A Mid-MoFo Cobbler Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Sixteen

I ate leftovers for lunch and leftovers for dinner, so let’s talk about dessert! Last night’s dessert, a peach and nectarine cobbler. It was… well, what’s a succinct way of saying “a total waste of peaches and a really crappy recipe I should’ve known better than to follow?”

Ah yes, a failure. That’s the word.

Faced with a dwindling supply of vegan butter, I wanted a recipe that used oil in the biscuit portion of the cobbler. I found one! But as I was following it, warning signs were flashing left and right: Hmm, no salt? Really? and Wait, you want me to cook this at 450˚?! and Just brown sugar? No white?

Ugh. Basically, I made a saucy peach casserole (OK, that part’s fine) topped with bland-ass, undercooked biscuits. UGH.

I knew – KNEW! – that stupid 450˚ oven temperature was going to cause trouble, yet I still followed the directions. (I hate being a consummate rule-follower.) Most cobblers cook at 350˚ or maybe 375˚ for a good half hour at least, which gives the bready biscuit topping time to bake through without burning. LOL, guess what happened at 450˚? I took it out after the prescribed ~25 minutes to find the undersides of the biscuits completely raw and doughy, yet the tops already beginning to catch. Come ON. I lowered the temp and put them back in for another 10-15 minutes, but they were still pretty soft when they came out.

They were also tasteless. I’d even added a shake of salt when I noticed there wasn’t any in the recipe, but they were still bland AF. I suspect it’s partly because they only used brown sugar, which somehow doesn’t seem to have the assertive sweetness of white in baked goods. Don’t get me wrong — I’m actually pretty sensitive to overly sweet baked goods these days, so I don’t want like, tooth-melting sweetness. But I do want to taste some sweetness if I, y’know, added sugar.

I’m not going to link to the recipe here because I don’t want to call out this blogger’s less-than-stellar recipe. I know most bloggers don’t have legions of testers, so sometimes a mediocre recipe slips through. (I’m sure I’ve posted a few.) But let me just say: If you find a cobbler recipe that calls for a 450˚ oven and 22-25 minutes of baking time, run away and find another recipe.

(This one is yummo; you can use berries or replace them with sliced stone fruit. For a slightly different (and slightly richer) twist, I also have had luck with this one.)

A Chickwheat Seitan Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day One

Y’all. Y’ALL. I’m starting VeganMoFo with an epically wonderful fail. It seems appropriate in this new era of raw, unvarnished blogging, right?!

Yesterday evening I decided to get a head start on today’s dinner by preparing some seitan — specifically, the chickwheat shreds from Avocados and Ales. Let it be known that I’ve made seitan plenty of times in the past, using recipes from plenty of different sources. Although I’ve never been able to get it quite as juicy and tender as the kind you buy at the store, it’s always been perfectly fine, and I’ve never had any of the difficulties or spectacular fails I’ve read from other folks who’ve attempted seitan. (Ah, hubris.) So I was excited to try this recipe, which uses a new-to-me method: a long, intense kneading period in a food processor or KitchenAid rather than a few quick kneads by hand. I loved the look of the resulting chicken-style shreds and planned to use them in a quick stir-fry tonight.

Well. I blended up all the wet ingredients before adding the vital wheat gluten. As I stirred it all together, I thought the texture seemed… off. The dough was much softer, smoother and more liquidy than seitans of yore, and I couldn’t detect any of the distinctive gluten strands that tend to form as soon as you add the wheat gluten. But I persevered, dumping the mass into my KitchenAid (fitted with the dough hook) and beginning to knead.

And knead. And knead. And knead.

Rosie is judging me for my seitan fail. I GET IT, ROSIE.

Occasionally I stopped to check the dough, and I began to sense that something was amiss. There were a few stringy strands, sure, but nowhere near the amount I get even when kneading by hand. I’d reached the point where I had to make a decision: Either abandon the project or persevere — knowing that something was dreadfully, fundamentally wrong with my dough and that the results would likely not be as intended. I chose the latter. Maybe it would be edible, if not perfect. This is what I get for my hubris, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have been so smug about seitan-making!

After 20 minutes (the time recommended by commenters who had also used the KitchenAid method!) my poor mixer was hot and my sad dough was… awful. Basically soft, sticky taffy. I dumped it all out onto aluminum foil as recommended and tried to fold it up into a packet, only to look on in absolute horror as the taffy-seitan oozed right out of the crevices. Panicking, I tried lifting it up to rearrange it on the foil. My hands sunk deep into the ooze and the foil ripped, a big glob of dough (batter?!) still attached.

Eventually I managed to wrangle about half the dough onto a new piece of foil, which I quickly wrapped up and dropped into my steamer. (The recipe calls for an InstantPot, but commenters say it works fine in a stovetop steamer too.) By now I knew the texture was wrong, but perhaps it would become something edible in the steamer.

It did not.

Two hours later (well past my bedtime) I removed the swollen foil packet and set it to cool for a few minutes. When I cautiously peeled back the foil and poked at the blob within, I realized it hadn’t improved with steaming. It was soft and squishy and could absolutely, positively not withstand the post-steam shredding that makes the chickwheat recipe so tantalizing.

As I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, I had a sudden and horrible thought. I ran to the pantry and checked the flour shelf. Here’s what I saw.

A very obviously labeled bag of chickpea flour next to a canister of another flour.

On the left is a glass canister of white whole wheat flour. On the left is a bag — a very clearly, very obviously labeled bag — of vital wheat gluten.

Guess which one I used.

Sigh.

IN MY DEFENSE, I used to keep my vital wheat gluten in that jar, and Steven was the one who repurposed it for the white whole wheat flour a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have a tactile memory of putting flour in the jar. In my mind, it was still wheat gluten. Also, when I made the chickwheat, I measured the flour/wheat gluten by weight, so I just poured it in — I didn’t really look too closely at the consistency of the flour I used, or I would have noticed it didn’t have the very specific, silky texture of vital wheat gluten.

Frankly, I’m shocked it even remotely resembled seitan. There were definitely some strings forming when I kneaded it, likely because whole wheat flour has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. (And yes, I know one can make vital wheat gluten from flour.) I don’t know what I’ll do with the monstrosity, but I might try to flatten and fry it up into some kind of patty? Or dice it and fry it? We’ll see. Mostly I’m mad I used so much electricity kneading and steaming the dough, but hey, we have solar panels so at least I don’t have to be too guilty.

As for dinner, I made a quick fried rice, loosely following the method in Appetite for Reduction. I used green beans and garlic from my garden (woo!) along with a bell pepper from the farmers market and a shallot from the… grocery store. (I also used ginger paste, which it such a lifesaver when you don’t have fresh ginger!) It was good. It would’ve been better with some chickwheat shreds. Next time.

And with this illustrious beginning to MoFo, I’m off to the gym, a new habit for me. I lift weights! I have defined muscles! I wish I had the added protein from chickwheat shreds coursing through my veins so I could get even more ripped! NEXT TIME.

P.S. I see that today’s MoFo prompt asks participants to introduce themselves. You can check out my bio here — it’s still accurate!

P.P.S. In retrospect I know I should’ve taken more photos of my chickwheat process, but hey… I expected it to come out perfectly and I didn’t realize I’d need to document my failure. Oh well.

Vegan Pannukakku: A MoFo Fail | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Eight

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

Yesterday’s MoFo post took us to Estonia for dinner, and today we’re crossing the Baltic Sea for dessert in Finland! I’ve planned a quick two-day jaunt to Helsinki during my trip to Estonia next month, because why not? So it seemed fitting that I’d make something inspired by my upcoming travels during MoFo.

In my (admittedly brief) search for veganized Finnish dishes, I came across a few recipes for pannukkaku, a custardy, oven-baked cross between a cake and pancakes that you can top with fruit or jam. Sold! I debated between two very different recipes; one used silken tofu for a more eggy texture, while another used sparkling water to… provide rise? (The lack of explanation should’ve clued me in that something was amiss.) I ultimately chose the latter… and by “chose,” I mean it was the only link I had to hand when I got myself into the kitchen and ready to bake!

Alas, this recipe did not work out. In all fairness, it could be my fault; I halved it because four cups of flour just seemed excessive for an experiment, but I accidentally kept the full teaspoon of baking powder. I can probably blame the puffy rise — rather than the golden brown, custardy, crackly top shown in the recipe photo — on that gaffe. But I’m pretty sure a little extra baking powder wouldn’t have created such a dense, gummy, and downright unpleasant cake! (For what it’s worth, Steven actually thought it was just fine. Go figure.) It also took me far longer than the suggested 20 minutes of baking time — more like 40!

It doesn’t look terrible, but it also doesn’t look like a custardy, crepe-y pancake! Frankly, I should’ve known better. The recipe is not written particularly clearly, with no indication about pan size and only very basic instructions.

This failed pannukkaku will still get eaten, but not with much joy (at least, not on my part). Time to try that silken tofu-based recipe — I think that would create the custardy texture we’re after!

Seasonal Fruits Gone Savory: Pumpkin Fauxsage


On the third day of MoFo, I blogged about my infused vodka fail.The one upside to the debacle, at least to my optimistic (ha) self, was that I thought I’d gotten my requisite MoFo fail out of the way early. Ah, hubris. As if I couldn’t mess up twice in a month!

Tonight, I messed up. I returned home from work with a headache and a bit of nausea. I didn’t particularly feel like cooking, but I needed something to blog about. So I decided it was time to use pumpkin in a savory application—fauxsage! I liked the idea of making an apple fauxsage and then a pumpkin fauxsage to compare the two. Once again, 500 Vegan Recipes offered a promising recipe.

Because I wasn’t feeling my best, I was not in the mood for particularly careful measuring of the spices. So when it came time to add a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, I figured I’d just shake a few dashes into the bowl. I reached into my alphabetized spice drawer and grabbed a small jar from the location the nutmeg belonged. The nutmeg has one of those perforated tops that lets you shake out small amounts at a time, so I swiftly unscrewed the cap and upended the jar.

I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.

My “nutmeg” was actually dried lemongrass, and my dried lemongrass does not have a perforated lid. A couple tablespoons of the fragrant herb spilled out and tumbled into my dry ingredients, crowning the mound of wheat gluten and nutritional yeast and various spices with a pale green dust.

Whoops.

Shockingly, I didn’t become enraged and start cursing aloud. I just chuckled to myself and started skimming the lemongrass off the top with a spoon. I guess I did an okay job (or our lemongrass is super old and taste-faded) because the fauxsage had no discernible citrus tang.

pumpkin-fauxsage_9942109303_o

Like I did with the apple fauxsage, I served this pumpkin fauxsage with potatoes and sauerkraut again. Instead of boiling the taters, I did a lazy girl’s Hasselback potato and roasted the small sliced spuds with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika in a tinfoil packet. They were quite yummy! I wish I could say the same for the fauxsage, but alas—we both found it very bland and in need of a much stronger umami note. (The fact that I used water instead of vegetable broth probably contributed to that lack of savory flavor, but I did try to make up for it by using some seasoned garlic salt in the recipe… I should’ve added some soy sauce!) With a big ol’ forkful of sauerkraut, though, it was just fine.

Have you had any silly spice mishaps?