Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Aqua Fabulous


So while perusing my favorite website Amazon.com, I came across a slew of new aquafaba cookbooks. This re-peaked my interest in the canned garbanzo bean juice cum egg substitute. 

When aquafaba first became a "thing" I decided to give it a try, as I will pretty much try all egg substitutes that come down the pike. I made a vanilla cake with the aquafaba and I was sorely disappointed. The cake was heavier than my normal results with vegan cake, and I didn't find the aquafaba added anything that made me change my practice of rinsing the excess liquid from a can of beans down the drain.

Then I came across Alton Brown's Magical Mystery Meringue Cookies, and I changed my tune. I knew I could trust Alton to have tested his recipe to the nth degree. Since baking in general is a science, but vegan baking is like astrophysics--I really needed a recipe I could trust. And it worked! Easily and beautifully, just as Alton said it would.

I made a human error and paid for the result. I used two baking trays and forgot to switch them (move one on top to lower rack and vice versa) halfway through baking time. As a result, the lower rack's tray was too soft IMHO when the buzzer dinged. So I decided to employ another meringue technique I knew and left them in the oven with the heat off (there's a recipe called "Forgotten Cookies" where you leave meringues overnight in oven) while I did the carpool run.  When I returned I found my meringues had gone from a pristine snowy white to more of a NYC snow light brown.  But they still tasted good! And a valuable lesson was learned...even better.

Alton lists a number of variations, I chose to sub almond extract for the vanilla in the recipe. My kids told me they would have preferred vanilla (:(   For a festive twist you can add 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy sticks or 1/2 cup chopped chocolate. Fold these in gently after the meringue is fully whipped.  When meringues are cooled you can drizzle melted chocolate over the top with a fork for a lovely presentation, or dip one half in cooled melted chocolate, then in sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy.  To easily melt chocolate put 1 bag (10-12 ounces) chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tablespoon solid shortening (like Crisco or coconut oil...do not use margarine, it contains water which will make chocolate seize up) or 2 teaspoons oil.  Microwave on high 1-2 minutes, stir until smooth.

What I love most about these cookies is their versatility. They are good for those egg and dairy allergic, vegan and gluten free.  They can easily be made in advance and keep well for a week in an airtight container and make a great cheap and easy gift when put in a nice container.

I made somewhat larger meringues, about the size of a half a hardboiled egg, and it yielded about 4 dozen cookies. Alton recommends using low or no sodium beans, I used the regular variety and it

Magical Mystery Meringues

3/4 cup "aquafaba" – the liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas* at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the aquafaba and cream of tartar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until foamy – about 2 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar followed by the vanilla extract then increase the speed to high beat to stiff peaks, another 2-3 minutes.
  • Scoop the meringue into a gallon sized zip-top bag (or piping bag) and pipe into quarter-sized rounds. Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. The meringues may feel soft in the oven but will continue to dry as they cool.
  • Add 2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals and 6 drops of chocolate bitters to the batter before baking
  • Dip into tempered chocolate and cool
  • *Low-sodium or no-salt added recommended
  • YIELDS: Makes approximately 400 quarter-sized cookies

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Make and Take


Starting from before Thanksgiving and continuing until the end of December, I hear things like this in my house:
"I have a pot luck at work, can you make something?"
"What can you bring for Thanksgiving that will be "safe" for your kids?"
"We're having a holiday party, I don't know if there will be anything I can eat, can you make something?"
"Gahhh...so busy....so much to do!" (o.k. the last one is me, and it's only in my head).

When you need to bring something to a festive meal, potluck, or even put something on your own table that is "safe" for those who have allergens/Celiac/food sensitivities, it can seem like a daunting task.  You have so much else to plan, shop and do this time of year, that a specialized dish seems onerous.  But I've come up with a super easy rice noodle salad that you only need one serving bowl or 9x13 inch pan to prep, cook and serve all in one!

My main caveat is to make sure the ingredients you are using are gluten free. With food items produced overseas, like most Asian rice noodles, you need to make sure there are no glutenny ingredients, and they are using pure rice flour. I found a great brand with US labeling standards called Gefen, and it's available at my regular supermarket.

There is a lot of leeway in this dish. If you don't want to use the dressing in the recipe, you can substitute one of the great gluten free Asian style sauces from San-J, or even do with a splash of GF soy sauce.  As well, you can mix and match whatever veggies or proteins you like in the dish. Throw in some protein if you want: leftover tofu, a handful of  chick peas, or some diced chicken.

So try to relax and enjoy your company and visiting and rest assured that your special guests will have something "safe" and delicious to eat.

Asian Rice Noodle Salad (vegan)

1 Pkg. gluten free thin, Asian style rice noodles (11 ounce pkg.)
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped scallions
 boiling water

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

In a large mixing bowl or 9x13 ceramic or Pyrex baking pan, place rice noodles. Note: The noodles usually come in several blocks to a package, so lay them down in single layer, if possible.  Cover noodles with a generous amount of boiling water. Cover tightly with foil. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.  Drain into colander and set noodles aside.

In the same mixing bowl, whisk together dressing.  Add noodles and remaining ingredients.  Toss well to coat noodles and vegetables well.

This may be served warm, but I suggest chilling for 2 hours before serving.

Serves: 12