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Mission Impossible: Vegan Eclairs

4 Apr

I have been conducting research on people’s favorite bakery item(s) and then working to master recipes that have been veganized. Well one of my good friends (who’s identity has been concealed to protect the innocent) said she loves, loves, loves chocolate eclairs but she hasn’t had one since going vegan 3 ½ years ago.

It just so happened that her birthday was going to arrive in two short weeks so I had no choice but to make a batch for her celebrations.

First things first – what are the components of an éclair?

  1. Pate a choux: A pastry dough made up of water, butter, flour, and eggs. When it bakes, the high moisture content of the dough creates steam and puffs the dough creating a hollow center.
  2. Pastry cream: A sweet, pudding-like filling made of milk, eggs, sugar, flour, and cornstarch that is piped into the center of the pastry (pate a choux).
  3. Chocolate ganache: A mixture of cream and chocolate used to make truffles, frosting, and top the cream filled pastry of an eclair.

So éclairs are definitely vegetarian, but how do we make them vegan?

We are going to have to replace a lot of butter, eggs, milk, and cream.

But first, let’s take a look a decadent (non-vegan) eclair. Mmmmmmm!

Having never made pate a choux or pastry cream before I was a bit nervous.  So I started pouring over recipes and found what I believed were the best.

Wheatgrass & Sassafras Factoid: I actually really enjoy researching recipes, so although it sounds tedious, I had lots of fun.

Let’s start with the pate a choux.

Yikes! That isn’t what it’s supposed to look like. The shape can be attributed to poor piping skills but the inside is very doughy and dense, not hollow at all.

You know what that means…

Some kitchen disasters are relegated to the garbage.  Too bad I didn’t take an action shop of me dumping them, HAHA! 🙂

After spending some time researching non-vegan pate a choux recipes I set out to make a second batch.

The word failure comes to mind.

Although I tried a different technique the results were the same.

Since that fateful day I’ve seen an episode of Good Eats which walks you step-by-step through the pate a choux making process.

So what have I learned that can be applied here?

NOTHING!

Ordinarily I would have thrown my apron on the floor and stormed off but I already started making the pastry cream while the pate a choux was baking.

It is one of the yummiest things I’ve ever made!!!

So creamy and sweet. It’s like eating vanilla pudding but so much better than anything you’d get out of a box.

I could easily eat an entire batch in one sitting, just me, a spoon and a bowl of pastry cream.

Consider this your warning and only make this recipe if you are prepared to indulge or have more self-control than I do.

Pastry Cream (adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

⅓ cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

4 Tbsp cornstarch

¼ cup water

1 ⅓ cups almond milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

  • In a mixing bowl beat together sugar, flour, cornstarch, and water on high speed until creamy (about 2 minutes) then set aside.
  • In a saucepan bring the milk to a simmer. Add ⅓ cup of the warm milk into the sugar mixture and stir thoroughly to combine. Add the sugar mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat.
  • It will begin to thicken immediately. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as you whisk.
  • Cook until it begins to bubble then whisk as vigorously as you can for 30 seconds.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Transfer to a bowl and cover with waxed/parchment paper and let cool to room temperature.

Note: If you are going to use the pastry cream to make my Chocolate Éclair Cupcakes do not let it cool.

The pastry cream was so amazing I needed to figure out a way to serve it to the world. No longer having pate a choux as a vehicle for delivering the pastry cream I reverted back to my first baking passion… the cupcake. I could easily make a Chocolate Éclair Cupcake recipe, all I needed to do was bake up some vanilla cupcakes and get going on the ganache. Easy peasy!

I came across this recipe for Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes online and it just so happens that the recipe was adapted from a recipe written by my new favorite vegan Chef Chloe Coscarelli . I’ve been cooking from her cookbook for a couple of weeks now and each recipe is better than the last. I have a huge girl crush on her and cannot wait for her to release a second cookbook.

Vanilla Cupcakes (adapted from www.colleenboucher.com)

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup unsweetened non dairy milk

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • Heat the oven to 350ºF and line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix completely.
  • Fill each cupcake cup 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

As it turns out these were some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The taste and texture was perfect.

The only thing left to make was the Chocolate Ganache.  I remember seeing a recipe for Vegan Hostess Cupcakes from Post Punk Kitchen and thought that the chocolate topping would be perfect for my cupcakes. I would have liked a thicker chocolate coating but for the first time making ganache without heavy cream I was pleased.

Chocolate Ganache Icing (adapted from Post Punk Kitchen)

⅓ cup almond milk

4 oz vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

  •  In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer then mix in the chocolate. Turn off the heat and mix until chocolate melts and icing is smooth.

So now that you know how to make the cupcake, pastry cream, and ganache all you need to do is assemble these amazing Chocolate Éclair Cupcakes.

  1. Bake your cupcakes and let cool completely. Once the cupcakes are cool carve out a hole to hold the filling, create a larger hole than you think is appropriate because you’ll want lots of filling but be care not to damage the bottoms or sides. Discard the cake that you’ve removed  (in the garbage or your belly).
  2. Once your cupcakes have been prepped you can move on to making the pastry cream. You’ll want the cupcakes ready to go because it’s easier to fill them with warm pastry cream rather than when it’s at room temperature. Just spoon the filling in to the cupcake holes and smooth the top with the back of the spoon or an off-set spatula.
  3. Now that your cupcakes are filled with the pastry cream go ahead and prepare the ganache. While the ganache is still warm dunk the tops of the cupcakes into the chocolate. Don’t worry about the pastry cream falling out, it should have set up enough while you were preparing the ganache to sit firmly inside it’s cupcake enclosure.
  4. Let the cupcakes cool and serve immediately.

Note: I suspect that using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop would make steps one and two super easy.

Let me tell you, these cupcakes were a huge hit! I brought them to work and everyone ate them up, despite them being vegan 🙂

I had to make another batch for my friend’s birthday party and over that weekend she ate somewhere in the ballpark of around nine cupcakes… NINE! Can you believe it? I admire her passion for chocolate eclairs; the fact that she consumed nine chocolate éclair cupcakes is really quite amazing! Now more than ever I am convinced she has a hollow leg 🙂

The moral of this story is that when life gives you lemons (bad pate a choux) make lemonade (cupcakes).

And don’t forget that cupcakes should only be an occasional treat and I do NOT condone  anyone eating NINE in one weekend. Don’t worry “friend,” that message isn’t just for you, it’s also for husbands and other “friends” 🙂

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

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One Pot Wonders

12 Jan

In case you were wondering, I happen to be a very messy cook. A meal is only complete after I have tainted every surface of the counter with vegetable scraps, dirtied every dish I own, and boiled over whatever I was boiling on the stove… and that is putting it lightly. The only exception to this is when I make a one pot meal. The mess is minimal, the meal is quick and easy, and as always, everything is delicious.

Let’s start with the first meal of the day and we’ll easy our way through lunch, dinner and dessert.

If I could only cook in one pot for the rest of my life, this would be the one. Feel free to get me one for my birthday coming at you on January 27th.

BREAKFAST

I’m sure many of you don’t think you have time for breakfast or maybe you rely on a granola bar or bowl of cereal to start your morning right. Those options don’t cut it for me, I am hungry in the morning, especially after working out, so hungry in fact that I could eat a seven course meal  and still be ready for a snack at 10am. Whoever said you should eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch, and pauper at dinner was clearly inspired by me (except for the pauper sized dinner).

Since I stopped eating eggs I have relied on grains to fill me up in the morning. I am not a fan of oatmeal so things get interesting in my kitchen.

Earlier this week I came home from my workout, tossed this breakfast together, and got ready for work while it cooked.

Breakfast Rice Pudding

1 cup brown rice, cooked

3/4 cup almond milk

1 handful raisins

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes and enjoy.

Unfortunately the morning is far too hectic for me to remember to take a picture of what I am eating so please enjoy this picture of my sweet Olive instead.

LUNCH

I am fortunate to live only ten minutes away from work, which means I get to come home and hang out with Olive every day for lunch. Typically I will eat leftovers of whatever I had for dinner the night before but sometimes I open the fridge and find that there are no leftovers! What’s a girl to do? The answer is simple, make a bowl (no pot is necessary). Poke around your fridge and find some grain, a protein, some vegetables and toss it all together in a bowl. My favorite bowl to make is a burrito bowl – I always have the ingredients on hand.

Burrito Bowl

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1/2 can black beans, rinsed

1/4 cup salsa

1/4 avocado, diced

1 handful of cilantro, torn

Toss all ingredients in a bowl or layer, whichever you prefer and nosh away.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the burrito bowl so please enjoy a photo of my cat Cleo.

DINNER

If you have been following this blog you will recall that one of my tips to eat healthy and avoid slaving away in the kitchen is to make a meal that can last a few days. My favorite meal to make that will take me through several days is chili. What I love about chili is that is so versatile, you can be as creative or lazy as you want. Chili is a great go to meal when you don’t have much in the fridge because it relies mostly on pantry items but it is also great when you want to clean out your fridge because you can dump all of your vegetables in the chili before they spoil. SCORE!

I came across this recipe on the Closet Cooking blog when I was looking for new ways to use quinoa. It is one of my favorites.

Quinoa & Black Bean Chili (adapted from Closet Cooking)

1/2  cup quinoa

1 cup water

1/2 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped (remove the ribs and seeds to reduce spiciness)

1/2 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 Tbsp cumin

14.5 oz crushed tomatoes

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 Tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup corn

salt & pepper to taste

1 handful cilantro, chopped

Simmer the quinoa in water for 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

Remove quinoa from the pot, set aside, and give the pan a quick wipe.

Saute onions until tender.

Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin to the pot and saute for one minute or until fragrant. If you are sauteing in water you will need to add a splash at this stage so that the spices do not burn.

Add tomatoes, beans, peppers, chipotle, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add quinoa and corn. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve with cilantro and non-dairy sour cream if desired.

Would you look at that, I remembered to take a photo of the quinoa chili. Well, actually, I just now ran to the fridge and spooned the chili into a bowl and took a picture.

Recipe Tips

  • Chipotle in adobo is sold in a can. If you have leftovers through them in a plastic bag and toss in the freezer for use in future meals.
  • Try sauteing the onions in water. If you are uncomfortable doing this you’ll want to saute in 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • If you are willing to use more than one pot you can cook the quinoa at the same time that you saute the vegetables. If you are unwilling to use more than one pot but you don’t care to spend any more time in the kitchen then you have to prepare the quinoa in advance.

DESSERT

Dessert! Can you believe I would even utter such a dirty word? But she’s healthy and vegan, what gives.

Get it together people!!!! I have a crazy sweet tooth that will not be denied.

Lots of people’s diets fail because they are too rigid and don’t allow for simple pleasures such as chocolate. Well that’s not going to work for me, I am going to have my cake and eat it too, in moderation.

So what type of dessert can someone make that uses one pot? Hot Chocolate.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite vegans Alicia Silverstone. By now you have probably read her book The Kind Diet and have check out her website The Kind Life, but if you haven’t, go to the library and pick it up, make yourself some hot chocolate, and have a relaxing and cozy night at home.

Hot Chocolate (adapted from The Kind Life)

1 cup almond milk

1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp grain-sweetened, non-dairy chocolate chips

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp maple syrup

Whisk together all ingredients in a small saucepan.

Heat gently until chocolate chips are melted, whisking occasionally.

As it turns out, I forgot to take a picture of the hot chocolate too. Good thing I have one more pet 🙂 This is a picture of Lola when she was just a wee lass.

Now go out there and dirty one pot and demand that your significant other cleans it (and give you a food massage).

BONUS MATERIAL

Because I like you here is some free advice regarding purchasing pre-packaged food.

  • When buying canned foods or broths be sure to purchase no-sodium or low-sodium items. There is no need to consume all of that extra sodium and your food will taste better when you can control the salt content.
  • When buying pre-packaged foods be sure to read the label and buy items that have the fewest ingredients.
  • In addition to looking for packages with the fewest ingredients be sure to choose items that do not have added sugar. Don’t be fooled by all of the fancy names they have for sugar (ex. high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc.) it’s all sugar and you should try to avoid foods with added sugar, especially if sugar has no business being there (like in salsa).
  • Reasearch brands that use whole foods, low sodium, no preservatives, and avoid sugar before hitting up the grocery store – that will make your shopping experience go much more smoothly.

Happy & Healthy Eating