Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

Posts Tagged ‘Food that looks like other food’

Aromatic Rings!

Posted by Susie on May 19, 2008

Last Friday in my organic chemistry class, there was a take home test about benzene chemistry due. I, for the first time in memory, had finished the test a day early. So, instead of staying up all of Thursday night in order to finish my test, I made the decision that there was going to be a donut party in class the next day. This is a food pun which I have been resisting since the end of gen chem, and I simply could not hold back any longer. So I whipped out my kitchen notebook, reviewed some of the literature, and began planning my synthesis. I was going to make some aromatic rings!

Don’t you feel like you could go furan aromatic ring right about now?


I based my donut dough on this recipe, which was posted on Vegan Hedonism about a year ago. I always use some variation of it whenever I feel like making donuts. I left out the “egg replacer”, and used all cold soymilk instead of the mixture of water and warm rice milk called for by the Vegan Hedonism folks. The dough was mixed around 8 pm Thursday, fermented it in the refrigerator until 8 am Friday, then sectioned into 3.5 oz round balls of dough, placed on a floured pan, covered, and returned to the fridge to rest/proof. When I got back from my tech writing class at 11 am, I removed the pan from the fridge, and let the dough warm up while I prepped my icings and started heating my oil. When the oil was 375 Fahrenheit and the dough was sufficiently spongy, I stabbed each dough ball through its center, and pulled it out into a nice donut shape. Into the hot oil they went, two at a time. They fry on one side for 90 seconds, then get flipped with a skewer, and then fry on other side for 90 seconds before lifting them out with the skewer onto some waiting paper towels. I like to throw in the next two donuts at this point to get them started, then glaze the first ones while I wait for it to be time to flip the new ones. I glazed half of the donuts right out of the oil, and left the other half to cool so I could dunk them in the thicker frostings. I was in a bit of a hurry when I was frying and decorating these, so I didn’t record the weights of the glaze and icing ingredients I used. I will have to make donuts again some day and document it as a tutorial for you all.

(Transition state)


Despite the horrible/awesome mockery of my beloved “food science”, there WAS some real live aromaticity going on in these donuts. All of the icings contained your favorite and mine, 3-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzaldehyde, AKA “vanillin”, the major molecule responsible for the flavor of vanilla


The pink icing was spiked with benzaldehyde (which is what makes bitter almond extract taste like bitter almond extract).


I’ve always been more interested in using food science to affect the structure of bakery foods, rather than the details of flavor chemistry, but now that I’m almost done with this school year of O-chem, flavor chemistry is starting to seem more interesting to me- probably because I can understand parts of it now. Two years ago if I looked at these funny stick drawings, I kind of spaced out. Now, my mind fills with thoughts of resonance, sterics, functional groups, and pKa values. I tentatively think this is kind of cool, but I guess I will have to get back to you on that…

Look! Shiny!

So, all in all, I think its safe to say this synthesis was a success. The yield was 100% and the solvent was able to be filtered and reused, so these are some pretty damn green donuts, yknow?

And the best part is…. Theres only 50 kilocalories[1] per 6.022×10^23 donuts! … And they are “organic”! [2]

[1] About 50 kcal down to cyclohexene, and really I do not feel like going and remembering how to calculate the rest of the C-C and C-H BDEs. So lets just say 50 kilocalories because I’m sleepy. I had a physics test this morning, and have already done all the thermodynamics I feel like doing thankyouverymuch.

[2] Sorry. That wipes out my pun quota for at least a month, right?

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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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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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