Thursday, 30 August 2007

black sesame biscotti

It is always good to have some biscotti on hand. Perfectly acceptable in just about any situation from breakfast, to afternoon tea, to dessert to midnight snack. It is underapprechiated in the world of desserts usually taking a backseat to cookies, cakes, pies and brownines. Usually seen in big see through containers beside the counter of coffee shops and bakeries and almost always looking scrunched together, leaving bits of frosting and oil to skid down the side. Lots of crumbs sit at the bottom making the overall appearance seem stale and uninviting. Biscotti does not get the recognition it deserves.

The idea for black sesame biscotti came from Eric Lechasseur's book, "Love, Eric", which features delicious vegan macrobiotic desserts. The recipe he uses looks great, but contains ingredients such as kuzu and maple syrup sugar which can be difficult to find and also kind of pricey. I wanted a more basic approach so I turned to an article in Vegetarian Journal, by Debra Daniels-Zeller, on vegan biscotti. (See references below) Not only does this article give some excellent looking biscotti recipes, it has an entire section on egg replacer options as well as a little history on this wonderful, sophisticated cookie. I used the lemon biscotti recipe and adapted it for the recipe you see below.

As I was getting everything set to make the black sesame biscotti I was also in the process of dying my hair red, listening to Iggy and the Stooges, drinking coffee and being throughly excited about the beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. As I started to mix the dry ingredients and grease my baking sheet the mood of my apartment suddenly changed. I unconsciously went to the stereo and turned on more peacefull ambient music. Dumped out my coffee and made a steaming cup of ginger tea. Rinsed my hair dye out and slipped on my beautiful Kimono robe. That was more like it. It seemed that the delicate biscotti demanded a more serene environment even before their conception. After that things went smoothly and my kitchen was completely zen. These little biscotti are some of the best treats I have ever made. A couple of friends came over for curry later that night and the biscotti made quite a spectacle blooming out of that silver cup on my coffee table. Perfect for munching on while drinking wine and preparing dinner because they are not too sweet. And after dinner before the movie they were perfect to compliment a heavy meal laden with rich curry and rice. And coming home from the movie they made perfect (after) midnight snacks. Shall I continue and reveal how much biscotti I really ate? Well, this morning after a hearty breakfast they were just the right ending. Begging to be dunked in coffee and enjoyed on my patio. And now, contemplating ways to describe these little gems, I am munching on one thinking, "These really do go with everything"- what else can I say? Oh, yes, I might add the are really easy to make and really impressive. I also recommend trying the whole zen baking thing certainly translates to your final product offering a little piece of sanity to whoever eats it.

you will need these:

2 mixing bowls
rubber spatula
baking sheet lined with foil

Flour mixture:

3 C unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Liquid mixture:

1/2 C canola oil
scant 1/4 C natural cane sugar
flax seed egg replacer for 3 eggs (see note below)*
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 T alcohol-free almond extract (I was trying to be fancy here, vanilla would work too)

1/2 C black sesame seeds to add at end

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the baking sheet lined with foil

Combine dry ingredients and set aside

make eggs:
* flax seed replacer for three eggs. blend 3 T ground flax seeds with 9 T filtered water. let it blend for a couple of minutes until it's nice and frothy.

combine the egg replacer with the canola oil, cane sugar, lemon juice and agave nectar. beat this mixture until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. add extract at the end.

slowly scoop the flour into the liquid mixing until just combined. fold sesame seeds in being very careful not to overmix.

the dough should looks almost like yeast bread dough, like this:

from into two logs on the greased baking sheet like this:

bake at 350 for 30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. turn the oven temperature down to 325. once the "logs" are cool, cut them diagonaly like so:

you can see i put them on another baking sheet with holes so they can cook on both sides. this is not really necessary because you will be turning them anyway.

cook the cut biscotti, flat side down, at the lower temperature for 25-30 minutes turning them over halfway through.
eat one as soon as they are cool enough to put in your mouth- i mean, why not?

prepare to feel like an impressive bakery wizard!! which of course, you already are.

biscotti article:

and the lovely eric lechasseur:

Monday, 27 August 2007

Ultimate Brownies

For those who love a good fudgy, over-the-top confection, you have just found the ultimate brownie. This brownie is different from others that look and taste the same because it lacks undesirable fats and sugars. Baking without butter, refined sugar, eggs and milk is not impossible, on the contrary, it is extremely easy. Many of the ingredients used are found in regular supermarkets and do not cost a fortune. However, as to not compensate taste and quality it is always smart to chose the best, freshest ingredients, preferably organic. In this little space of cyberspace that I claim, I will offer vegan recipes that stand up to any full fat, full sugar pastery and claim their own.

This recipe was inspired by several brownie recipes, most of them not vegan. Of the many, many recipes I read, the one ingredient that I knew I had to add was coffee. Not many asked for coffee, but after reading it in one I could not get the idea of incorporating the marriage of coffee and chocolate out of my head. And after tasting the final product, I knew I was onto something. Everything else from the usual brownie was replaced without hesitation. Oil for butter, agave nectar for sugar and unsweetend chocolate in place of regular baking chocolate which normaly contains dairy. The coffee really brings out the intense taste of the unsweetened chocolate and somehow helps it linger in you mouth. The sweetness of the agave nectar perfectly balances the bitter chocolate. When I was experimenting with this recipe I had tunnel vision for something so chocolatey I completely disregarded any type of add in such as nuts, chocolate chips (yes, it's always possible to add MORE chocolate), get the point. To do this, simply chop up whatever your add in might be and fold it into the final mixture right before pouring it in the pan. This recipe is very forgiving and the very best part of it all is that you can eat the batter straight from the bowl without the guilt of eating raw eggs. Actually, do try the batter from the bowl. It's simply wonderful.

you will need these:
8x8 baking pan
2 bowls
wooden mixing spoon (and a rubber spatula will help too)
double boiler (or you can do what i do and place a small sauce pan or ceramic bowl atop a larger pan of boiling water)

Flour mixture:
1 1/2 C all purpose unbleached flour
3 T cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Liquid mixture:
1/4 canola oil
1 C agave nectar
1/2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla
3/4 C strong coffee, divided
3 oz. unsweetend chocolate (vegan dark chocolate willl work too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the pan with canola oil

Melt the 3 oz. chocolate in a double boiler. Add 1/4 C coffee when chocolate starts to melt and take the pan off the heat, stirring until just combined. Set aside to cool

Whisk together the flour mixture making sure it is free of lumps

In the second bowl beat the oil, agave nectar and the remaining 1/2 C coffee. Plop the semi cooled chocolate mixture in and beat until it is a smooth, beautiful glossy dark brown. At the very end add the vanilla and give it a couple more stirs.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the liquid by adding small amounts of the flour at a time. Mix until just combined and pour into baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes making sure not to overcook.

Find a nice distraction to allow the brownines to cool. Serves 9-16

*a note about the coffee. if you do not consume coffee on a regular basis, first of all, i commend you, second of all it is not absolutely necessary to purchase it just for this recipe. your favorite milk substitue will do, just keep in mind many of them add sugar so you might want to use a little less agave nectar. that being said, the coffee really does take it to another level. i'm just saying...

**and a note about agave nectar. this can be found at natural, alternative health food stores in the baking aisle. however, in a pinch maple syrup will do the trick; just try to use the natural stuff- grade a or b is fine

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