Tuesday, 25 May 2010

An homage...

To date I've lived in (at least) 25 different apartments/homes/places of accommodation throughout my life and am truly fortunate that I view "Home" as "where I am" so no matter where I am; I belong.

One thing remains consistent, however, and that is where I'm from. I'm from New England. That will never change and I am intensely proud of that heritage.

With a 2005 population of 14,239,724 it's a place as varied and wonderful as its inhabitants. Unless you've lived/worked/vacationed there it's impossible to explain all of the wonderful nuances that exist in an area just slightly larger than Washington state.

Because of the above reasons and many more my next experiment had to be Vegan Whoopie Pies.*

The original recipe idea/inspiration came from My Sweet Vegan written/developed by the clever and adorable Hannah Kaminsky.

Behold (the heavily modified version of the recipe**)...

Don't forget to click on the pictures to see them bigger!

Fresh out of the oven:

How to tell when you're doing too many things at once and might need to take a step back for a moment. Trying to pour a newly-opened 5kg bag of powdered sugar into a 1 cup measure:

With "Cream Cheese" frosting:

Because Mr B and I aren't major sweet-toothers (and value -not- largely increasing our BMIs) we give away most of what I make. The recipe I used made 6 Whoopie Pies and I think the next time I make them I'll have to consider for whom I'm making them... Inside a bakery? Sure! The larger the better! But if I were to make them as an order I'd definitely make them smaller. (Can you imagine that I used to eat a whole one of these in one go?!)

My solution for sharing/taste-testing and the transportation thereof.... Cut and box!

I have been having so much fun developing and testing these recipes and ideas with you as my moderators and cheerleaders so I thank you, humbly.

I'm not sure what to make next. I'm still waiting for my piping tips to arrive from The States as I'm desperate to make decorated sugar cookies.

Keeping in mind that I want to move away from chocolate for a bit do you have any suggestions as to what I should attempt next/think about including in my little repertoire?

*Also, just because I'm a geek like that... The recipe was found on page 76 of the recipe book and 1776 is an important year in New England's (and America's) history and 1976 is the Centenary of the USA as well as my birth year!

**solid brown sugar does not a good Whoopie Pie make I can assure you! Also, I don't own nor want to purchase Pastry Flour but there are wonderful substitution suggestions out here on the Interwebs so don't feel put off if, like me, you don't happen to have a bevy expensive ingredients. There is help out here/there!

Also, should you come across something that has you stumped; drop me a line! I'll do my -best- to find you the perfect solution either from my (limited) vegan-baking knowledge and/or my Search-Engine-Fu.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Mood fluctuations are to be expected...

This weekend Mr B and I spent as much time as possible in the cinema.

This weekend they had a wonderful Anime weekend that included (but wasn't limited to):

Which I loved. I hadn't seen any of the DVDs that most of the audience had but it didn't matter. The movies were perfectly entertaining and understandable on their own. (There were complaints from Those In The Know about some plot/storyline elements that weren't explained fully but, perhaps because I didn't know what I was missing; I didn't mind.)

For the first one: If you have a chance to see it, wait for the end-credits and watch the subtitles to the song...... "Mood fluctuations are to be expected" is my new favourite song lyric!!

For the second one: stay until after the credits have rolled, you'll be glad you did.

We also saw Welcome to the Space Show and Summer Wars. Both cute and entertaining in their own little ways as Anime movies can be.

Today we saw Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva which was adorable and bizarre at the same time. I own one of the Professor Layton games and find it wickedly addictive. I was hoping the movie would be similar. It was all that and more. The audience was laughing along with the movie because some of the scenes and dialogue was just perfect in the sense that it was laugh-with-and-at-able. If that makes sense.

Between Professor Layton and the next movie I saw this...

Aren't they the coolest? I asked them why they were dressed that way and I was told that they were swimming costumes and that they were "local celebrities" who had to remain incognito every once in a while so they could "just be".

I wasn't buying it and considering the weather today, they must have been -melting- out there!

Edited to add: During this interlude Mr B and I had some lunch at the attached restaurant.
Ordering food in a new restaurant is always "interesting" for me but this instance takes the cake for awkwardness/weirdness. Here's basically how it went:

Me: I'd like the stea...

Idiot Boy: We're out of steak.

Me: OK, I'll have the chi...

Idiot Boy: We're out of chicken, too. Chicken and steak. We have everything else.

Me: OK, may I please have the cheeseburger with no cheese?

Idiot Boy: Sure

Me: Can I also have no bun? So just meat and chips?

Idiot Boy: Sure.

Me: Are there any fillers in the.....

Idiot Boy: Salad.

Me: Salad?

Idiot Boy: Yes. There's salad.

Me: Right, but I need to know what's in the burger itself.

Idiot Boy: No, the salad's on top.

Me: I understand that but I need to know what's in the Burger itself. Is it just bee.....

Idiot Boy: I understand what you're saying but I'm telling you there's salad -on top- of the burger.

Me: OK, um. Fine. But -inside- the burger itself, there are no fillers? They didn't bind the burger with anything? It's 100% beef?

Idiot Boy: No.

Me: ......

(Please note: Idiot Boy did NOT get a tip.)

After that interesting interlude we went back in and saw Chocolate Underground. A movie based on the book Bootleg by Alex Shearer which I just might have to buy.

The story premise is simple... Government bans chocolate. Kids aren't happy. Kids start a secret underground chocolate-making factory to help supply people who loved and miss the sweet confection. Hilarity ensues (with a message, of course). If you have a chance to see it, do! (I, personally, -love- it when the Bad Guy in a movie says "Oops!" because he's dropped something)

I'm also fairly convinced that if they took out all the times they used the word "Chocolate" in the movie and replaced it with "Heroin" or "LSD" or some other mind-altering drug that the movie wouldn't otherwise have to be changed.

All in all it was a nice, relaxing, air-conditioned geek-fest of a weekend and the only thing I would have changed is that I would have liked to get some more knitting done! ;)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Mission: Impossible "Chocolate Fudge Pie" - a review

The other day I had a realisation that everything does, indeed, come full circle.

After hunting for a home-made vegan white chocolate recipe, and stumbling upon the blog of one Hannah Kaminsky, I realised here lay a potential wealth of knowledge about vegan baking.

I did a little more searching and discovered that she not only blogs about baking vegan but she's written a cookbook (also available at ....co.uk, too) and has several e-books!

I quickly purchased some of her e-books and ordered her printed cookbook (don't tell Mr B!) in an excited I-can't-wait-to-make-that-and-that-and-that.... kind of frenzy.

Today after work I made her "Chocolate Fudge Pie" recipe from her e-book called "Mission: Impossible Pies".

This is the result: (don't forget to click on the photos to see them larger!)

The finished texture is velvety, just softer than (not as firm as) a cheesecake and a couple of degrees softer than pumpkin pie but holds it's shape well when cut.

The important part: How does it taste???

It's quite a smooth taste... the "cream cheese" adds a nice balance to the chocolate and the sugar.

Mr B and I ate ours with fresh blueberries and had we not -just- had dinner probably would have had considerably more than we allowed ourselves just now!

(Mr B was heard to proclaim/sing "more more more... how do ya like it? more more more...")

Each of Hannah's gorgeous e-books are $5USD and worth every penny, I say! Her site uses Google Checkout which I, personally, use on morethanblue and think is fantastic, but she also accepts PayPal! (I love when businesses do that. It makes my life so much easier... there's nothing that annoys me more than shopping online while sitting comfortably on my sofa only to have to jump up to grab my purse for my card details!)

It was only while searching Hannah's wonderful blog that I realised she's also the designer of something I fell in love with a -long- while ago (late 2007 when I got my special invitation to the world of Ravelry).

I fell in love with a little crochet pattern for the cutest birds you've ever seen.

I love it when the connections between the seemingly random things in my life become apparent.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I needed a smile today...

...and this little cutie did just the trick!

I love random love hearts. Especially in unexpected places (this was in my moisturiser).

What makes you smile an otherwise not-smile-worthy day?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The White Chocolate Experiment.

I make (what I have been told are) fantastic vegan-friendly cake balls.

Occasionally, however, I am told that chocolate isn't the best coating for these little delights as not everyone -likes- dark chocolate and I completely agree that there should be some alternatives. People who like cake but don't necessarily like chocolate should be able to enjoy cake balls, too! So, I went searching.

In the US there is a "craft and celebration leader" (read: Company that makes tools so you can make your own cookies, cakes and other wonderful edibles) that makes a product called "bark" which is for coating said cake balls and for making chocolates (in the broadest sense of the term). These "barks", however, are decidedly -not- vegan-friendly as they contain large amounts of milk and milk-derived products. This is true for most commercially available white chocolate, though "true" chocolate should not contain any milk at all unless it's specifically Milk Chocolate.

What's a vegan-friendly baker to do when faced with such adversity?
Make some!

While searching I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a go.

Ingredients (partial)
Melting Cacao Butter
Added ingredients
Chilling in the mould

I made it to the recipe -exactly- as was written and found it resulted in a chocolate that I, personally, didn't like. Too sweet, powdery/mealy texture… not quite sure how to describe it. Not my cup o' cha at all.

It sure does take a pretty picture, though.

I decided I had to play with the recipe a bit. I took the supersweet, powdery chocolate and melted it back down. I then added some more cacao butter and one other ingredient (Sorry. Mrs B secret!) and chilled it down again.

For some, yet to be determined, reason it separated a bit... the vanilla powder I used sank right to the bottom. I'm thinking that I probably didn't dissolve everything properly. The effect is undoubtedly cool and since I won't be selling the chocolate for consumption as it is, I'm actually OK with it. I may have to learn to temper, of course, and I'm sure that initial learning experiment will prove hilarious so I promise to share.

(This little guy was supposed to be a ginger-bread-type shape and in my haste to get photos done (so that I could post) I managed to tear him from limb to limb while trying to extricate him from his mould. Poor fellow!)

The thing I like best about this recipe is that I can flavour it with any oil-based extract or flavour that I like. I can also colour it (they make food colouring powders!) to match / clash with the centre of the cake balls. Oh, the possibilities!

When will you make yours?

**Handy Hint: When making chocolate of -any- colour or flavour; make sure you do NOT introduce any water or water-based ingredients to your chocolate. It will perform some (entirely freaky) thing called seizing which is quite unpleasant and often irreversible! So, please, dear readers, be oh-so-careful! (Some sources say seizing is reversible and others say that it's fatal. Why take the chance, I say!)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Journey of Chances

So here it is.

My first(ish) foray into the blogging world (I've had a LiveJournal account for -years- now that I barely use and am trying to forget) and I hope to keep it painfully honest and continuously updated.

In this blog I plan to share with you all my journey(s) into some large changes in my life:

1. I'm slowly (sometimes -painfully- slowly) starting a small baking company making vegan-friendly sweet treats for Vegans, Veggies and Omnis alike.

I'm investigating becoming registered with The Vegan Society but A. it will take a while while I gather all of my ingredient lists and spell them out and B. I will need a few orders before I can -afford- the cost each year (thought -just- a few, which is wonderful!).

This is something I feel strongly about; being a vegan-friendly baker and something I. Will. Not. compromise on/with.

Some of you have already met my cupcakes and cake balls and have covered me in wonderful praise (thank you thank you thank you) so I know there's a market out there (even if it -is- sugar-hungry friends who want freebies)! And you all have signed yourselves up to be my victims test subjects, I hope you're aware and prepared.

2. I'm strongly, seriously, studiously, solemnly, soberly *insert other appropriate S words here* considering a life change to vegetarianism and possibly even "graduating" to Veganism.

Anyone who knows me knows I have some serious issues with food already: severely allergic to milk, peas, lentils and shellfish. I am intolerant to yeast, peppers, cucumbers and iceberg lettuce. I can't eat most fresh fruit or vegetables. I can't handle raw foods (must wear gloves) and I can't even eat raw, vegan-friendly cookie dough! Raw flour makes my throat itch! (I can't eat honey from countries other than my own as they make me sneeze!)

There's something else you might not know... When it comes to meat and animal products "on -my- planet" chicken comes from a bush... beef grows on trees... and pork is a gourd. Yes. When I eat those foods I have to pretend they're veggies otherwise I feel nauseous and can't eat them without being sick. Literally.

So, I don't like meat, can't have dairy products, am not wed to products like honey, eggs, white sugar* so why -not- go that extra step? Why -not- delve right in to a lighter, arguably healthier way of eating? A kinder way of living?

In short: because of the food-related issues mentioned above. I -must- consult with a dietician (or other somesuch health professional) before embarking on something so -vast- to ensure I don't damage myself in my quest to help.

Also, The Hubs is staunchly Omni and I don't want to change -him-. I want to change -me-. That fact in and of itself will mean a -major- adjustment and consideration.

So, here is the start of my journey. My journey of chances. Care to meander with me?

It won't always be sweetness and light. It will often be cynical. I will have set backs. I will burn batches of cookies.

But I promise you this, my darlings, it will always be honest. It will always be me.

Until next time,
Mrs B

*Yes, my darlings, white sugar in the US is largely made using animal products! I shall spare you the details. Kind of me, no?