Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Mother's Heidesand; German Cookies

Heidesand is a type of German shortbread made with browned butter. My mother recently made two batches of these delicious cookies, experimenting with the flour. She used unbleached all purpose flour for her first batch. The resulting cookie was how I remembered it from my childhood; a rich buttery shortbread cookie. For her second batch she used only whole wheat pastry flour. This resulted in a very delicate, melt in your mouth type cookie which I loved, however it was quite crumbly, something my mum wasn't happy with. I decided to make this cookie using half all purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour. I love the way these turned out; tender cookies that don't break apart the moment you bite into them.

My mum's recipe is pretty simple; half a pound butter, half a pound flour, 3 ounces sugar and a bit of baking powder, salt and vanilla extract. She told me these cookies need to be baked in the upper third of the oven and removed as soon as they are firm without allowing their bottoms to brown. I let mine brown because I think they taste better that way. I'll leave the baking time up to you.

1/2 lb unsalted butter, (2 sticks)
1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup* whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

Melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook until it begins to brown. You want the butter to be a nice rich brown, but take care not to let it to burn.

Remove the pot from heat and pour the butter into a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Set aside a few hours until the butter has solidified.

Beat the butter until it's fluffy, making sure to scrape up the browned bits that have settled to the bottom of the bowl. Beat in the sugar slowly, followed by the vanilla extract, baking powder and salt.

Shift together the two flours and stir them into the butter mixture. You will have a very crumbly dough. Shape this into two or three logs, about 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter. If the mixture is too crumbly and difficult to shape into logs, then mix in a few drops of water or milk.

Refrigerate until the logs are firm; about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. (Set the oven rack up one notch from the middle.)

Slice the cookies a "generous" 1/4 inch thick and place about 3/4 inch apart on a parchment paper or silicone lined cookie sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until the cookies look slightly puffed and have not yet begun to brown around the edges. (I bake mine longer (15 minutes) until the edges do look browned.)

Remove from oven and cool completely on the cookie sheet giving them the chance to firm up a bit.

* A quarter pound of whole wheat pastry flour actually worked out to 3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons. I rounded this off to one cup.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vegan Mushroom and Veggie Sausage Stew

(about 6 servings)

This delicious recipe was inspired by Seitan and Wild Mushroom Stew, from Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Little, Brown & Co. 2013).

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup hot water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium carrots, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 large red, orange or yellow bell peppers, diced
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
a pinch or two cayenne
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups dry red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
3/4 - 1 lb vegan veggie sausage, sliced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Roughly chop the dried mushrooms and stir into the hot water. Set aside until they have softened; about 15 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat (I had to switch pots halfway through because the first one I grabbed turned out to be too small). Add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion has lightly browned; about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent the onions from burning.

Stir in the carrots and bell peppers. Saute for another 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour, paprika, rosemary, thyme, salt, lemon pepper and cayenne evenly over the sauteed vegetables. Stir until the vegetables are evenly coated, then stir in the broth, red wine and tomato paste.

When the liquid begins to simmer, stir in the mushrooms and vegetable sausage. Cook, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots have softened. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the parsley. Serve.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vegan Apple and Asian Pear Crisp

I've just returned from Canada. I was there for the Canadian Thanksgiving, and made several vegan dishes for that feast. One of these was a huge apple crisp with the apples tossed in a caramel sauce. The kids loved it, although I thought it turned out a tad too sweet. This version contains less sugar and vegan buttery spread (no caramel sauce). I also tossed in some juicy organic Asian pears grown here in Sequim.

A small 1.5 liter casserole dish (7x7x3) is ideal for this crisp. It has a smaller surface, so the ratio of apples to crisp topping is greater. A good thing for those watching their waistlines. No worries if you don't have this particular dish (turns out it's vintage), use an 8x8x2 inch pan instead.

apples and pears
about 2 lbs of apples and Asian pears combined
1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp apple or orange juice

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Core then, cut the apples and Asian pears into large chunks; about 1 1/2 inches. You don't need to peel them first. Place the fruit into a bowl and sprinkle with the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and juice. Toss.

Place the mixture into a small 7x7x3 or 8x8x2 baking dish. Set aside.

crisp topping
1/4 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp "buttery" vegan spread
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Place the rolled oats, whole wheat pastry flour, brown sugar, vegan spread and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the apple and pear mixture.

Bake for about an hour or until the top has browned nicely and the apple mixture has begun to bubble.

This crisp is best served warm or at room temperature.