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Showing posts with label holiday baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holiday baking. Show all posts

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Honeybee Bundt Cake

Hey, honey. 
Spring has sprung! In the spirit of starting things anew, I'm going to be trying something different this week.

A lot of food bloggers give you a really long anecdote or big history before the recipe when a lot of people just want to read the recipe. While I understand the reasoning behind all of this (nobody is going to want to read your writing unless you force them) I'm going to flip the narrative and give you the backstory of the ingredients and the reasoning for things after the recipe. Hopefully, this means you'll appreciate it so much that you'll continue to read all the way to the bottom. So, let's get on with it!

Honeybee Bundt Cake
yields 1 large bundt pan or 2 loaves
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

  • 11.25 oz AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 7 oz vegan butter substitute, room temperature
  • 5.25 oz cane sugar
  • 4 oz pure honey ( Try Gerard'z Honeybees Star Thistle Honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 c almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp local bee pollen (available at most health food stores)
  • 6 oz pure honey
  • 2 oz coconut sugar
  • 2 oz vegan butter
  • A fat pinch kosher salt
  • A big fat handful of walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds...whatever you have lying around, crushed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prep a large bundt pan with pan spray. I like the kind that already has flour in it, but if you don't have that then feel free to dust your pan with a little bit of flour, just so the cake has somewhere to climb and stick to without collapsing. That being said, this is a cake you can make the batter for in advance, let rest in the fridge, and then bake from cold when you're ready. Please plan accordingly, as this cake is best served just a little warm, with some homemade (n)ice cream (Try this one.).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Combine the almond milk and vinegar and allow to sit while you make the rest of the cake. Meanwhile, whip up the cane sugar, honey, and vegan butter with the whisk attachment of your standing mixer until really tall, light, fluffy, and homogeneous, which shouldn't take more than 2 minutes. It's quite important that everything is creamed and that the sugar is not visibly present. Whip in the vanilla paste for another 30 seconds, scrape, and add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape between this addition. This recipe is pretty high in fat, so it's important to make sure the eggs get in slowly. It also is imperative that everything is at room temperature for this one, otherwise the risk of the batter curdling is higher. I know it's annoying, but I assure you that it's worth it.

Are the eggs all in? Great! Scrape down and get ready. Spoon in about a third of the flour, and stir on low speed for 3 or 4 turns around the bowl. Add in half the milk and stir a little more, another 4 turns or so. Add in the second third of the flour, stir, and add the rest of the milk. Stir, add the final bit of the flour, and stir the rest of it by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping well, especially the bottom. Swirl in the bee pollen.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly all around. If your oven is not already hot, you may store it in the fridge until it has sufficiently reached its desired temperature. This particular cake actually does get a gorgeous crackly ridge if you do this, even moreso than if you bake it from room temperature, which is what you want. Either way, only stick this cake in the center rack of the oven to bake when it's sufficiently hot, and not a moment before.

Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is solid and springs back when gently touched. Meanwhile, make your glaze/syrup by combining the honey, vegan butter, coconut sugar, and a little salt, in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a light simmer and stir. It's going to take about 2 minutes for the sugar to fully dissolve once simmering, but please don't pull it off the heat until it's all done! Trust me on this. Take the time now to crush your nuts in a mortar and pestle, but only enough so that they're broken up into irregular pieces. Walnuts work great for this because they're so soft and fatty, but you can use any kind of nut you like. Pistachios look visually stunning, with their bright green!

Remove your cake from the oven, but keep the oven turned on. Poke your cake with either a wooden skewer or a chopstick, all the way down to the bottom. Please be generous, but don't put your holes too close together. Be sure to get a lot of them, as they'll be essential for this cake's flavor later! I use the metal chopsticks because there's a 100% guarantee of no bamboo skewer shavings getting into the cake.

Take your time with this step, and please make sure your glaze is warm and quite runny!
If your syrup/glaze has gone a little cool, heat it up again to where it's quite runny, and then pour about half of the glaze, slowly, into surface of the cake. Try to get it in the crags and holes as much as possible, so it's quite important that your cake and glaze are still warm. Take your crushed nuts and sprinkle them all over. Pop your cake in the oven for another 5 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool on a rack, while still in the pan. This is the reason I didn't have you turn the oven off just now, and also the reason I didn't have you toast the nuts, so they won't burn.

Now, glaze the cake with the remainder or your syrup and let cool in the pan for an hour or so. This means that this cake is the absolute perfect cake to finish just before dinner so you can eat and then have dessert. It's only folksy in name but is quite impressive for a dinner party, especially with the right accompaniment.

To turn out, flip your cake upside down on a plate (not your presentation plate) and then flip your cake back over on your serving plate. You can garnish with fresh mint, if you like, or dust with powdered sugar...but I really like this cake exactly as it is.You can even reserve a couple of spoonfuls of glaze for your plating and drizzle it all over, letting it drip over the sides, creating a deliciously inviting presentation.

Did you like that recipe? Are you ready for the fun facts? Are you still with me? Great.

Put honey in your tea all spring instead of sugar. Trust me. 
Honey is a superfood and a dang miracle of nature. First, it never goes bad, not ever. There's honey in pots that are from ancient Egypt in sarcophagi that are still perfictly good and edible and haven't rotted or gone rancid. It captures, like a photograph or a painting, the taste of the earth, or terroir, of that region or season. It's an antiseptic (in survival-mode, you can use either pine sap or honey on small cuts in a pinch while you're running from zombies) and a great medicine for a sore throat or allergies. I could go on and on about honey and how important it is to get some in your diet. Yes, it's expensive, but you're going to use less of it than you're going to use sugar in many applications. Per one cup of sugar, you can use 2/3 c of honey when it comes to baking cakes and breads. Honey has complexities that sugar does not, and the fact that it's sustainable to boot doesn't hurt its argument by any means.

You'll notice that I put real honey in the recipe. A fair bit of honey on the cheaper side is made by thinning it out with karo or corn syrup. Unless you get it from a local farm/apiary, there's a good chance you might have a thinned out honey product, so make sure you look at your labels.

Do they look the same? Looks can be deceiving!
Gerard'z Honeybees is a really cool company with whom I partnered with for this post. I want to raise awareness on honey and the proper husbandry of bees. This is an ancient trade and we've been doing it since pretty much the dawn of civilization, unlike the manufacture of and the illegal trade and cartels of cane sugar. A lot of folks of the vegan persuasion - while well-intended - believe that taking honey from bees is harmful. There's a lot of evidence as to why this is untrue, but here are the bulletpoints you need to know:
  • Apiaries house hives and keep them healthy
  • Apiaries only take extra honey
    • If apiaries don't take the excess honey, there's a chance the colony will overcrowd or begin to swarm, and that's not what you want
  • When you have healthy bees, you have lots of food around as bees are pollinators
  • Farmers often have apiary plots rent-free for migrating beekeepers since they know they need the bees to pollinate their crops, which is good for everybody involved
  • Beeswax, a byproduct of most apiaries, can be used as a better alternative in candles, cosmetics, natural lip balms, and lotions than say animal fat would be 
Taking honey from bees isn't harming these animals. The amount of agave we're all-consuming, however, is harmful to a very specific kind of long-nosed bat that lives in the Southwest. We're taking their food supply, which sucks because they're the pollinators out there, so please think twice before you buy agave. If you still have reservations with honey, please buy maple syrup, sorghum, or molasses instead. 

Let's touch on allergy relief one final time. A good reason to try local honey is that it not only supports your community but also will help with your allergies. Since I live in Kansas City, I need to get honey that's from Kansas City, or at least within 100 miles of it. That means the bees are collecting pollen and nectar from flowers that are growing all around me, be they from trees or bushes or grasses or flowers. The point is that it's from the air that exists in the area that's making me sneeze, which is also why it's important to grab some local bee pollen while you're getting that.

You'll note that I called for an ingredient known as bee pollen, which some of you might not be aware of as a product you can buy. In short, bee pollen is the little yellow balls that you see on bees legs sometimes when you find one flying around. You can put it in cakes, sprinkle it on your oatmeal, stir it in your coffee, and more - but the reason that I personally want it around in spring is that it's the only allergy relief I can get without being put into a freaking coma. (Looking at you, Benedryl.) Bee pollen is crunchy, tastes really floral, and dissolves into a powder if you crush it. They come in small bags and from most local herbal or health food shops. I am fortunate enough to get mine at the local organic grocery store! The reason I added bee pollen into this recipe was that the honey I got was not from around Kansas City, but from California.

Star Thistle Honey from Gerard'Z Honeybees 🐝 So I'm obsessed with honey. One of my favorite things about it is that no two batches will ever taste exactly the same, nor should they! This particular honey has a wonderfully bitter quality, almost medicinal, but it's fragrant, pungent and so unbelievably deep with a sour finish... it takes you on a wild ride! And before my #vegan friends get mad, let me assure you that taking honey from bees is hundo P okay πŸ‘Œ . Beekeepers do everything they can to make sure that their babies are healthy and happy and always have enough food. The honey that they take is excess, and they never take so much honey that it would harm the hive. 🍯 besides, if we didn't have beekeepers, our bees would have a lot more trouble than they're already having. . . Honey it is a perfect food, that never goes bad, and is a really good antiseptic. πŸ™πŸ» Seriously! My mom puts honey over our minor cuts after washing them πŸ˜… and nothing is better than hot tea with honey when you have a sore throat. 🍡 The best part? It helps with your allergies. Gerardz's is a feature for tomorrow's blog post! Stay tuned πŸ˜‰ . . . . . #lfthx #gerardzhoneybees #honeytasting #gerardz #foodiechats #dairyfree #pareve #kosher #naturalfoods #KansasCity #california #honey #video #wannabgourmande #organicaid #savethebees #bees #nature @gerardzhoneybees
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

For this particular honeybee cake, I used the Star Thistle Honey. I'm partnering with Gerard'z this week and they gave me the exclusive on this soon-to-be-available product. Of course, I had to get a jar of their wildflower, too. The Wildflower honey was mild and floral, but had a bright and pleasantly sour finish. The Star Thistle, however, might be my favorite honey, because of how incredibly complex it is. It starts off with a bitter taste, almost medicinal, before you get into the sweetness. It's got quite a lot of depth, like a good dark roast coffee, and then finishes bright and sweet. I thought it was perfect for this cake, so of course I had to use it. Message the site to get some for yourself!

You saw me use the term terroir earlier in this post. This term is usually found when describing wine. Terroir is "the taste of the land." This means that the grapes are affected by the land they're grown in, say if the earth the vines grow in are heavy with either clay or lime or something else. In truth, it's quite the same for bees, depending on what they can feed upon that year. This is why you can get such flavors as 'Wildflower honey', which have been harvested from bees that get their stuff from wildflowers. You can get 'Orange blossom honey' from bees that have their hive situated in a citrus grove. Gerard'z Honeybees, based in California, have a variety of flavors, such as raspberry, alfalfa, and more. I invite you to try them all!

I also invite you to plant local wildflowers and fall bulbs, to feed your local bees. Just think, you're helping shape 'wildflower honey' in your area! But please check with your local extension office to make sure you're not introducing an invasive species of flower to your region. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good!
Some seasons the honey will be a deep amber color. Sometimes the honey will turn purple, if the bees get into a blackberry farm. Honey can be a very light gold color, or in some cases can be almost clear and be tangy and sour. The beautiful thing about honey is how incredibly seasonal it is. You can quite literally taste the years go by or monitor how the years went if you were to look at it over time. My good friend David, whose mother is a beekeeper, remembers a single summer in which it was the best honey harvest of their lives in which the honey was especially perfect.

Please plant as many flowers as you can this year! And every year! All of these bees need food and so does your soul!

One more reason that I'm in love with honey is because it's a very old world way of eating. Ancient Egyptians were keeping bees and consuming honey, and the Aztecs have been keeping bees for a very long time as well. The wandering Jews of the tribes of Moses are promised "a land of milk and honey." You can find evidence of ancient apiaries in China, and even the indigenous peoples of Northern Americas got in on the party. You won't find cane sugar in traditional Russian or Lithuanian sweets, as honey reigns supreme. If you think about it, cane sugar as a concept is no older than a heartbeat in terms of how civilization came to be. So, really, let's look at going back to our roots in the culinary world and regain a taste for honey. It's fully sustainable, will be excellent for your health and for the environment in the long run, and is incredibly tasty!

Thanks so much for enduring this new format of posting. I'm trying to be conscious of my readers' experience and I hope you enjoyed learning, especially if you got this far. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Share this cake with a loved one. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lingonberry Hamentaschen

Pretty in pink!
I love lingonberries. I'm obsessed with them, especially for spring. I love lingonberry poptarts (homemade, of course, using my favorite pie crust), lingonberry lemonade, and just plain lingonberry jam on toast. I go through phases of obsession. Currently, I'm obsessed with a little show called Allt fΓΆr Sverige. It's where they take the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants and bring them back to Sweden, and put them on a journey of discovery. It's a wonderful competition reality show that shows Swedish culture, the story of how we came to be, the history of a country, and the winner at the end gets to be reunited with their Swedish family in a big party! You can find most all of the episodes on Youtube. Check it out here!

Since we're talking about Youtube, I'm going to go ahead and link you up to Mayim Bialik, to give you a quick rundown on an amazing spring holiday, Purim! I'm obviously not 100% full-blooded Jewish, but I still love enjoying the culture and part of that is celebrating the holidays and eating the foods...and even better, I love sharing the culture with friends! In fact, I'm throwing a Purim party this evening! We're going to have masks, eat hamentaschen, and more.

Purim is upon us on the 21st, which is this Wednesday, so I've decided to show you how to make my absolute favorite Jewish ritual treat (yes, I love it even more than freaking latkes) the Hamentaschen. These are triangle-shaped cookies that are filled with just about anything your heart desires, although jam seems to be the favorite for most. You can fill them with pistachio paste, chocolate chips, citrus curds, ganaches...whatever floats your boat! For this, though I've chosen lingonberry.

Lingonberries are a magical kind of berry that miraculously thrive in cold areas. They do incredibly well in moist, acidic soils from ranges that are from Massachussetts to Alaska. I live in the Midwest, so it get's way too hot for lingonberries. If you live in a more northern state, please consider growing them! They have an incredibly pleasant taste, and although resemble a cranberry are only the size of a garden pea. When cooked into a jam, they give off a beautiful red-pink color, and are even prettier when swirled into a sour cream sauce.

yields about 2 dozen cookies
  • 3 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g sugar
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 2 oz vegan butter, room temperature (Earth balance is my fave, but any non-dairy butter/margarine will do)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 375 g AP flour plus more for dusting
  • A smear of pink gel food coloring
  • Lingonberry jam, as needed
Whisk together, by hand, the butter and oil along with the vanilla paste and sugar until the sugar appears to have dissolved, or at least lightened in color. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking wholly until completely incorporated. Add in your salt, baking powder, and smear of pink gel paste. I like Wilton's "rose", but you can use whichever you like. If you want to go an all-natural coloring way, you may use beetroot powder, which will give a beautiful red. For this crazy holiday, though, I like to go for more electric colors.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in your flour. Turn out onto a cold, floured, marble surface and knead gently, until everything comes together smoothly. Divide in two discs, wrap each in plastic, and chill in the freezer for at least 1 hour. 

Flour your surface again and roll out thin. I like to go to 1/8 inch, because these cookies can get tough if too thick. Be generous with flour on the rolling pin, too, as this dough is rather loose so it likes to stick. The oil is nice and makes it a kosher fat, and it also makes it more pliable so you can mold it. This is ultimately the reason I don't tend to use all oil or all butter; butter makes the dough too short and not-so-easily pliable, and oil makes the dough too runny so I have trouble shaping it and end up using way too much flour. 

Cut out circles with a ring cutter. I like 3" rings! To fill, hold the cut disc in your left hand draped gently over your fingers (or right, if you're a leftie) and fill with a generous teaspoon of your lingonberry jam. If it's not too cold, it should fall off the spoon with ease. Gently separate your index and middle fingers just enough to allow the dough to fall in and help you create a crease. Pinch this closed and use the thumb of your opposite hand to push the bottom up. Gently place these on a silpat-lined sheet pan and pinch the three corners together to create the shape. If you're having trouble, find this awesome tutorial on Tori Avey.com!

 Pop these in the freezer while you're waiting for your oven to heat up to 400 degrees. The reason you don't want to have your oven preheating while you're rolling these out is because - in my experience - they do better when they start from cold, and it's hard to keep a cookie dough cold when  you're heating up your kitchen with a hot oven. Besides, this recipe makes at least 2 dozen cookies so you're going to want to make them all at once, freeze them all at once, and bake only as needed. I've found that you can store the raw cookies, frozen, for up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container. To accomplish this, simply freeze on a tray until hard, put them in an airtight container, lined with parchment, and store until needed. 

Pop your cookies in the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges just barely begin to brown. You want a super hot oven to start with , but want your more standard baking heat so the corners don't burn. The reason  you want it to be hot is because you don't want your fat to melt and therefore your cookies will lose the shape. These are tricky because they can get really tough if overcooked. 

Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Please keep in mind that this dough is incredibly versatile. You can add in shaved chocolate and fill with nutella to make chocolate hazelnut hamentaschen. Heck, make a tiramisu hamentaschen where you use coffee extract instead of vanilla, fill it with a cheesecake filling and dust them with cocoa powder. The sky is the limit! You can even do what I did for the second offering at my part, and divide the dough in half, add lime zest, dye them green, and fill it with lime curd to make a zesty zingy lime hamentaschen.

Of course you can enjoy hamentaschen year-round, but because they take multiple steps, I recommend doing a lot all at once, with the help of family. Little ones, especially, love the idea of folding cookies. I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit about Purim! As always, if you've tried my recipes, please tell me all about it in the comments below. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

There aren't going to be any cute anecdotes about these cookies. These are good and I like them.

I'm going to be short here. I've lost my great-grandmother yesterday. She was 101 years old. I'm going to spell that out for dramatic effect: one-hundred and one years old. I had a grandmother that lived for more than a century. She saw the rise of social justice, she saw the revolutions of the time, she saw segregation end, she saw the rise of the global internet, and she saw approximately 75 grandchildren be born and grow up. It's okay that she's gone. Her funeral is next week so I'll be flying back to my  home town to see my family there and say our final goodbyes. It's unsure if I'll blog next Sunday.

I remember her teaching me how to play chess and then throwing the board away after I beat her for the first time. I remember her playing rummikubs. I remember her showing me how to embroider and cross-stitch. She showed me how to knit once but she really preferred to crochet. I sewed all of my prom dresses and homecoming dresses with her help. I don't remember her baking much, but I do know she had a sweet tooth.

These cookies don't have much to do with her, other than the fact that I developed and perfected the recipe the other day and they brought me some joy. I hope you all feel joy today and I hope you like these cookies, too; because they're good, and I like them.

Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies
yields about 24 cookies
  • 125 vegan butter
  • 110 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150 g flour
  • 120 g pistachios, ground
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • Pistachio paste** as needed or strawberry jam as needed
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a half-sheet pan with a silicon liner or parchment paper. 

Grind your pistachios in a coffee grinder in pulses along with the salt. You want to make sure that you shake your grinder about a little bit to make sure it doesn't turn into paste or  butter. You can also grind these in a food processor with a few spoonfuls of your flour; it all really depends on what kind of equipment you have. 

Beat the butter and sugar together using a whisk or the whisk attachment of your standing mixer, and add in the egg and vanilla. Use a spatula to add in the flour and ground pistachio mixture, stirring until everything is just incorporated. 

Using a 1 oz scoop/disher, scoop out small balls of dough and place them on your prepared sheet pan. These don't really spread, so don't be afraid to put them close together. You can roll these in your hand, if you like, and press them down just a bit with the bottom of a drinking glass to make them smoother, but I like them to be a little craggy. 

Protip: instead of using your thumb to push the indent into the cookie, use a grape. I took this red seedless grape and pressed it into the dough to make an indentation, and each cookie was uniform because of it. Neat!

Next comes the fun part: filling the cookies! You can either use pistachio paste or strawberry jam. I like both of them, but you can decide what's easier for you. You may also use raspberry but please don't use grape. What's pistachio paste? It's a paste made from pistachios! You can find it at most specialty food stores, but I hear that grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's might even carry the stuff nowadays. You can, however, make your own!

Pistachio Paste

Simply soak a cup or two of pistachios in water overnight and drain and reserve some of the water. Grind it in a food processor with 2-3 tablespoons of cane sugar and a pinch of salt. It should be a little runnier than hummus. You can store this in the fridge, covered, for about 2 weeks. It can be used to fill cakes, make creams and custards and mousses, ice creams, and - of course - fill cookies. 

It only takes a small spoonful for each well, but you don't want to overfill it either way, especially with jams. If you don't have homemade, store-bought is just fine. 

Bake these cookies at 350 for 10-12 minutes, but try not to let them brown too much, otherwise their glorious green color is dulled. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before consuming - that jam is HOT and will burn the roof or your mouth. And you will scream. And your husband will come up from the basement, running at full speed, and stub his toe on the refrigerator. And he'll fall and you'll both end up on the kitchen floor. It will not be cute like those stupid rom-coms that lied to us when we were little. It will be chaos and will hurt a lot. 

These cookies are great for a quick something to snack on. You'll want to double or even triple the recipe, as you'll eat most of them yourself. Seriously they didn't even last a full 24 hours in my house. They're, like, really good. You can use regular butter if you like, but I use Earth Balance, which is my favorite vegan butter that acts and tastes very much like the real thing. Up to you!

Thanks, all! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Easy Challah for Hanukkah

"Challah" at yo girl!
Happy 1st night of Hanukkah, my tchotchkes! I won't go into the whole history of the holiday, nor will I go on a long tangent on why it's the best. I'll just give you the important thing that you need to know to have a successful Hanukkah:

Deep. Fry. Everything.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil in that sealed jug meant for their lanterns was only enough for one night, but it ended up lasting enough for eight nights, thus giving the Maccabees time to make more oil. There's actually a big long story along with it, but if you want to have a little fun while learning, watch this.

Yes, I did just show you a clip from "The Meanie of Hanukkah." As far as I can tell, it's all we have in the ways of popular culture. The point is that oil is important, and that's why we eat lots of deep-fried foods.The only real rule is to not mix meat with dairy.

A meat menu will often consist of a brisket or a roasted chicken to go along with the latkes and often a green vegetable. A dairy menu can have grilled salmon along with goat cheese and beet risotto or an egg dish with lots of cheese...and don't forget the kugel! Spruce Eats actually has a great selection of ideas for you. You can find my favorite latke recipe right here. If you're feeling fancy, I like to add dried dill. You can also find my easy vegan doughnut recipe right here, which I'll be making tonight to go with my fried chicken. Yum!

Challah is a traditional loaf of braided bread, made with eggs. This is my own version that's super easy, very flavorful, and relatively quick.

yields 1 loaf
  • 500 g AP flour
  • 6 g yeast
  • 1 fat pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 g warm water
  • 30 g kosher wine (a splash or two)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter substitute
Combine everything in the bowl of your standing mixer and bring it together using a dough hook. You'll knead for about five minutes, or until it's nice and smooth and is gently crawling up your hook. If you'd like to add anything to your challah, such as sesame seeds or dried herbs, now would be the time. Just let it run for a few turns, just enough to mix them in. Oil a bowl and set your dough in a warm place to double in size. This is call prooving, because you prove that the yeast works. Hah!

Once that time has passed, divide your dough into thirds and braid. When you get to the end, turn - 

Eh? What's that? You don't know how to braid? Oh, dear. Well, here you go! Here's a tutorial on how to braid different kinds.

Now that that's all sorted, pop your bread loaf on a baking sheet and cover gently with a clean tea towel. While it's rising, let your oven come up to 400 degrees F. Prepare an egg wash of 1 egg plus a touch of salt and sugar, and maybe a tsp of water. Let that hang out until that has doubled in size, usually 30 to 45 minutes depending. Gently brush with your egg wash to give that glorious color and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.

Let your challah cool on a rack and serve with your dinner. Enjoy playing with your dreidels and have a great night! Happy cooking, happy eating, and happy deep-frying!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Sorghum Gingerbread Houses

Please ignore the mess in my kitchen. I was up all night baking this thing. 
Every year, I bake a gingerbread house for a little place called the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired. They throw this competition in which local pastry chefs compete in building gingerbread structures in order to raise money for the center. This is one of their signature fundraisers and is a whole heck of a lot of fun to participate in. All of the houses are put up on display and locals can come in, vote for their favorites, and even win these structures in a silent auction for display in their homes, offices, country clubs, and more! Every penny goes to benefit the center. Let me tell you a little bit about it...

The CCVI is one out of eight schools in the United States that aids young children that are either blind or visually impaired. I've been to the school a few times, and they have caring teachers that are there, patiently helping toddlers and young children navigate the world well enough to attend conventional schools in some cases. They offer personalized tutelage, they have parent groups to get together with others, and they're all around good people. The thing I love the best about Kansas City is that there seems to be no shortage of folks that want to help other folks. The city isn't exactly altruistic, but it sure is a place that humanitarians can have their choice of places to volunteer at and make a positive impact on the world.

Let's get onto sorghum, though, shall we? After all, it's in the title of the blog...

This is sorghum. It's a cereal grain that grows tall, like corn, and is native to Africa. Traditionally, much like corn, it's grown as livestock feed, but if you're from the American south, you know all about sorghum syrup and its many uses. Sorghum was - and still is - a cheaper alternative to honey and molasses. The syrup made from the grain is bountiful, and the plant itself is drought resistant, which makes it far more sustainable a crop than sugar cane or corn. The grains can be turned into a sweet and sticky syrup, but also popped like popcorn, cooked like a risotto, and has found its way into the gluten-free market to make as a grain bowl. Ground into flour, with the help of xantham gum, you can make yourself a tasty bread. If you're not trying sorghum, you're missing out.

Molasses, while tasty and recognizable, is a byproduct of cane sugar. I don't need to tell you that cane sugar isn't exactly the most-sustainable thing in the world. By making switches to coconut sugar, beet sugar, and sorghum, you'd be surprised how much environmental impact it would have. I don't have all day to tell you about the corruption in the sugar business, but I can tell you this: sugarcane is one of the thirstiest crops in the world, and it's a much quicker and easier solution to make sustainable switches than to look around for fair trade, sustainable cane sugar. Furthermore, cane sugar has lead to significant losses for the environment, especially in the realm of biodiversity. This, along with many other reasons, is one you should take into consideration before making sugar cookies with white sugar versus coconut sugar, or gingerbread cookies with molasses versus sorghum.

This gingerbread house, like many others, was made with this adapted recipe for gingerbread. I love this recipe because it's very structurally strong, is easy to roll thin while maintaining its integrity, and is still tasty enough to snack on the scraps. It's strong because it has a low amount of fat and no eggs, so therefore will last quite a long time. Best of all, the sorghum makes the dough pliable so you can easily work with it. Shall we?

Sorghum Gingerbread House Dough
yields enough to make one small house - double for a medium house!

  • 112 g coconut sugar
  • 230 g sorghum syrup (I like the dark, but you can use light if you like)
  • 90 g coconut oil, vegetable shortening, or vegan butter substitute
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
    • Use paste, if you can! The smell will be much nicer in the end
  • 350 g AP flour, plus more for dusting
Sift together the flour and spices, then rub in the fat with your fingers. Stir in the remaining ingredients by hand, with a wooden spoon, gently, until everything is homogeneous and well-incorporated. You may use this immediately, of course, but it can set for up to 24 hours at room temperature, wrapped up in plastic wrap, divided in two equal discs. You'll notice that I've omitted any leavening agent - this is because when things like baking powder or baking soda are present in a cookie recipe, they make things rise and they make things soft. We don't want a soft cookie, we want a strong one, nor do we want one that will rise and will change shape on us when baked. 

Now, let's talk about your design. You can print out an easy template online with printer paper, or you can sketch one up on cardboard. You need to be pretty good at math and have some basic engineering skills to draw one up on your own. Or, you know, you can cheat and have your husband (who's good at it because he's an architect, not because he's a man) draw up a design for you. 

This house is based off of pan-Lithuanian/Belarusian architecture, taking inspiration from folksy traditional homes. I rolled out the pieces of dough quite thin, about 3/16", all on parchment paper so it was easy to trace and transfer to a sheet pan. I suggest cutting out the shapes with the raw dough first before baking at 350 for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, take out the cookies and work quickly, for heaven's sake, at this next bit. 

Please label your pieces. This will save you so much heartache and headache in the long run.
Take your template and lay it gently over your cookie. Using a pizza wheel or a small, sharp knife, trim away the edges that have bloomed out and spread during the baking process. This will give you a nice sharp edge! Bake again for another 10 minutes before removing from the oven. Take another sheet pan and lay it very gently atop your baked cookie, only allowing the weight of the pan to flatten out the cookie's surface. Remove the pan and re-trim the cookie if necessary to your shape. Allow to cool completely before you start building with it!

Always mark with pencil, not pen! You can also use edible markers, if you plan to eat it later.

I highly suggest that you use plywood as your base. It's strong, cheap, and readily available at most hardware stores. My gingerbread base was 2' x 2', which was large enough for my house as well as a few added extras for decoration. Consider this, though:

Don't make a gingerbread house that's too big to display in your own home. I suggest that you find a place in your home that you'd like to have your house displayed, measure out the space, and design around that. This house can fit nicely on a side table or atop a chest of drawers. If you'd like a smaller house that can fit on your dining room table, design accordingly.

Slow and steady wins the race. This house took me about 12 hours total.

You're also going to want to have plenty of straight and heavy things to set your walls against. I used soup cans, vases, and bottles of wine to hold my cookie pieces in place while the royal icing dries. I strongly suggest working in batches on this, and building slowly. Don't rush! Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was it built using royal icing. 

Royal Icing for Decorations
  • 1 egg white from a large egg
  • Powdered sugar, A/N
You're going to want an icing that's thin enough to pipe, but thick enough to hold its shape. I suggest using a piping bag without a tip in it for the gluing together, and then use a small, fine round tip to decorate. 

You can start decorations on the pieces you know you'll be needing them on, such as the trim on the front or the side windows. You can also use other tips to create shell designs and comb designs. You can really let your imagination go wild on this! Use plenty of candy, of course, if that's your game. You can also use and modify your own cookie recipes to create design elements for your house. On my house, you'll see:

Ready for voting and judging!

  • Red velvet shortbread cookies (the tiles on the roof and shutters on the windows)
  • Sugar glass (the windows and the lake)
  • Flood-consistency royal icing (the melting snow on the roof)
  • Slivered almonds, tossed in edible gold dust (shimmery rocks and tiles around the pond)
  • White chocolate and pistachio discs (for stepping stones and piped in long pieces for logs)
  • Stiff-consistency royal icing (the icicles, window trim, and more)
  • Homemade marshmallow (the snowy ground)
  • Gum drops and candy canes (for fun!)
You have free range on this one, so use this recipe and these techniques to build the gingerbread house of your dreams. Some planning should go into this, but if you wing it, just remember: it's only cookies, it'll be okay. 

Can you eat this? Sure. Do you want to? I don't know...do you? After you spent all of this time on it? 

Need some inspiration on the gingerbread house of your dreams? Check out Pinterest and Instagram! My skills aren't anywhere near the kind that these trained pastry chefs have, but I still have fun doing them. I highly suggest you have some fun doing them yourself with your kids, your sisters and brothers, your parents, your friends...anyone in your life that you'd like to see have a little fun! 

Unbelievable! I've finally finished! I had other plans for today but I desperately need to shower - I've got icing in places you shouldn't have icing.... but let me talk you through my gingerbread house first! I call it "Pavasaris Ateina", or "spring is coming", to you and me. I had a great aunt that came over for Lithuania and she describes her fine home in autobiography. When she comes to America, she and the rest of her family are subjected to extreme poverty, and she recalls fondly her fine and beautiful home that they once had before it was burned down by the Cossacks. I know it's not the most traditional subject for a gingerbread house, but I would like to think that in the depths of winter is the time in which we need some bright and cheerful hope the most. As they say, It's always darkest before the dawn. I know that we're all tired, but we all need to keep fighting. There is some good in the world and it is worth fighting for. Do you like my gingerbread house? Come and see it at the Webster house, starting tomorrow! It's complete with red velvet shortbread roof tile, marshmallow snow, sugar glass windows, white chocolate stepping stones, and more! And please vote for me! Every single penny donated by voting goes to benefit the children's center for the visually impaired... Or, you know, you could just buy it! Buy it and put it up in your home! See if you can find the hidden gelt... #foodiechats #foodblogger #wannabgourmande #KansasCity #midwestlife #dairyfree #gingerbreadhouse #ccvi #gingerbreadlane #candy #chocolate #gbbo #biscuits #shortbread #redvelvet #candycane #holidaydecor #happyholidays #christmas #parve #pareve #baking #instabake #cookiedecorating #sugar #immigrantsmakeamericagreat #hope #lithuania @ccvi1952
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I hope you've enjoyed. If you live in the Kansas City area and would like to see my gingerbread house, please head to Webster House in the Crossroads, at 1644 Wyandotte Street, and snap a selfie with it! You can drop a dollar in the "People's Choice" jar to vote for me, or make a bid on it yourself. Or hey! Make a bid on one of the other houses that are there, if you like those better! I assure you, you won't be disappointed in what you see. My favorite part of this 'competition' is seeing the different interpretations that each chef has on what they think a gingerbread structure should be.

Happy baking and happy eating!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pareve Chocolate Cream Pie for Hannukah

Disclaimer: You do NOT have to be Jewish or to keep kosher to enjoy this pie.

Hannukah is a minor holiday, and it is not Jewish Christmas. That being said, I freaking love it, because it's all about deep-fried foods and it actually encourages a dairy-free lifestyle(that's pareve, by the way!). No mixing of meat and dairy means you get to see a lot of dairy-free stuff mixed in with kosher stuff when looking through Jewish cookbooks. There's freaking dairy-free gelt, for god's sake - and it's delicious.

It's currently the 3rd night of Hannukah, so you now have five more days to make this delicious chocolate cream pie that hasn't a drop of dairy in it. Yum!

A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

And, yes, my sweater does say "Let's Get Lit."

Pareve Chocolate Cream Pie 
yields a 9" pie

Pie crust

  • 500 g AP flour
  • 250 g vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 10 g sugar
  • 1 egg plus 4 yolks
  • 113 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 litre (500 ml) coconut milk
  • 65 g good cocoa powder
  • 20 g vegan butter(I love Earth Balance)
  • Dairy-free whipped cream (365 makes a coconut milk whipped cream in a can!)
  • Pareve gelt
Roll out your dough between two greased sheets of parchment paper
for a mess-free baking situation! 
Make the pie crust adding the sugar to the flour and then cutting the fat into the flour with either a pastry cutter or your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. When the fat is pea-sized, add the egg and allow to mix until everything comes together. This actually makes enough crust for two nine-inch pies, but you might want to have extra crust in case you want to do something cool for the decorations around the edge. I stuck with a plain pinch finish on my own pie. Don't forget, though, to let the pie dough rest gently in your shell for a little while before trimming - this allows any glutens that may have formed to relax!

Poke a few holes in the bottom and then bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown. Allow to cool.

To make the custard, add the coconut milk to a saucepot and heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and the egg and yolks. This will be very thick, so don't be alarmed. Add in the cocoa powder using a spatula, spreading it as evenly as you can get it. Bring the coconut milk to a boil then splash about half of the hot liquid over the egg-cocoa mixture to warm it and slacken it out a bit. Whisk well, then all of the liquid to the saucepot. Turn on the heat to medium high and whisk constantly until it thickens, or when it reaches 185 degrees F/85 degrees C. Remove from the heat, add in the chilled butter, and scrape into your pie shell. Give the pie custard a solid shimmy or two to remove any bubbles and let chill in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours.

Once the pie is set, you can go ahead and garnish the pie with a dairy-free whipped cream and gelt coins. It sets up quite nicely, thanks to the whole egg, but you can add an extra bit of security in the setting realm by adding a vegan gelatin to the custard. Frankly, I think it works great just on its own.

Serve for dessert after eating a bunch of deep-fried latke goodness. I actually had this for dessert with a friend after he made us some deep-fried beer-battered fish tacos for the 1st night of Hannukah. Fun times!

Happy baking and happy eating - and Happy Hannukah!

Now get out there and wear an ugly Hannukah sweater. You won't regret it. 

Seriously. I've never gotten so many compliments on a sweater in my life. Get out there and do it. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ilvermorny Cranberry Pie

I don't often show it on here, but I'm a huge Potterhead. I've stood in line at midnight for book releases. I've seen every movie at least 20 times at this point. If I see a picture on Tumblr featuring Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein I burst into yowling tears. The fact that we're learning more and more about America's own Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has gotten me more excited than a niffler in a bank. You can learn more about Ilvermorny on Pottermore, and hear all about its wonderful history, and all about James and Isolt, and Cranberry Pie.

Oh. And I'm a Pukwudgie at Ilvermorny. (Slytherin at Hogwarts. Der.)

Cranberries are a native plant here in the northeast, and they date back to the first Thanksgiving. Now, don't take my Basic Bitch card for this, but I'm a little over pumpkin pie. Cranberry Pie, though? Now that's where it's at. It's old-fashioned, delicious, and unbelievably fast to pull together. It's perfect to bring to a Friendsgiving or to throw together for a family affair when granny won't let go of the pumpkin pie recipe. The best part of this recipe? It's dairy-free and I used coconut sugar in it! Now, what's so great about coconut sugar? I'll tell you.

Coconut sugar is a wonderful alternative to cane sugar that you can use 1:1. It's conflict-free, sustainable, and super tasty. It's getting cheaper and cheaper, too, which is good news for those of us that spend all of our money on rose wine and avocado toast.

Ilvermorny Cranberry Pie
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1 package (a little over 2 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cups toasted pepitas(pumpkin seeds)
  • 2/3 cups coconut sugar + 1 cup coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz or 1/2 cup vegan butter substitute(I love Earth Balance, melted)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your favorite pie dish with either butter substitute or pan-spray. Add in your cranberries and sprinkle over the 2/3 cup of coconut sugar and pepita seeds. Give it a little toss to mix and coat evenly. Snap a photo for Instagram.

Combine the flour, remaining cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and butter and whisk together until rather smooth. Pour it over the berries in thin ribbons.

The batter will be rather thin and dark-looking, but it'll taste really good, almost like sweet molasses.

Shinnyyyyyy - like the treasure from a sunken pirate wreck...
Bake this at 350 for 45 minutes and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. It's a pleasingly tart pie and I just adore it with a dollop of whipped cream. This little dollop looks just like the Sorting Hat! Oh, and look, the recipe's over, just like that. See how quick that was? It'll be even quicker to cook. I promise!

Happy cooking and happy eating and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I wish you luck with your family and friends.