Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vegan Cocoa Cake

My neighbor, Inge (pronounced "ING-ah") has two boys. One is allergic to milk (I find it so sweet how the Dutch say the word for milk: melk... but they pronounce it "Mel-ek" with two syllables- cute!!) and the other is allergic to eggs. In general, cooking anything cake-related without eggs seems like blasphamy in my mind but I really wanted to help my friend's kids eat cake, so I began a quest for a vegan cake.
My daughter, not to be fooled, was skeptical of such a cake.
Indeed, I too was skeptical. But, I spent some time improving a recipe I found on the internet named "BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER." Also, I discovered that the right frosting carried this cake to greater heights. Starting from a frosting recipe I had in the Belimar book, I made it vegan, too. Both of Inge's boys enjoyed this version and I was surprised at how moist and tasty this frosting/cake combo became.

Chocolate Vegan Cake 
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (300 g Zeeuwse bloem)
2 cups granulated sugar (440 g)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (70 g)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups coffee (500 ml)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup (166 ml) vegetable oil
2 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease two 9" round pans, then line the bottom with baking paper. Then, grease the baking paper.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine. 
3. Pour batter into two 9" round pans. (if you are precise, it is about 680 g of batter in each pan, just over half-way up the sides of a 1.5" tall pan)
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) for 35-45 minutes. Check your cake by doing the toothpick test (toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean), and also the spring-back test (lightly press your finger into the center of your cake- it should spring back almost to its original shape).
5. (EDIT:) Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely before frosting. Remove the baking paper after they are turned out.

Chocolate Vegan Frosting
2 & 2/3 cups powdered sugar (400 g)
8 Tbsp margarine (120 g)
1/3 cup oat milk (83ml) (this is key, do not substitute soy milk- oat milk is the consistency of cream. It is lovely, actually)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (70 g)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together until creamy. This frosting is a bit sloppy and so does not make a really attractive cake, but if you don't mind using crisco instead of the margarine, then it will hold its shape better and allow you to pipe it, if desired. Inge minds using crisco, so I didn't do it.

Aside from making this for Inge's boys, I doubt I'll be making this often. For egg-eaters, I have my favorite chocolate cake recipe, which is a story for another day.
Happy Birthday, Inge!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Lentil Soup

Happy New Year! With the little matter of 2011 behind me, I'm excited to share with you one of my family's traditions for New Year's Day. If you happen to have lentils in your pantry, you, too, can create this soup today. Otherwise, I'll remind you next year, and you'll be all set for financial gain and good luck in 2013.

For as long as I can remember, my family has been celebrating New Year's Day with a bowl of lentil soup. My godparents, Kathleen and Mike, always invited us over for both soup and also cannoli. I tried typing "cannolis" or "cannolies" just now, (because you can't each just one) but upon further research, it appears that cannoli is actually plural, and the singular is cannolo. I was also excited to learn that these 'little tubes' are Sicilian in origin, which is from where my grandmother's family immigrated to America. But enough about dessert, let's talk soup:

Lentil Soup
(served on New Year's Day for good fortune in the coming year)
adapted from Dom DeLuise's book Eat This... It Will Make You Feel Better

8 oz dried green lentils (227 grams)
4 cups veggie broth (1 liter)
3 cups water (750 ml)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (2 eetlepels)
1 medium onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves (you can use more if you like), minced
4 to 5 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped (cut in half length-wise and then slice)
1 bay leaf

In a large soup pot, combine lentils (sort through them, make sure there are no foreign objects), broth and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Lentils should be just tender, but not falling apart. Chop the veggies, and when there is ~15 minutes left on the lentils timer, heat a saute pan with the olive oil. Place the onions in the oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir them often to prevent burning. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. You might need to add another tablespoon of oil or so if the mixture is sticking to the pan. The lentil timer should be going off at this point, so add the veggie mixture to the lentil soup pot along with the bay leaf. Simmer this for another 10 to 15 minutes, checking the carrots. I like my veggies done aldente, so if you would prefer them cooked longer, go for it. The soup can be topped with grated Parmesan cheese and served with bread, or as we did today, grilled cheese sandwiches. Enjoy!

The two-pan technique of this soup ensures your veggies are not cooked to oblivion, a flaw in many recipes online. By cooking the veggies separately from the lentils, the flavor and texture of the veggies is preserved. If you eat this soup on New Year's Day, you will be wealthy in the coming year, according to the Italians, for whom lentils signify good luck (their recent financial situation aside). If you don't trust the Italians, the Brazilians also believe lentils signify wealth, so you've got that going for you, too.