Vegan Blueberry Muffins

August 29, 2009

These light vegan muffins never missed the eggs.

These light vegan muffins never missed the eggs.

Ah, summer fruits–berries, cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, melons…hasn’t anyone written a song about this? If so, I’d be singing it now.

I had a craving for blueberry muffins after purchasing some fresh blueberries. I found this recipe on a site about eggless cooking. The recipe comes from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, which isn’t yet part of my already overflowing cookbook collection.

I modified it only slightly, leaving out lemon extract and substituting soymilk for regular milk and whole wheat flour for unbleached. Because the only substitute for eggs was vinegar, I was worried the muffins would end up dense. But the end result was a light muffin with clean blueberry taste.

The picture above is kind of odd. I ate most of them before remembering to take a picture. So I pulled the last three out of the fridge. That’s why they look a little sleepy!

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 TBS lemon zest
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your berries and how sweet you like your muffins)
1 cup soy milk or rice milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 TBS vinegar
1-1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Mix together dry ingredients and zest. Add wet ingredients. Stir until just barely incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Fill non-stick muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. No need to preheat your oven; I rarely do. Just leave it in an extra ten minutes.

Test for doneness with a chopstick stuck in the center of one of the muffins in the middle of the pan. If it comes out clean, they are done.

Very carefully remove from pan and let cool slightly. I like to eat my muffins warm, so they still have some crunch on the outside from the oven.

Makes 12 muffins.

Muffin-Making Tips

*Use frozen blueberries. That way they will remain mostly suspended in the dough rather than all sinking to the bottom.

*Do not overmix. Mix just until there are no dry ingredients rolling around. Overmixing will make tough muffins and/or create tunnels, large holes in them.

Vegan Pineapple-Mint Sherbet was a Hit!

August 25, 2009
This Vegan Pineapple-Mint Sherbet tasted and looked much better in real life.

This Vegan Pineapple-Mint Sherbet tasted and looked much better in real life.

Well, all the work on the sherbet was worth it. I served it for dessert at my latest dinner party, after a heavy meal of Malaysian fruit salad, turmeric rice, long beans, whole wheat chapati, and mixed vegetable curry with coconut milk.

The fact that the guests all went “mmm” as they scraped their bowls was probably a good sign! It turned out creamy and refreshing.

No recipe per se, but if you want to try to make it, blend some pineapple, sweetener, nondairy milk, and spearmint leaves in a blender. Add minced ginger, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice to give depth of flavor and balance.

The important bit is to strain the mixture before attempting to freeze it, so the horsehair-like fibers do not detract from the final, luscious texture. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, freeze the mixture until it is semi-frozen, then blend again to break up the ice crystals. The mixture will be thick, like a shake. Then freeze until firm.

You could also leave out the milk and use juice or water instead, to make sorbet instead of sherbet, but I liked the added creaminess the soymilk imparted. You’ll still get great flavor, just a different product.

Before serving, remove your sherbet/sorbet from the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to serve it. This will allow it to soften enough to be scoopable and have the right amount of melt on your tongue. Too frozen, and it ends up more like ice.

Don’t let the picture mislead you. It doesn’t do justice to the real thing, which was refreshing, cool, and just rich enough to feel sinful, but not enough to regret! 🙂

Vegan Pineapple-Mint Sherbet

August 20, 2009

I wanted to develop a dessert for an upcoming dinner party. The rest of the dishes are fairly substantial, so I wanted the last course to be light. And with the heat we’ve been having lately, it also had to be refreshing. Something frozen came to mind immediately.

We make a smoothie with pineapple and mint, so I thought it would be easy enough to translate that into a sherbet. Creamy with soymilk, but not as fat-filled as a tofu-based ice cream substitute.

I created the base and froze it. Since I don’t have an ice cream maker, I need to use the low-tech method of beating the mixture again once it has partially frozen, in order to break up the ice crystals that have formed. Otherwise, I’ll end up with crunchy sherbet.

When it was ready to eat, I tried a few spoonfuls. Nice flavor, very refreshing. But one annoying problem: strings of pineapple fiber left on my tongue, which I spit out. Yuck.

So I had to melt it all, then strain it, and re-freeze and blend and freeze again. So much for a low-maintenance dessert!

Maybe next time I’ll start with pineapple juice…

Fermented Flatbread, Indian Dosa

August 9, 2009
Hard at work in my secret laboratory!

Hard at work in my secret laboratory!

I’ve just begun my latest mad science experiment. I’ve been making fermented dough–batter, actually–for dosa and uttapam, which are flatbreads typically eaten in South India for breakfast.

Although the process takes time, it isn’t complicated. Rice and urad dahl are soaked in water for several hours, then drained and blended with water to create a slurry.

The mixture is left to ferment overnight, but even here in Honolulu in summer, it took two days in my kitchen. You end up with a bubbling, stinky mixture that makes me feel like a crazy scientist in a hidden laboratory. Mwah ha ha ha!

The batter is cooked like pancakes in a skillet or on a griddle. It can also be spread paper-thin so they cook into crisp rounds.

I’ve tried them with and without fenugreek seeds, which add a fragrance akin to maple syrup, and I’m going to try them again with chana dahl (garbanzo beans) once I go buy some. Salt is added after the ferment so that it doesn’t slow the fermentation process down.

I have fallen in love with the tangy flavor, reminiscent of a good sourdough bread. While I have yet to get the techniques for cooking down, the result is nevertheless delicious and well worth the advance planning.

Uttapam and Coconut Chutney

Uttapam and Coconut Chutney

Next I need to get good variations on the accompanying dishes they are usually served with. One is coconut sambar or chutney, another is tomato chutney, and a third is sambar, a watery dahl and vegetable curry just perfect for dipping into.

There is a recipe and video here.

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

August 4, 2009

Like peanut butter and jelly, apples and cinnamon, and milk and cookies, some pairings just seem made for each other. The combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar is one of them.

I was happy to find a large bottle of balsamic vinegar at the warehouse store. Since it’s usually a fairly pricey ingredient, I have been using it somewhat miserly in my recipe experimentation. But this makes it fair game for play.

The full-bodied warmth of the vinegar goes well with strawberries, although you’d think the tartness would make it too sour. That can be true. The addition of some sweetener rounds everything out, however.

Try it while strawberries are still in season. Slice some strawberries in a bowl, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, taste, and add some sweetener of choice, if desired. I bet it’s a combination you’ll return to again and again.