Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Unofficial and Semi-inappropriate Review of "Superman: Man of Steel"

Christopher Reeve as Superman
A classic story, re-told time and time again, it started as  comics and ended up on the big screen.....multiple times. The story of an alien from another planet who looks just like any other human but due to the earth's proximity to the sun, he possesses a strength and indestructibility that is anything but human. That's right, I'm talking about superman. Yes, I saw "Man of steel".....and yes I am going to share with you my completely unprofessional and biased opinions on this film.
However, before we get to the knitty gritty, allow me to indulge myself for a moment.  It would seem that superman somehow manages to be blessed with the one in a million gifts of indestructibility  enormous strength, and a nearly perfect morality.....but this isn't where it ends. Another trait bestowed upon him, and potentially the only thing that is consistent in all of the many reincarnations of this story, is how ridiculously attractive Clark (superman) Kent is.
Tom Welling as Clark Kent
Somehow, they manage to find someone more and more attractive each time they cast the role. When I was a youngin I remember watching the old superman with Christopher Reeve and thinking "daayyuuum" he's got it goin on.
 Then I discovered "Smallville," the WB's series on Clark Kent's life before superman. A good five years of my pre-teen and teenage years were spent oogling over Tom Welling (the actor who played Clark Kent), the highlight of which was seeing him in person once at brunch. Fast forward a few years to 2006 and "Superman Returns" starring Brandon Routh comes out and all I can think is "Okay, now they've done it, they have finally found the most attractive superman.They can just stop looking now, cause it's over."
Brandon Routh as Superman
I developed a crush on this man halfway through the movie. Ummmmm......no I am NOT superficial, just an excellent judge of character (why yes, you can judge someone's character based on their acting in a movie and their physical features. It's a thing, I swear.) A subsequent googling left me oh-so-slightly dissapointed to find that he wore blue color contacts for the movie, but still super attractive nonetheless. However, don't you worry, because this time I've done my research and there are no color contacts here.......just 100% glory. So you've pretty much figured out that I believe this newest superman (Henry Cavill, since I know you're gonna do some googling of your own) is even more attractive than his predecessors, like mind-blowingly so. How is this even possible?!?
Henry Cavill.........the end
I mean, they are all literally too attractive, and now Henry Cavill comes along and makes all of his predecessors look like that kid in high school who you actually aren't quite sure what he looks like (he's always kind of just a blur, even when he's not moving; and his name is Melville, or Marcus....and all you know is that he's not the janitor because once he tried to ask you to be his lab partner and for a second you were confused about why the janitor is in your chem lab.....and then you connected the oh-so-distant dots......but he's still a blur, a blur who smells like hair and bandaids).
 Even if you can't identify with that super long parenthetical  you know what I mean.
This Henry Cavill is literally out of this world (haha, get it? Cause superman is from another world.....) I challenge mankind (mainly hollywood casting agencies, but anyone else who's up for the challenge too) to find a finer specimen of the human male......but if you do, definitely send him my way.

Okay, now that that's over I can tell you what I thought of the movie....
In a word: RIDICULOUS. Ridiculously, mind-blowingly, awesome that is. I like to think that I am quite a harsh critic of movies (my best friend and I have taken it upon ourselves to be very selective about movies, and we are critical of most films, even the ones that we like) and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one of the best movies that I have seen in the last few years. The acting is superb, the casting is great (although I am somewhat ambivalent about Lois Lane as a red-head), and the depth of the plot is a revelation. Yes, there were the cliche "damsel in distress" moments and the cliche "superman questions his choices and has trust issues moments," but they are essential to the story and done quite well. The film strikes a great balance between explaining and tying in Superman's past and his planet's story with his growth into the [super]citizen of earth, Clark Kent, that we have grown to know and love. Although the overall story and the characters are nothing new, the director, writers, cast, and crew have managed to breath new and exciting life into this classic.
Another one for good measure.....
Lets address the action and special effects. Obviously this movie makes heavy use of special effects, but it is done very well. Everything was so realistic and the costumes were quite awesome. They gave the superman costume a mini-makeover (a little sleeker, a little less cartoon-ish) and I have to say it worked out for the best. Yes, there are fight scenes, but they really don't feel drawn out or overdone (or worse, over-acted) and the special effects just enhance what's going on plot-wise rather than overshadowing it (AHEM "Avatar" I'm looking at you....).
I don't want to write about any details because spoilers are actually the worst thing on this planet (other than vengeful villains who will stop at nothing to bring down superman), but suffice it to say that this film really is a must see. If nothing else convinces you, consider the fact that I have seen at least 30 new movies since the time I started this blog and this is the first one I liked enough to actually write about. Just be thankful I had the will power to focus on anything other than superman's ridiculously good looks for long enough to realize that this movie was actually awesome.

Monday, June 17, 2013

When you're at a Crossroads in life.......

I was recently at a Crossroads in life, and I know I'm not alone. Many people on different occasions find themselves at a Crossroads in life, where difficult decisions must be made and sometimes the advice of others cannot be relied upon. .......And sometimes, you may literally find yourselves at Crossroads (Kitchen), a new vegan restaurant in West Hollywood, where the menu offers such great options that it proves nearly impossible to make a decision about exactly what to order. Furthermore, it is best not to rely on your server's recommendations when deciding between two dishes, because they may well have different taste preferences than you. Ha....haha, see what I did there......? With the word crossroads.....? Yeah, I know, I'm really mature. Anyways, such was the case a couple of weeks ago. I was celebrating the birthday of one of my dearest friends and he chose Crossroads Kitchen as the place to celebrate! Neither of us had been there before but we both had been eyeing it for awhile, so this was the perfect occasion.
The Background: Crossroads Kitchen is a slightly upscale (but not remotely snobby) Mediterranean Vegan Restaurant with a great atmosphere and fantastic location. It was started by famous vegan Chef Tal Ronnen, who amongst many other things has served as Oprah Winfrey's private chef, has catered the wedding of Ellen DeGeneres & Portia De Rossi, and even catered the first Vegan Dinner at the U.S. Senate. He has also worked at many of the top vegan restaurants in the country and has published a cookbook that was on the Epicurious: Best Cookbooks of 2009 list.
Also found this on their website,
it's even better in person and when it's filled with people!
The Ambiance/Decor: The space was formerly occupied by Philippe Chow, and before that it was an italian restaurant called Dolce. The decor is wonderful, it's a perfect harmony of luxe meets modern meets rustic hipster. The lighting is perfect, some may consider it on the more dimly lit side, but it sets a great mood in the restaurant. It's full of people and has a warm, welcoming buzz; just enough to where you can tell it's an exciting, social atmosphere but not so much that you can't hear yourself think. The set-up of the tables somehow manages to make you feel as though you have all the privacy in the world despite the fact that the tabels are just as close as they would be at any other restaurant; maybe its the simple little lamps on each table, or maybe it's the plush seating, but from the moment you sit down you feel comfortable and at ease.
The Service: The service was pretty good. We were greeted by a welcoming, smiling hostess who didn't even mention that we were 15 minutes late for our reservation as she led us to our seats. The waitress came out very soon after to bring us water and introduce herself. She gave us some time to look over the menu, and came back to tell us the specials and get our orders. The only small complaint I have is that I ordered a salad with the dressing on the side, and I asked her if that was okay, and she said "definitely" but the salad came out already dressed. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it since it really isn't a big deal, so I didn't point it out to her, but that was oh-so-slightly disappointing Other than that small blip, she was perfectly attentive without being annoying; I honestly can't remember if she came by to see how our food was, but suffice it to say that the thought never crossed my mind "Hey, I've got something I would like to order or ask for, but haven't seen our waitress," she always came by at the perfect time.
Found this cool picture of their cocktails online......yum!
Cost: For such a great location, and a somewhat upscale restaurant, the prices are astonishingly affordable. For the two of us we ordered a total of 3 small plates, 2 entrees, and a "cheese" platter (which came with artisanal toasts, jam, and raisins), and it came out to $60 before tax & tip. If memory serves me correctly, all of the salads, soups, and small plates (both hot and cold) range somwhere from $5-$14 with most of them falling at $6 or $8. The larger entrees are between $12-$14, and the specials are priced similarly. Cocktails are $15 each, and the wines and bears are reasonably priced as well. Crossroads proves you don't need to empty your bank account in order to have a wonderful dining experience in an awesome setting and location.
Lentil Flatbreads with 3 Spreads
The Food: 
- Lentil Flatbread with 3 seasonal spreads: This is basically freshly made (still warm) lentil flatbreads/pitas that come with hummus, leek pate, and tomato braised banana peppers. The bread was warm and fluffy, and it smelled amazing. My friend ordered this so I only tried a bit of the tomato-banana pepper dip and it was awesome!
Pickled Veg
- Housemade Pickled Vegetables: These were so good! It sounds simply, but the vegetables are pickled so well, and they're not your typical pickles. There were whole white carrots, a couple of different types of radishes, cucumbers, and onions. They were pickled just enough so that the flavor of the individual vegetables still shines through, but the pickling itself has definitely done it's job.
Spring Chopped Salad
- Spring Chopped Salad: This salad had pea tendrils, celery leaf, parsley leaf, english peas, watermelon radish, and a whole grain mustard vinaigrette. Anyone who knows me knows I love salads and this one was awesome. I know you're thinking "Come on Mina......it was just an average starter salad, how good could it have been?" Well let me tell you, really good! I hate to be a drama queen but this salad was so good that it actually eclipsed my entree, which was pretty darn good (more on that later). The salad, although simple, blew my mind on a small level. I have actually never had fresh english peas prepared in this way, and they were surprisingly hearty and had a great bite to them. The watermelon radish was also another awesome part of the salad, they added a great kick as well as an excellent contrasting flavor. The celery and parsley leaf balanced it out, and the dressing itself was excellent, very light and it brought out the flavors of the components of the salad.
Scaloppini
- Scaloppini with Marsala Glazed Morel Mushrooms: This is the entree my friend ordered. I didn't try any because I was to busy being obsessed with my entree, but it looked and smelled awesome. He absolutely loved it and finished every last bite. He is an omnivore, but he couldn't stop talking about how great the scaloppini was, and he even wanted to try to re-create it at home........which actually isn't that crazy considering he's an amazing, classically trained chef who attended the CIA. Wait what?! A legit chef ate at a vegan restaurant and liked it? Yep.....that happened. The only complaint about the dish is that for a $14 dish, it was on the small side. Normally scaloppini is served with some sauteed spinach, roasted potatoes, or at least some steamed veggies...but this one came with nothing. However, the serving size is only a minor setback, because I honestly would love to order this when I return to Crossroads. Not only did it smell and look delicious, but I cannot for the life of my figure out how to get all the sand out of morel mushrooms when I'm cooking them at home. Somehow restaurant chefs always know how to do it, so it'd be nice to eat some morels without feeling like I just took a bite out of the beach.
Cassoulet
- Cassoulet: This dish is what I ordered as my entree. It has du puy lentils, wild mushrooms, english peas, carrots, leeks, and grilled spring onions, but this description does not do the dish justice. It really was SO delicious It was hearty and comforting without being too heavy. The english peas and carrots were cooked perfectly (not too soft, not too hard) and the grilled onions and leeks were also an amazing addition. The brightness of the grilled onions & leeks pairs perfectly with the unctuous, hearty, and dare I say meaty lentils and mushrooms. I almost ordered this dish a second time.....but I didn't because we still had more food coming.
- Kite Hill Cheese Plate: This is basically a classic cheese plate that you might order at any fancy french restaurant, except that everything is vegan. However, throw out your notions of weird, fake tasting soy cheese or oddly textured tapioca shreds.....this is actual cheese. Kite Hill is the brand of cheese that Tal Ronnen himself has started making, and it is even being sold in the fancy cheese section of some Whole Foods with the other artisanal cheese. What sets this cheese apart from the other vegan cheeses is that he actually makes it like a cheese.
Kite Hill Cheese Plate
Cheese is made when you process dairy (often by merely precipitating out the curd using an enzyme or acid), add some sort of bacteria/funghi culture (which vary depending on what type of cheese you're making), and age it. Tal Ronnen does the exact same thing but instead of using dairy, he uses almonds. I'm pretty sure what they do is blanch and puree the almonds, and then proceed as you would with any dairy product, but I can't be entirely sure. Anyways, sorry for that ridiculous food science tangent, but the end result is fantastic! Three unique cheese, served with delicious raspberry jam (I usually hate raspberries........what?), raisin-walnut crostini, roasted almonds, and raisins still on the vine! This cheese platter was so good and so unique! We paired every cheese with all of the accompaniments in every possible way, and everything was awesome......even the cheese by itself was awesome. I'm not going to lie, two of the cheese tasted almost exactly the same, but they both tasted good, so it wasn't really a problem. I would definitely order this plate again!
Overall Review: A fantastic restaurant, and dare I say......hotspot? The food is cooked and presented with care, and it tastes even better than it looks if that's possible. There is something for everyone on this menu, from the Meaty Lasagna to the Kale-Spinach Spanakopita to the Crab Cakes, and everything in between. All of the gluten free items are labeled and they are plentiful. I myself am a vegan and I came here with an Omnivore (and amazing, classically trained chef) and we both loved it; we both definitely want to go back soon! Even if you don't care about the food and just want to go somewhere with a great atmosphere, this is the spot; not only will you love the atmosphere but once you taste the food you'll forget it's vegan and the only thing you'll remember is that it's beautiful, comforting, and delicious. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cross Croissants off the List....Vegan Classic French Croissant Recipe

So I've had some extra free time on my hands the past few days......I think I pulled my quad muscle so I'm giving it a few days off from running. Now, when I get home from work everyday I feel like I have so much more free time since running really can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. What do I choose to do with this extra free time you ask? I've decided to try to whittle down "The List." What is the list you ask? Well let me just  tell you.....
What is "The List?": I have a long-standing goal of attempting to take on notoriously difficult recipes AND veganize them at the same time. However, being the laid-back, non-perfectionist that I am, I don't merely want to veganize them, I want to get as close to perfect as possible......that means testing, tweaking, and re-testing recipes numerous times until they come out just the way I would like. There are many things on the list such as puff pastry (which I just recently did.....wasn't that hard), baked alaska (is it weird that I'm just not interested in this one?), creme puffs, popovers, cannolis, tamales from scratch, quiche (not just any quiche, but a vegan quiche that people want and crave), gnocchi, mole sauce, bernaise sauce, vegan "goat cheese" (probably going to be cashew based from how my experiments have been going thus far), home-made faux meat, and many more. As you can see, I'm not really that ambitious.....
Conquered croissants......they are officially off the list!
What did I choose to conquer this time?: There are a lot of things on my list, but croissants have been calling my name for awhile so I've been experimenting with a few different croissant recipes. I did extensive research, talked to me chef friend, and then did some more research. Much of what I call "research" is just me armed with an excuse to find pre-made vegan croissants (did you know that Pillsbury Crescents are actually vegan?!?) and eating them.......I mean I need to know what I'm competing against......and I've been hoping to grow a double chin for awhile now. Anyhow, I have to say that after trying a few different recipes (all very highly rated), and making modifications to make them vegan, I have come up with what I believe to be a great vegan croissant recipe.
Nutrition & My Philosophy: Most of the things on my list are not known for being healthy, and that's because they're not. While I do firmly believe that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet free of processed oils and sugars is important, and should be practiced daily, I also believe it is equally important to indulge every once in awhile, and enjoy the finer things in life. I'm not going to eat cannolis and croissants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I think it's important to make all recipes and types of foods accessible to people on a plant-based diet. This is both because if people who are considering going vegan know that they can still have their favorite foods should they crave them, it will make it easier to make the switch to veganism AND because the plant-based versions of these dishes, although by no means qualify as health food, they are still healthier than their non-plant-based counterparts.
Format Note: I have made the executive decision to write the entire recipe out (ingredients and directions), and then follow that with a detailed step by step directions section with pictures. I may not do this for the simpler recipes, but for recipes that are more involved I think it will be really helpful. And it starts now.

Recipe: The Best Vegan French Croissants
Totaly Time from start to finish: 6 1/2 hours
Active Prep time: 1 1/2 hours
Ingredients for dough:
- 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
- 2 pcakages active dry yeast (about 1 tbsp & 1/2 tsp)
- 1 1/2 cups warm soy milk (about 100-110 degrees)
- 2 tbsp oil
- 3 3/4 cup all purpose flour + more for dusting
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted earth balance shortening
Ingredients for No-Egg wash:
- 1/2 cup warmed unsweetend soy milk
- 2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
- 1 tsp oil
Directions:
1. In a large mixing bowl that you can use with your electric mixer, add in the warm soy milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix them up and let them sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the mixture should be foamy, if it is not, throw it out and start again.
2. Using the paddle attachments on your electric mixer (or mixing by hand) add in the flour, salt and 2 tbsp oil. Mix until everything is even. This may take up to 3 minutes but should not take any more than that. Make sure to use the medium or low speed if you are using an electric mixer, as you do not want to overwork the dough, it will be too tough and making rolling out the dough very difficult.
3. Flour a work surface and knead the dough gently by hand, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Ad flour in small quantities because too much flour can be detrimental. As with the previous step, do not over-knead, you do not want a tough dough.
4. Shape the dough into a square, and place in on a large, floured plate or baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour.
5. Take the three sticks of shorting and cut them into thin, long pieces and lay them next to each other on a piece of parchment paper so that they make a square. The goal here is to crate one large, thin square of shortening out of all of the pieces. Using your hands press the pieces together, trying to eliminate the spaces between them. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the square use a rolling pin to roll out the square. Trim any edge that aren't straight until you have a square, and ad the trimming to the middle of the square and roll out again with the rolling pin. The square should be about 7-8 inches on each side.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface role out into square that is about 14-16 inches on each side. **Technique Tip: Anytime you work with the dough make sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, otherwise the dough will catch onto the work surface, tear, and leak shortening.**
7. Laminating the Dough: The next two steps are what make this type of dough a "laminated dough".....just thought I'd fill you in on this little fun fact. Anyways, Place the square of shortening in the middle of the square of dough, such that the corners of shortening square point at the middle of each side of the dough.
8. Fold the dough over the shortening like an envelop by folding each corner of the dough onto the top of the shortening such that all four dough corners meet on the center of the shortening square. Seal the shortening in the dough by pinching the four corners together as well as all of the touching sides of dough.
9. Making sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, roll out the "envelope" into a roughly 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use, smooth, gentle, but firm strokes of the roller to do so. **Technique Tip: Whenever rolling to dough, try to keep it from sliding along the counter with your roller, you want to avoid creating friction between the dough and the countertop as this can cause the dough to tear and leak butter.**
10. 1st Turn: Once the you have rolled out the dough to the appropriate size, fold the longer size into thirds, the way you would fold a letter you are going to place into an envelope. You will be repeating this step and the pervious step numerous times throughout this process in order to create those flakey thin layers of croissant dough. The name of this step of rolling out and folding the dough is called a "turn". There will be a total of 6 turns in this recipe.
11. Rotate the dough a quarter turn so that the open sides  of the folded dough (what used to be the longer side of the dough) is facing to you and away from you. With the length of the dough positioned perpendicular to your body, roll the dough out again into a 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use the shape of the dough as a guide, the longer side of the folded dough should be the side that you roll out to 24 inches, and the shorter side of the dough should be the side you roll out to 8 inches.
12. 2nd Turn: Fold the length of dough as you did in step 11 into thirds (much the way you would fold a letter you are putting into an envelope.
13. Loosely wrap the dough with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
14. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (it will probably have increased in size due to the yeast. When you roll it out you will probably end up pressing a lot of air bubbles out of the dough, this is totally fine) and with an adequately floured work surface and roller perform your 3rd and 4th turns (roll out dough, folding into thirds, rotate a quarter turn, roll out dough, fold into 3rds).
15. Loosely wrap in saran wrap and place back in refrigerator for another hour.
16. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and perform your 5th and 6th turns. Loosely wrap with saran wrap and place in refrigerator for another hour.
17. Flour a very large area of your work surface and begin to roll out the dough into about a 40-45 x8 inch rectangle. The dough needs to be rolled out pretty thin since this is the step where we are rolling the croissants. Make sure that the dough is not sliding too much on the work surface as it is very delicate at this time and will easily tear and leak shortening. This process may take a couple of minutes, don't get frustrated if it is hard at first, it gets easier as the dough gets thinner.
18. Starting at one end of the length of the dough, make a mark on both sides every five inches moving from one side of the 45 inches to the other.
19. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife as well as a ruller or some sort of straight edge for guidance, cut from one mark to its corresponding mark on the other side (perpendicular to the length). Do this with all pairs of marks.
20. You should now have mang smaller rectangles of dough. Using the same ruller or straight edge as you did in the previous step, cut from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner such that you now have 2 very long right triangles. Do this with all of the rectangles unless you also want to make a non-crescent shaped croissant, similar to the pan au chocolate shaped croissants that are more rectangular, in which case you would just cut the rectangles into smaller rectangles.
21. For the triangular pieces, tightly roll starting with the shortest side of the triangle such that you are rolling along the two longer sides. You should aim for having the pointed tip of the triangle end up right in the center of your roll. For the rectangular pieces, simple roll tightly from one end to the other. **Accessorize your croissant: If you want to put a filling in your croissants (chocolate, cheese, jam...etc) now is the time. You can place the filling along the edge at which you start rolling the croissant, leaving a half-inch at each side so that the filling doesn't leak out. Also make sure to seal the ends of the croissant post-rolling if you chose to use a filling. **
22. Proofing (Rising the dough in it's final shape): Place rolled croissants on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, making sure you leave enough room for each croissant to puff up without touching its neighbor. Combine all ingredients of No-Egg Wash by beating with a fork or whisk, and brush the croissants with No-Egg Wash. Make sure there is enough left for a second coat right before they go in the oven. Let the croissants sit on the sheets in a 70-80 degree room for an hour in order to proof (rise). They should be out of direct sunlight.
23. About 10-15 minutes before the hour is up, pre-heat your oven to 390 convection bake or 410 conventional.
24. After an hour, give the croissants a second coat of the No-Egg Wash and place in the ovens once they have reached the appropriate temperature. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
25. After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, and switch them to opposite racks (if you have one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack switch them as well as rotating them so that the back of each sheet is now in the front). Bake in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. If the croissant are browning too quickly turn the oven temp down 20 degrees.
26. Remove from oven and let cool. If you don't eat them fresh from the oven, I highly recommend heating them up in the microwave before eating, they are just so much more delicious when they are softer and warm.


Directions with Pictures at all key steps: 
1. In large mixing bowl that you can use with your electric mixer, add in the warm soy milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix them up and let them sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the mixture should be foamy, if it is not, throw it out and start again.
2. Using the paddle attachments on your electric mixer (or mixing by hand) add in the flour, salt and 2 tbsp oil. Mix until everything is even. This may take up to 3 minutes but should not take any more than that. Make sure to use the medium or low speed if you are using an electric mixer, as you do not want to overwork the dough, it will be too tough and making rolling out the dough very difficult.
3. Flour a work surface and knead the dough gently by hand, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Ad flour in small quantities because too much flour can be detrimental. As with the previous step, do not over-knead, you do not want a tough dough.
4. Shape the dough into a square, and place in on a large, floured plate or baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour.
5. Take the three sticks of shorting and cut them into thin, long pieces and lay them next to each other on a piece of parchment paper so that they make a square. The goal here is to crate one large, thin square of shortening out of all of the pieces. Using your hands press the pieces together, trying to eliminate the spaces between them. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the square use a rolling pin to roll out the square. Trim any edge that aren't straight until you have a square, and ad the trimming to the middle of the square and roll out again with the rolling pin. The square should be about 7-8 inches on each side.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface role out into square that is about 14-16 inches on each side. **Technique Tip: Anytime you work with the dough make sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, otherwise the dough will catch onto the work surface, tear, and leak shortening.**
7. Laminating the Dough: The next two steps are what make this type of dough a "laminated dough".....just thought I'd fill you in on this little fun fact. Anyways, Place the square of shortening in the middle of the square of dough, such that the corners of shortening square point at the middle of each side of the dough.

8. Fold the dough over the shortening like an envelop by folding each corner of the dough onto the top of the shortening such that all four dough corners meet on the center of the shortening square. Seal the shortening in the dough by pinching the four corners together as well as all of the touching sides of dough.

After sealing the edges.

9. Making sure to adequately flour the work surface and the roller, roll out the "envelope" into a roughly 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use, smooth, gentle, but firm strokes of the roller to do so. **Technique Tip: Whenever rolling to dough, try to keep it from sliding along the counter with your roller, you want to avoid creating friction between the dough and the countertop as this can cause the dough to tear and leak butter.**
roughly 24 x 8 inches
10. 1st Turn: Once the you have rolled out the dough to the appropriate size, fold the longer size into thirds, the way you would fold a letter you are going to place into an envelope. You will be repeating this step and the pervious step numerous times throughout this process in order to create those flakey thin layers of croissant dough. The name of this step of rolling out and folding the dough is called a "turn". There will be a total of 6 turns in this recipe.

11. Rotate the dough a quarter turn so that the open sides  of the folded dough (what used to be the longer side of the dough) is facing to you and away from you. With the length of the dough positioned perpendicular to your body, roll the dough out again into a 24 x 8 inch rectangle. Use the shape of the dough as a guide, the longer side of the folded dough should be the side that you roll out to 24 inches, and the shorter side of the dough should be the side you roll out to 8 inches.

12. 2nd Turn: Fold the length of dough as you did in step 11 into thirds (much the way you would fold a letter you are putting into an envelope.
13. Loosely wrap the dough with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
14. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (it will probably have increased in size due to the yeast. When you roll it out you will probably end up pressing a lot of air bubbles out of the dough, this is totally fine) and with an adequately floured work surface and roller perform your 3rd and 4th turns (roll out dough, folding into thirds, rotate a quarter turn, roll out dough, fold into 3rds).
15. Loosely wrap in saran wrap and place back in refrigerator for another hour.
16. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and perform your 5th and 6th turns. Loosely wrap with saran wrap and place in refrigerator for another hour.
17. Flour a very large area of your work surface and begin to roll out the dough into about a 40-45 x8 inch rectangle. The dough needs to be rolled out pretty thin since this is the step where we are rolling the croissants. Make sure that the dough is not sliding too much on the work surface as it is very delicate at this time and will easily tear and leak shortening. This process may take a couple of minutes, don't get frustrated if it is hard at first, it gets easier as the dough gets thinner.
Clearly I have difficulties with straight lines. I had to cut off the edges and re-work them into the dough until
I got a rectangle, but in retrospect this was not necessary. You can cut out dough from this misshapen mess as easily as you can from a rectangle, the most important things is that the dough is thin.

18. Starting at one end of the length of the dough, make a mark on both sides every five inches moving from one side of the 45 inches to the other.
19. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife as well as a ruller or some sort of straight edge for guidance, cut from one mark to its corresponding mark on the other side (perpendicular to the length). Do this with all pairs of marks.
20. You should now have mang smaller rectangles of dough. Using the same ruller or straight edge as you did in the previous step, cut from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner such that you now have 2 very long right triangles. Do this with all of the rectangles unless you also want to make a non-crescent shaped croissant, similar to the pan au chocolate shaped croissants that are more rectangular, in which case you would just cut the rectangles into smaller rectangles.
21. For the triangular pieces, tightly roll starting with the shortest side of the triangle such that you are rolling along the two longer sides. You should aim for having the pointed tip of the triangle end up right in the center of your roll. For the rectangular pieces, simple roll tightly from one end to the other. **Accessorize your croissant: If you want to put a filling in your croissants (chocolate, cheese, jam...etc) now is the time. You can place the filling along the edge at which you start rolling the croissant, leaving a half-inch at each side so that the filling doesn't leak out. Also make sure to seal the ends of the croissant post-rolling if you chose to use a filling. **
 
22.  Proofing (Rising the dough in it's final shape): Place rolled croissants on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, making sure you leave enough room for each croissant to puff up without touching its neighbor. Combine all ingredients of No-Egg Wash by beating with a fork or whisk, and brush the croissants with No-Egg Wash. Make sure there is enough left for a second coat right before they go in the oven. Let the croissants sit on the sheets in a 70-80 degree room for an hour in order to proof (rise). They should be out of direct sunlight.
23. About 10-15 minutes before the hour is up, pre-heat your oven to 390 convection bake or 410 conventional.
24. After an hour, give the croissants a second coat of the No-Egg Wash and place in the ovens once they have reached the appropriate temperature. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
25. After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, and switch them to opposite racks (if you have one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack switch them as well as rotating them so that the back of each sheet is now in the front). Bake in the oven for another 8-10 minutes. If the croissant are browning too quickly turn the oven temp down 20 degrees.
26. Remove from oven and let cool. If you don't eat them fresh from the oven, I highly recommend heating them up in the microwave before eating, they are just so much more delicious when they are softer and warm.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Celebrate Summer with a Lemon Poppyseed Loaf with Strawberry Glaze & Lemon Poppyseed Layer Cake with Strawberry Frosting

Excuses, excuses: Aright, so I haven't posted in over two weeks.......for no reason at all other than that I've just been busy doing lots of little things. I love sharing recipes and adventures on here, but sometimes I get so caught up in what's going on in life at the time that I dont really remember to share it on the blog. I'll try to be better about that, I promise. I thought I'd ease myself back into blogging with a short and sweet recipe post.

The Inspiration: We've had lots of lemons growing on our tree, and I wanted to bake a dessert that was on the lighter side. I've had lemon poppyseed pound cake before, and wanted to see if I could replicate it but with vegan ingredients, and also in a way that it can be baked as a loaf or as two layer cake. Alas, it can be done!
Nutrition Note: Although this dessert may not be the healthiest thing on this planet, it is far healthier than many other similar dishes. The only fat source used in the recipe is coconut butter, which is a whole food (as opposed to oil, which are processed).

I do use granulated sugar, and I am sure that some version of the recipe can be made using only maple syrup (which would involved decreasing the amount of other liquids in the recipe) but I just like the results of this recipe so much that I don't want to mess with it.
Recipe Note: This recipe is more like two recipes in one. The batter can be used to make either a loaf or a layer cake; you just need to adjust the baking container and the duration for wich you bake it. The recipe includes a strawberry glaze which is used if you choose to bake a loaf, and it also contains a strawberry frosting which is used if you choose to bake a two-layer cake. Both are delicious, it just depends on what mood your in!



Recipe: Lemon Poppyseed Loaf with Strawberry Glaze & Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Strawberry Frosting
Lemon Poppyseed Loaf/Cake
Ingredients:
This is the coconut mixture after being beaten for a few
minutes. A couple more minutes to go.....
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp poppyseeds
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 "Ener-G" eggs (other egg equivalent for baking will work as well)
- 1/2 cup coconut butter
- 2/3 cup soymilk
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; also mix in the poppy seeds and lemon zest (without sifting these two)and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl beat together the 2 "eggs," coconut butter, and both types of sugar until creamed and almost fluffy. This may take up to 5 minutes of hard beating if you're doing it by hand. You'll know when it's done because you will see tiny little air bubbles in the mixtures.
4. Add the lemon juice and soymilk to the flour and mix them in for a minutes.
5. Add the coconut butter mixture into the large bowl and continue to mix until everything is even and smooth.
6. Line a Loaf pan or two nine-inch cake pans (depending on if you want to make a layer cake or a loaf) with parchment paper and pour the cake batter in.
7. For the loaf, bake in the oven on the center rack for around 50 minutes (until golden at edges) and for the cakes bake for 30 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let cool.

Strawberry Glaze (For Loaf)
Ingredients:
Finished Loaf.....ready to eat!
- 1/4 cup strawberry juice (can be obtained by using a juicer, or by chopping up strawberries and cooking over the stovetop for 10 minutes and then pressing them through a sieve)
- 2 or 2.5cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Directions:
1. In a add the strawberry juice and salt.
2. Sift in the powdered sugar while beating with a whisk or fork.
3. Continue to add powdered sugar until the glaze reaches your desired thickness/sweetness.
4. Pour over cool loaf and chill in fridge before slicing.



Light Strawberry Frosting (For 2-layer cake)
Ingredients:
- 2 cans of coconut milk, chilled
- 1/2 cup coconut butter
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup strawberry preserves
- 1/2 tsp salt
Directions:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer add in ONLY the heavy, thick, white portion from the tops of each can of coconut milk (none of the thin, somewhat clear liquid).
2. Add in all the other ingredients except for the powdered sugar and mix for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Feel free to use the "whip" setting if your mixer has one.
3. Sift in the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, and continue to beat until even and very whipped. Adjust how much powdered sugar you use depending on how sweet and thick you want the frosting (the more sugar the thicker the frosting gets).
4. Chill in the fridge for half an hour before using to frost the cakes.

A slice of the finished cake!
Cake Assembly Directions:
1. Place the cakes with the domed/curved side face up.
2. Using a long, serrated knife cut horizontally across the domed portion of the cake so that it is completely flat. Do this to both cakes (this is in order to make sure that the cakes stack in a balanced way).
3. Place one cake, with the cut side facing up, on a cake tray.
4. Frost the top of that cake with a thin layer of frosting, just so that you cannot see any of the cake through the frosting. Always place your frosting in the middle in a larger pile and frost towards the edges.
5. Place the second cake with the cut side facing down onto the frosted cake. Frost the top of this cake, as well as the sides of the cake so that all of the cake is completely covered with a thing layer of frosting.