Vegan Pizza Soup

April 8, 2011
pizza soup

Everything in pizza, except the dough, in soup form

Pizza Soup

I served this soup without telling my guests what it was. Since the menu was “Illusion Food,” everything was supposed to look like one thing, but actually be something else. So this looked like a blended tomato-vegetable soup and grilled bread triangles, but it had a very familiar flavor. I made them guess what it was.

Everything you’d put in pizza (except the crust) goes into this soup, so it’s no wonder it tastes like it. I served it with wedges of pizza dough, rolled into circles, cut into 12 wedges per circle, then cooked on a grill pan until each side had grill marks. It reminded everyone of pita bread wedges, although they weren’t puffed up at all.

Yes, eventually someone guessed what it was. “P..p…pepperoni pizza!” she cried.

How did I get the pepperoni flavor without using pepperoni or any meat? I used the spices: fennel seed and black pepper. Those, along with the garlic, basil and oregano that would normally be in the pizza sauce, gave it enough of a pepperoni taste to pass.

The nutritional yeast is there for the “cheese,” but if you aren’t vegan, you could use real grated cheese, I’m guessing. Add it just before serving, after you’ve blended the soup.

Recipe: Vegan “Pepperoni” Pizza Soup

3 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 TBS chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, grated or finely chopped
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, or 4 tsp dried basil
2 TBS chopped fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 can whole olives, sliced, or one of those small cans of chopped olives
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped

2 cups water
6 TBS nutritional yeast
1 TBS sugar

Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper and carrot in oil 10 minutes. Add all ingredients except water, yeast and sugar. Cover and cook 30 minutes, until carrots are completely soft and the flavors have blended.

Blend in batches in a blender. (NOTE: Keep the blender lid partially off, and cover it with a cloth. Do NOT completely cover your blender when blending hot liquids. The mixture can explode, burning you and creating a huge mess!)

You can also use an immersion blender if you have one, to blend the mixture.

Add water and nutritional yeast, and sugar, if desired. You might not need the sugar, depending on the sweetness of the other vegetables.


Vegan Fondant on a Vegan Chameleon Cake

April 7, 2011
chameleon cake with vegan fondant

Chameleon birthday cake decorated with vegan fondant

Fondant is what you see on tv in all the cake and baking competitions. Typically it is rolled out and draped over the cake, where it creates a velvety-smooth appearance. It’s made from gelatin, corn syrup, powdered sugar, and gums. The consistency is a lot like play dough, and you can roll it out or mold it into shapes.

It’s notoriously finicky to work with. It hates humidity and heat. Since it’s primarily made of powdered sugar, when there is moisture in the air, it absorbs the moisture, becoming sticky, wet, and eventually melting.

You have to work fast with it, since the heat from your hands causes it to soften and tear. It rips easily and gets cracks in it. It picks up on any little dings, dents and mistaken finger pokes or marks.

In fact, it’s such a pain, it’s a wonder people work with it at all. But in a cool, dry, temperature-stable environment, you can get gorgeous results with it.

You need to use a base layer of frosting over the cake, to make the fondant stick. Traditionally this is buttercream. This year I opted to use a coconut milk and cornstarch mixture, like haupia, a thick pudding, which worked fine. You can also make a buttercream frosting by substituting vegan margarine for the butter. I’ve done that in the past, and it works great.

But the birthday girl thinks buttercream is a bit too rich, so I skipped the added expense and went with the coconut milk frosting instead. You don’t taste the frosting much anyway, since the fondant is sickly sweet and will overpower any frosting flavor.

Use a sturdy cake that will hold up to the weight of the fondant, which can end up quite heavy with several layers. And be sure to design your cake so it is structurally sound.

This was a vegan chocolate cake baked in a loaf pan. I kept it in the refrigerator overnight. Then I sculpted the base form before covering it with frosting and letting it harden in the refrigerator. Finally, I covered it with the fondant base layer and decorations.

I recommend you do not eat the fondant, although almost half the guests did. It’s just so sickly sweet. If you pull it off the cake, however, the frosting comes off with it, so you might serve a bowl of frosting on the side, so those people who remove the fondant aren’t stuck with just plain cake.

You can use commercial gel colorants, but the thought of making a vegan cake full of FD&C Color Number This, That, and the Other was gross and pretty much defeated the purpose. So I put on my thinking cap and used natural colorants that I had in my pantry.

The base fondant color turned out white, even with the addition of vanilla extract, so that was one color. To make yellow, I added powdered turmeric. Powdered annatto or achiote seed gave me a gorgeous orange.

I wasn’t quite as successful using my powdered green drink supplement mix to get a green. It ended up being more of an olive color, which was still nice, just not bright and colorful green like I had hoped.

colored vegan fondant

Vegan fondant colored naturally: with turmeric, annatto, and green drink powder. The white is the plain base fondant.

The fresher these powders, the brighter the colors you’ll get. Basically, whatever color it looks like in the jar or package will be what you end up with when you mix enough of it with the fondant.

Because I was using an obscene amount of powdered sugar (2 pounds for one recipe!) I started adding cornstarch towards the end, instead. I don’t know how much this affected the texture and ability to work with the fondant. It seemed to make it less sticky.

The mixture will harden up overnight, so resist the temptation to keep adding sugar until it stops sticking. You can’t take it out, and adding too much makes it crack when you try to roll it out.

So stop mixing when it becomes a solid mass that you can work into a ball, even if it still sticks a bit. Wrap it in plastic and leave it on the counter overnight.

The next day, when you go to work with it, you’ll need to use powdered sugar as dusting, so it doesn’t stick to everything. I also used cornstarch for dusting, which seemed to work well.

However, the fact that this was humid Honolulu, AND it was raining both days I made this, spelled disaster for the cake. The longer I tried to work with it, the stickier and meltier it got. I gave up halfway done and put the cake with fondant into the refrigerator, even though I’ve read you shouldn’t refrigerate it.

The next day, I finished it, but the whole thing ended up oozing, melting, and turning to pools of bright orange and mustard yellow liquid where the cake touched the board. Sigh.

chameleon cake face

You can see around the eye especially how the fondant is melting and blending together.

Oh well. At least we could get an idea of what it would have looked like with ideal climate and working conditions. And I don’t know how much of the problem was due to the fact that I changed the original recipe and instructions (from Mission:Vegan) slightly.

Instead of shortening, I used canola oil. And I used cornstarch instead of powdered sugar toward the end. My guess is that those things didn’t make that much difference. The rain and heat were bigger factors.

And although it was a huge pain to work with this fondant, I have to admit, it was still a lot of fun, especially in the beginning, when things were going along okay and the cake started to look cool. I hadn’t had that much fun making a cake since…well, one year ago, when I made a birthday cake for my friend’s last birthday!

Vegan Fondant Recipe

1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons agar powder
1/2 cup corn syrup
1-1/2 TBS glycerin (you can buy this at any drug store)
2 TBS canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 pounds powdered sugar
cornstarch
gel color OR
natural powder colorants:
for mustardy yellow–turmeric (buy this cheaply where Indian ingredients are sold)
for orange–annatto or achiote powder (available at Latin groceries or where Filipino foods are sold)
for olive green–green drink powder

In a small pan, heat the water and agar, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil, or the agar powder has all dissolved.

Add this to a bowl with the corn syrup, glycerin, shortening, vanilla, and about half the powdered sugar. Mix completely.

Continue adding powdered sugar until the mixture starts to form into a ball. Knead it as you would bread dough. Stop even though it is still a bit sticky.

Wrap in plastic wrap, put into a plastic bag, close tightly, and leave out overnight.

The next day, separate into smaller portions. Keep the unused portions tightly wrapped.

Knead in colorants as desired to get the color you want. I used about 1 TBS powder for every 1/2 cup of fondant to color.

Use powdered sugar or cornstarch to keep the mixture from sticking as you roll it out on the counter.

Apply the fondant to a cooled and frosted cake which has been in the fridge so the base layer of frosting has hardened.

To make your decorations, roll out fondant and cut it with a knife. Use a tiny dab of water as glue to make it stick to the base layer of fondant.

You can also roll it into balls to make eyeballs, etc. or ropes. Basically, the same stuff you’d do with play dough. Use chopsticks, the back of a knife, and other things to make lines and holes as desired.

When done, cover the cake with plastic wrap and store in a cool, dry place until it’s time for your party.

You can also dust the fondant with powdered commercial dusts, like metallic gold and silver edible dusts, although I haven’t tried this yet. Watch any of the professional cake makers on tv for more ideas and inspiration. Their stuff is amazing, and I have even more respect for their work, now that I’ve tried doing this myself and seen how tough it is.

One of the judges, Kerry Vincent, is often criticized for being a stickler. She says things like, “Your fondant work was very sloppy. There were lots of cracks in it.” But she knows and respects good work, because she has done this herself.

So if you’re finding fault with my fondant work, oh well. Everyone’s a critic. I too wish it had been better, but I did the best I could. Go make some cake, frosting, and fondant for yourself, and see what you can come up with.

I’d love to see what you end up with. Feel free to contact me, and we can commiserate together! Hahahaha.


An April Fool’s Birthday Party: Illusion Food

April 7, 2011
vegan meat loaf

Vegan "meat loaf" cake and "ice cream"

This year, we celebrated my friend’s birthday with a party on April Fool’s Day, April 1. It was the perfect time to try out my menu of Illusion Foods.

Some years ago, on a Food Network television show called Dinner Impossible, Chef Robert Irvine was invited to a magician’s convention in Las Vegas. His mission was to create a dinner menu of Illusion Foods.

In other words, each dish had to look like one thing, but taste like something else. He served a soup that tasted like Ceasar Salad and another soup that tasted like pizza.

With the help of chemicals like xanthan gum and liquid nitrogen, he mutated mango and chocolate to create Dessert Nachos.

He cut tortillas into triangles, baked them, and sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. Chocolate and some chemicals were frozen and blended to create “ground beef.”

Grated “cheese” for the nachos were made with mangoes and some other chemical that allowed it to stay somewhat pliable when frozen and grated. And the “salsa” was sauce made from strawberries and cherries.

Inspired by that show, I came up with a vegan version of his Illusion Food menu. I used the pizza soup idea and served it with grilled triangles of pizza dough.

vegan pizza soup

Vegan Pizza Soup

(Sorry, no photo of the bread. The reality of food blogging is that you often eat all the food before you remember to take a picture!)

Salad was in the shape of a centipede. I used carrot sticks for legs, and cut pieces of red bell pepper for head and stingers on the tail. The antennae were made from the tips of tiny green onions.

centipede salad

Centipede Salad--not for the faint of heart!

I should have put it on a different platter, so you could see the colors better, but you get the idea.

The main course was Cake, Ice Cream, and Sauce. The birthday girl exclaimed, when it was presented, “raspberry sauce!”

vegan meat loaf

Savory cake, ice cream, and raspberry sauce--not!

The “cake” is a vegan “meat” loaf made from nuts, vegetables, and bread, baked. The “filling” and “frosting” is a cauliflower puree.

Scoops of “ice cream” were actually mashed potatoes, and the “raspberry sauce” was a beet sauce.

Dessert had to be birthday cake and ice cream, so I tried my hand at fondant for the first time, using a vegan fondant recipe.

I cut and decorated the cake to look like a chameleon. Vegan ginger ice cream was frozen in candy molds in the shape of fish.

chameleon cake with vegan fondant

Chameleon Cake with vegan fondant and Vegan Ice Cream Fish

The party was a hit, although it did somewhat confuse one of my older friends. It’s kind of like when you see a white person speaking fluent Chinese…the image in front of you, and the image of what it’s supposed to look like don’t quite match.

So eating ice cream and cake that taste like meat loaf and mashed potatoes was a little discombobulating. But still delicious!


Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

April 7, 2011
vegan spicy peanut dip or sauce

Vegan Peanut Dip or Sauce

Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

This is kind of like Indonesian satay sauce, but without the coconut milk. It’s easier to make than the traditional version, because we are starting with peanut butter instead of raw peanuts. I used creamy, but chunky will work as well.

There is a mixture of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, along with a creamy richness from the peanut butter. You can adjust the spiciness to your taste. The recipe as written is on the mild side.

It works great as a dip for crudite, and I mixed the leftovers with sautéed vegetables and served them with rice. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top for garnish.

Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
2 TBS shoyu
4 TBS brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 TBS apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 TBS toasted sesame oil (optional)

Mix together all ingredients. Using hot water helps to soften the peanut butter and makes it easier to mix.

Note:
This was served at Ray’s memorial service at the arboretum. The other recipes can be found also, including Black Bean Dip, Broccoli Salad, Pea Salad, and Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip.


Black Bean Dip

March 6, 2011
vegan black bean dip

Vegan Black Bean Dip

I had forgotten about making this recipe in a normal-sized batch, and a friend reminded me today about it. So I apologize for the delay.

Yes, this is the dip that was served at Ray Baker’s memorial at the arboretum.

(If you want the dip with the hoisin sauce and lots of garlic, that’s the Asian Black Bean Dip recipe you want.

If you want the other memorial food recipes, so far I have:
Broccoli Salad
Vegan Tofu Spinach Dip
Frozen Pea Salad (with or without feta)
Russian-Korean Carrot Salad)

This black bean dip is quick to make and extremely healthy, full of fiber and antioxidants. You can adjust the cayenne to taste, or use fresh or canned chiles or chipotles or chipotle powder instead. It has a mild chile hit to it as it is.

I haven’t tried it with other beans yet, but my guess is it would be just as tasty with other types, such as kidney or pinto beans, and possibly garbanzos, too.

Here is the recipe. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think if you try this yourself.

Vegan Black Bean Dip

3 TBS canola oil
1-1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 can (11 oz) corn, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
3 TBS apple cider vinegar

Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and corn in oil until onions and bell peppers are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add to blender or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend.

Serve with tortilla chips or crudite. Makes 3 cups dip.


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