Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

Pictures of meringues, and a decision made finally.

Posted by Susie on December 19, 2007

I’ve pretty much decided that the right thing to do would be to just post my egg white replacer recipe (the one that can do meringue, cream puffs, etc…) here on the blog. All I need to do now is psych myself up enough to actually go through with the “posting it” part. Thats going to take some guts.

Although…. I might opt to have a few select people “test” the recipe before I make it available to the masses- if only because I would hate to have a significantly flawed recipe widely distributed and end up with a lot of frustrated people. So it might be later that I finally post, rather than sooner. Important thing is though: I pretty much for sure WILL post this- in one form or another. I think I’m pretty happy with that decision, too. I’ve pretty much been possessed with the “okay… I figured out how to make vegan meringue… now what am I supposed to do?” dilemma for about exactly three years now.

But anyway- I made a batch this week, and I think I’ve fully overcome one out of two big problems that were keeping my meringue from being “perfected”. This batch actually tasted good. (The other big problem is foam strength, although I am slowly but surely getting closer to fixing that one too.)

Up until now, I’ve mostly concerned myself with foam structure. Three years ago, the ingredient I was using to make very primitive versions of what I make now also provided a positively revolting taste. I ate it anyway, even though I still shudder at the memory, all out of sheer determination of developing a vegan meringue (I still can’t eat bran muffins to this day, I’ll tell you that!). But yes. Even though its been in the back of my mind all along that developing a vegan meringue would be pointless if it didn’t taste good, I decided to work on structure first, and worry about taste later. And now that my structure is almost perfect, I’m pretty glad I got the stuff to taste good. Woohoo!

Here are some pictures of my latest attempt:

(this is blurry, and technichally a bad photo, but I think its really kind of pretty in a way)

Before whipping (Hee Hee! It looks like a pun!)

Before cooking: (you can tell I still need to work on making the foam a bit stiffer. If that I had a freeze drier, it would be a piece of cake.)

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Helloooooooo, Internet!

Posted by Susie on November 29, 2007

So I woke up this morning and saw that the number of visitors to this blog had skyrocketed: over 300 hits today, with five hours left in the “day”, which is so far a threefold increase from the previous record-setting day (yesterday).

It looks like my “Turkey Loaf” got linked to from Tastespotting by Nerdling, who I have a strong hunch must be the very same Nerdling as is on the PPK boards? Thanks, Nerdling!

If I knew you all were coming, I would have baked a cake! I also would have tried to get this blog looking a little bit more ship shape, I still need to get around to adding those “tag” things, and my blogroll is in dire need of being expanded. So sorry about the mess!

Also, Sorry I hadn’t anticipated the interest in the turkey-loaf. In hind-sight, it probably would have been better if I had better photographed and documented how made the dough, formed the pieces and assembled the loaf. Next time, I guess!

But its okay- I can deal with unexpected company. Have a seat, try a piece of pie, and stick around for some vegan brioche theorizing! (Just let me get through finals-week first!)



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I tried my hand at gluten-free.

Posted by Susie on November 27, 2007

If I hadn’t been a vegan, I probably would have become a bread baker.

It would be nice, I admit, to forget about all this food science stuff along with the prospect of being in school until I’m at least 28. I could have lived a life full of organic flours, fermentation enzymes, gluten development, hearth ovens, sourdough starters, and chewy crusts. Those things always seemed MUCH more awesome during baking school than did pastry crusts, ganache, cookies, whipped cream, royal icing, marzipan flowers, chocolate mousse, or even-EVEN- my sworn arch-rival, angel food cake. Dough always seemed much more mysterious to me. Any given loaf of bread is the result of countless variables. A bread baker with knowledge firmly anchored in the science behind dough mixing, fermentation, and the baking process can spend a lifetime developing and perfecting the art of the science, all in search of the elusive perfect loaf of bread, or bagel, or croissant. And I think thats pretty cool.

However, as it so happens, I’m a vegan, and that changes everything. While the perfect loaf of bread is a elusive, vegan versions of marshmallows, melty cheese, meringue, whipped cream, and angel food cake are a heck of a lot MORE elusive. There are also disconcertingly less people in search of these holy grails than there are bakers obsessed with the size of the air cells in their sourdough loaves. The prospect of solving even one of these mega-vegan-mystery-foods is why I’m content with my choice of 6 more years of school (At least I will be done with my last math class ever in only fifteen days. Knock on wood.)

Recently though, I became aware of a vegan mystery which I hadn’t much considered before, that is, the mystery of vegan gluten free bread. Dearess from the ppk first piqued my interest with her posts about her attempts at finding an ideal bread recipe. Reading about Bottle and ball‘s gluten free baking adventure (and craft) blog was not only inspiring, but she was also awesome enough to help me become less clueless about the GF baking world in a couple of hecka-informative emails. (Thanks!)

Suddenly, I found myself thinking about gluten, and I couldn’t stop. I still can’t stop. It is one damn good mystery, I’ll tell you that. What’s more, this mystery not only involves aspects of egg replacing (because non-vegan gluten free bakers rely a whole lot on egg protein for structure), but it’s BREAD! And bread is still the thing I like the very most, when all is said and done.

So I finally caved in to my “wondering about gluten” thoughts today, and I bought a package of Bob’s red mill Gluten Free Bread Mix. My theory was that if I used my egg replacing skills to replace the egg called for by the recipe on the bag of mix, and if I tried a couple of strategies, that I might be able to make some progress.

Well, I decided to see if tofu protein could help set the gluten free loaf’s structure at all, so thats what I tried today. I made a pretty small batch, so I don’t end up wasting a lot of mix if I failed miserably. I did some really rough math, and figured the recipe on the bag called for liquid that was about 3% protein to be mixed with the mix in a 1.2 : 1 ratio. So this is what I put in my loaf:

100g Bob’s GF bread mix

120g MoriNu soft silken tofu (it was about 5% protein but I figured the more the better)

10g olive oil

2g yeast

Everything went in the food processor. I thought it was downright amazing what those gums that they put in the GF flours do. It almost felt like a gluten dough- almost like it had the “memory” that a gluten dough has. I have no idea which gum must do that- but I intend to read up on it. It was still sticky though.

I let it ferment an hour and a half covered at room temperature. Then I gave it a stir and loaded it into a greased mini loaf pan. It proofed about 45 minutes, then I popped it into the oven at 375. I think it baked about a half hour?

Anyway, I think I had beginner’s luck. I was expecting something much worse:


The moment of truth:

Not a bad crumb!

It’s even bendy and gluteny kind of!

The structure is great, but I am not happy with the taste. I want to break away from using the mix now that I know I can at least make SOMETHING that’s edible. I would like to see how much chickpea flour I can eliminate by maybe upping my tofu protein content, because I think that the chickpea beaniness was my main flavor problem. I also want to experiment with bringing some real “bread” flavor into play using a preferment or something. I can’t imagine why a preferment wouldn’t work with a GF bread, but for some reason all the GF bread recipes I see are straight doughs? Maybe I will find out.

I want to try making gluten free bagels too. Just to say I can. Also, I plan on exploring soy free options once I figure out what the hell I’m doing.- Just for you, Dearess from the ppk!

These gums that were in the GF bread mix though- they were amazing. I kind of have a hunch that maybe these gums and maybe other techniques of GF bakers might find use in non-GF vegan baking? I guess we will see.

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My “Turkey Loaf” blog entry. (‘Cause Isa made me.)

Posted by Susie on November 23, 2007

I posted this on the ppk forums, but wasn’t going to post it here- I dunno, because it didn’t seem like an experiment or anything? But then Isa insinuated that this should be on my blog, and well… I’m just too smart to try arguing with Isa.

I didn’t really write stuff down that well regarding what I put in this (The stuffing that is, the bread is Peter Reinhart’s “French Bread”- on page 168 of “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”), but it wasn’t that precise of an operation anyway, so I can give y’all a general idea.

The bread was a two-day, 50% pre-ferment, french bread. Instead of the half bread flour/half AP flour mix in both the preferment and the final dough, I used all AP flour in my preferment and all bread flour in my final dough. Really, it was because I had no bread flour the first day, but it also might have helped me make a dough that was stiff enough to not make a totally flat turkey.

To form this, I cut two 80 g pieces for my drumsticks and two 60g pieces for my wings. I rolled the rest of the dough into a very tight ball (so it would be as tall as possible) and put it on my baking pan kind of pushing it into an elongated egg shape. Then, I rolled my wing pieces into snakes, and formed my wings my tucking one end under the “body”, making a bend as the turkeys elbow (or whatever that joint is) and then pointing it up (just like the turkeys looked like on my Google image search for “thanksgiving turkey”) I made dough balls out of the drumstick pieces, but then rolled one end of them out to make the “stick” part. They got placed slightly under the body of the “turkey” (I wanted to go for maximum height here) and then got pressed up against the sides.

The whole thing got a xanthan gum/ soy creamer/ caramel syrup glaze, and proofed about an hour with coffee cups pressed against different parts of the drumsticks in an effort to keep the whole thing from spreading out.

When all was proofed, the top got cut with a knife and I created the plucked feather look with snipping the surface with the ends of a scissors.

( It looks so silly! hee hee hee!)

Oven, with steam, 450 F. (I forget how long- until it was nice and brown… ) (oh my god- It had oven spring that was outta this world, as you can kind of see in the upside down pictures- I was pretty pleased with that.)

After it cooled a little, I cut a whole in the bottom and scooped out the insides.

I made the stuffing by sauteing about a half cup each of chopped onion, carrot, and celery with one chopped package of tofurkey brand roast sandwich slices, some earth balance margarine, pepper and red wine. Then I put everything in the food processor with the insides of my bread loaf:

The stuffing got put back inside the loaf, and the lid to the hole I cut was put back in place. I brushed the top with some melted earth balance, and put it back in the oven for about a half hour.

Thankgiving dinner: We had turkey loaf, Moussaka from Veganomicon, mushroom gravy, and agar berry jello. I was very full afterward.

But yeah- Pretty much I just made this so I could make the “Turkey Loaf” pun. It was a lot of work for a punchline, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I kind of think the whole turkey shape is a little weird if its not just for a punchline… I mean- why would anyone want bread shaped like a dead bird? But whatever. It WAS tasty, and most of all, I had a good laugh out of it.

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Rich and Creamy Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crumb Crust (Recipe)

Posted by Susie on November 21, 2007

whole pie

Pie slice

xtreme close up

A couple weeks ago I posted 2 attempts at perfecting a pumpkin pie formula. The second one was killer, but used tofutti cream cheese analog, and I wanted to make a third pie that was creamy and not curdled but that didn’t have to rely on tofutti. This third attempt is what I came up with. The soymilk, oil, and cornstarch are increased in this pie, and I really like the effect. I made this in a crumb crust made of storebought gingersnap cookies, but you could put this filling in any pie crust you wanted, really. I’ve actually made this pie twice, the first time, I just weighed all my ingredients, and I baked this in a 9″ springform pan. It was quite cheesecake-y, but definitely I wouldn’t call it a cheesecake. It was just a pie shaped like a cheesecake. The second one is the one thats pictured. I used the weight measurements I had written down from the previous pie, but also used measuring cups and spoons to measure out the ingredients. I wrote down how many measuring cups or spoons it took to get the weight I wanted, so that you all can use this recipe even if you don’t have a scale!

PS: If you can find gluten-free gingersnaps, this would be SO easy to make as a gluten-free pie.

Here is the recipe:

Rich and Creamy Pumpkin Pie Filling

Makes: One nice full 9″ pie, or one 9″cheesecake-shaped pie. This filling is also thick enough that it might be fun to try using it as filling for small tarts or galettes.

Hardware Requirements: Blender Or Food Processor, Pie Pan or Springform Pan, Oven

Preparation time (including baking): Approx. 2 hours


3/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Soymilk (Substitute any non-dairy milk)

3 Tablespoons Oil (Any type. You could also use less- as little as 1 Tablespoon-but it won’t be as creamy.)

2 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Maple Syrup (Substitute Brown sugar)

1 12.3 oz box Mori Nu Extra Firm Silken Tofu (Substitute any firm or extra firm tofu)

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (Packed really densely!) (If you do not have brown sugar, use 1/2 Cup + 1/3 Cup Granulated sugar)

4 Tablespoons Cornstarch

1 Teaspoon Mace (Substitute Nutmeg)

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

3/4 Teaspoon Ginger

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 15 Oz can Pumpkin Puree (Not Pumpkin pie filling)


If you are using the Gingersnap Crumb crust, and you plan on using your blender to crush the gingersnaps, it will be to your advantage to make your crust first. This way, you will not be stuck with a blender full of pie filling with no crust to pour your filling into, and no way to make your crust until you have an empty blender… (Which is what happened to me last night.) If your using another pie crust recipe, its probably a good idea to prepare your pie crust ahead of time anyway, so that the crust can chill in the fridge while you blender-er (verb) your filling.

1) Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine the first 11 ingredients in a blender. (Everything except the pumpkin). Puree on high speed, stopping to scrape sides as needed, until mixture is uniform, and any solid chunks of tofu have disappeared. (You could probably also use an immersion blender or a food processor)

2) Dump your can of pumpkin into the blender container. Depending on your blender, the mixture might be too thick now to be able to mix. (This is why you blendered your tofu independently in step one.) If your blender can handle it, mix the pumpkin with the tofu mixture using the blender. If your Blender needs help, either stir the mixture right in the blender bowl, or transfer to a mixing bowl to stir. Whichever way you do it, combine the pumpkin with the rest of the mixture thoroughly.

3) Pour the filling into your prepared crust. Jiggle it lightly to smooth it out.

4) Put your pie into your preheated 325 F oven. It will probably take 1 – 1.5 hours to bake, but watch it carefully near the end. This pie goes through 2 distinct baking stages. The first thing you will notice is that it stops jiggling when the pan is gently shaken (about 45 minutes into baking). This happens when he tofu protein sets up- It is not done yet though! because this pie depends on cornstarch for a good deal of it’s thickness, you need to wait until the starch sets up. When you are able to poke the top of the pie with your finger, apply the slightest bit of pressure, and the pie springs back into shape and doesn’t stick to your finger, then you know the starch has set up, and the pie is done.

Gingersnap Crumb Crust

Gingersnap crumb crust


3 Cups Store Bought Gingersnap Cookies (Measure whole cookies, then grind)

3 Tablespoons Vegan Margarine, Melted. (Substitute 2.5 tablespoons oil)


1) Grind Cookies in blender or food processor. You should end up with slightly more than 1.5 Cups ground cookie crumbs, but the exact amount isn’t crucial.

2) Transfer crumbs to pie pan or springform pan, and add melted margarine. Stir crumbs and fat together until mixed.

3) Press Crumb mixture into a compact, even layer on the bottom and sides of the pan. (Or just the bottom, if using a spring form pan.) This might take more patience and time than you expect. Work slowly and carefully.

4) Your crust is now ready to be filled.

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I found some really nice volume to weight conversion charts…

Posted by Susie on November 16, 2007

One for LOTS of ingredients thats volume to ounces, and the other for fewer (the commonest though) ingredients thats in grams. The ounce one is not that precise (closest quarter ounce) and has annoying fractions instead of decimals, but its still pretty good.

I put links to both of them in the new “tools and resources” section of my “blog roll”. I will still work to post (tested) volume measurements  when I post a final version of a recipe, but now if anyone wants to work with any of the experimental stuff I post and doesn’t have a scale, an alright approximation is but a few mouse and calculator clicks away!

If anyone has more ideas for useful stuff which I should probably link to or whatever, just let me know! This blog thing is still underconstruction, and I intend to work on other parts of my “links” section later to link to more friends, and I think I will learn what the heck “tabs” are, ’cause they seem important. Then WAY eventually I want to learn to make this page more personally designed instead of just using the wordpress template.

I like this blog-having thing. I have so many new ideas! Woo-Hoo!

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Challah- lab notes from first attempt.

Posted by Susie on November 13, 2007

So I made challah. Here are some pictures of it:


Here’s the nitty-gritty:


This challah was based directly on the challah recipe from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” Its on page 133.

So I’ve been having an interesting conversation over on the PPK today about a thing that has been bothering me more and more lately, which is how little I actually know about what I’m trying to do, and the question of how much I can say about this stuff that I’m not sure about, and what I actually can determine from these experiments I do. This challah recipe is a perfect example to use to try to explain that I don’t really… well, I think Operation Ivy explains it best…

But anyway, there are so many things that are WAY beyond my means of figuring out about egg replacing, and to avoid being an idiot, I HAVE to know what I CAN figure out, and what I CAN’T figure out. And then, after I figure out what it is I don’t know for sure, I have to avoid wording that insinuates to internetland that some guess of mine is anything more than a guess. I used to not realize how important this was, and I also used to think my guesses were better than they probably are, too. I am trying to fix this though, and to change my writing style accordingly. It might take me a bit to get the writing style right, so sorry for that, I am trying though.

So back to the challah. What I did was I took the recipe in Peter Reinhard’s book, figured out how much protein, water, fat and lecithin would have been provided by the two eggs and two egg yolks called for in the recipe, calculated how much tofu, oil, and soy lecithin would give me that much protein, fat, and oil, then reduced the amount of addtional water called for by the original recipe to compensate for the extra water provided by the tofu. What this gave me is a dough which had the same amount of water, fat, lecithin, and non-gluten protein as the dough that the original recipe would have given me. What I was the most concerned about in trying this experiment though, was that non-gluten protein (raw, soluble, egg protein in the original recipe, non-soluble, but pureed soy (tofu) protein in the veganized recipe). Now, just setting the weight of the two proteins as equal IS a little bit arbitrary, I will admit (they very well could have different functionalities, as well as different levels of effectiveness at varying amounts, for all I know), but I think that setting them at equal amounts is at least LESS arbitrary than using any other ratio, because I have nothing to base an alternate ratio on. So with my protein being present in my veganized dough at the same concentration as the protein that would have been in the original dough, and with everything else being more or less the same, I can attribute differences between this veganized challah and it’s non-veganized counterpart (which I did not make, which kind of limits what I can find out, but more on that later…) to the difference between how my tofu protein acts with how the egg would have acted.

Let me talk about what I think it is that eggs do in a relatively lean yeasted dough such as challah. Obviously, they provide water, and water balance is important. So I balanced my water in my veganized recipe. They provide fat, which is a tenderizer in yeasted doughs, and they provide lecithin, which can help emulsify fat in VERY rich doughs, but in this challah, which is not so rich, I think that the lecithin is more useful probably as an anti-staling agent (it does that). So I balanced the fat and lecithin in the veganized recipe. They also provide protein to the dough which is not gluten protein. This protein might do any number of things. This is my theory though: In bread, you have a developed gluten structure, and you have a a pretty high starch to water ratio (as opposed to things like cakes or waffles or starch thickened sauces). In the case of challah, you also don’t have a lot of fat. I think, that because of the presence of that developed gluten, and the high starch and low fat content, your dough isn’t really going to have to rely on egg protein for structure much. Without much fat present, your gluten shouldn’t have too big a problem developing a strong skeleton for your bread, and the starch isn’t exacly going to be swamped with more water than it can hold, so I don’t think that the egg protein functions so much as a structure provider in challah. I think that its actually the opposite, I think that egg protein functions as a tenderizer in challah bread, and I think that it does its tenderizing by acting as a space filler. Its not gluten protein, which toughens dough, and its not starch, so what I think it does is fill space, and put more room between the starch and the gluten, which I imagine is responsible for the tenderizing effect. Right now I am having trouble thinking of how to describe why I think this has a tenderizing effect though, so maybe I need a “this is not only susie’s wacky conjecture, but it’s also a wacky conjecture thats based on susie’s wacky intuition” disclaimer here… However, if my wacky intuition is correct, then the thing I would need to be concerned about when I replace egg in this challah recipe would be simply finding something that was a non-gluten protein to fill space. I wouldn’t need to worry at all about egg protein’s specific foaming properties or stuff like that, or even that it starts off in the raw dough as a soluble protein and coagulates dramatically during baking. It would be nice if the replacement protein bound as much water as egg protein would in the finished bread too (and I am pretty sure that tofu binds at least about as much water as does egg protein, based on my custard experiments). All I would have to do is find a protein to fill as much space as the egg protein would have filled, and if thats really what the egg does in the original recipe, then the veganized recipe should turn out right. So to veganize this recipe, I went to my go-to protein, soy protein (from tofu).


I figured that the 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks contain a total of 3.3 oz water, 0.579 oz protein, 0.5 oz fat (egg fat is mostly unsaturated), and 0.1 oz lecithin.

8.1 oz extra firm silken tofu provides the 0.579 oz protein. It also contains 7.3 oz water, which is 4 more oz than the egg called for in the recipe would have provided, so I subtracted the difference, 4 oz, from the 7-9 oz of water also called for by the original recipe. Then I added the lecithin and oil to the recipe. The final formula I used for my challah was as follows:

18 oz All purpose flour (four cups) (it actually called for bread flour, but I was out.)

1 oz sugar (two tablespoons)

0.25 oz salt (one teaspoon)

0.15 oz dry yeast (one and one third teaspoon)

1.5 oz oil (three tablespoons) (the original recipe called for 1 oz, and this is that 1 oz plus the .5 oz from the egg conversion)

0.1 oz liquid soy lecithin (one half teaspoon)
8.1 oz extra firm silken tofu (mori-nu- its about 3/4 of the 12 oz box)

3-5 oz water (one half-cup, plus or minus two tablespoons) (I ended up using 4.8 oz total)

The tofu, sugar, salt, 3 oz (half cup minus two tablespoons) of the water, oil, and lecithin were pureed in a food processor until they were very smooth. The yeast and flour were added to the food processor and pulsed to combine. The dough was actually pretty dry, so I added the remaining water a little at a time until the dough seemed like it was a nice moistness. After I felt like I had the water content right, I developed the dough by very periodically pulsing the processor (when you make dough in a food processor, it is important not to develop the dough too fast). My final dough was pretty nice, although it seemed a little bit stiff. Maybe it could have used that last .2 oz of water.

The dough fermented for two hours at room temperature, and was punched down halfway through.

I scaled the dough into 10 identical pieces, and made two 5-braids. They got put on individual baking pans with parchment, and I washed them with a mixture of soy creamer, sugar, and xanthan gum (just a tiny bit of xanthan).

They proofed for about 50 minutes, and baked at 350 for about40 minutes. They were nice and brown, and sounded hollow when I thumped the bottom, so I could tell they were done.


Y’know? It kind of tasted like the challah I remember? Even the family, who haven’t been challah-less vegans for the past five years, seem to think it tasted like challah. That doesn’t really prove anything though. I mean- this has water, salt, yeast, and flour in it, so it would have formed some kind of dough that would have baked into some kind of bread in the oven, and that braid shape is kind of suggestive. If it weren’t challah shaped, I wonder how challah-y people would think it is?

Although- it is kind of soft like challah, and its a little sweet like challah, and it is just kind of subtle-y challah-y. Its not, yknow, much like french bread, or even like normal sandwich white bread. The crust is kinda flaky like challah, and it has a pretty rich flavor like challah…

I think I would have to either make the original recipe with eggs (ew!) or veganize the recipe I used to use at baking school (that I know how it turns out with eggs) in order to really tell whats going on here. Or, if someone out there in internet land who knows more about challah than I do tries this recipe, then maybe that would also help…

Even then though, the success of this method of veganization doesn’t necessarily prove the correctness of my original guess of what eggs do in lean yeasted breads… it just proves that tofu protein can do the same thing as egg protein in lean yeasted breads (whatever that thing may be…)

Yeah then. I think I’ve typed all I should probably type, and then some. I hate the sleepy feeling you get all day when you sleep 13 hours. Maybe I should go have more coffee. Anyway, Enjoy the challah recipe! If anyone tries it, I would love your opinion of how well it approximates real challah, because I really kind of don’t know how to tell if it does or not.



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Its the great pumpkin pie trials, Charlie Brown! (Lab notes)

Posted by Susie on November 10, 2007

Pie #2 on a plate

Okay, here is how I am going to do this:

I try a lot of different stuff in my kitchen. I have the tendency to do my cooking experimentally- sometimes I even make it up as I go along. Historically, I do not keep a very good record of the specifics of what I try. As a result of this bad habit, I frequently am unable to recreate any specific “recipe” that I come up with, nor am I able to share a recipe with anyone else (you all) and be confident that the recipe I give to the other person isn’t going to fail horribly because I remembered or approximated it wrong. I think, however, that a lot of good could come from being able to share my experiments with you all- If I could only make sure that the records I take of the experiments are correct. So thats what I am going to try to do from now on.

I like over-the-top things, so I am going to take a cue from my chemistry lab class, go way over the top with this record keeping thing, and start keeping a baking notebook. (Like a lab notebook! Get it? Isn’t it cool how I have no life?) Anyway. I will try to resist cooking without weighing and writing down my additions of “a little of this” or “some of that” from now on. This way, I can post the recipe for a thing I make along with some information on how it turned out, guesses as to why it turned out that way, and what I might try the next time I make it. This way, the information is available to anyone who might be trying something similar, and might want to pick up where I left off. (Totally let me know what you try and how it works out though!)

So, any posts I make about works in progress, or recipes which I don’t think are quite perfected yet, I am going to call “lab notes”. As soon as I get a recipe to where I think its a “recipe” recipe, I will convert it to a traditional recipe format, convert my weight measurements of ingredients to cup and tablespoon measurements, and make a brand new entry for it. Sound good?
Okay, already. Where are the pies??
Pie #1:

I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. I halved and veganized the pumpkin pie recipe from my baking textbook “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen (page 251 of the fourth edition).

The (halved) recipe called for 150 g Egg, and 300 g Milk. I used my typical method of veganizing custard to veganize this. First I doubled the amount of egg called for, and subtracted the difference from the amount of liquid called for (milk in this case. Then, I replaced the adjusted amount of egg (300 g) with an equal weight of MoriNu brand extra firm silken tofu, and replaced the adjusted amount of milk with soy milk. Because this pie called for no fat containing ingredients besides egg, and because tofu does not have quite as much fat as egg, I added an extra 20 g vegetable oil. I also decided to use 30 g maple syrup in place of30 g corn syrup. The adjusted recipe is as follows:

375 g Pumpkin Puree (I used homemade.)

15 g All Purpose Flour

2 g Cinnamon

1 g Nutmeg

1 g Ginger

0.5 g Cloves

3 g Salt

145 g Brown Sugar

30 g Maple Syrup

300 g Extra Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori Nu brand.)

150 g Soymilk (I used Silk brand DHA enriched, but this is likely unimportant)

20 g Canola oil

The original recipe called for using an electric mixer and mixing the pumpkin, flour, and spices together, then beating in the eggs. Since my extra firm tofu needed to be pureed anyway, I skipped the mixer step, and put all the ingredients in the blender at once, and blended them until they were smooth and some air had been mixed into the batter. I poured the batter into my unbaked pie crust, and baked it for 20 minutes at 425 F, then another 35 minutes at 350 F. When I took it out of the oven, it had reached boiling tempurature, and the surface of the pie looked like there was boiling going on underneath the top skin.

The resulting pie had good flavor, and really tasted like a pumpkin pie should taste. However, it did not have a smooth appearance. It looked curdled- like there were grains of tofu floating in a liquid. It was the right thickness though, it wasn’t too mushy or too firm, just curdled.

My guess is that tofu custards curdle the same way egg custards curdle- the mixture is overheated, and the protein coagulates too much, forming too tight of a structure, which ends up kicking otherwise bound water out of the 3-d protein-net. This makes the custard separate into overcoagulated protein and “kicked out” liquid. It tastes alright and doesn’t taste that “grainy”, but it isn’t pretty to look at. It seems like tofu custards curdle more easily than egg custards.

I know of two ways to keep this curdling from happening. The first is to heat the custard more gently, or for a shorter period of time. Tofu, as opposed to eggs, is already coagulated when we put it in our custard mix. When we put it in the blender, the blender breaks up the 3-d protein net into small pieces. The protein still wants to form a net though, and will form one over time. If you let it sit long enough, even at room temperature pureed tofu will “set up” a little bit. Heat speeds the process, but can also easily cause curdling.

The second way I know of preventing curdling is by including something like starch in a custard. If starch is used in sufficient quantity, starch networks will form that thicken the custard at about the same temperature that proteins will begin to curdle. The thickness created by the starch prevents the protein molecules from getting so close together, and protects the custard from curdling.

Pie #2

The second time I tried this pie, I decided to increase the starch content of the pie in an attempt to prevent curdling, and hopefully to create a creamier appearance and texture. The original formula called for just 15 g of flour, so this time I kept the 15 g of flour, but added 20 g of corn starch to my formula. I only had 236 g of tofu, so I used that plus 64 g Tofutti “Better than cream cheese”. I also added 1 g of allspice to this formula. The Final recipe for pie #2 is as follows:

375 g Pumpkin Puree (I used homemade.)

15 g All Purpose Flour

20 g Corn Starch

2 g Cinnamon

1 g Nutmeg

1 g Ginger

0.5 g Cloves

3 g Salt

145 g Brown Sugar

30 g Maple Syrup

236 g Extra Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori Nu brand.)

64 g Vegan Cream Cheese Analog (I used Tofutti brand’s non-hydrogenated option)

150 g Soymilk (I used unsweetened vanilla this time)

20 g Canola oil

I mixed and baked Pie #2 the same way as Pie #1. This pie was really tasty. The graininess present in the first pie was drastically decreased in this pie. It was also much creamier. The small amount of cream cheese analog seemed to yeild a cheesecake- like flavor, but not so much that the pie ceased to be pie. It was really good.

I think this was almost perfect. I want to try this again without the cream cheese analog just to make sure I can make a straight-up traditional tasting pumpkin pie sans graininess, but the cream cheese version is really kind of nice anyway.

Y’all let me know if you have any questions, critiques, comments, or anything!

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My favorite thing in the whole wide world.

Posted by Susie on November 6, 2007

Is solving food science mysteries. I know of no greater thrill than the thrill I get when I am trying to veganize a tricky-to-veganize baked good, or if I am trying to figure out something I don’t understand about why food does what it does, or even trying to figure out WHAT it does. Oh man, its just great.

So, if anyone has any good food science mysteries, you should like- post here- because I really like solving them. And I am running out of VeganMOFO ideas.

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“Not Bad For a Vegan Baker With ADD!”

Posted by Susie on November 6, 2007

This wonderfully non-PC phrase replaced “I’m Susie, and I’m right!” as my official motto last winter quarter when I got an 82 (really bad!) on a chemistry test. It continues to hold strong as a pretty nice motto. I might not be the BEST student in the world, but you have to admit that I do pretty well, considering. Lets hope that the schools I want to transfer to agree.

Case in point: I actually finished most of the questions on my calculus test this morning, even though I was running on three hours of sleep, and anywhere from 7-3 hours of actually learning the things I was being tested on. And that chemistry test I said I messed up yesterday? Turns out that with the curve 38 out of 50 is actually pretty good. Who would’ve thunk it?

As much as I like the thrill of living on the academic edge, I really do want to try using my free time to study instead of  interneting. I really want to see- for the sake of curiosity- what would happen. Would I improve my grades? Become more virtuous? Get really bored? See a drop in my GPA due to the lack of adrenaline rush that comes with waiting until the last minute? … So I have been spending more time on campus before and after class in attempts to make myself study. I will post if anything interesting happens.

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