Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

Archive for January, 2008

“Blogging”. It works for me.

Posted by Susie on January 7, 2008

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir, or stating the obvious, but I really am digging this whole “blog” format.

For a long time, I wanted to try writing a book regarding many of the things I am writing here. But I never got around to that, well, for a lot of reasons. Besides the fact that I didn’t really know enough to round out all that I wanted to say, I found it pretty hard to get past “outline form”, because the topic I had set my sights on writing about was gigantic, and the whole project was very intimidating to start trying to get even a small part into a draft form.

With this blog thing though, I can break my thoughts into easier to chew chunks, leave the stuff I’m not sure about until later, AND get instant gratification and feedback when I post thoughts on one topic. Its nice. And it works for me. Book can wait until I have done more school, because I really would like to limit how precocious I have to be. Veganism forbid I make a false claim or overlook something in print!

And because I hate to post without a picture, here is what I think is REALLY funny lately: Brewing my morning espresso in a 50 mL beaker.

I amuse myself way too easily. I sit in the kitchen, alone, drinking my coffee out of my beaker and laughing at my own joke. Its great. (Lame, but great.)

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Some experiments involving vegan brioche

Posted by Susie on January 5, 2008

 Can you guess which brioches contain extra gluten? Read on to find out!

So, when I made vegan challah a while ago, I think I got pretty close to determining both what eggs do in a lean yeasted bread, and a good way of replacing them. Rich yeasted dough, however, has slightly different needs.  Typically, since fat weakens dough structure, the amount of eggs called for in rich bread increases as the butter content increases.  Eggs, therefore, serve as structure providers in doughs with high fat content, as opposed to their use as tenderizers in lean eggy doughs such as challah.  Back in spring of ’06, I was determined to find a method of replacing eggs in these rich yeasted doughs. I remember looking through my baking text book in order to find the bread formula that called for the most eggs and the most butter. The dough I found that had the highest egg and butter content was brioche. I believe that particular formula called for a ratio of 80g butter to 100g flour (80% in the bakers percent terminology), which is a whole LOT of butter. My first attempt to veganize this recipe was the same exact method I had luck veganizing challah with. (The challah experiment I posted here a month and a half ago was really a re-creation of an experiment I had done in ’06.) I replaced the butter with margarine, and the egg with tofu with enough water pressed out that the protein and water content would be the same as egg. This failed horribly. The dough was crumbly, and never came together because it was way too stiff and dry. The baked brioches this dough made were not so good, either. “SO”, I thought, “I need another method of veganizing rich yeast bread than I do lean yeast bread”.

Since I was pretty sure the eggs were called for as structure providers (and maybe also as emulsifiers due to the giant quantities of fat in the dough), I decided to try the “other” structure providing protein, good old wheat gluten, to see how it did at holding up all that fat.  Now, wheat gluten, if used in high quantities in dough, can make some breads “chewy”.  Bagels are made from 13% gluten flour, and I calculated that if I replaced all the egg protein called for by my brioche recipe by adding gluten powder, that it would essentially be like using flour that is 16% gluten (!), which is really a high amount of gluten, comparatively. “BUT!”, I figured, “This is a dough that is one third fat! and I really doubt that it will be made tough, dense, or chewy, because that is a lot of fat”. So I tried another brioche dough, this time adding the amount of water, fat, and lecithin I calculated was called for by the recipe, and replacing the egg protein with gluten protein. I ended up with gorgeous little brioches, and my baking teachers couldn’t tell the difference between my vegan and traditional brioches.

Fast forward to this friday. I have been meaning to re-start my brioche studies while now. I realised that I was missing one important thing from what I did before: I knew brioche didn’t work when I tried to use tofu, and I did know it did work when I used gluten, water, fat, and lecithin, but I didn’t know if it would have worked if I had only added the water, fat, and lecithin, and not the gluten.

I found a new brioche formula. This time, I based my experiment off of “Rich Man’s Brioche” from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. It called for even more butter than the formula I had used before: butter and flour in a near 1:1 ratio! I decided to try making two doughs simultaneously, both with enough added water, oil, and lecithin to replace what would have been in the egg Reinhart called for, but that I would add an amount of gluten protein to one of the doughs to replace the missing amount of egg protein. Here is what happened:

Each dough had a starter consisting of:

  • 0.6 oz bread flour
  • 0.1 oz dry yeast
  • 1.0 oz unsweetened soymilk

The starter was mixed with:

  •  1.6 oz tap water
  • 0.2 oz oil
  • 1 drop liquid soy lecithin

Once the starter was dispersed and broken up into the water, I added:

  • 4.0 oz bread flour (King Arthur brand)
  • 0.3 oz sugar
  • 0.1 oz salt (Next time I make these, I plan on omiting this salt, because the original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but they don’t make unsalted Earth Balance, so my final product was very salty)
  • To one of the doughs, I added 0.2 oz vital wheat gluten at this stage.

This addition was mixed at a slow speed for 6 minutes, then on a slightly faster speed for 6 minutes, then allowed to rest for 5 minutes. (I used a 6 quart kitchenaid mixer and a dough hook.)

Using a dough hook, then switching halfway through to a paddle attachment, I mixed the following into my dough, a small amount at a time, frequently scraping the sides of the bowl:

  • 4.0 oz Earth balance buttery stick (one stick)

Once all of the margarine was incorporated, I mixed the dough about 5 minutes more on a low speed, scraping the bowl as needed.  Each dough was placed in a bowl, covered with saran wrap, and allowed to ferment, chilled, overnight.

The next day, I formed each dough into balls and put them in a mini muffin pan. I put 5 mini-brioches made from the dough without the added gluten on one side of my muffin pan and 6 mini-brioches made from the dough with the added gluten on the other side. (to remind myself which side had “less” gluten.) The remaining dough I formed into balls and placed next to each other in a mini-loaf pan. I covered all the formed dough with saran wrap, and put it outside to proof for about 5 hours, then brought it inside to proof at room temperature  for about 1 hour. I baked the brioches at 400 F until they were golden brown, and then let them cool.

Both doughs looked like they had formed reasonably decent brioches. Neither collapsed, which was a big fear, considering all of the fat that dough had to hold up. However, the brioche with the extra gluten rose considerably higher, looked fluffier, and had a much more resilient structure.

Both of these brioches weighed 21 grams, but the brioche on the left has added gluten protein to make up for missing egg protein. The brioche on the right does not.

These are the same brioches opened up:

The brioche with extra gluten also has a more resilient structure than the brioche without extra gluten. This is the loaf with both doughs baked side by side. I poked each side with equal pressure, and the extra gluten containing brioche bounced back much quicker and more completely.


Added gluten brioche wins!

So, in conclusion:

Its good to know that even in rich yeast breads containing a 1:1 flour to fat ratio, that egg protein isn’t totally nessasary to keep the bread from collapsing, and it is even better to know that a little gluten can make a vegan rich dough even nicer, have better volume, and be more resilient than otherwise.

Also, on a less technical note, these vegan brioches were really good. I can’t say I’ve ever even had brioche before, but they reminded me of another buttery yeast dough: croissants! They sure are rich and flakey, but you know, these are MUCH easier to make than croissants! No rolling and folding! I plan on making them again, for sure. If anyone tries this, make sure you omit the salt though, unless you happen to find unsalted vegan margarine, in which case you should tell ME where to find it.)

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Booze Cake, 2008.

Posted by Susie on January 4, 2008

Last new years eve, I decided that I was going to try to see how much alcohol I could fit in a cake. The idea I started with was an extrapolation of your classic jello shot: It looks like a normal dessert, but really its not just water thats gelled, there is a bit of ethanol hiding in there too, and boy do you get drunk off of it.

My go-to, base-everything-off-of frosting is this recipe that was in one of my mom’s cooking magazines when I was little. I don’t really know the specifics of the original recipe, but I do know that it called for one cup of milk to be thickened with 5TBS of flour, then beaten with one cup of fat and one cup of powdered sugar. This is a very versatile recipe for me: I can come up with all sorts of interesting frostings by knowing that as long as I have one cup of water-based “stuff” that has been thickened to “thick pudding” consistency somehow, then whip it up with a cup of whatever solid fat (margarine, shortening, sometimes I even throw some melted chocolate in), and about 130 g of sugar, I will get a structurally successful, fluffy as heck, frosting.

Last year’s booze cake was an attempt to provide the cup of thickened water based “stuff” as well as the sugar by using a vegan jello shot kind of thing. It worked pretty well.

This year’s cake had higher ambitions. I had plans to attend a new years party at Jess’s, and it was going to be SO vegan. I decided to skip the vegan jello mix this time, and wanted to find out if I could use pregelatinized starch to thicken my rum without having to cook it and lose valuable alcohol in the process. For some reason, the grocery store did not carry straight-up pregelatinized starch, but they did have Jell-o brand instant pudding, and upon close inspection of the ingredients list, I found that it was vegan. So I decided to use that.

The cake layers
In the past, if I was making a cake for an important occasion, often I would jump at the chance to get some experimenting done while I was at it. However, I have come to realize that my cake-veganizing method must be off somehow, because I kept ending up with hard, dense cakes and having no choice but to serve them for the special event. NO MORE!, I decided. The thing is, vegan cake recipes are really good, and so I figure that unless I want to make a cake specifically for the purpose of experimentation, then I should probably stick with a good, reliable, vegan cake recipe. For this years booze cake, I decided to go with a tried and true Kitteekake, because if there is one person I trust when it comes to cake (or…anything else, now that I think about it), it is Kittee. I printed out her chocolate cake recipe, and because it was for booze cake and a “fancy dessert” party, I made a few adjustments accordingly. I found out that making flavor adjustments on a vegan recipe is much more fun and satisfying than making veganization adjustments. Here are the changes I made:

  • Instead of the 2 cups of cold water, I used one 12 oz bottle of stout beer mixed with 1/2 cup of water. (Its booze cake! How could I NOT add stout?)
  • I used extra dark cocoa powder instead of regular
  • I added one cup (122g) of finely chopped, then toasted, hazelnuts to the dry ingredient mixture.
  • I cut the amount of vinegar called for down to 1 teaspoon, to allow for the acidity of the stout.

The hazelnuts and stout gave it a very deep flavor. I can’t believe I’ve never put chopped nuts into cake batter before! Not only was it beautiful seeing the light flecks of the nuts against the dark cake, but I really like the crunch they provided. It smelled amazingly hazelnutty when this cake was in the oven, too. Sure enough, Kittee’s cake-genius came through and I ended up with a high-rising, tender, moist, and perfect cake structure and texture. THANK YOU KITTEE! The altered recipe gave me two perfectly sized 8″ layers, which I cut in half to make four 1/2 inch thick layers.

The Good Part (The booze frosting)

(I used a double recipe for my four-layer cake)

Frosting Ingredients:

(I ended up just using the Bacardi, not the Monarch.)

  • 2 large (155g each) packages Jell-o brand instant vanilla pudding mix
  • Slightly more than 1/2 C 151 proof rum (100g)
  • Slightly less than 1/2 C unsweetened soymilk (122g)
  • 1/2 C raspberry jam (153g)
  • Juice of one lemon (51g)
  • 1 C (2 sticks, ) Earth Balance brand buttery sticks (Don’t use the spread, its too soft.)
  • 1 drop ( 2g) liquid soy lecithin

Frosting directions:

  • Combine Instant pudding mix, Rum, Soymilk, Jam, and Lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and has thickened. It should look like this:

  • In a large mixing bowl, using a stand mixer or a hand held beater, cream the margarine with the lecithin until the lecithin has fully incorporated into the fat and the mixture has no lumps.
  • Add the thickened rum mixture, a spoonful at a time, and beating well between additions, until all of it has been added. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl often.
  • Continue beating the frosting until it becomes fluffy.
  • Store the frosting at room temperature until it is time to frost the cake. If the frosting begins to separate, beat in a drop more soy lecithin until the emulsion comes back together.

Finished Frosting:

Putting the cake together:

I frosted this cake in a pretty normal fashion. Each layer got brushed heavily with a mixture of raspberry jam and rum, then received a layer of the (probably about 30 proof) frosting. The tops and sides were finished off with more frosting and the sides of the cake got crusted with more of the chopped toasted hazelnuts. I piped a shell border on the top of the cake,then threw some chocolate curls onto my shells. The remaining raspberry jam that was left in the jam jar after I took out what I needed for the frosting got softened in the microwave, then poured into the cavity created by the frosting shells and coaxed into place with a spatula.

My friend Rory was in town for our vegan new years party, and I would like to thank her for making chocolate curls, writing down ingredient measurements, giving helpful “cake person” advise (as I am not really a cake person), eating the leftover booze frosting since I had to drive to the party, as well as holding the cake on the way there so it didn’t go splat even though we were kind of driving on a half flat tire and risked a blow out a little bit. Rory, I am ever-thankful!

Here are some more pictures:

Thanks, guys. I have another post about some brioche I made coming really soon, so stay tuned! (the thing is, its 4 AM and I’d rather sleep at this point than ramble about gluten and shortening)

Goodnight, Enjoy your booze cake!

PS: It was at least 20 proof. There were at least two cups of 151 proof rum in the whole cake, once you counted the rum brushed on the layers. We were seriously using champagne as a chaser for the cake. Seriously. I definitely accomplished my goal of fitting as much alcohol as possible into a cake without compromising its stuctural integrity. I think next year, I will tone it down, and use about half the rum.

PPS: It would work to use one cup of any 80 proof liquor instead of the half cup of 151 and half cup of soymilk in the frosting recipe. If you decreased the ethanol content significantly though, I think you might end up needing much less instant pudding mix to achieve the correct consistency.

PPPS: If I made this frosting again, I would probably skip the jam and lemon juice (which I added to keep the raspberry pigments from turning blue), and just use a third cup of powdered sugar or something. Or raspberry (or whatever other) flavored syrup would be even better.

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