VeganYumYum » how to Yup, I'm back. Thu, 08 Nov 2012 23:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Black Pepper and Cumin Pickled Carrots Thu, 06 Sep 2012 23:50:42 +0000 Lolo Pickled Carrots with Cumin and Black Pepper

Black pepper and cumin are two things that I can never have enough of.

Pickles, on the other hand, I can usually do with a lot less of. Or, you know, none. None’s fine. Pickles live in the part of my brain labeled yuck.

I was talking to my friend Bill and mentioned my dislike for pickled things. The conversation went a bit like this after my confession:

“Do you like vinegar?”
“Do you like sugar?”
“Do you like salt?”
“Do you like vegetables?”
“Well, then you like all that stuff together. You like pickles.”


It’s sort of embarrassing to be really into food but dislike things that are wildly popular. (We’ve discussed my dislike of garlic previously, but that’s another post. And a lost cause.) Every so often I revisit my blacklist and see if anything on it can be crossed off. Oftentimes I try to overcome my dislikes by forcing myself to try them in new ways until something starts to click.

Cumin and Black Pepper

My conversation with Bill rattled around in my head for a bit and I realized that he’s probably right. I would probably like pickles, provided they were made in a way I liked, with spices I’m fond of. Skip the dill, get rid of the garlic, and maybe, to be safe, start with something that isn’t a cucumber. Baby steps. Pickle therapy.

Fresh CuminNow, a note on spices. Do you have whole spices at home? Are they sort of fresh? I like whole spices, but I am guilty of letting them sit for longer than they should. Think about what’s in your rack right now and be honest — when was the last time you replaced stuff? Did you purchase them from somewhere that has high-turnover, or had they been sitting for months before you brought them home?

If you want to get back on the fresh spice train, and don’t think your local stores have anything worth investing in, find yourself a quality spice store that takes online orders. I have used The Spice House back in my home state of Illinois for years and am always impressed with their stuff.

It’s good to have fresh cumin, but please please please tell me you are using whole peppercorns, in a grinder. If I could only have one whole spice in my house it would absolutely be black pepper. Pre-ground pepper is sad. Fresh, whole peppercorns are amazing. Swoon-worthy. Get some.

Okay, enough yapping. On to the recipe. I was heavily influenced by this post by David Lebovitz during my carrot pickle research, so many thanks to him and his informative post.

Pickled Carrots
For a 1 pint jar

1 Pound Carrots (about 5-6), peeled and chopped as described
1 1/4 Cups Water
1 Cup Vinegar (cider, white wine, etc)
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Whole Cumin Seeds
1 Tbs Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Bay Leaves (optional)

Pickling Spices

Mix together your picking spices and set aside. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.


One pound of carrots is roughly equivalent to 5 or 6 large carrots. If you have a choice, pick out fewer large, thick carrots as opposed to more thin carrots. Thicker carrots will be much easier to chop up.

Chopping Carrots

After your carrots are peeled, stand one up in your jar and chop it to 1 or 1 1/2 inches from the rim. Use this piece of a carrot as a template to chop all the carrots down to the correct size.

Chopping Carrots

Once all your carrots are the correct size, chop each piece in half lengthwise to give a nice sturdy base (carrot above, on the left). With a large, sharp chef’s knife (bigger is easier for this task), begin slicing the carrots lengthwise into 1/8 or 1/16 inch thicknesses. You don’t have to go crazy or be a perfectionist. You want them thin enough to take to the picking liquid, but thick enough to retain crunch.

Chopped Carrots

Once all the carrots are chopped, drop them into the boiling water for 1-2 minutes. You do not want to over-cook them, you just want to loosen them up a bit so they can take to the pickling easier.

Drain the carrots well, and add the remaining ingredients to the hot pan. Bring to a simmer and let cook on low for another 2-3 minutes.


Add the blanched carrots to the liquid and let sit until room temperature, or at least cool enough to handle.

Jarring the pickles

With VERY clean hands, load up the pickles into your jar.

Jarring the pickles

Pour the picking liquid and all the spices into the jar.

Place your jar in the fridge. They will be ready to eat in 24 hours, and should keep for a good two weeks. They are great with your favorite vegan cheese and crackers, mixed into salad, with tacos, in sushi, falafel, or on their own.

They are pretty damn good. If I like them, you probably will, too.

By the way, as an experiment, I used a tiny bit of the hot pickling liquid and poured it over freshly sliced cucumbers. That works, too, and they remain crisp. The liquid should work with just about anything you have on hand!

Jarring the pickles

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Perfect Cinnamon Buns Fri, 08 May 2009 19:41:48 +0000 Lolo Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Frosting

I adore this recipe.

When I went vegan a little over five years ago, I had a minor panic attack when I realized I’d never eat another Cinnabon again. I remember I used to ask my dad to bring them home from the airport for me when I was little, whenever he had a business trip. The fluffy swirls of dough, the sugary syrup, the cream cheese frosting… I needed to recreate them perfectly, vegan style. And let me tell you, these are a dead ringer for our mall and airport favorites.

Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese FrostingBut it comes at a price. If you’re looking for a healthy, low-fat, calorie conscious treat, I can’t help you today. If you’re looking for a recipe that is guaranteed to win over any vegan doubter, guaranteed to please any Cinnabon lover, guaranteed to send any child into a permanent sugar high; these buns are for you.

There is a lot of sugar and Earth Balance margarine in these. But hey, the recipe makes a ton of rolls, and it takes four hours to make, so they’re really special occasion buns. Embrace the cups (and cups) of sugar and fat, and you will definitely be rewarded with the most perfect cinnamon bun you’ve ever had. Isn’t it worth it, at least once?

I think so.

For those of you who haven’t yet overcome your apprehension about yeast breads, I encourage you to give these a try. I’ve included tons of photos and a video to clarify the process and give you an idea how the dough is supposed to look at every step. They might seem intimidating, but they’re easier than you think!

I think these would be an amazing way to wake up Mom on Sunday, paired with a nice hot cup of coffee. You can make these ahead of time, refrigerating over night before the second rise and popping them in the oven in the morning, or you can freeze them for later. More info on that at the end of the recipe.

Perfect Cinnamon Buns
Makes 12 Large Buns

Yeast Mixture
4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (a little less than 2 packets)
1 tsp Sugar
1 Cup Water, 110º F

1 Cup Soymilk
2/3 Cup Sugar
2/3 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
2 tsp Salt
2 Ener-g Egg Replacer Eggs, prepared, optional
Yeast Mixture, from above
6 Cups All Purpose Flour, more for kneading

Dough Filling
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Margarine, melted
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
3 Tbs Cinnamon

Pan Sauce
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Margarine, melted
1/3 Cup Sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 Cup Earth Balance
1/3 Cup Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Powdered Sugar

Combine yeast mixture and set aside to proof.

From the dough ingredients, combine the soymilk, sugar, earth balance, salt, and ener-g eggs in a small sauce pan. Heat until earth balance is melted and all the ingredients are well combined, but do not let the mixture get too hot. You should be able to put a finger in it without burning yourself.

The yeast should now be nice and foamy (proofed). Combine it with the warmed liquid you just made; make sure it’s not too hot, or you will kill your yeast.

Proofed Yeast and Liquid Ingredients

Place 4 cups of all purpose flour in a large bowl. Add the warmed wet ingredients.

Mixing the Dough

Beat the batter well with a wooden spoon. The dough will be very wet and liquid, much more like a batter than a dough.

Mixing the Dough

Add 2 more cups of flour and mix in partially. It’ll look like a wreck. That’s fine! Turn out the dough onto a large table/kneading surface, scraping out everything in the bowl.


Begin kneading, gently at first. It’s going to take about 8 minutes to get the dough where it needs to be. Add more flour only if the dough starts sticking to the table and there is no more dry flour to be worked into the dough. You want the dough to end up smooth and elastic, and slightly tacky, but not sticky. You should be able to knead it on a bare table without it sticking.

Here is a video of the kneading and cutting process, so you can see the stages the dough goes through.

Cinnamon Buns

Once the dough is ready, place it in an oiled bowl, covered with oiled plastic wrap, to rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot. If you’re lacking a warm spot, turn your oven on low for 1 minute, then turn it off and place the dough in the oven to rise with the door closed. Remember to turn the oven off after one minute, and remember the dough is in there — no preheating for other things! (I’ve made that mistake more than once, it’s never good.)

Once the dough has risen completely, it’ll leave a little dent when you poke it. If it springs back, it needs more time.

Risen Dough

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press it down (this is part is in the video above). You want it press or roll it out into a 15 x 20 inch rectangle. You can use a roller if you want, but it’s not necessary.

Pour the 1/2 cup of melted earth balance on the dough. Brush it so the dough is covered completely. It’s okay if it pools in some locations.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar from the dough filling above. Sprinkle it evenly over the dough.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling

Prepare a large baking dish, like a lasagna dish, by pouring in the melted earth balance from the pan sauce ingredients above. Brush the sides of the pan so they are greased.

Melted Earth Balance

Add the sugar, spreading evenly over the bottom of pan. The pan is now ready for the buns.

The following steps are shown in detail in the video above: Roll the dough up gently, starting from one of the short sides. Let it rest on the seem once it’s rolled up completely. Cut 12 rolls with dental floss or sewing thread. Place the rolls in the pan. (Ignore the fact that they are practically floating in earth balance and sugar.)

Cinnamon Buns, pre-baked

Cover the buns and let rise for 45 minutes if you will be baking these immediately. If baking the next day, cover the buns and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. Bake in the morning with no need for more rising. If making the buns for a date in the future, cover the buns and freeze immediately. The day before you are ready to use them, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then let warm up on the counter the next morning for an hour. In any case, when ready to bake, follow the directions below.

Preheat the oven to 350º F, remembering to remove the rising buns if they are in there!

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes.

Cinnamon Buns, baked

Stir together the frosting ingredients. It takes a bit of elbow grease to mix it together, but resist the urge to add liquid. It will come together, I promise. Whisk until there are no lumps.

Serve the buns warm with frosting. I like to microwave completely cooled buns for 45-60 seconds before eating.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Graham Crackers (and Dandies!) Wed, 15 Apr 2009 21:32:03 +0000 Lolo S'mores with Homemade Graham Crackers and Dandies

I always have trouble finding vegan graham crackers at the store. Nearly every single brand has honey in them. The one version that doesn’t is full of icky ingredients.

When I got my Dandies in the mail, I knew I had to make my own graham crackers once and for all. The recipe turned out really good. I’d like to perfect the texture a little (ideally, I’d actually like them to be more crumbly than they are), but the flavor is nice and mellow, and it really highlights the sweet, nutty taste of whole wheat without being overly sugary. If you like your graham crackers really sweet, add a bit more sugar than I call for.

Graham CrackersGraham crackers are traditionally made with graham flour, named after Sylvester Graham, a really interesting (if slightly crazy) health nut from the 19th century. He promoted the vegetarian diet (yay!) to cure, among other things, sexual desires (I did say he was slightly crazy).

Graham flour is whole wheat flour. What makes it different from standard whole wheat is the ratio of endosperm to bran to germ. Sylvester Graham ground these parts of the wheat berry separately to preserve texture and then re-combined them in a specific proportion. You can find graham flour in some stores and online, or you can make your own. Wikipedia says “one cup of graham flour is approximately equivalent to 84 g (~2/3 cup) white flour, 15 g (slightly less than 1/3 cup) wheat bran, and 2.5 g (1.5 teaspoons) wheat germ.”

Or you can do what I did and just use stoneground flour and call it a day.

Stoneground Whole Wheat FlourActually, you can use whatever flour you like for these. I used stoneground flour because it has little flecks of bran in it, which adds some lovely texture to the crackers. I really recommend using at least some form of whole wheat, because it gives the graham crackers their traditional nutty flavor. Oh yeah, and it’s healthier. And rest assured it won’t mess with your libido. Sorry Sylvester.

Graham crackers are tasty, but they aren’t the sexiest food in the world. S’mores, on the other hand? Sexy. I made these with Chicago Soydairy’s latest vegan treat, Dandies vegan marshmallows. They are awesome! It’s my understanding that they’re being sold online, but sell out FAST. So if you see them available, scoop them up! They taste great, and they’re gelatin free, and they roast up just like the non-vegan version. Perfect for s’mores.

How about a little video before the recipe? Don’t forget all my videos are HD, so you can watch them full-screen!

Making Graham Crackers on Vimeo.

Graham Crackers
Makes at least 24 3×3″ Crackers

2 1/2 Cups Graham Flour or Stoneground Flour or Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar (or a little more sugar mixed with water)
3/4 Cup Water

Mix the all the dry ingredients together. Cream together Earth Balance and sugar. Add vanilla and agave and beat with a whisk until smooth. Add a little of the flour and a little of the water to the earth balance/sugar mixture and combine. Continue adding in flour and water, a little at a time, until all flour and water is added. Work the dough with your hands until everything is evenly combined.

Divide dough in half and cover. Let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325º F. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that measures approximately 11″x15″. Trim edges. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into squares or rectangles (I cut mine into 3′x3′ squares). Prick the squares with a fork.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 325º F or until the crackers are turning golden brown around the edges. You can sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the crackers during the last 10 minutes of baking if you like.

Remove from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack. See the video above for visual directions.

For S’mores

S'mores with Homemade Graham Crackers and Dandies

Place the crackers in multiples of two on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to broil. Add chocolate to one cracker and vegan marshmallows to another until all the crackers are topped. Broil for less than 1 minute, watching constantly, until the marshmallows are golden and melty and the chocolate has softened.

Chicago Soydairy's Dandies Marshmallows

Remove from oven, assemble the s’more, and eat! The graham crackers are also great plain, or topped with cream cheese frosting.

Graham Crackers

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Spring Crêpes Three Ways Wed, 25 Mar 2009 02:33:32 +0000 Lolo Spring Crêpes, Three Ways

Happy Spring, lovelies!

It’s time to break out of our winter food ruts, and I think I have just the thing. Crêpes! They’re light and can be filled with almost anything, but to get your imagination started I’ve created three recipes for you to try.

Now, vegan crepes. They’re not hard once you get the hang of them. The recipe I’m posting here comes from a veganized version of a standard “Eggless Crepe” recipe that’s floating around on the interwebs. I just subbed soymilk and Earth Balance for milk and butter. I also think it needs a little extra water, and I’ll point that out in the recipe below. There is also a really good crêpe recipe in Veganomicon, if you have that cook book, but it calls for chickpea flour. If you have your own favorite recipe, use that! Whatever works for you will work here.

There’s a little video below to get you started if you’re new to crêpes.

The great thing about these is that you can make absolutely everything ahead. They heat up in minutes, so it’s perfect if you’re cooking bunch or lunch for several people who all want different fillings. Simply place the cold crêpe in the pan, put the fillings on top, heat through, and serve. I make extra crêpes and keep them in the fridge for quick meals for the next day or two.

So, the fillings!

Asparagus Hollandaise

Asparagus Hollandaise Crêpe

Asparagus season is here or will be shortly, and this creamy hollandaise-ish sauce is perfect with spring-tender stalks. I just quickly pan-seared them so they’d have lots of flavor without overcooking them. You can check out my guide to buying and prepping asparagus if you like. The sauce has an almond base, so if you have good blender, you should be able to throw it together in minutes. Nutritional yeast is optional, but it does give it a nice pale yellow color and as well as some flavor. If you leave out the yeast, you might want to add a little turmeric for color.

Wild Mushroom and Wilted Frisée

Wild Mushroom and Wilted Frisée Crêpe

I’m a sometimes-mushroom person. Sometimes I love them, other times I eat around them. I find the less-common mushrooms to be the tastiest. I used king trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms in this crêpe, and man were they delicious. Morels are coming in season, and they’d be wonderful, too. You’re welcome to use more standard mushrooms if you want (cremini, portabello, button), but these fancier ‘shrooms were a real treat for me. I paired them with some wilted frisée (also called curly endive or chicory). It’s kind of bitter, but seems to mellow out with a quick sauté. It matches the mushrooms perfectly.

Berry Crêpes

Berry Crêpe au Sucre

I really wanted to use strawberries in this one, but alas, it’s not quite the season for them yet. The ones at my local store looked pretty sad. The raspberries, on the other hand, looked perfect. You can use any berry you like in these, along with a little sugar. The sugar melts a bit, making this crazy-easy dessert really very tasty. If you want, you can put a few tiny chunks of candied ginger in there as well. You don’t need berries at all; my absolute favorite all-time crêpe is a simple crêpe au sucre. Just sugar. Pure and simple.

Basic Crêpes
Makes 8-10

1/2 Cup Soymilk
2/3 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Earth Balance, melted
1 Cup Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Tbs Sugar (sweet crepes only, optional)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (sweet crepes only, optional)
2 Tbs Water, to thin if needed

Place all the ingredients in a blender or in a bowl. Blend or whisk until smooth. Transfer to a 2 Cup measuring cup (for pouring) and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the batter is refrigerating, prepare your fillings.

Asparagus Hollandaise
Fills 2-3 Crêpes

1/2 Lb Thin Asparagus, trimmed
1 Tbs Earth Balance
1 Pinch Salt
Black Pepper

Heat a large skillet (I used then cast-iron skillet for all of the fillings) over high heat. Add Earth Balance and asparagus. Cook for a few minutes, until asparagus are bright green, tender-crisp, and are browning in spots. Add salt and pepper, set aside.

Seared Asparagus

Hollandaise Sauce
1/2 Cup Sliced Raw Almonds
1/2 Cup Hot Water
2 Tbs Earth Balance
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast, optional (or 1/4 tsp turmeric for color)
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard, optional

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until extremely smooth.

Wild Mushroom and Wilted Frisée
Fills 2-3 Crêpes

2 Tbs Earth Balance
1 Cup Chopped Chanterelle Mushroms
1 Cup Chopped Trumpet Mushrooms
1/2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Sprig Fresh Rosemary, stem removed
1 Cup Chopped Frisée Greens
1-2 Cloves garlic, minced, optional

Chanterelle and Trumpet MushroomsSlice trumpet mushrooms lengthwise, then lengthwise again.

Add the earth balance to a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add trumpet mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown. Add chanterelles and rosemary. Turn down heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with a pinch of salt and balsamic vinegar. Remove mushrooms from pan.

Add garlic and sweat until tender. Add greens and cook until just wilted, one to two minutes. Remove and set aside with mushrooms.

Sauteed Chanterelle and Trumpet Mushrooms with Rosemary

Berry Crêpes
Fills 2-3 Crêpes

1/2 Pint Raspberries (or other berries)

Berry crêpes are filled while the crêpes are still cooking. Add sugar and berries to the crêpe as soon as it is flipped. See below for more details about cooking the crêpes.

Making Crêpes

So now that you fillings are all prepared, and your crêpe batter has rested and chilled, we’re ready to make crêpes! I’ve made a video that outlines the whole process, but here are a few things you’ll need:

-A non-stick omelet or crêpe pan
-Cooking Spray
-A graduated spatula (the long flat kind you use for frosting cakes), optional

If your batter is too thick when it comes out of the fridge, stir in 2 Tbs of water to loosen it up.

Here’s how:

How to make Crepes from lolo on Vimeo.

Assembling and Serving

So now you have a stack of cooling crêpes and fillings that have gone cold. No worries. You can keep your fillings in a warm oven until you’re ready to serve, or even easier, warm them up with the crêpes at the same time.

When you’re ready to eat, place a crêpe back in a hot skillet (medium heat is fine) and add the fillings you want in the top. Cover the whole thing and wait a few minutes. You want everything to get hot, but you don’t want to cook the crêpe any more than it is. When it’s hot, fold the crêpe in thirds and serve. It should only take 1-2 minutes per crêpe to heat up, so you can make them to order for your friends and family.

Okay! So are you ready to make crêpes? I hope so, because typing the little circumflex is getting really annoying. Making crêpes is much easier than accenting them correctly, I assure you.

Spring Crêpes, Three Ways

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Daifuku Wed, 04 Mar 2009 21:16:29 +0000 Lolo Daifuku

I first encountered daifuku at one of my favorite restaurants in Western Massachusetts, Fresh Side. In their deli case were these cute little white and green pillow-looking desserts, sitting behind a hand-written card that said: Mochi (vegan).

I ordered one and when I bit into it, it was such a surprise. First, the texture! It’s like a dense marshmallow, chewy and soft. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Next, the filling. Beans. Beans? Beans. This particular mochi was fillied with a sweetened red bean paste, also called anko, and I think it was the first time I had ever had sweet beans. And it was really good!

Now, if I understand correctly, mochi is a catch-all term for a sweet dessert made with glutenous rice flour dough. It can be baked, wrapped around ice cream, eaten plain, or filled. Filled mochi, like the ones I’m blogging about today, are called daifuku.

Anko is one of the most common fillings, but many people also use berries. Strawberry filled ones are very popular in the spring, and they’re called ichigo daifuku. Whole raspberries also work, and sometimes people include a white sweetened bean paste (as opposed to red) known as shiroan.


Now what if I told you that I made these in the microwave?

I know!


I was skeptical, too. The microwave in my house is pretty much reserved for reheating leftovers. When I decided to make these, I was sort of shocked that all the recipes online called for nuking the dough. What’s more, they were pretty unclear about how to tell when you’re dough is ready. Microwaves seem to vary so much in power, 3 minutes in one microwave is very different than 3 minutes in another. But I decided to give it a go, and not only did it work, but it was really, really easy. If you are able to find pre-made red bean paste, you can make this whole recipe with only a microwave and just a few minutes.

So not only do you not need a kitchen for these (hello dorm-living vegans!), they’re also gluten free (hi celiacs!), soy free (hi soy…allergic lovelies!), fast (hi lazy people!), customizable (hi picky people!), and did I mention CUTE? Traditional colors are white, green, and pink, but food coloring isn’t required if it grosses you out. Matcha (green tea powder) is a natural and delicious flavoring that makes the mochi green.

MochikoNow the one thing you absolutely need, no substitutions, is mochiko. It’s glutenous rice flour, and no other flour will work for this. You can find it easily at any asian market.

Also make sure you have some cornstarch or potato starch handy, the dough is very sticky!

Makes 10-12 Filled Cakes

1 Cup Mochiko
1/4 Cup Sugar
2/3 Cup Water
2-3 Drops red or green food coloring, optional
Cornstarch or Potato Starch, for dusting

Filling Ideas
Anko (store bought or recipe below)

Makes enough for 3-4 batches of daifuku

1 14 oz Can Adzuki Beans
1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbs Vegetable Oil
1-2 Pinches Salt

Heat water and sugar separately until boiling and sugar is dissolved, turn off heat. Drain and rinse beans.

Adzuki Beans

Add to a pan and mash. Add 1/3 cup of the simple syrup you just made, along with salt and vegetable oil, and mash over medium heat. Beans will thicken and become slightly glossy. Add more syrup if desired. Turn out into a bowl and let cool.

Making the Mochi

Add the mochiko, sugar, water, and food coloring (if using) to a microwave safe bowl. Stir well, making sure there are no lumps. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as best you can with a rubber spatula, otherwise they’ll get all gross when the dough is microwaved.

Daifuku Dough

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and mircowave for 2 minutes. Remove bowl from the microwave and stir VERY well. Dough will be much thicker, but there should still be some raw parts underneath. I like to use a sturdy silicone spatula to mix the dough at this point. Place the dough back in the microwave for 1 more minute.

Open the door and peek–did the dough start sinking as soon as the door opened? If so, the dough was inflating while cooking, which means it’s ready. If not, microwave for 1 more minute and check again. You shouldn’t have to microwave for more than 4 minutes total (2 minutes initial cooking, 2 more additional minutes after mixing).

One the dough deflates when you open the door, remove the dough from the microwave and scrape it out onto a cornstarch-coated cutting board.

Daifuku Dough

Pat the hot dough (be careful! It’s hot!) with cornstarch and flatten it out a little. Cut into 10-12 even pieces. Add 1 tsp of filling to each piece and gently press the edges together to seal.

Making Daifuku

Here’s the whole process in a little HD video for you to watch! No sound, so don’t worry about turning down the volume if you’re at work. The video starts right after I took the dough out of the mircowave and dumped it onto the cutting board.

Making Daifuku on Vimeo.

The best way to keep these fresh is to individually wrap them in plastic wrap and then refrigerate. If you leave them out, unwrapped, they’ll get dry and tough. Enjoy!

Daifuku with Anko Filling

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Winter Pine Tree Cakes Fri, 12 Dec 2008 22:04:36 +0000 Lolo Winter Pine Tree Cakes

This is a super cute dessert idea for winter-themed parties, and it isn’t much harder than making and frosting cupcakes. If you have a sharp knife, some toothpicks, a piping bag and a star tip, you’re good to go. It’s even more fun to make than it is to look at, or eat!

All I did was bake some cupcakes, cut them into cone shapes, stack them (secured with toothpicks) and then frosted them in such a way so that they looked like pine trees. Powdered sugar adds a little snow. At first I was bummed that my powdered sugar had so many HUGE lumps in it, until I realized they looked like little snow boulders. Score! You could get really creative and make little marzipan pine cones, or birds, or squirrels… you get the idea. Why not make a sweet little forest for your friends and family to devour?

Oh man, I just realized I could have built an igloo out of sugar cubes. Next time, I guess!

Winter Pine Tree Cakes

I used gel food coloring, both green and blue mixed together to get the shade right. Using only green was too light and minty for what I was going for – so make sure you have some blue on hand to darken it up. But there’s no reason your trees need to be green. White trees would be stunning on a darker plate, or other non-standard colors like pink or brown to play up their cutesy, cartoony look.

Winter Pine Tree Cakes

Basic Sponge Cake
Makes 15 cupcakes (a few extra for practicing)

1 1/3 Cups Soymilk mixed with 1 tsp Apple Cider vinegar
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbs Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Mix soymilk and vinegar. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt and mix well. Add oil and extracts to soymilk mixture and whisk. Add wet to dry and fold until just combined. Fill each lined, sprayed cupcake mold with 1/4 cup batter. Bake cupcakes at 375º F for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely.

Enough for 5-7 trees

1/2 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/2 Cup Non-hydrogenated Shortening
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
About 3 Cups Powered Sugar, sifted, more if needed
Food Coloring (green and blue for standard trees)

In a stand mixer, whip margarine and shortening until light and fluffy. Whip in extract. Slowly whip in powdered sugar until icing is fairly stiff. Add coloring bit-by-bit until desired color is reached. Transfer icing to a piping bag fitted it a small/standard sized star tip

Creating the Trees

Bake the cupcakes!


Unwrap the cupcakes and turn them upside-down. With a knife, carve the cupcake into a cone. If needed, flatten the base so the cupcake cone sits without wobbling.

Carving Cake

Stack the cupcakes to make basic tree shapes. Three high for tall trees, two high for short trees. Secure with toothpicks. You may want t make the base of your trees squatty so that they help the tree stand.

Basic Tree Shape

Create your forest!

Cupcake Forest

Begin icing your trees. If you don’t have a revolving cake platter to ice on, use a small cutting board that you can easily turn as you work. Start from the bottom and ice around and around up towards the top. Use long-ish strokes that end in an upward sweep to create branches. You can go back and fill in holes or weird spots later.

Icing Pine Tree Cakes

Finish off with shorter, horizontal or upward pointing branches, and then one directly on top pointing straight up. Take a look at your tree and add branches where needed.

Winter Pine Tree Cakes

Use a spatula to gently and carefully transfer the trees to your serving plate. Add lumps of powdered sugar if you have them, and anything else to finish up the forest scene. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to add snow to the trees.

Happy winter!

Winter Pine Tree Cakes

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Food Photography for Bloggers Sat, 20 Sep 2008 23:52:44 +0000 Lolo Food Photography for Bloggers

Food bloggers wear a lot of hats. We have to be chefs, prep cooks, food stylists, photographers, photo editors, dish washers, and writers every time we post a something new.  I’ve been wanting to do a post on food photography for a while; everyone who has ever emailed me about my photos: this is for you.

Most food bloggers don’t have their own studios, or professional lighting equipment, or access to food stylists.  Here’s how you can make your own high-quality food photos at home no matter what equipment you have.

There is a lot that happens before and after I click the shutter that contributes to the final photo.  I’m not a professional photographer, and I’m figuring things out along the way with a lot of trial and error.  The only prior knowledge I have is some skills that I picked up in a high school photography class several years ago.  A lot of the tips online about food photography are for commercial shoots, and therefore don’t contain much specific information for the home food blogger.

Workflows and techniques are very personal, so I’m sure other food bloggers out there achieve fabulous results doing things differently than I do.  This is what works for me, and I hope you find it useful.

Part of my dish collection

Above is just one part of my dish collection, and it grows all the time.

Tuile Cones with Almond Pudding and StrawberriesThe right dish really sets the overall look for the photo. Everytime I’m in a store that sells dishes, I pick up one or two of something I find interesting. You don’t need a full set.  Some general tips:

1. White will always, always work.
2. Square dishes always look classy.
3. Smaller is better — small dishes are easier to fill up with food, which prevents your plate from looking bare.

Also look online for fun dishes.  I have a friend who works at Beau-Coup Favors, a neat favors business, and he sent me these great little miniature martini glasses I use in a lot of photos in this post. Just goes to show you how the right presentation can make even a boring vegetable salad look gorgeous.

Plan Ahead

Do as much as you possibly can ahead of time.  Food should be photographed as soon as possible after preparing, which means you’ll need a space for photographing ready to go, an uncluttered kitchen, etc.  Here’s what I do before I start cooking:

1.  Clean up, do all the dishes, clear countertops
2.  Pick out dishes
3.  Set camera up on tripod, pick out background
4.  Clear your photography space
5.  Think about the dish: do you need a garnish? Special utensils? Placemat?

Mise en Place


Prepping all your ingredients neatly will keep your kitchen more organized, cut down on cooking time, and allow you to focus on the task at hand.  And mise en place photographs make for killer filler photos, as well!

Starting Out

Happy Birthday DennisWhen I first started doing my blog, I had a sony point-and-shoot digital camera, no tripod, and I got on just fine.

The image to the left was taken with a point-and-shoot (PnS) at night, with only my kitchen light on. Even better is taking your photos during the day with natural light. The colors will be much more true to real life, like this photo, which was also taken with a simple consumer camera.

But if you’re looking to improve not only your photos but also your equipment, here are some tips for you.

Moving Up

If you are interested in investing a little money in your photography, I’d highly recommend getting a “prosumer” digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera and a trusty lens or two. There are a lot of cameras on the market, but most people find themselves deciding between Canon and Nikon. It’s really difficult to say which is better, and the reality is that they’re both great. I happen to shoot Canon, so my recommendations will be for Canon products, since that’s what I know.

Digital SLR Bodies

Camera SetupI started out with a Canon Rebel XTi, aka the EOS 450D. This is the perfect camera to start out with if you want a dSLR, but don’t want to spend too too much, and don’t want a super clunky camera. Granted, the XTi is much larger than a pocket-sized camera, but compared to other SLRs on the market, it’s downright tiny. You’ll be able to use different lenses, change your aperture and shutter speed, set your white balance, shoot RAW–pretty much everything you’ll want to do to take your photography to the next level.

However, I started with the XTi, and quickly upgraded to the EOS 30D. A little too quickly. I should have spent a little more money up front and gone with the 30D to begin with. But it’s bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Think about what you want in a camera, and go to a store and hold different models before you decide what the right camera is for you.  The 40D is out now, and the 50D has been announced, so I bet you could get a pretty good deal on a 30D right now.


Whatever camera you get, I suggest you skip over any camera package that includes what they call a “kit” lens.  The lenses the cameras are packaged with are usually semi-poor quality “all purpose” lenses that do a bit of everything, but don’t do anything well.  By getting the camera body only, and purchasing the lenses you want separately, you’ll not only save money, but also be getting exactly what you want.  But that’s another decision you need to make: what lenses are you going to buy?

There are a lot of lenses you can get that will work for food photography. Here are my recommendations, but keep in mind these are definitely not the only options. The lenses here are ones that I 1) own and use myself and 2) make great photos for things other an food photography.  If I’m going to spend a few hundred dollars on a lens, I want to use it for more than just food photography!

Canon 50mm 1.8  $80-90ish
If you’re on a budget and can only buy one lens, I’d recommend this one. It’s cheap compared to other lenses, and is a very “fast” lens. A fast lens is one that has a very wide aperture that creates nice depth of field and can be used in low-light situations (more on all that later). The downsides: slow, loud auto-focus, a cheaply built plastic body, and cannot focus very close to your subject. I owned it and it was great for three months. Then it broke. Still, very highly recommended.  It is also a great general lens that you’ll love to shoot portraits with as well.

Example Image from 50mm 1.8:
I had to taste them!

Canon 50mm 1.4  $325
This is the big brother to the 50mm 1.8. It has all the benefits the of the 1.8, but an even faster aperture, a much sturdier body, closer focusing range, quieter and faster auto-focus and a nicer “bokeh.” (More on bokeh later.) It’s much more expensive but will last you longer, and compared to Canon’s other lenses, this is still on the “affordable” side, believe it or not. I use this lens all sorts of photos. (You can spend even more and get the 50mm 1.2 L series lens, but that’s even more expensive than this one.)

Example Image from 50mm 1.4:
Tall Stack

Canon 60mm 2.8 Macro, EF-S  $400
You might not think there would be a large difference between a 50mm and a 60mm, so why own both? I’ll tell you why–this lens is a macro lens. A macro lens allows you to really get in there and focus closely on your food (or whatever) and get details you’d be hard pressed to get with another lens.  It’s also  fast lens and doubles nicely as a portrait lens.  I’ve shot the majority of my food photos with this lens, and I’d say if you only were to buy one lens for food photography, this lens or another similar macro lens might be your best investment.  However, if you ever plan to upgrade your camera to something nicer than a 30/40/50D, be aware that this lens won’t mount onto the more professional Canon cameras like the 5D and 1D.  (But if you’re in the market for a 5D or a 1D, you definitely don’t need my advice!)

Example Image from 60mm 2.8, food is “actual size”:
Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme

As I said earlier, there are lots of lenses that can and do work great for food photography. If you’re a food photographer and have a different lens that you use and love, please leave it in the comments!

Simple Setups, Natural Light

You don’t need to invest in lots of studio equipment to get great images. The very best lighting you can get is free, and it’s coming through your windows every day. Here’s a shot of my “studio”:

Camera Setup

A table, next to a window. Done! Well, almost. Since I shoot with natural light only, a lot of times it’s slightly too dark to hand-hold my camera and get a clear image. Use a tripod and you’ll be amazed at how much better your photos get, especially with PnS cameras. Even balancing your camera on a can of tomatoes or a pile of books can save a shot. Tripods very drastically in price, but I have a cheap $30 that has done the trick for well over a year now.

Make your own backgrounds

Make Your Own BackgroundsThere are lots of ways you can make backgrounds for your food shots. My favorite backgrounds are just simple 20×30″ foam-core boards that I spray painted on my porch, a different color on each side.

I love these because they’re cheap, easy to make and customize, easy to store, and fairly durable. I once bought this kit that comes with colored paper, but soon realized the paper gets destroyed after a few uses: it tears, it gets ugly creases in it, and if you spill anything on it at all it’s ruined. The big foam-core boards, on the other hand, wipe clean and don’t bend, and if you do ruin them they’re easy to replace.

As you can see in the photo to the left, they’re easy to swap in and out during a shoot. You can try all different colors before picking the right one for the dish you’re photographing.

One tip: buy matte finish spray paint – glossy paint will cause unsightly glares in your photos.

Natural Lighting

Natural Light

I’ve already mentioned this, but I can’t stress it enough. It’s nearly impossible to reproduce the wonders of natural sunlight artificially. As far as I know, even big-wig professionals have trouble duplicating it. Yes, it means you’ll need to do your food photography during the day, but I promise you the results are worth it. Nothing looks as nice as sunlit food, and fortunately the sun is pretty easy to use (even if it’s unpredictable). Besides, learning how to shoot with natural, varying light will improve your photography across the board.

Using natural light is probably the number one thing you can do to improve your photos.  Turning off the flash, since you’re using lovely natural light, is the second best thing.

I find side-lighting to be the most dependable and easist to expose for. Back-lighting can be very nice, but is harder to manage the correct exposure. Full on front-lighting can work well, too, so experiment with everything.

When using natural lighting, don’t place your food in a sunbeam. You want ambient, diffuse light. Things shot directly in the sun usually look too harsh, but again, it can sometimes work depending on the shot. In my opinion, the “safest” set up is diffuse side-lighting coming from nearby window.

For those of you who are interested in artificial lighting, I’m not the best person to turn to for advice, but I can suggest you look into Lowel Ego lights. I bought a set and have used them on one post only, but I managed to get a good result. This shot was lit with Ego lights at night:

Coconut Blood Orange Bundt Cakes

For more information on Lowel Ego lights for food photography, check out Jaden of Steamy Kitchen’s fabulous and detailed review of them.

Take a LOT of Photos

One Entire Shoot

I did a photoshoot for this entry to help illustrate the points I wanted to make. What you see above is every single photo from the shoot, all 93 of them. I think I average around 100 photos taken per recipe, and I whittle them down drastically to just a handful for each post.  Buy a large memory card for your camera to make sure you have enough space for all those photos!

I always find it funny how one shot can be “meh”, while another shot take from a slightly different angle, or with a slightly different focus, can suddenly become “WOW!” The best way to ensure you get “the shot” is to take lots and lots of them. Taking lots of photos allows you to be very, very picky when you’re editing, ensuring you never have to post a photo you dislike.

Anatomy of a Shoot


I start out photographing the process of the recipe–chopping, special techniques, assembly, etc.  Once the dish is done and plated, I’ll take some “basic” shots which help me establish the lighting, background, what props/garnishes are needed, positioning of the food, etc.

I gradually work my way towards a photograph that feels complete to me, making sure to get all different angles.  I try overhead, straight on, close up, environment shots, and many different angles.  My photographs start out boring and move towards interesting as I shoot.  It’s hard to explain how I plate or frame, but it involves a lot of photos and looking at each photo and saying, “Hmm, the image looks too bare” or “I need to figure out how to emphasize this particular quality of the dish.”  As I said before, the more photos you take, the better chance you have of getting that perfect shot.

Camera Settings

Tripods/Stabilization RequiredNo matter what kind of camera you have, one thing always applies: turn OFF the flash. A flash will at best make your food look flat and at worst wash out all the details and create unappealing shadows.

If you have a PnS camera, look for a setting that is marked with a little flower. This is your macro setting, and it will help your lens use the best of its close-focusing and detail capabilities.

If you have a larger dSLR with more settings to choose from, here’s what I recommend:

ISO: Set to the lowest possible, probably 100. The lower the ISO, the “cleaner” your image will be. Photos shot at higher ISOs have a lot of digital “noise” in them that looks like colorful static. Higher ISOs are used to increase your camera’s sensitivity to light, allowing you to shoot in darker conditions and still maintain a shutter speed that is fast enough to prevent blurry images. But since you’re using a tripod (right?!), and your food isn’t moving (right?!), it’s best to keep this setting as low as possible for the best looking images.

Flash: Keep it off. Always.

RAW or JPG: If you have a choice, shoot RAW.   RAW files record lots and lots information about each photo, which allows you to bring the most out of the image in post-processing (editing color, contrast, white balance, etc.). Be aware that you may need special software to process RAW images, however, and there’s more on that below.  If RAW isn’t an option, make sure your camera is set to the highest resolution JPG option available.

Shutter Speed and Aperture: In my opinion, shutter speed doesn’t matter so much in food photography; it’s your aperture, or f-stop, that’s most important. So important, it gets its very own section.

When shutter speed would matter is for “freezing” action, or purposeful motion blur. For example, in the photo of the pancakes, I needed a fairly fast shutter speed to “freeze” the pouring syrup. And lets say you wanted a shot that showed the motion of you tossing greens or sauteing vegetables; a slow shutter speed would be required for that. But on the whole, you’ll be more interested in apertures than shutter speeds.

Know your F-Stops

Know Your F-Stops

If you’ve ever wondered how photographers get that nice, blurry background with only one thing in focus, now you know. F-stops! The aperture of the camera is the opening that lets the light in, and you can set it to very large (the photo on the left) or very small (the photo on the right).

BokehThink of the aperture on your camera the same way as the pupil in your eye. When it’s dark out, your pupils expand to gather more light. If someone shines a light in your eye, they constrict and get very small to let less light in. Your camera’s aperture is the same. One of the side-effects is what’s called “depth of field.” When the aperture is very wide open, only a small amount of the image will be in focus, just like the photo on the left. If the aperture is very small, much more of the photo will be in focus.

Your eyes are actually the same. Ever squint to read a street sign in the distance? The smaller your pupils get, the more focus you get, so squinting to see a sign more clearly is just like “stopping down” to a smaller aperture to get more things in focus. If you’ve ever wanted to pick out a specific part of an image to draw the viewers eye, a small depth of field is one way to say, “Hey, look at THIS!”

Shallow Depth of Field

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to apertures, it’s just a matter of taste. I prefer many images that have very large apertures because I really like the dramatic focus. If you’re looking for this in your photos, too, make sure to purchase lenses that have a an aperture of 2.8 or wider (like 1.4). All the lenses I recommended above can provide this effect.

By the way, the technical term for the pretty, smooth and silky blurry parts of an image like this is called “bokeh.”

Learn Manual

Of course, none of this is much help if you don’t know how to set your f-stop, or how to get the proper exposure once you do.  The best thing do to is learn how to use your camera on the manual setting.  It takes a bit of time to get used to it, but once you do you’ll have complete control over your images.  This post is already long enough as it is so I won’t go into it here, but I’m sure there are some great resources online for learning how to use your camera on its manual setting.

One possible way around learning to shoot manually is “Aperture Priority” — a setting that is available on my camera and many dSLRs.  On a Canon camera, simply set the dial to Av and use the scroll wheel at the top to set your aperture, big or small.  The camera will figure out the corresponding shutter speed to give you the proper exposure.  Well, that’s the short of it, anyway.  If you need more help with that, feel free to email me.


Framing and Rule of ThirdsWhatever subject you’re shooting, you’ll hear people talk endlessly about the Rule of Thirds, and for good reason.  It just works.  If you’ve never heard about it, definitely check out that link.  Like all rules of thumb, you can break it and still get a great photo, but it’s a reliable way to dramatically improve the images you make without much fuss.

For food photography, a lot of times people stand above the dish, take a photo, and call it a day. Overhead shots can work, but try taking photos from lower angles, even level with the food itself.

Also, get in close, but not too close! It’s always important to leave some frame of reference for the viewer so they know what they’re looking at, even if it’s just the edge of the plate, or a fork, or the rim of a glass. You tell me, which close-up photo is more appealing?

But Not Too Close!

Get Close!



I use, and highly recommend, a piece of software called Lightroom to edit and organize my photos. It’s not free, but it is fabulous. Since I shoot in RAW, the images that come directly out of the camera are usually pretty “flat” looking. RAW images require some sort of processing, and most people turn them into high-res JPG files, making edits to color, contrast, sharpening, exposure, and white balance along the way. I tend to boost contrast and color saturation, as well as add vignetting (darkened edges), but it really depends on what I’m trying to bring out in the photo. Here’s an example of two images before and after editing in Lightroom:

Editing Raw Files

It’s hard to make such dramatic changes to a photo if it’s not a RAW file.  The information a RAW file keeps allows you to make many non-destructive enhancements.  RAW files give you lots of control over how your final image looks.

If you camera doesn’t have the option to shoot in RAW, set it to the highest resolution JPG setting available.  And if you’re using a mac, you can start with some basic editing in iPhoto.  I feel like Lightroom is a nice middle step between the ease of use of iPhoto and the powerful tools of Photoshop. I know a lot of people also like Aperture, but I’ve never used it myself.  If you’re on a PC, I have no idea what programs to recommend, but I’m sure other people do!

Whatever software you use to edit your images, check out the settings and make sure your photos are being edited in the sRGB colorspace (which is good for putting photos on the web) and use a calibrated monitor when editing. Both of these things will help ensure your photos look as good as they can on many different monitors.

Final Thoughts

The very best advice I can give you about food photography is simply do a lot of it. Like anything, the more you do it the better you’ll get. I’ve only been doing food photography for two years or so and I can see a huge difference in the quality of my shots. The more I learn about photography the more I realize how much more there is for me to learn.

I hope this was helpful for you. Happy shooting, and be thankful that no matter how your photos turn out, you can always eat your work after wards! But if you’re going to get really into food photography, be ready to eat a lot of your meals cold.

Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream

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Poolish Focaccia Wed, 21 May 2008 16:34:49 +0000 Lolo Focaccia

I’ve baked bread for four days straight. In fact, the only reason I’m not baking today is, well… I ran out of flour.

I’m not exactly sure what came over me. I’ve always liked baking bread, but I usually only do it a few times a year, and I never spent too much time thinking about it. Make the dough, put it in the oven, and eat, right? And it might not be the best bread ever, but unless I really messed it up, fresh bread is always edible, even if it’s not exceptional.

But I started thinking about bread, and whole grains, and I decided to buy a grain mill. So I can grind my own flour. Thank goodness I live on the third floor of a house in a city with no yard or I might try to grow my own wheat. Somehow I don’t think the second bedroom is up to the task.

To prepare for the mill (It’ll be three weeks or so before it arrives), I finally purchased the two books I’ve been coveting for a while: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and Whole Grain Breads both by Peter Reinhart. I’ve been working from the former over the past few days. I figure I should get comfortable with white flour before I move on to whole wheat. I must say, I’ve been more than delighted. These books will be–and already are–indispensable. If the idea of being a HUGE breadgeek who makes the tastiest baked goods in town is appealing to you, definitely drop $40 on these two beautiful, huge, detailed hardbound books.

Focaccia Crumb

I’m going to share the Poolish Focaccia from Bread Baker’s Apprentice with you, because it’s one of those breads that isn’t that hard, but involves enough new skills for a green baker without being over-challenging. It does require a lot of time to make, but if you’re looking to expand your baking skills, and have a LOT of really tasty, perfectly golden brown, deliciously herbed focaccia when you’re done, than this recipe is for you! It’s a perfect weekend project.

I’m going to share a ton of photos, so before I get bogged down in the details, here’s the overview:

Day One: The night before baking, you make the poolish. All this requires is mixing flour, water and yeast and letting it ferment on the counter for a few hours, or even overnight. You can make focaccia without this step, but I think it gives it extra flavor, and it’s a good trick to learn for other breads. Taking a few minutes to do this before you go to bed really gives a great boost to your bread the next day. You can make the herb oil on either day.

Day Two: Mix the poolish with flour, water, salt, oil and yeast to make the dough. Turn the dough out on the counter and fold it. You’ll fold the dough three times, with rising in between foldings. After the dough has risen, you plop it onto a baking sheet and shape it, let it rise, then shape again before baking. A generous total time estimate would be 4-5 hours, but most of that is rising time.

2 1/2 Cups (11.25 oz) Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/2 Cup (12 oz) Water, room temperature
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (Like RapidRise)

Poolish Focaccia
3 Cups (20 oz) Poolish
2 2/3 Cups (12 oz) Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast (RapidRise, for example)
6 Tbs (3 0z) Olive Oil
3/4 Cup (6 oz) Water, 90-100º F (lukewarm)
1/2 Cup Herb Oil

Herb Oil
1 Cup Olive Oil, warmed to 100º F (ish)
Any herbs, 1/2 Cup fresh chopped or 2-3 Tbs dried, or a combination

PoolishThe Night Before: Make the poolish. With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together until all the flour is hydrated, and you’ve got a smooth, sticky mass. It’ll look like very thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap. You can leave it out on the counter for four hours and then refrigerate, or leave it out all night. I left mine outside overnight where it was warmer than the fridge, but cooler than the house, so the poolish would have a nice, steady but slow ferment. Either way, it should be nice and bubbly after fermenting, like the photo on the left. It will have a super cool springy/stringy/stickty consistency, too.

(You can also make the herb oil this same night: Mix the herbs with the warmed oil. Turn off the heat and let the herbs infuse the oil at room temperature. The oil can also be made the next day, and this is noted later on in the directions.)

Poolish, consistency

Make the Dough
If you refrigerated your poolish, take it out and let it sit for an hour to warm up. Once warm, it’s time to make the dough.

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl (or in the work bowl of a stand mixer). Add the poolish, water, and oil. It’ll look something like this:

Mixing Dough

If mixing by hand, mix to combine all the ingredients and then get in there and beat the hell out of it for 10 minutes. The book suggests 3-5 minutes, but it took me longer. It’s done when the dough is smooth, crazy sticky, willing to pull off the sides of the bowl but not the bottom, and your arm aches. This is what it looks like halfway through mixing – here it’s still rough and bumpy. It’ll be too wet to knead.

If mixing by machine, start with the paddle attachment to combine at low speed for 2-3 minutes, then switch to the dough hook. Beat at medium speed for 5-7 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom. Add more flour or water if needed to achieve this.

Stretch and Fold
Prepare a bed a flour on your work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto your flour bed. Sprinke the top of the dough with flour.

Dusting Focaccia Dough

Pat the dough into a roughly rectangular shape. The patting serves three purposes: it pushes the dough out into a rectangle, distributes the flour over the top, and removes excess flour. There should be enough flour that the surface of the dough is no longer sticky, but just enough to accmplish that. Patting removes the excess. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Patting Focaccia Dough

Now you’ll be folding the dough like a letter. Pick up one side of the dough. As you do this (it’ll be hard to hold on to, do the best you can), stretch the dough out and fold it over towards the middle. The quicker the movement, the easier it will be. If the dough is sticking to the table, no worries. Use a dough scraper to lift up the edges of the dough to put more flour underneath, seen here.

Folding Focaccia Dough

Repeat with the other side, again, just like you’re folding up a letter.

Folding Focaccia Dough

The dough, having been folded in thirds, looks like this. The dough should stay about the same dimensions after each fold. You’re not folding it into smaller and smaller rectangles, but stretching the dough out and then folding it back in on itself to make similarly sized rectangle. If that makes any sense?

Folded Focaccia Dough

Brush or spray the dough with oil, cover in plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes. You’ll the fold it again, oil, cover, let sit for 30 minutes, then fold it a third time. Each time you fold, the dough will be easier to work with, a little firmer, a little neater. Fold in the opposite direction then the last. For example, if you folded left to right, the next fold will be top to bottom. This is the second fold:

Folding Focaccia Dough

Rising and Shaping
After the third fold, let the dough sit covered on the counter for 1 hour. The dough will rise, but not necessarily double in size. If you didn’t make it the night before, you can prepare the herb oil during this rise. Mix the herbs with the warmed oil. Turn off the heat and let the herbs infuse the oil.

Prepare a 17 x 12″ baking sheet (with sides, like a jelly roll pan) by placing a layer of parchment paper down across the bottom. Oil the parchment.

As best you can, move the dough from the counter to the baking sheet, trying to maintain the rectangle shape. Don’t worry if you can’t get a clean move, the dough is soft and unwieldy, so just move it the best you can.

Ready to Oil and Shape

Pour about 1/4 Cup of Herb Oil over the top.

Herb Oil on Focaccia Dough

Using only your fingertips, begin to press into the dough to distribute the oil and flatten the dough out. The dough will gradually spread out in the pan, but don’t worry if it doesn’t fill the pan, it’ll get there after rising again. Just remember that you’re only allowed to use your fingertips, pressing down. You want to keep the majority of the air bubbles that have been forming in the dough all this time, so kneading or pressing the dough flat with your hands would destroy all your hard work.

Shaping Focaccia Dough

Make sure the dough is completely covered in oil, then cover and let it rise for two hours. It will be very puffy, and if it hasn’t completely filled the pan, it’ll be close to doing so. Nearing the end of this rise, preheat the oven to 500º F, making sure the rack is in the middle.

Risen Focaccia Dough

Add another 1/4 cup, or more, of the herb oil.

More Herb Oil on Focaccia Dough

Spread the dough out to its final size using the same fingertip technique as above. You’ll see all sorts of fun bubbles! You want an even distribution of bubbles and fingertip dimples. You might want to break any huge bubbles since they’ll just explode in the oven anyway. Sprinkle the top with salt as desired.

Final Shaping, Focaccia Dough

Let the dough rest for another 10-15 minutes. Place the dough in the oven, and turn the temperature down to 450º F. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the sheet for even baking, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown. If you have an instant read thermometer, the dough should be 200º F in the center of the pan.

Ready to go in the oven!

Cooling FocacciaCooling and More Ideas
When the focaccia comes out of the oven, remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Let the focaccia cool for at least 20 minutes before gorging yourself.

Feel free to top your focaccia with other things besides just herbs! Olives are nice, as well as sliced onions, garlic… I’ve seen sweet focaccia with grapes or apples and cinnamon and sugar… the possibilities are endless. Depending on the topping, you may want to add it in the last five minutes of baking to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Enjoy your ridiculously huge loaf of focaccia. Bring one to the next party you attend and you’ll be everyone’s favorite person.


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Homemade Organic Soymilk Wed, 14 May 2008 23:12:58 +0000 Lolo Organic Homemade Soymilk

When I decide to do a food experiment, I’m pretty good at predicting how the final product will turn out. I’ve been thinking about making my own soymilk for a while now, even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like the end result. So I spent some time looking for tips on how to make the best tasting soymilk at home. With those tricks up my sleeve, I started soaking the beans last night and crossed my fingers, hoping my initial prediction would be wrong.

But I was right. As pretty as my soymilk is, I wouldn’t drink a glass if you paid me.

Now, it’s not terrible. It’s not even bad. It’s just different. I was REALLY hoping I’d be all “homemade soymilk tastes better!” and “commercial soymilk sucks!” but sadly, my palate is keenly attuned to Silk brand soymilk, which has been processed and messed with to such a degree that I think it might be impossible to replicate it at home.

Organic Homemade SoymilkIt bums me out that I like commercial stuff better, but them’s the breaks.

Usually I don’t share recipes on my blog that I don’t approve of (on the rare occasions that I do, I’m not shy about saying so), but I think the process of making soymilk is interesting. I thought you might like to see how you can make it at home without a fancy $100 machine. I hear the machines are great, mind you, but if you’re considering buying one you should definitely give this a go before you invest in one to make sure you’ll like the taste.

And just because I don’t like the taste of homemade soymilk, it doesn’t mean you won’t. It’s… beany. And… well? Beany is the best word for it. I’m also hoping that someone who makes tasty soymilk at home all the time will read this, discover a flaw in my recipe or technique, and give me the secret to tasty soymilk. This was my first time making it, afterall, so it’s possible the I just screwed the whole thing up.

Organic Soybeans

Soaking the beans
Right. So the first thing you’ll need is organic dried soybeans. I hear there’s a particular variety called Laura soybeans that have a better taste, but they’re expensive and only available online. I picked mine up at my local grocery store in the bulk section. The night before you make your soymilk, soak the beans in a large amount of cool water overnight.

Dry vs. Soaked SoybeansIt’s amazing how much water these babies soak up, so give them ample space to expand. If you’re going to soak them for more than 8-10 hours, soak ‘em in the refrigerator. They’ll keep refrigerated for a few days, just change the water whenever you think of it. (At left: dry vs. soaked)

Removng the Skins
I read that you can reduce the beany taste of your soymilk by removing the skins before blending them with water. They were supposed to “slip right off” after soaking, but mine required a fair amount of agitation to remove. I ended up scrubbing them mercilessly between my palms, like I was washing the plague off my hands, but, you know, with soybeans instead of soap. After about 10 minutes I gave up.

Soybean SkinsAfter removal, the skins were also supposed to float to the top of the water for easy scooping, but mine didn’t seem to be all that buoyant. To separate them from the beans, I ran the faucet at full-tilt into the large pot the beans were in, so that the overflowing water would carry the skins with it. That worked alright, but I did need to use a slotted spoon to help the process along. I think I removed just over a cup of skins, and I’m sure I didn’t get all of them. Below is a bowl full of throughly abused soybeans.

Soaked Organic Soybeans

Blending the Beans
Now it’s time for blending. I have a crazy Vita-Mix blender, which pulverizes anything in its path. I think that a regular blender will work fine for this. Your okara (the bean pulp, more on that in a second) might not be as fine, but that probably makes for easier straining. You’ll need to blend in batches:

1 Batch, for 1+ Cup Finished Soymilk*:
1 Cup Soaked, Skinned Soybeans
3 1/2 Cups Water

Let your blender run for at least two minutes. You want to make the mixture as smooth as possible. If your blender won’t fit the batches as measured above you can blend less, but keep the proportions of beans:water the same. I made two batches.

*It’s possible I over-reduced my soymilk by simmering it too long and/or failing to use a lid, which may be why the flavor is so intense. Boil yours with a lid for a higher yield.

Straining Soymilk

Strain your blended soymilk into a large bowl. I used a nutmilk bag, which is essentially a fine mesh bag with drawstring that strains out even the even very tiny particulate. If you don’t have a nutmik bag, use several layers of cheesecloth, or a very fine chinois strainer. You can not over-strain your soymilk.

Really. I strained mine five times: three times before cooking and twice after it was finished and cooled.

Okara (Soybean Pulp)

The pulp leftover from straining is called okara. There are many recipes that call for okara, so save it to use later. Keep in mind, though, that many recipes call for okara that comes out of soymilk machines, which is cooked okara. This okara is raw and REQUIRES cooking of some sort to break down/neutralize nasty enzymes that we humans can’t digest very well. I think I’m going to try Susan V’s Okara “Crab” Cakes, myself!

Boiling the Milk
Yuba (Soymilk Skin)

Bring your strained soymik to a boil. Once it’s simmering, cook it for 20-30 minutes. While it’s cooking, yuba (a skin) will form on top. Skim it, and any foam, off. Yuba is edible, an a lot of people really enjoy it, so check out recipes for that, too!

Flavoring, Cooling and Storing
At the end of cooking, flavor your soymilk. I added a pinch of salt and a scant tablespoon of sugar. Add a little bit at a time and taste it as you go until you reach the flavor you like the best. Transfer it to the refrigerator and cool. After cooling, I strained mine again to remove any extra yuba that had formed, and removed even more particulate that had settled at the bottom. Your soymilk should last about a week in the fridge. Glass containers with lids are best

Final Thoughts
I’m pissed that I don’t like it more, but it was a neat project. It was only recently that I realized it was even possible to make soymilk at home. I think I’ll stick to buying mine. I’ve had great success making nutmilks at home (specifically almond milk), and they’re not only easier to make but really, really tasty to boot. If I try to make soymilk again, I might add rice, or oats, which I hear helps the reduce the beany flavor, but other than that, I’m not sure how much more palatable I can make it.

Soymilk experts, any advice?

Organic Homemade Soymilk

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Tangelo Marmalade Sat, 29 Mar 2008 20:17:47 +0000 Lolo Tangelo Marmalade

I bought some organic Minneola Tangelos last time I went to the store. When I juiced one, I was shocked. It was practically a water balloon. I couldn’t believe how much juice came out of each one. I’ve been thinking about marmalade for a while now, and here was a perfect opportunity to make it.

My mother loves marmalade, so there was always a jar in the fridge for toast or PB&J sandwiches when I was growing up. I loved the rich orange color, I loved the little wisps of rind, and I loved the “adult” flavor–sweet and bitter at the same time.

I made just a small amount of marmalade because I didn’t feel like going through the effort of canning, and besides, I only had three tangelos left. One jar of marmalade would be perfect. In retrospect, this stuff is so damn good I’m sorry I didn’t buy out the store’s entire supply of tangelos to put up as much of it as possible. But I suppose there’s still time for that!

I think my absolute favorite way to eat marmalade is on toast with a little Earth Balance margarine to balance the sweetness. I’m not generally a toast and jam sort of girl, but I make an exception for marmalade. If you only enjoy your marmalade on toast, though, you’re really missing out. It makes an excellent glaze for tofu, seitan, or veggies. It’s perfect in between layers of cake. Mix it in with ice cream, make a dipping sauce for pot stickers… you get the idea. It works equally well for sweet and savory dishes.

You can use any citrus you want for this, including lemons. Traditionally Seville Oranges are used, but I really enjoy this version made with minneola tangelos–they’re a cross between a tangerine (super sweet) and a grapefruit (deliciously tart) and have tons of juice. Use whatever citrus that’s in season and organic (no nasty chemicals on the rinds) and you’ll have a wonderful result. Here’s the formula:

For every 1 lb fruit (weighed after zest and rind are removed)
3 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar
50% Available Zest

Makes approx. 16oz Marmalade

Additonal Add-Ins: A cinnamon stick, some thinly sliced ginger, hot chilies, star anise.

I used three tangelos which was about 1/2 lb peeled fruit, so my measurements were 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, and 50% of the zest. That produced approximately 8 oz of finished marmalade.

Tangelo Zest

Wash your fruit well and use a regular vegetable peeler to remove the zest. Take the zest off in wide strips, 1-2″ long. Discard 50% of the zest, leaving only the pieces that are in the best condition (no discoloration, etc).

Zest Julienne

Chop the zest. I prefer to julienne it (it’s just so gosh darn pretty that way), but any kind of small cut will do just fine.

Cooked Tangelo Zest

Boil the zest in water for 10 minutes, then strain. Boil again in fresh water until tender. I boiled mine for about 10 minutes after the rinse, but the time to tenderness will depend on how you cut your zest. Strain and set aside once tender.

Adding Water

Meanwhile, chop up your fruit. You can remove the white pith if desired. I left mine on because I was lazy. If you leave yours on, too, remember that this will add to the weight. I wanted to use about 1/2 pound of fruit, so I measured a little heavy (11 oz. as opposed to 8 oz.) to account for the added weight of the peel.

Add fruit and water to a large sauce pot (you’ll need a lot of room in there, once the sugar starts to boil the volume will increase considerably). Boil the fruit and water for 15-20 minutes. You can use a potato masher to crush the fruit a bit if desired.

Straining Juice

Let the fruit/water mixture sit until it’s cool enough to handle, then strain out the juice. Since I was making a small amount of marmalade, I only had 1 cup of juice after straining.

Add the juice, the zest and the sugar back to the pot. Boil for 15-20 minutes until a small amount of the the marmalade “sets-up” on a cold spoon or dish. The longer the marmalade cools, the thicker it will get. (Don’t worry if your marmalade doesn’t set up super-firm, it’s still tasty and will make a great glaze.)

Tangelo Marmalade

Turn off the heat and let the marmalade sit for 20 minutes or so. Then pour it into jars. If you wish to preserve/can the marmalade, now is when you’d process it in a Boiling Water Bath. Without a BW bath, the marmalade must be refrigerated and consumed within several days. For canning instructions, follow the directions included with your canning jars.

Stay tuned, in a few days I’ll post a recipe for Grilled Marmalade Tofu.

Tangelo Marmalade

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