December 31, 2009

Good Rugelach, Bad Pictures...

I'm from New York so I'm pretty familiar with rugelach.  Here in St. Louis, however, people seem to be a bit confused about this particular confection.  I don't think I've come across rugelach once since I've lived here-- I also haven't come across many delis, but that's a whole other (sad, sad) story.

I made these for my roommate's work Christmas party to introduce some native St. Louisans to delicious buttery, cream cheesey rugelach.  And yes, I said my roommate's work Christmas party-- any excuse to bake, right?

They turned out perfectly (as in very reminiscent of the ones I used to get at bakeries in New York) and definitely weren't as fussy as all the blogs said they'd be-- trust me, I'm not a patient person.  They were actually relatively painless.  I even rolled out the dough with my trusty water bottle rolling pin (I think it's about time to invest in a real one).

The filling is endlessly adaptable but because I'm a chocolate kind of girl, I had to throw some in.

makes 32 small cookies
From Dorie Greenspan via NPR

4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg (lots of the egg goes to waste...)
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

1/3 cup blackberry jam
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes – you want them to be slightly softened but still cool. Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds-- don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a separate bowl.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.  Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

December 18, 2009

Pumpkin Bread, back and better than ever

For some reason I never made any pumpkin bread during the appropriate season, so I'm making up for it now.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile, or if you know me, then you know I love pumpkin bread, and you know it was one of the first recipes I featured when I started blogging.  Back then, I used a family recipe and attempted to make it healthier by substituting applesauce for some of the oil.  While the results were nothing to be scoffed at, the addition of applesauce to any quick bread causes some noticeable textural changes after a few days-- the top gets a bit mushy and the bread can be gummy.

So this time I decided to make an all new, applesauce free yet still healthy, version of traditional pumpkin bread.  I used 100% whole wheat pastry flour and let me tell you, that stuff is amazing; it produces a texture, and taste, that's very similar to white flour.  I also used a mix of raw sugar and agave nectar in place of refined sugar and I changed around the spices for some added complexity.  However, my biggest change was using light coconut milk in place of the applesauce and some of the oil (in case you're curious, you can't taste the coconut flavor at all).  I think the coconut milk really made the recipe and, as a result, the bread turned out perfectly moist, slightly dense, wonderfully flavorful, and not at all gummy.

I was, and still am, amazingly pleased with the results.  Who knew a bread with no refined flour, no refined sugar, and hardly any oil could taste this good?  Believe me, you aren't making any sacrifices with this one.

Revamped Pumpkin Bread
As I noted above, this bread was a huge success but I do think you could probably add a bit less raw sugar (maybe 1/3 cup) because even though the bread was not overly sweet, it was by no means in need of sugar, and a little less sugar never hurt anyone.  I like to eat this toasted and spread with a bit of coconut oil or butter.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
a generous pinch ground ginger, cloves, allspice, and cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup raisins

butter for the bread pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter your bread pan.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until evenly combined (add the raisins as well).  Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl until blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until everything is incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared bread pan and bake for 60- 70 minutes until a tester stuck into the center comes out clean.

December 11, 2009

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad with Goat Cheese

When it's 20 degrees outside (and in my apartment), cold salads just aren't appealing but I still want to eat my vegetables!  So I give you the warm salad.  Not really a revolutionary idea on my part; it's a lot like a vegetable sauté with a different title.

Warm salads are just as easy to prepare as cold salads and just as versatile too.  Here, I've done a simple brussel sprout salad with only a handful of ingredients (laziness) but you could easily add more variety.  I think chopped apples and shredded carrots or another root vegetable such as rutabaga or salsify would also work quite nicely.  And if I can give you any other advice, it would be not to skip the goat cheese; it melts just slightly over the warm salad and adds a wonderful richness and creaminess to an otherwise modest dish. 

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad

1 lb brussel sprouts, halved and sliced
1/3 cup dried cranberries and/or golden raisins (I used Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend, which is a mix of cranberries, tart cherries, golden raisins, and blueberries-- so good!)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup

pinch of salt, to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Warm the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped brussel sprouts and salt and cook for about a minute or two until the edges begin to brown.  Then add the maple syrup and dried fruit and cook until the brussel sprouts are slightly softened.  Plate and top with almonds and crumbled goat cheese.

December 8, 2009

Seriously Good Vegan "Meat"loaf

Mock meatloaf doesn't exactly sound appealing (and to be honest, this doesn't look appealing...), which is why we're not calling this that.  We can call this meatless meatloaf, or vegan meatloaf, or lentil loaf-- anything but mock meatloaf.

I browsed online for different recipes and interpretations of meatless meatloaf before I decided to basically just create my own version using other recipes as the model (this is what I do most often).  What I also do fairly often is not measure out exact quantities.  I just pour, or sprinkle, or drizzle ingredients until I achieve the consistency, flavor, and texture I want.  So for this recipe I measured out the base ingredients and then just winged it with the sauces and seasonings, which is really what I think you should do as well.

When I tasted this before baking, it was much less flavorful than it turned out in the end.  I think baking helped meld the flavors together and create a lot more complexity than their was originally.  And let me say, this turned out wonderfully.  It's been a while since I've had real meatloaf so I can't say whether or not it tasted like the real thing but I think it's a pretty good substitute.  It's comforting and flavorful and tastes great on a sandwich the next day.  It's super-yum.  Seriously.

Seriously Good Vegan "Meat"loaf
As I said in my post, I measured out the base ingredients and then just seasoned and sauced to taste.  I do have my estimations listed in parentheses but I would suggest following my lead and seasoning to your own tastes.  Also, I know nutritional yeast is not the most common ingredient to have in your pantry, or supermarket for that matter, but if you can find it (Whole Foods carries it in the bulk section) I would definitely suggest using it because I think it adds a lot to the richness, flavor, and texture of this dish.

Loosely adapted from MyVeganCookbook and PeasandThankYou

3/4 cup red lentils, cooked
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sundried tomatoes, minced (tomato paste would also work, but I was out)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cubed and squeezed of excess water in cheesecloth
2/3 cup quick oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or low sodium soy sauce (~ 2 tablespoons)
Worcestershire sauce (~ 1 1/2 tablespoon)
ketchup (~ 3 tablespoons)
salt (~ 1 teaspoon)
pepper (~ 1/2 teaspoon)
oregano (~ 1/2 teaspoon)
red pepper flakes (~ 1/4 teaspoon)
chili powder (pinch)
allspice (pinch)

Mix all of the base ingredients together in a large bowl (or the pot you used to cook the lentils and/or vegetables).  Season to your liking.  Transfer the mixture to a standard bread pan and press down into a loaf.  Spread ketchup over the top (optional) and bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes.