think that is TERRIBLY wasteful, particularly in this time but generally I'm very frugal and hate wasting food.  Also, because you are not a baker or professional, you don't need to feed daily nor leave on the counter. It's just too much.  This will mean that your flavour will take longer to develop because the aging is slowed down in the fridge. 

Peel off the 'scab' and add 100g of Flour and 100 g of Water.  You need to weigh not measure.  The moisture level in Flour varies from place to place.  Mix thoroughly and leave out another day.  I then transfer the starter into your long-term container.  I use a large sealable Mason Jar.  I leave it on the counter for a few more days until it looks like you need to use it before it overflows or put it in the fridge to slow it down.  Now, every time you use it, let it come to room temperature for an hour.  And feed it after you've taken some out for the bread and return it to the fridge. 

This is where lots of home bakers go wrong.  They forget that they are working with a cold starter so some recipes assume you have 'warm' starter and 'warm' ingredients.  I keep my wholewheat flour in the fridge too.  You should keep it in the freezer to keep it from going rancid but I use it enough to use the fridge instead.  So the overnight rise in the fridge doesn't work well, if your starter and flour are cold.  Trust.  If your starter takes too long to become active, and bubbly, then you might want to leave it on the counter and feed daily (take out 75% of the starter and feed with equal amounts flour and water.  You can either throw away the 'discard' or use it in pancakes or cracker recipes.  In normal life, I couldn't be bothered.)

FOOLPROOF Wholewheat Sourdough Bread

500 g Wholewheat Flour (less 2 tsp)
2 tsp Vital Wheat Gluten (you can leave this out but then don't cut back the flour)
150 g Starter
250 g Water
10 g Salt
15 g Oil

In the evening, mix the dough in a stand mixer or by hand.  I like to knead in the stand mixer at least 15 minutes but it may be excessive since it will rise overnight.  I cover with a lightly oiled plastic wrap and set aside on the counter overnight.

First thing in the morning, push down and form into loaves.  If you like light sandwichy loaves, cut in half and form into 2 loaves and let rise 6-8 hours.  If you like one dense, chewy loaf, form into a loaf.  I use a well floured Banneton so it rises up more than out. Cover with the same piece of oiled plastic wrap for 3-4 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 400F convect or 425F normal OR if you did the fluffy loaves, heat to 375F.  Put a rack in the middle and one at the bottom.

On a non-stick silicon mat, turn out the Banneton.  Slice as you like to help rise more. 

On the lower rack put a sturdy pan.  I use the roasting pan that comes with stove.  You can also use a foil pan.  Don't use your 'good' baking sheets.  They'll warp. 

As you're about to put the bread into the oven, pour 1 cup of water into the sturdy pan on the lower level and quickly put in the loaf.

Bake the single dense loaf for 27 minutes in the middle.  You may want to move the loaf for an additional 2 minutes to the side of the oven in case the water pan didn't allow the bottom to brown sufficiently.  The 2 airy loves bake for 23-25 minutes. 

Let cool COMPLETELY until you want to slice.  It will be difficult.  If you think you want to keep around as your daily bread do not cut it while warm.  If you think you'll eat it all in a go, then go ahead.  Then bag in a clear produce bag or container.  It will last a week until you bake again, typically. 

For the banneton, you will need a 14 inch oblong or round.  Or 2 7 inch round bannetons.  OR 1 regular loaf pan. 

Wholewheat Sourdough Banneton Bread Loaf

#sourdough #sourdoughbread #bread

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Vegan "Buttery" Hamburger Buns

We normally use those flatter, wholewheat hamburger buns because the store bought ones are too 'heavy'.  Stuck in the house and wanting what they want, they asked for 'real' buns.  Well, this is a new world for whismical asks during #COVID isolation.  I'm not about to pop out to the shops for hamburger buns, am I?  Here is a very easy recipe that can be done with the kids in between calls and online classes.
Vegan Hamburger Buns Eggless
VEGAN 'Buttery' Hamburger Buns

Stage 1
1/4 c warm Soy Milk (or just Water)
1/2 c warm Water
1 T Sugar
2 t Yeast (alot of recipes show upto a T but that's just crazy talk during these times)

Stage 2
2 c Bread Flour (or 2 c All Purpose Flour, less 2 t and add 2 t Vital Wheat Gluten)
2 T Vegan Butter or Margarine (e.g., Melt or Olive Oil), at room temperature
1 t Salt

As needed
1t Oil for lubrication
1 T Cornmeal, for dusting
1/2 T Sesame Seeds, raw preferably
1 T Soy Milk or other plant Milk

In your stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add the Water, Milk, Sugar and dissolve the Sugar briefly.  Sprinkle the Yeast over and let sit for 10 minutes.  Longer doesn't hurt.

Add the dough hook to your stand mixer.  Add the 'Butter', Flour and Salt and mix on lowest speed until all the flour is moistened before turning up faster or you'll have a flour explosion.  Knead on 2-4 for upto 15-20 minutes.  Add a teaspoon of water at a time if after 10 minutes, the mixture still looks raggedy and isn't coming together in a ball.  The moisture level of this recipe is lower than my Sourdough and is alot stiffer.  And let it run for a good 3 minutes before adding more water.  Depending on how 'dry' your flour is, you may have to add more.  But try not to add more than a couple of tablespoons (8 teaspoons), just be patient.  It will come together. 

Pick up the dough and form in to a rough ball.  I do this in the air so I don't have to mess up a surface unnecessarily and just keep turning the ball in on itself from underneath so the top looks like a smooth ball.  While holding the ball, put a few drops of oil in the stand mixer bowl.  Take the dough ball and swirl the ball around, then flip it over so the top oily face is up.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let stand for 3-5 hours.

Deflate the dough but resist the temptation to start kneading.  If you wake up the dough too fast, forming the Buns will be difficult and very difficult for the kids.    If you're an engineer like me, you'll want to be precise.  Weigh the dough balls and divide by 4, 5 or 6.  We did 5 because I wanted medium sized buns.  If you don't have a scale, get a scale.  Baking is alot easier with a scale :D.  But if you don't want a scale, just roughly divide with a pastry cutter or knife.  Again, resist the urge to try to form just yet. 

This is where the kids can really get involved.  They did help me measure all the stuff at the beginning too but he got bored watching the dough being kneaded ;D.  We did 3 options. 

1.  Form in to simple balls.  Push out the ball with the heel of your hand then fold toward you.  Turn and repeat a few times with the folds always on the same plane so the side on the board remains 'smooth'.  Pick up and pinch in your hand like you're doing an "okay" sign and squeezing the head of the bun out.  Pinch the bottom and set on your baking mat with a bit of sprinking of Cornmeal.
2. Simple knot.  Push out the ball with the heel of your hand but elongating as you do to about 6 inches and then starting rolling like a rolling pin/cigar.  Form into a simple loose knot and form in your hands into a round almost rose shape. 
3. Kaiser 'flower', which I love for texture.  Start as the same as the knot but longer, maybe 8 inches.  Knot put pull closed this time.  You will have a knot with two long arms.  Tuck one arm into the centre of the top and the other into the centre of the bottom.  I followed a video just for the knot. 
4. Bagel, no, bun, no Bao, ... my daughter just played with her roll for a while which made working it super hard later :D  she then decided she wanted a bagel, which looked good but then she closed it thinking a Bao would be cuter... and on and on...

Place them all on a puddle of Cornmeal.  Take a mere teaspoon of oil in a small bowl and let the kids dip their fingers in and gently cover the buns with Oil to keep from drying and sticking to the cover.  Cover very loosely with plastic/cling wrap and set aside.  I put it in the oven with no heat.  Let rise for 2-3 hours.  Keep the bowl with the remaining oil because I hate to waste.

Take the buns out.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  A convect will adjust to 400F.  Put a rack in the middle and another rack on the bottom with a heavy duty sheet pan on the bottom.  This is for steaming water.  I would therefore not use a flimsy aluminum one or a teflon one if it will sit empty in a hot oven.  Use the roasting pans that ovens often come with. 

Meanwhile, in the bowl with the leftover oil, add the Soy Milk.  Use a brush or your fingers and liberally brush the buns VERY GENTLY so as not to deflate the buns.  Sprinkle Sesame Seeds over the top.  Use raw because roasted may burn.  Also generally speaking, you should keep your Sesame Seeds raw until you need to use them.  My mom, Korean, bulk roasts them but she uses them in bulk.  Also after roasting, keep them in the fridge. 

Open the heated oven and pour 2 cups of water in the pan on the bottom.  Slide in the buns. Bake for 20-25 minutes but mid way, rotate if you want. 

The result was suprisingly buttery and dense without being too heavy.  Not too crusty so as to cut up your mouth. 

Vegan Triple Decker with Homemade Hamburger Buns

#Isolationbaking #Bakingwithkids #bread #bakingbread