seitan is my motor

I've Got Wheels of Vegan Cake

Friday

18

April 2014

0

COMMENTS

Easter Wreath with Nuts

Easter wreath

Holidays come with many traditions and food is an important part of them. Sweetened yeast breads and braids are a very popular Easter food in Germany. Usually they are either made from an enriched yeast dough and braided or they have additional ingredients like raisins and nuts. These versions are shaped into round loaves. Of course there are many variations to this.

For my Easter bread I decided to make a nut filling and shape the bread into a wreath. But not just a simple wreath. I wanted a neatly braided version similar to this one. Unfortunately I failed and my wreath did not come out as beautifully as the version I linked to. I think I made one important mistake and I am sure my wreath would turn out better next time, but I guess that has to wait until the next Easter holidays. Or maybe you can do it better?

For my filling I used almonds and pistachios. The almonds are nice, but honestly I mostly used them to add bulk to the filling. Because the real stars of this recipe are the pistachios. I love their sweet, prominent taste. Since shelled, unsalted pistachios are very expensive, I used salted ones in their shell. I removed the shell and then soaked the nuts in water over night. Then I rinsed and drained them and ground them together with the almonds in a food processor. Since the pistachios were soaked, they were a bit softer and even though I didn’t grind the nuts very thorough, I ended up with a filling that had a marzipan like consistency.

Many enriched, sweetened yeast doughs are made with eggs. Those are supposed to make the crumb light and fluffy. If you make a vegan version, there is a very simple trick to achieve a very similar texture: add more water to the dough as you usually would and resist the temptation to add more flour. Since gluten is a water soluble protein, it will form as soon as water is added to the dough. This means kneading is not as important as many people think and the water will not only do all the work, more water will also improve the texture. So you can simply stir this dough with a wooden spoon until it is well mixed and then leave it alone. After a resting time of 45 to 60 minutes it should be perfectly smooth and easy to work with.

Easter Wreat with Pistachios

For the dough:
270 ml (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) soy milk
65 g (1/3 cup) sugar
55 g (1/4 cup) refined coconut oil
420 g (3 1/2 cups) flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
150 g (5.3 oz) shelled pistachios*
150 g (5.3 oz) blanched almonds
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar

*For me 400g pistachios in their shells yielded 150 g.

wreath-step-by.step To make the dough: Combine soy milk, sugar, and coconut oil in a small pot. Warm the soy milk until the coconut oil has melted. Make sure not to boil the mixture. Then cool until luke warm.

Add flour, yeast, and salt to a bowl and stir until mixed. Add liquid ingredients. Use a spoon and stir  until all ingredients are well incorporated. At this point your dough should be rather sticky. (Picture 1) Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for about 45-60 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling: Rinse and drain your pistachios if you haven’t already and place pistachios and almonds in a food processor. Process into a sticky mass. Make sure not to overheat your food processor. Add to a bowl and mix with sugar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface and knead well or one or two minutes. Roll the dough into a rectangle (60 x 30 cm or 23.6 x 11.8 inches). This will take a while and it usually helps to make a couple of small pauses, let the dough rest and help the gluten to relax. Then continue rolling it out.

Sprinkle the nut mixture on top of the dough and leave a little margin around the edges. (Picture 2) Roll up the dough, starting with the long side. (Picture 3) Pinch the edges and tuck them in. Now use a sharp knife to cut into the log. You should cut it into two halves. And there’s the mistake I made: I thought the cut log would be easier to handle by leaving the edges intact. But that did keep me from rolling the log into a proper shape while twisting it. So if you make this wreath and want a prettier version, you should not leave the edges intact and you should make shure that when you twist the logs as shown in picture 5, you should twist them in a way that the cuts are visible and not tucked in as in my version. (Here is a great tutorial on how to do this.)

Anyway, after you cut the log, twist it (picture 5) and shape it into a wreath, making sure to pinch the ends. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest for 45 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake for 60 minutes. Check on the wreath from time to time. I had to cover it with aluminium foil after 30 minutes as the crust started to get a bit too dark.

Remove from oven and let cool completely and serve immediately. Happy holidays for all of you! happy holidays

Monday

14

April 2014

5

COMMENTS

Stroopwafel Granola

granola

I remember that when I was a kid I didn’t get my mother’s morning routine. She would sit at the table hidden behind the newspaper and when I tried to talk to her she would say: “Please, can you wait until I have had my coffee?” I think I still tried to talk to her all the time and I would always get this and only this answer. I remember that I had no idea what was going on. I mean, I could talk to her without having a coffee!

Today I do understand. Because every morning we have to get up way too early for me. I try to follow my routine while still half asleep: Dress, get the kid dressed, send her off to daycare. Get to work. Thankfully there usually is a gap between “send the kid to daycare” and “get to work”. Things slow down and I sit in the kitchen, stare around, and wait for my coffee to be ready.

Sometimes sitting around and staring at thingsis a good thing. One day I looked at a package of stroopwafels (Dutch syrup waffles). They are one of my favourite treats and vegan versions are widely available here. I always wanted to make my own version. But these waffles are made in a stroopwafel iron and those are hard to find. And even if I would find one, would I really need it?  To make these waffles once or twice a year? Of course not. So I thought about making them in the oven. Probably that would not work. But putting my prepackaged stroopwafels into a baked granola would work! And I am glad I tried this out because the recipe is my favourite granola recipe now. The stroopwafel flavour is enhanced by cinnamon and supplemented by lots of roasting flavours and of course this would be perfect with a cup of coffee. It also makes a great snack or food present, too.

Tip: You can swap many ingredients; for example almonds for hazelnuts, almond or cashew butter for hazelnut butter, flax for chia, and so on.

Stroopwafel Granola

400 g (4 cups) old-fashioned oats
70 g (1/2 cup) hazelnuts, roughly chopped
40 g (4 tablespoons) chia seeds
45 g (4 tablespoons) sunflower seeds
146 g (5 waffles) stroopwafels, roughly chopped
55 g (1/4 cup packed) brown sugar
85 g (1/4 cup) agave syrup
60 g (1/4 cup) hazelnut butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Evenly spread on the baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Stir once or twice. Let cool completely and transfer to a glass container with a lid.

Friday

4

April 2014

43

COMMENTS

Veganism 1.0 vs. Veganism 2.0. Dogmatism vs. Fun?

I live in Dresden and like most German cities we have a city magazine that lists daily and monthly theatre, cinema, art etc, events. They also have a special every month, covering a Dresden specific topic. This month it was a special about being vegan and vegetarian in Dresden. At first I thought: “Wow”. Because being vegan in April seven years ago (yay, veganniversary! yay, blog anniversary!) it was indeed not that easy being a vegan in Dresden, at least if you were going to eat out. Of course we already had tons of vegan products available at grocery stores. And there’s always grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables! The cover article mentions how veganism started in Dresden right after the wall came down. Those vegans were political activists and one of them mentions how you even had to make your own spreads from scratch. Which didn’t matter because they they didn’t mind making everything from scratch. That, by the way is something I have always loved about veganism, too.The ability to make your food or other things from scratch. That’s one reason why I started this blog.

This mindset seems to have changed. At least that is the impression I got from an inverview that follows the cover article. It’s an interview with a vegan who sells vegan products online. He talks about this and mentions cookbooks his company recommends. They praise the author of these vegan recipe books, because for that person being vegan and having fun apparently is important. Not too bad, right? I have fun being vegan, too. But then he talks about two categories of vegans. One that he calls “old vegans” and “dogmatics”. The ones who don’t want to kill animals or contribute to their killing. That, he adds, is called veganism 1.0. Veganism 2.0 on the other side is about a “great lifestyle” and about fun.

It’s really nothing new that vegans are called “dogmatics”, “extremists” or “lunatics”. It has happened to me, too. I guess we scare some people. They don’t want to be confronted with their eating habits, they don’t want to be confronted with their bad conscience. Or they just want to eat their steak. And that is ok. I don’t want to be criticised for my eating habits and for my way of living so I don’t criticise them either. And if asked, I try to explain my motives. But vegans calling other vegans dogmatic because they don’t want to kill animals? Seriously? April fool’s? Shouldn’t those people know what motivates us? Shouldn’t they know our arguments?

No, I think they don’t. Or they don’t want to. And the motivation behind this got clearer as I read on. Somehow the German health care system was mentioned. The interviewee said that “most diseases” are caused by not eating right. He talks about how the health care system will collapse. And how we cannot expect people to pay for someone else’s diabetes. Because it’s their own fault. (Sorry to point this out, but please let’s not talk about this topic in this manner in the comments. I will delete a comment that tells me it’s somebody’s own fault that they got sick.). Oh, we cannot expect that? Isn’t that what our German health care system is built on? Our welfare state? Ever heard the word solidarity?  Does it mean that if I live in a small and clean village I don’t have to pay for those who die of polluted air in a city? Or if I ride a bike I don’t have to pay for car accident victims? Or maybe if I don’t have kids I don’t have to pay for a new mother’s stay at the hospital? Because it the end it’s her fault that she got pregnant, right? Ok, sorry. I am being sarcastic. But this shows that the topic is more complicated than letting somebody eat greens. People are complicated. Their bodies are complicated. Diseases are complicated. And health care systems are complicated. Maybe the German health care system is so fucked up (which is a debatable opinion, too) because of structural, organisational, or political reasons? Maybe somebody suffers from a so called first world disease for a completely different reason? (Also it would have been nice if some facts or references would have been added to those interview claims.)

I think this is not about fun at all. One a certain level, this is about egoism. We don’t care for others, we don’t pay for others. But mostly this is about consumption and capitalism. Lately veganism has been crazy popular in Germany. TV, newspapers, internet…veganism is everywhere. It’s popular, cool, it’s a trendy lifestyle. This current lifestyle is nothing for dogmatics, activists, or moralists. Because those don’t care much about their own well being their own body, their own health. (Or at least not as much as this new lifestyle wants them to care.) For them it’s often about politics, ethics, and changing our society. Maybe they have ecological reasons, too. They don’t care that veganism often means to forego things. But foregoing things is not desirable in a society based entirely on consumption. Every day we learn that we have to consume and we need to consume. There’s no war, we don’t have to sacrifice. We don’t live in the German Democratic Country. We have access to stuff! Unless we’re poor. But then fancy new products are not for us anyway. If you sacrifice stuff on purpose, if you don’t consume on purpose you must have lost your mind, you must be “extreme”. I mean, how can that vegan next to me dare to eat a salad without dressing? Just because those dressing had milk in it? How can you refuse to eat milk? How can you not buy that milk chocolate? Sacrifice is hard. It’s  extreme!

Dogmatics are bad for a society based on consumption because they don’t buy certain products. They forego, they ask questions, they boycott. And not so long ago they also gave vegan products a very bad rep. I mean, who wants to bring a tofu sausage to a barbecue? If you do that you must be a lunatic. One of those foregoing extremists. But if you make it work that vegan products are not longer being associated with those “dogmatics” and instead they are perceived as fashionable, you can sell those products to so many new target groups. Because, I think, in the end this is all about making money. I don’t like being called extreme just because somebody can sell their products that way. Well, I hope that doesn’t backfire. And I rather stay “dogmatic”. Because I think this veganism 2.0 is no fun.

Monday

31

March 2014

17

COMMENTS

Basic Vegan Spaetzle Recipe & Cheesy Spaetzle Casserole

spätzle casserole

Since I write a German food blog in English I get many recipe requests from people who have German ancestors or relatives but do not live in Germany. It’s always very interesting to read about their motivation to recreate a certain dish. They sometimes tell me about their family members who made those dishes but never passed on the recipe. Often I have never heard about their version of a certain recipe. It’s fascinating how traditional German dishes or foods have changed through adaption, other ingredients, and preparation methods. For example pretzels. The first time I heard about the US tradition to serve pretzels with mustard I thought it was super weird. In Germany sausages like bratwurst are served with mustard. But definitely not pretzels. Pretzels are served with butter. The pretzel and mustard combination was invented, so I read, in Philadelphia where soft pretzels became popular in the 19th century. Another thing I found very interesting is the fact that the German pretzel always refers to the shape of the baked good. A pretzel  has to be pretzel shaped. In Northern America the name pretzel isn’t always linked to the shape though. Instead, it seems to me,  the name refers to the preparation method of baked goods brushed with lye. Everything that is brushed with lye and has the distinctive dark brown colour is called a pretzel, no matter which shape.

Another example is “German” potato salad. What most people in the US call a “German” potato salad is not the German potato salad I was used to during my childhood. It’s a recipe popular in the South of Germany but not in the North, where I come from. In the North we often make our potato salad with mayonnaise and not with vinegar. Whenever we would eat the potato salad my grandmother used to make (potatoes, mayonnaise, pickles, cold cut pieces, and cooked eggs) my father, who had lived in the South of Germany for a couple of years when he was a kid, would tell us about how people in Bavaria made their potato salad. And we kids were disgusted. How on earth could you use vinegar in your potato salad? And how could you even eat a potato salad without mayo? That just wasn’t possible!

These are just two examples about how foods and traditions change and it’s an interesting topic, I think. Especially when you think about it from a vegan perspective. Since we don’t eat many traditional ingredients like eggs, cheese, or meat, we change food traditions all the time and invent new ones. We don’t eat cheese or bacon and still call some of our foods that. And like I would argue that you cannot call something that is not pretzel shaped a pretzel, meat eaters would argue that you cannot call a smoked eggplant strip bacon. And they would find it weird to pour a liquid made from soy beans over their cereal just like I would find it super weird to brush my pretzel with mustard or add vinegar to my potato salad. It’s tradition, it’s convention, it’s what you are used to. But sometimes traditions or habits change. Maybe you don’t know the tradition. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you cannot recreate a certain dish because you don’t have access to special ingredients.Or, as in our vegan case, you don’t want to use them for ethical reasons.  And so your view on what makes a traditional food will change or you might think: “Who cares when I use different ingredients or make this into another shape? And who cares when I call my eggplant bacon?” Because in the end it’s a creative process and maybe you started a new tradition. And most definitely you created something delicious no matter how you will call it or how you changed certain preparation methods or ingredients.

This is how I changed my opinion on käsespätzle (cheese spaetzle). I have been asked so many times to make them vegan and always refused. Because I thought that you just couldn’t veganise them. A vegan käsespätzle dish would always lack one important original ingredient: cheese. You cannot make käsespätzle without proper cheese. Yes, that’s what I always thought. And it may still be true because it mostly depends on the vegan cheeses you have access to. If you think your cheese tastes good and it melts, then you can go ahead and make käsespätzle. Oh, wait. No you can’t. Because traditional spaetzle can only be made with eggs and you need really good spaetzle scraping skills or it just won’t work. Because traditional spaetzle are made by scraping the wet dough off a wodden chopping board into hot water. But since we don’t own these skills and since we are vegan and don’t use those eggs anyway, let’sjust go ahead and make some eggless spaetzle casserole that we will call cheesy spaetzle casserole even if there’s no cheese inside. No cheese spaetzle. Just vegan mac and cheese made with eggless flour dumplings instead of macaroni. It’s a creamy, savoury, and filling casserole that gets it’s special twist from 1/4 cup of hazelnut butter. If you still want to make cheese spaetzle, skip to the end of this post.

Making spaetzle is easy if you have the right tools. You can use a potato ricer to press the dough into the boiling water. Or you can use a tool that is called spätzlehobel in German. (In English this is called a spaetzle maker.) That is what I used.

spaetzlehobel

If you use a spaetzle maker like this, your spaetzle will come out short and look similar to little knobs. That’s why these are called knöpfle (little buttons) in German. Spaetzle made with the traditional scraping method or with a potato ricer will be not as chubby.

spätzle

If you make eggless spaetzle there’s a great trick to give you good results. Replace some of the flour with durum flour. It will improve the texture and your spaetzle will cook easier. When I made my first spaetzle version, I used only flour and my dumplings came out very uneven in shape and they weren’t cooked properly:

20140314-DSC05537-2

Some of these were also longer and more spaetzle shaped because the dough was wetter. The durum flour definitely absorbs a lot more water than the spelt flour. I will give you both recipes, but I’d go for the one with durum flour. If you don’t have durum flour, you can use a bit of chickpea flour for binding. Maybe it’s a good idea to reduce the the water to 3/4 cup for a firmer batter.

Spaetzle made with spelt and chickpea flour:

210 g (1 3/4 cup) light spelt flour
240 ml (1 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 g ( 1/4 cup) chickpea flour

Spaetzle made with durum and spelt flour:

90 g (3/4 cup) durum flour
120 g (1 cup) light spelt flour (or all purpose flour)
240 ml (1 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions for both versions:

Place the flour in a bowl. Add water and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir the batter until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes before using.

spätzle batter

Meanwhile prepare the boiling water:
Pour about two litres (8 cups) of salted water into a large pot. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil right before you start to press the dumplings into the water.

Place your spaetzle maker on top of the pot and pour about half of the batter into the sliding box. Slide it from side to side so that the spaetzle will fall into the water. Repeat with the remaining batter.

making spätzle

After one or two minutes the dumplings will float to the top and you can transfer them to a colander.

Cheesy Spaetzle Casserole (serves 4)

1 recipe spaetzle

60 g (1/4 cup) roasted hazelnut butter
15 g (1/4 cup) nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika powder
black pepper to taste
480 ml (2 cups) water

Have a baking dish ready and preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Place all ingredients for the sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Place the spaetzle in the dish and pour sauce on top. Transfer to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Let sit for ten minutes and serve. (For serving, you can transfer the single portions to small baking dishes like I did.)

Käsespätzle (Cheese Spaetzle)

For cheese spaetzle you just need to place half of the spaetzle in a baking dish and grate a generous portion of your favourite meltable vegan cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining spaetzle and cheese. Top with caramelised onions and bake at 200°C (400°F) until the cheese has melted. Serve.

Friday

21

March 2014

6

COMMENTS

Cabbage Stew with Potatoes, Chickpeas, and Kale

stew

Stews are great for several reasons. When it comes to vegetables you can put whatever you like into a stew. So it is a great way to use up those that have been sitting in the fridge for quite a while. Stews are also easy to make. You just have to cut up the ingredients, fry them a little, add some broth or other liquid, some spices and you are ready to go. And then just bring the pot to a boil and do whatever you like in the meantime.

I had some cabbage and potato leftovers from my last post. Cabbage is a great stew ingredient because it’s almost always in season and it’s often very cheap. Potatoes are cheap, too. So here’s a fantastic weekday meal that was zapped up with some kale and a can of chickpeas.

stew

Cabbage Stew with Potatoes, Chickpeas, and Kale

1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic,pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
500 g blanched or raw cabbage*, shredded
1 l (4 cups) vegetable broth
50 g smoked tofu, finely cubed
400 g waxy potatoes, cubed
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
salt and black pepper to taste
1 400 g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100 g kale, shredded

*My cabbage was blanched because it was left over from my cabbage rolls. You can blanch yours or just use raw cabbage.

Fry onions and garlic until light brown. Add cabbage, fry for 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups vegetable broth and smoked tofu. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes, oregano, thyme, salt and black pepper. Cook over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add chickpeas and kale and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes or fresh bread.