VeganMoFo 2012 & English Muffins from Cooking in Color

Wait, it’s October already? I’ve participated in the Vegan Month of Food before so of course I’ve been excited to join in again to do as much food blogging as I can for a month, but I haven’t found the time to plan out my posts as much as I would’ve liked to. I do have a very broad theme though: blogs! For me, VeganMoFo is a celebration of vegan food blogs around the world and in that spirit I’d like to spend this month cooking recipes from as many different blogs as I can. Other than that my posts probably won’t be very elaborate as I expect I’ll also be busy with homework and other things, but we’ll see!

For today, I picked a recipe from Nanette’s blog, Cooking in Color. I’m always in favour of cooking with a variety of colours and I love Nanette’s photos and recipes for highlighting colourful vegetables and fruits (not to mention the adorable rabbit pictures!), but this time I was looking for a quick bread recipe, so I decided to make these no-knead English muffins.

English Muffins

I’d wanted to make my own English muffins for years and now that I’ve finally tried them, I know I’m definitely going to make them more often. They’re so easy! I love making big crusty loaves of bread but those recipes usually require quite a bit of planning ahead, so I really appreciate quick recipes that I can make on week nights as well. These muffins were perfect – they’re a no-knead bread that I can make in under an hour without even turning on the oven. And because the recipe made enough dough for 10 English muffins, I put half of them in the fridge uncooked so I could cook them in the morning with minimal effort and have fresh, warm bread within minutes.

English muffins & scramble

This evening we had some of the muffins with tofu scramble and sautéed mushrooms and tomato as a breakfast-for-dinner-style meal. The picture looks a little gloomy but this was a lovely dinner for this rainy day. And besides, I think I’d better get used to the gloominess in photos because let’s face it, it’s October and I live in the Netherlands. There’s no escaping the gloom!

Who else is doing VeganMoFo this year? Have you thought of a theme? I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts and I’m looking forward to discovering new favourite blogs as well!

Sourdough experiments

I’ve been making my own yeast breads for a while, usually with pretty good results, but for some reason the idea of making sourdough bread at home always seemed intimidating to me. Whenever I tried to look up recipes for a homemade starter, I only found elaborate instructions and contradictory information on the addition of sweeteners, yeast, and different flour types that only made the process seem even more daunting. However, after reading these simple instructions by Mihl from Seitan is my Motor, I decided to just give it a try.

Her recipe uses just flour and water – definitely no added yeast or sweeteners – and it’s very easy: Start by mixing together one part flour and two parts water, stir every 12 hours, and feed every 24 hours until the starter is ready to use. Mihl’s post has additional instructions and helpful step-by-step pictures, but the basic method is surprisingly simple. And it worked so well! I really wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to tell when the starter was ready as I’d never baked with sourdough before, but by the fifth day the batter had clearly changed and the smell, which was pretty unappetising during the first few days, had become nice and fresh, a little like fresh fruit – just as Mihl described.

Sourdough pancakes

After five days of feeding the starter I had quite a lot of it, so I used up a couple of hundred grams in this batch of pancakes. I started with this recipe but didn’t add any berries or spices to the batter because I really wanted to be able to taste the sourdough on my first try working with it. As a result, they were a bit plain on their own, but we love pancakes and I served them with some grilled nectarines so they were a great breakfast. I did notice that they weren’t quite as fluffy as other American-style pancakes I’ve made, even though the recipe included baking soda and baking powder in addition to the starter. Maybe it would help if I let the batter sit for a while so that the sourdough could contribute to the leavening process? I’m definitely going to make sourdough pancakes again because they seem like a fun dish to experiment with and you can never really have too many pancakes.

Sourdough loaf

After polishing off the pancakes I quickly moved on to bake my first actual sourdough loaf. I followed Mihl’s instructions as closely as possible using all wholemeal flour, just as I’d done for the starter. I was pretty pleased with the results, especially for a first attempt! It had a good crust (I should practice scoring my loaves, though), and I liked the sourdough flavour which actually seemed to improve as I let the finished loaf rest (I wasn’t quite patient enough to let it cool completely before slicing). It was still slightly too dense for my liking and almost undercooked in the middle, though, so I think I should’ve left it in the oven for just a little longer and then let it cool properly. I’m also going to try and let the dough rise just a little bit longer the next time I make a loaf that’s 100% whole wheat.

For my next loaves, I used plain flour in addition to the wholemeal flour and I also added a spoonful of the gluten flour I use to make seitan in an attempt to mimic the high gluten content of bread flour. This combination of ingredients seems to work quite well, though I did notice some loaves turned out lighter and crustier than others – I think the rising and cooling times can really make a difference here. I also decided to bake the loaf in a ceramic baking dish that I kept in the oven as it preheated, and I think that helped to improve the crust a little.

Sourdough

I’m going to keep experimenting with these recipes because I love bread and it’s so much fun to try out different shapes, sizes, flours, and other ingredients. Baking with sourdough is super cheap, too – most of the loaves only contain water, flour, and salt.

Has anyone else baked with sourdough? Do you have favourite recipes you’d like to share? I’ve made breads and pancakes now, but I’d also love to try making things like waffles or baked goods!

Tofu Scramble with Avocado

Tofu Scramble + avocado + ciabatta

I made pizza today (with Vivera vegan shoarma and homemade garlic sauce, yum!) but it didn’t turn out very photogenic and it was too dark to take a good picture anyway, so here’s an old one: the Vegan Brunch tofu scramble on crunchy ciabatta bread with avocado and ketchup. One of my favourite weekend breakfasts! I think the flavours and textures are just perfect together.

London: Pizza Express!

As I mentioned earlier, we only had breakfast at the B&B in London once. For the remaining days, we decided to take the opportunity to shop at health food stores and try out some new products. We stopped by Holland & Barrett a few times because there’s a store right on Ealing Broadway (close to where we stayed). Here’s what we got on our second morning:

breakfast!

A package of Provamel cherry flavoured yoghurts (which, sure, I can get in the Netherlands too, but I don’t usually get this flavour… and I just love these little yoghurt cups!), and a “Supreme Sos Roll”, a puff pastry roll with vegan sausage-y filling. The store sold a bunch of different puff pastry rolls of the same brand, and I’d like to try more of them some day. This Sos Roll was pretty tasty, but I think it would’ve been so much better if I’d had the opportunity to heat it in the oven first. The filling was nice cold, but puff pastry is just at its best when it’s freshly baked and crispy, in my opinion.

For lunch, we went to an all vegan restaurant! More on that later.

We wanted to take a walk around a park after lunch, but due to the ever fickle weather we decided to wander around the city a bit and do some shopping until the rain would stop. I got the chance to stock up on some Lush goodies (which are a bit cheaper in the UK than in the Netherlands), so now I have two delicious smelling shampoo bars, a bottle of conditioner, and a tub of body cream to last me for a good while.

Anyway – after a few hours, we decided to head for Battersea Park to have a walk and relax a bit. We were getting hungry by the time we got there, though, so we walked over to the local Pizza Express to have dinner first.

Rustica Tomatoes & Sicilian Lemonade

Now, Pizza Express is a large chain of restaurants and it is definitely not completely vegetarian, but the offer decent vegan options and we both love pizza, so this seemed like just the place for us. The above picture shows one of the appetisers we got, the “Rustica Tomatoes”. I’d expected them to be different, to be honest – these were just like sun-dried tomatoes, and I’d expected juicier, fresher tomatoes. They were pretty tasty though, just not for my boyfriend who’s not a fan of dried fruits/veggies.

The glass on the side is Pizza Express’s Sicilian Lemonade, which sounded interesting, but oh my goodness this was way too sweet for me. I kind of wanted to get a glass of water and add the two together to dilute the incredible sugariness… I’m almost sure something must’ve gone wrong, because I’m sure this could taste great, if only they’d use less sugar and more water. Oh well, on to the good stuff:

Bread & Garlic oil

Bread! I asked for the garlic bread with garlic oil instead of butter, and it was just what we wanted – soft chewy/crispy bread with some olive oil for dipping. I think I would just skip the marinated tomatoes next time and get two portions of this bread.

Pizza Veneziana

And then, of course, the pizza. I got the Veneziana, which features onions, raisins, capers, pine nuts, and olives – they just left off the cheese for me. The toppings were tasty though not super impressive, but I really loved the crust! It’s this soft and chewy texture that I want in my pizza dough, but I haven’t been able to get it like that myself. If I ever go back, I’d like to try one of their pizzas with more fresh vegetables, but this was a good combination of toppings as well. Mmmm pizza…

If you’d like to find out more about the vegan options at Pizza Express, by the way, I suggest checking out this page of the Vegan London website – it has excellent information on which menu items are vegan and which can be made so on request.

After dinner, we had a lovely evening walk around Battersea park, quite close to the pizza restaurant. It was fun! I’d love to go back to that park on a sunny day sometime, and have a nice picnic or something. Here’s me trying to take a picture of the baby ducklings we saw at the pond:

Yeah, not the best pictures… but they were quick, and my battery was empty. Anyway, so cute <3 <3 <3

Easter Bread and Blondies

Paasstol

Stores around here always sell Paasstollen around Easter, but I don’t think those are usually vegan, so I decided to make my own this year. It probably would’ve been wise to look up a recipe, but I wanted to use the ingredients I had around at that moment. This bread actually turned out pretty well this way! I made a whole wheat dough studded with raisins and apple pieces and rolled the dough around a log of almond paste. I’d probably try and add a little more flour next time, because I think the moisture from the fruit caused the bread to spread out and become rather flat, but all in all I think this was a pretty good loaf of bread. My parents said they liked it more than the storebought ones they used to get! Maybe next time I’ll try an actual recipe and see how that bread compares to this one. (The photo is kind of crappy, but it was a rainy morning. This was the best I could do! And I just wanted to have a slice of bread already).

I was craving a chocolatey baked good a few days ago and started leafing through My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky in search of a good recipe. I decided upon her Black Bottom Blondies, because brownies and blondies in one? That had to be good.

Black Bottom Blondies

And they are! I ended up messing with the recipe a little bit (had to use vanilla from a dried vanilla bean because I ran out of extract, mmm…), but they were still delicious and very fudgy.

Bye for now, I’m off to have a nice hot bath with this cute little chick:

Hippy Chick Bath!

(Lush’s Hippy Chick Bath Ballistic – so cute! ^^)

VeganMoFo 26: Cranks Wholemeal Bread

Cranks Wholemeal Bread

Another old picture! I made these bread rolls last summer using the Cranks Wholemeal Bread recipe from The Cranks Bible. I divided the dough into eight pieces and made four different types of bread:

– All in the back: a roll with caramelised onion slices mixed into the dough together with a pinch of cayenne. I sprinkled a few toasted pumpkin seeds on top.
– In the middle: green olive tapenade spread on the stretched out dough, then rolled up and topped with tomato slices.
– On the left: parsley, tahini, and lemon zest mixed into the dough, a mixture of sesame seeds and coarse sea salt on top.
– At the bottom: a roll with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, toasted almonds and fresh rosemary mixed into the bread.

All of them were yummy! I loved the one with olive tapenade most. The bread recipe itself is very quick and basic. Here’s a plain version of the wholemeal bread I made earlier:

Cranks Wholemeal Bread