Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 15: OMG, Barack Obama is coming over because he knows you make awesome vegan food! What are you going to make?

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Kale to the Chief! I think Obama would enjoy something 'homey' like this lentil, quinoa, and kale stew (a recipe found in Isa Does It). The stew is full of nutritious and comforting deliciousness without seeming too imposing; it's not a dish that screams 'I want to impress you, Mr. President!", which I like. I believe he would also enjoy scotch and soda as an apéritif or after the stew but before dessert. For dessert I had some pears hanging around so I made something up: Pear Pecan Upside-Down Spice Cake! It came out delicious...and kind of tasted a little like pumpkin pie? Whatever, I'm into it. I would serve Obama up a slice with a little whipped cream (homemade rad whip or slightly sweetened coconut cream or Soyatoo) and perhaps more pecans and a dusting of cinnamon for garnish.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Pear Pecan Upside-Down Spice Cake 

Yield :: 8-10 servings | Bake :: 375°F, 40-45 minutes
Adapted from the 'Pineapple Upside-Down Cake' recipe in Isa Does It

  • Apple Pecan Upside-Down Spice Cake: Substitute pears with apples.
  • Another Nut: Substitute pecans with walnuts or almonds.
  • Pumpkin: Substitute unsweetened applesauce with pumpkin puree.
  • Sweet Potato: Substitute unsweetened applesauce with sweet potato puree.

Continue for the recipe!

Day 16: What’s your favorite late summer food?

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Plentiful colorful bowls with raw veggies. Since I already shared a post about ice cream, I now turn to another favorite summer tradition to write about.

For tonight's particular 'late summer bowl', I marinated some pressed firm tofu in buffalo sauce (and a few other ingredients) for a couple hours then seared the tofu in a cast iron skillet with olive oil. I chose couscous for the 'grain' of the bowl because of how fast it is to make, then added the seared buffalo tofu and topped the bowl with raw vegetables: carrot ribbons, diced tomatoes, shredded zucchini, and chopped green onion. The 'sauce' component of the bowl was an avocado ranch dressing recipe I found in (you guessed it!) Isa Does It, made with an avocado, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, garlic cloves, and fresh dill (plus a few other things). I really loved this bowl.

Any time I eat so many raw veggies or fruits at once, it feels like summer. If we were still caught in the dead heat of July, I also could have easily made this into a big salad with a bed of lettuce and it would have been just as satisfyingly delicious. All summer I also drink an inordinate amount of smoothies - but those aren't very interesting because they're usually only comprised of 3 or 4 ingredients. I also love when late summer tomatoes flood the farmer's markets so I can make fresh tomato soup, but that doesn't scream 'summer' to me. It's this time of year that I kind of dread the upcoming gloominess of a Portland autumn and the long months of winter, but I also look forward to squash and holiday baking...but how are we already half-way through September? *sighs*

Day 13: It’s kitchen tour time!

I love kitchens. More specifically, I love organized kitchens and the personal touches many people decorate them with. I am so enamored with Kittee's beautiful colorful kitchen. And have you seen the backspash and counter space that Vegan Richa has? Then, of course, there's the sheer size and the hanging pots and pans and things of Julia Child's kitchen. Sigh. What joy!

I have only lived in my current apartment for just over two months. At first, I was incredibly annoyed by my tiny kitchen. No counter space! Only one utensil drawer! I have to light the oven with a match!? The sink is even small! Where do you put the toaster?! However, since investing in a few organizational items, my feelings have definitely changed. My kitchen still needs a few decorative touches and perhaps I will refine my organizational tactics even further - but I have grown to love my kitchen despite its size.

View from the entryway.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Day 14: Share something vegan with a non-vegan.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

I share vegan food with a non-vegan every day of my life. Keith and I have been living together for over a year now and he'll eat any vegan 'hippie' food I put in front of him. He has even gotten to the point that he prefers his coffee with soy creamer and agave nectar. He loves tempeh and vegan sausages and is incredibly considerate when we decide to go out to eat. He is aware that one vegan option on a menu (usually another lackluster veggie burger) isn't acceptable and he knows that vegan food is so creative and enticing and delicious and full of potenial. He gets it but he also isn't ready to give up his corned beef reuben quite yet. C'est la vie.

Last night we shared the Buffalo 666 pizza from Sizzle Pie: shredded buffalo jackfruit, Daiya mozzarella, red onion, vegan ranch, and green onion. Delicious! Just the right amount of spicy and you could actually taste the ranch sauce. We've only ever tried one of their other vegan pies and it was waaaaaaaay spicy, the Evil Never Dies: Aardvark hot sauce, tofu cheese, seitan chorizo, tomato, jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro. I had to use some hummus to cut the heat! And I love spicy things! Eventually I know we'll try nearly all of them to find our favorite...

Today is my first day off in awhile so I will actually be able to catch up on MoFo posts. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Days 10, 11, & 12: Something blue, a nutrient, & my favorite cookbook.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

I apologize for the delay. I'm working 7 days straight this week and shifts have been extra long so I have been very tired. I haven't forgotten about MoFo, I promise! Quite the contrary. I love MoFo with all my little vegan heart.

For Day 10's 'Something Blue', I emailed Backwoods Brewing Company to make sure that all their beers are vegan - and they are (at least that's what Kevin Waters' reply told me!). We drank their blueberry wheat ale and it was pretty nice! I'm usually not into flavored beers, but the blueberry was subtle and pleasant. They also have an eatery in Carson (in Washington state) that offers Daiya on pizzas alongside their microbrews. Yum! I'd be interested in checking that out...

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

For Day 11's 'Focus on a Nutrient', I'm afraid I have to be a little lazy and just show you the vitamins I swallow a few times a week. I bought them a few weeks ago because I was feeling sluggish and they seem to have helped. Otherwise, I get my B12 from fortified nondairy milks and other food items.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Day 12's 'favorite cookbook' was kind of a difficult decision for me. Sure, I could name off any one of Isa's books - but that answer didn't feel quite right. My favorite cookbooks are actually books about Julia Child's life in the kitchen. Nothing inspires me more than her dedication and unrelenting desire to learn new skills. Of course she was far from vegan, but she consistently helps me to renew my culinary excitement and for that I am very grateful. Thanks, Julia.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day 9: Most retro recipe.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Triple C: Cheezy Chickpea Casserole. Nothing says 'retro' to me like a casserole. I can imagine kitchens filled with home cooks - like Kitty from That '70s Show - pulling bubbly casseroles out of their oven at least once a week. Casseroles are easy, filling, and can be made out of nearly anything.

Kitty in her 'retro' kitchen.

Part of the inspiration for this dish was Alice Cooper's Funky Tuna Casserole from Cool Cooking: Recipes of Your Favorite Rock Stars (published in 1972). Alice's casserole ingredients include condensed cream of mushroom soup, milk, a can of tuna, cashews, salt, celery, onion, and a can of chow mein noodles. My casserole is composed of what I had on hand in my kitchen: chickpeas, cashews, some leftover split pea rutabaga soup, onion, celery, garlic, carrot, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, miso, whole wheat fusilli, breadcrumbs, Follow Your Heart Provolone, and some spices. The result? Hearty delicious goodness. And dinner for tomorrow night, too.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Day 8: Reach out! Make a new vegan friend.

I work in Portland's 'Vegan Mini-Mall'. If you've never heard of it, it's a little strip-mall in Oregon that includes Sweetpea Baking Co., Herbivore Clothing Company, Food Fight Vegan Grocery, and Scapegoat Tattoo. I absolutely love it; I also live insanely close and so am always buying gifts at Herbivore and last-minute grocery items from Food Fight. I also plan to get a wheat stalk tattoo at Scapegoat before the new year.

I bring this up because the people who work at and visit these businesses are quite often vegan and are usually really awesome. I meet new vegan people all the time. I'm not great at socializing, but the everyone who works at the mini-mall is generally friendly, welcoming, and happy to see you.

With that being said - if you're ever in Portland, come say hi! We have desserts, awesome clothing, snacks for the road, and talented tattoo artists that only use vegan so much more! It's kind of a magical place. I'm a spoiled vegan, I can say that much.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Day 7: Make/eat something inspired by a book or film.

No Holds Barred Ice Cream Sundaes are definitely one of Kevin McCallister's specialties. In the original Home Alone, Kevin enjoys his overflowing sundae while lounging in the living room of his parents' house. In Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, the audience enjoys a similar scene with Kevin relaxing on a king-sized bed in a hotel room at the Plaza. The second setting allows Kevin to enjoy luxurious room service complete with a full sundae bar - and even someone to make the decadent dessert for him (see the short clip posted below).

In true Home Alone fashion, and with Labor Day marking the near-end of summer, ice cream seemed like the perfect goodbye to the sunny season I hold so dear. Also: raspberries + chocolate on a sundae was a GREAT decision. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Day 6: Recreate a restaurant meal.

So I've never really liked Olive Garden, but I appreciate the premise behind their 'Unlimited Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks' meal. I love soup. I love bread. I appreciate a good salad. It's the perfect combination of nutritious and comforting nearly-Autumn components. Totally into it.

I decided to make the split-pea rutabaga soup from Isa Does It with whole wheat buttery garlic breadsticks (an adapted challah recipe) and a green salad comprised of romaine, microgreens, carrot, tomatoes, red onions, and goddess dressing.  I didn't make an 'unlimited' amount of these things, but we definitely have more food than we could possibly eat tonight. Yum! We shared sherry for the first time and all was right with the world.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 5: Best sandwich ever.

Marinated tempeh and thousand island recipes courtesy of Vegan with a Vengeance. This sandwich was originally going to be a reuben but the grocery store across the street (Food Fight!) ran out of sauerkraut and this happened instead. I'm a big tempeh fan, and love cooking with wine and eating sprouts/microgreens, so this overall sammie experience was a delight.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 4: Tell us about a weird food combo that you love.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

We adopted a seven year old cat today and named him Fry. We bought him a gold glittery collar and an overpriced scratching post/perch. I love him even though I barely know him; he won't stop licking me and nuzzling my laptop. Fry is as weird of a food combination (cat + potatoes) as I can offer today - but I'll be back with more delicious vegan food tomorrow, I promise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day 3: Quick, easy, and delicious.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

I worked a 9 hour shift today and didn't sleep well last night, so this is the perfect prompt for me as I relax on the couch in this zombie-daze induced by physical labor and starting my day at 4:15 AM... Lucky for me, I work with food and have access to all the delicious items that my co-workers prepare. I took a coffee break this morning and after my shift was over I made myself a meal at the sandwich station: tempeh bacon on wheat with cashew cheese, avocado, red onion, lemon tahini dressing, a pickle, and a side of kale salad. Basically, all I had to do was assemble my to-go box and bring it home. I'm spoiled.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

 Other than taking free food from work, tonight I'll just be eating leftover soup reheated on the stove. Oh, and probably some more pear tart. Yeah, definitely some pear tart.

photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on  

See y'all tomorrow! Hope you had an easy-peasy delicious day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day 2: Recreate a meal from your childhood.

When I was a kid, my parents and I used to visit Andrew's Family Restaurant nearly every Friday night. I would always order a big bowl of clam chowder, the 'Soup of the Day', which I thought seemed so important. We also had the same waitress for each visit (Linda!) and once she gave me a pin just like her's of a yellow smiley face with angry eyebrows that read 'I AM smiling!'.  From then on I wore the pin each time we went to Andrew's. I still have that pin.

Andrew's has since gone out of business and the building is now a Mexican restaurant, but I have such fond memories of that clam chowder - the taste, the ambiance of the restaurant, the feeling of the school week being over and the weekend just ahead of me, the idea that my parents and I were out for our 'special' meal, etc. I really loved that soup and all the things it represented.

So a few years ago when I saw the recipe on Post Punk Kitchen for New England Glam Chowder, I was stoked. I hadn't eaten anything resembling clam chowder in so long and this looked exactly like what I was craving. I made this recipe for the first time this past winter with mushrooms I bought at the farmer's market but obviously I needed to make it again for MoFo. I've never been to New England, so I don't know if any of the chowders I've devoured have been 'authentic', but I do know that this version takes the cake.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

The shiitakes! Swoon. In addition to the chowdah, today I also baked a pear tart from some fruit off of Uncle Dennis' tree. I think the pears may have been underripe, but oh well. Tasted good enough.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Now I really need to go to sleep! Goodnight MoFos!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy VeganMoFo!

Hello! My favorite time of year is here again! 

For the entire month of September, Vegan Pastry School will be an official VeganMoFo participant! Vegan Month of Food is a delightful celebration across the internet and I am very grateful and excited to be involved in all the merrymaking. What does this mean? Well, I may post some recipes to further our baking and pastry arts agenda, but mostly I'll be enthusiastically following the daily MoFo prompts.  Take note that my participation will not be limited to this blog - I will also be posting on Instagram - so follow me there, too! I'm excited to see what September has in store for our beautiful vegan blogosphere...

Day 1: Rise and Shine! It’s MoFo time! Tell us about your breakfast.

Breakfast is my favorite. Period. When asked about my favorite type of food, I will always answer 'breakfast food.' A hearty and delicious vegan breakfast will always make me beam with joy and feel as if I can take on any of the day's challenges.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Lucky for me, I have the first day of MoFo off of work and was able to make a proper meal. I had some leftover black beans and brown rice in the fridge from last night's dinner and so decided to throw them into a tofu scramble with onions, garlic, poblano peppers, and spinach (topped with some Tapatío, of course). Also pictured above is a slice of sourdough toast with loganberry jam from Maryhill Fruitstand plus a simple smoothie comprised of frozen bananas, MaraNatha coconut almond butter, unsweetened almond milk, and a dusting of cocoa powder (because why not?).

This breakfast definitely hit the spot! Lots of protein, spicy and sweet, fruits and vegetables both represented... I'm ready to crush this Tuesday and be a productive member of society! ...or something. I hope your breakfast was just as satisfying!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

After Five Years

When I think of my 'former' self, I think of the photograph above. I recount to myself the same story, over and over, the details sometimes bending and blurring but always stinging in the same way.

'After' refers to the past five years - after hospitalization, IV drugs, blood in my brain. Hallucinations. Feeding tube. Bed pans. Lost time. After identifying my reflection in a mirror for the first time as if I was the monster designed for shock value in a horror movie, a poor choice for hospital bathroom artwork. After my left eye was sliced down the middle and couldn't be saved. After titanium cheekbones, titanium eye socket, relearning how to walk. Countless doctor's appointments. Stitches like barbed wire lining my gums. Metal screws jutting out from my lower jaw bone and digging into my bottom lip. A bruised pituitary gland. Surgical procedures that I could count on both hands, that I have lost count of. More stitches, more mediation, more recovery, more lost time. After the tear duct infection, surgery while awake, facial scarring. The idea that I am nothing more than a chart, test results, something to attempt to fix and then send away. After embracing the 'hollow shell' archetype because it takes the pressure off of actually feeling anything. Feeling like no one and nothing.

I have written this story before, in greater and less detail with different inflections, but I don't want to write it out anymore. I am forced to remember facial trauma whenever a stranger glares at me a little too long while trying to figure out what happened to my face; whenever I feel a hot wet tear involuntarily roll down my left cheek because prosthetic eyes don't absorb water; whenever I decide to apply make-up or view certain pictures of myself. I don't know when or if these sudden memory triggers will ever go away, but I do know that I don't want to remember what I don't have to.

A photo posted by Jenny. (@veganpastryschool) on

Five years later, I work in the kitchen of a vegan bakery in Portland. I am 26 years old. I spend too much time talking about the dog I can't adopt because I live in a one bedroom apartment (but it's 100% likely I will adopt a cat very soon). I used to write quite often but I don't write much anymore, for reasons I am aware of and have accepted. I enjoy blues and jazz singers, walking long distances, and discovering new places. I primarily read memoirs and cookbooks. I'm kind of boring and am not prone to opening up to people, but that's okay. I've been able to change the scenery and the situation and everything feels a lot better now. I feel better now.

After five years, this is the last time I will write about 'the accident' in this manner. I wanted to leave this here because it's a vital component of my history and something that changed me, both mentally and physically, but it's over. I'm ready to move on and live through new stories.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Basic Bakeshop Math

When you think about baking, I know you don't really want to think about math or science.

Well, on second thought, maybe some people do - but that's not what I'm primarily concerned about when I'm decorating a cake or creating a new variety of muffin. When you think about baking, you're probably mostly interested in the end result - fluffy buttercream, a rich caramel sauce, salty pistachio garnishes, a lightly spiced maple cupcake... But math and science are integral to that final product. You can't have a delectable treat without measurements and chemical reactions.

This is another one of those things that I love about baking: I can convince myself that being good at math is part of my job, and that I perform chemistry experiments every day. (That's kind of true, right?)

When it comes to basic bakeshop math, there's some memorization involved. If you bake often enough, the facts become second nature (3 teaspoons to a tablespoon and 16 tablespoons to a cup, for example). There's more advanced math involved later, such as how to assign a price to a product when considering ingredients and labor and everything that goes into that item, but that's not something we're going to concern ourselves with at the moment. What I want you to familiarize yourself with: measurement conversions.

Conversions basically involve all units of bakeshop measurement: cups, tablespoons, ounces, gallons, etc. When you familiarize yourself with these things, you can easily cut a recipe in half, triple a recipe, figure out how much a recipe yields, etc. - without having to dirty twice as many measuring vessels and also saving yourself some precious time.

Below are some tables for units of measurement that could be of great value! I don't necessarily expect you to study them until they seem tattooed onto the back of your eyelids or anything, but maybe writing some of them down and sticking it on the fridge could be of some assistance the next time you're wrist-deep in flour.

So here you are: finally, an instance in which math can be both very useful and delicious. You're quite welcome.


1/8 teaspoon (t) dash
1 t 1/3 T
3 t 1 T or 1/2 fluid ounce (fl oz)
1/2 tablespoon (T) 1 1/2 t
1 T 3 t or 1/2 oz
2 T 1 fl oz
3 T 1 1/2 fl oz or 1 jigger
4 T 1/4 c or 2 fl oz
8 T 1/2 c or 4 fl oz
12 T 3/4 c or 6 fl oz
16 T 1 c or 8 fl oz

Continue for more measurement tables!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cookie Mixing Methods

Depending on what you're baking, a specific mixing method is usually coupled with that product. For the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Soft Lemon Cookie procedures, I employed the creaming method. Cookies, quickbreads, yeast doughs, cakes, pie doughs, and laminated doughs all generally require different mixing methods (or variations of the same method). Below are three mixing method options for cookies, each with their own pros and cons. Usually, it is best not to stray from the mixing method outlined in a specific recipe.

Creaming Method :: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. The fat, sugar, and salt are creamed together with a paddle attachment or beaters at low speed. Liquid is added slowly so the emulsion is not broken. Sifted dry ingredients are incorporated. Always resist overmixing. Pro :: Creaming until the mixture is light and fluffy results in a lighter cookie due to air incorporation. Con :: More time-consuming than one-stage method.

One-Stage Method :: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. All ingredients are mixed together at once until uniformly blended. Pro :: Simple and quick. Con :: Does not achieve the lightness and volume of the creaming method.

Sponge Method :: The sponge method generally involves eggs, which [obviously] are not used in vegan baking. However, learning about 'traditional' baking procedures can only lead to innovations in similar vegan methods. The sponge method begins as the other two do: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. Eggs may be warmed slightly for greater volume. Eggs are whipped with sugar to the proper stage (soft peaks for whites, thick and light for whole eggs or yolks) and remaining ingredients are folded in gently so as not to overmix or deflate the eggs. Pro :: Eggs provide volume and aid in leavening. Con :: Eggs aren't vegan!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

As I have mentioned before, mixing develops gluten. When mixing occurs, flour proteins are hydrated and air is incorporated. Oxygen reacts with the gluten to strengthen the dough. To quote Professional Baking (6th ed.) by Wayne Gisslen, "The mixing action develops the gluten by stretching and aligning the gluten strands into an elastic network" (p 99). This is why overmixing results in a dense, tough cookie - too much gluten devlopment!

So, when I write 'resist overmixing', I really mean it. Once all ingredients are incoporated, step away from the rubber spatula and a delicious cookie full of tenderness will be in your future.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Soft Lemon Cookies (with a Snickerdoodle variation)

Soft Lemon Cookies, poppy seed variation and original.

Yield :: 1½ dozen (recipe can easily be doubled)  |  Bake :: 350°F, 15 minutes

  • Another Citrus: Use the zest of another citrus fruit in place of lemon zest (orange, lime, grapefruit, tangerine...).
  • Ultimate Lemon: Replace vanilla extract with lemon extract for extra lemon flavor. After rolling dough portions in sugar and slightly flattening the cookies, sprinkle with a little extra lemon zest for color.
  • Lemon Poppy Seed: Add a fair amount of poppy seeds (use your judgement) to your sugar before coating your portioned dough.
  • Snickerdoodles: Omit lemon zest and coat the cookies in cinnamon sugar (ratio 4 oz sugar to 0.4 oz ground cinnamon).
  • Spiced: Use pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon in the snickerdoodle variation.

Continue for the recipe!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cookie Jar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield :: 1½ dozen (recipe can be easily doubled)  |  Bake :: 300°F, 15-20 minutes

  • Rosemary Chocolate Chip: Cream in 1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary with the butter and sugar for a chocolate-rosemary pairing.
  • Orange Chocolate Chip: Cream in 2 t orange zest with the butter and sugar for a chocolate-orange pairing
  • Personalized: Switch up your internal garnish with a personalized combination of chips (dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, chocolate chunks, etc.) and/or nuts.
  • Salted Chocolate Chip: Slightly flatten portioned dough and sprinkle with sea salt before baking.
  • Bac'n Chocolate Chip: Slightly flatten portioned dough and sprinkle with some of your favorite vegan bacon pieces (something along the lines of McCormick Bac’n Bits) before baking.
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip: For a more healthful cookie, substitute all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour (NOT regular whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour).
  • Double Chocolate Cookies: Adjust flour amount to 4 oz and sift 2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder in with the dry ingredients. Flatten cookies before baking (otherwise they won't spread correctly).
  • White Chocolate Macadamia: In lieu of  regular chocolate chips, replace with 3 oz macadamia nuts and 3 oz white chocolate chunks or chips.

Continue for the recipe!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Introduction: 5 Things to Consider Before We Begin

1. Ingredients

Your final product is only as good as your ingredients; selecting quality ingredients leads to acheiving the best possible results. Some vegan alternatives I use are:

2. Equipment

For the 'Cookies' portion of this blog, you will need:
  • A Kitchen-Aid mixer with a paddle attachment OR a hand mixer with beaters
  • A kitchen scale (digital) - weighing ingredients is more accurate than using measuring cups, thus limits variation between batches
  • Appropriate-sized mixing bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • A rubber spatula
  • Parchment paper
  • Disher/scoop - optional, makes for more precision and uniformity when portioning
  • Oven thermometer - optional, though it's a good way of knowing whether or not your oven temperature settings are correct after preheating and allows you to make necessary adjustments
  • Sheet pan/cookie sheet
  • A metal spatula - optional, makes transferring warm cookies in one piece a whole lot easier
  • Cooling rack - optional, but it's a great thing to have

3. Gluten

Mind gluten formation! When wheat flour proteins are hydrated, they begin to form elastic gluten networks. These networks are what provide structure in baked goods.

Mixing time (how long you mix something) should vary based on what you're baking. The more expansive the gluten network, aided in part by mixing, the tougher the final product. Less gluten formation, the final product is more tender. This is why yeasted breads have extended kneading times (more mixing for toughness) and why muffin batter can be left lumpy (less mixing for tenderness).

You don't have to worry too much about overmixing cookie dough - but when I start posting muffin recipes, gluten formation (as well as mixing time) will definitely be revisited.

4. Patience

When you take the time to do things correctly, your committed effort is displayed in the final product. Be patient with the task at hand and don't rush the process. If something frustrates you, just take a step back and try again. The food also knows when you're skipping steps (sift that flour!) or don't read directions thoroughly; take the time to try your best.

5. Pleasure

Enjoy yourself! Allow yourself to be pleased with all your hard work; you've earned it! Bake for the satisfaction of it, because it makes you happy, because you can anticipate how delicious it will taste, because you want to share your creation with others, etc.. Whatever the reason is that you're baking, do yourself a favor and remember to take pleasure in the experience.

The first cookie recipe will be posted soon!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Year with Isa

One year ago, on my 25th birthday, my boyfriend presented me with something he knew I wanted: Isa Chandra Moskowitz's latest vegan cookbook.

Before I even owned Isa Does It, you could find me crouching over the tiny vegan section of our local bookstore. I would thumb through the pages of the cookbook and lust after every carefully orchestrated culinary photograph while simultaneously taking mental notes on the recipes I planned to one day execute in full.

For this past year, the book has been my kitchen's bible. I have made 50 out of the 145+ recipes - some more than once, still others that I have kind of made but not exactly, and even more recipes I have been eyeing all year long but just haven't gotten around to.

Babushka Borscht
Wild Rice Soup with Browned Seitan Strips (& a side salad)

Some of my favorite items: New England Glam Chowder. Butternut Bisque. Olive Oil Bread for Soup. Korean BBQ Portobello Burgers. Ancho Lentil Tacos. Pesto-Cauliflower Pasta with Breaded Tofu. Lentil-Quinoa Stew with Lots of Kale. Dilly Stew with Rosemary DumplingsEveryday Pad ThaiRoasty Soba Bowl with Miso-Tahini Dressing. A rich gravy made of lentils! Phyllo Pot Pie. Garlicky Thyme Tempeh. Steamy Beany Sausages (yes, I made my own sausages!). Scrambled chickpeas. Puffy Pillow Pancakes. Banana-Berry Scones. Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies. Strawberries & Cream Bread Pudding.

This is not a book review - though I imagine it would be one of the most thorough reviews available if I chose to go that route. This is an ode, a grateful gesture, a jumping-off point.

My love affair with Isa Does It begins and ends with cake: the aforementioned boyfriend baked the Chocolate-Zucchini Bundt Cake for me last year, and today I made Just Chocolate Cake in celebration of my 26th birthday.

Just Chocolate Cake (with orange cream cheese frosting)

Isa and Terry Hope Romero solicited my first vegan baking inspiration when I decided to buy Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and spend the summer of 2010 baking goods for the Santa Cruz friends I had in college. I am where I am today, creating vegan pastries, because of how I could depend on that tiny cookbook for vegan fare that would satisfy even the most cynical onmivore. My persistent dedication to trying out vegan recipes, specifically Isa and Terry's recipes, has introduced me to many different types of foods and taught me how to think creatively in the kitchen. The widely inventive nature of vegan cooking and baking keeps me interested and continues to surprise and delight my taste buds.

Over the course of a year, I have done many things. Most importantly, I've accomplished three goals I set for myself: move to Portland, receive a diploma in Baking and Pastry Arts, and work in a vegan bakery. Now, after years of 'training' with vegan recipes and studying in culinary school, I think it's finally time for me to trust myself and focus on my own creations.

I recognize my teachers, I respect them and celebrate them, but this is where my own project begins. This is where my carefully arranged recipes are finally written out, typed up, offered to the internet at large. I will offer you nothing but my best.

Welcome to Vegan Pastry School.