I’m off to Vida Vegan Con!

vvc-300-x-250I leave for Portland in a few hours to attend Vida Vegan Con 2013. I hear that it’s cold and rainy there, but a few vegan meals full of Soy Curls hopefully will make me forget about the yucky weather.

I should probably start finish packing. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share when I return!


Weekend pizza night

I love pizza. I’ve loved it as an omnivore, a vegetarian, as well as now as a vegan. For many, it’s all about the cheese. Even when I ate dairy cheese, it was always the crust that sold me. I’m particular about a crust with a good flavor and texture, but not so much about the style; I love a hand-tossed pizza just as well as I love a deep-dish pie with that delectable biscuit-like but yeast-raised crust.

When I’m making pizza at home, I rely on 00 flour, a slow rise, the smallest amount of yeast I need, and a really hot oven to maximize flavor. This is especially important when making a Neapolitan-style lean crust without oil or sugar in the dough. Sometimes I mix this kind of dough up the evening before and let it ferment slowly in the refrigerator. If it’s cool in the house, I’ll mix it up in the morning and cut back the yeast to slow things down and leave it to rise for several hours on the counter. You can even freeze the leftovers, though how anyone has pizza dough leftovers when there are garlic knots to be made eaten is simply beyond me.

This past weekend’s pizza was a different kind of treat though. I don’t usually have Chicago-style pizza that often anymore, but I had a craving for that lovely crust with that simple layer of seasoned tomatoes that cook down into a chunky sauce right on top of everything.

deep dish pizza

Pizza! Homemade vegan mozzarella, seasoned TVP, onions, fresh garlic, black olives, more vegan mozzarella, seasoned smashed tomatoes, and a dusting of vegan parmesan.

This pizza dough is quite different from the lean ones I usually make. It’s a short crust, more biscuit-like than bready, but leavened with yeast instead of baking powder. In addition to flour, yeast, salt, and water, this type of crust needs a little sugar and a lot of oil. I used 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) oil to 2 cups of flour, but I’ve seen suggestions of 3 tbsp per cup for the proper texture. Mine tasted pretty rich at the proportions I used, but if you’re feeling decadent, give it a go sometime.

The oil inhibits gluten development in the crust much like shortening or margarine in a biscuit. It also increases the rise time. I think I ended up fermenting this dough for five or six hours. These pies also take longer to cook than thin pizzas (about 30-35 minutes at 450° F/230° C for two pies in 8-inch cast iron skillets), but you have plenty of time for a beer while you wait.

Sweet cookie hangover

So, late last night, this happened.

Cranberry oatmeal cookie

Most folks find themselves ready for sleep at 12:15 am, if not already in bed. I, however, thought that nighttime=cookies, so I turned on the oven and used the remains of an open bag of dried cranberries to whip up a double batch of oatmeal goodness with a twist. I usually do these with raisins and cinnamon/nutmeg, but for these I switched out the raisins for cranberries, added some ginger, and topped it off with a splash of orange extract in addition to the vanilla paste I use in everything. I took my cue from the flavors I generally use when I’m making cranberry sauce from scratch.

I didn’t bother formulating my own recipe for the base cookie dough. The recipe in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar has always been good to me. I make them up with regular rolled oats instead of quick oats because I prefer the texture of the larger flakes. Other than that, I stick to the printed recipe and it hasn’t failed me. Seriously, these are some of the chewiest, tastiest oatmeal cookies I’ve had, vegan or otherwise, as long as you don’t overcook them. Like most cookies, I like to remove them from the oven just when they’re set almost all the way to the center, then leave them on the pan for about five minutes to finish firming up and cooling down.

Don’t let the image fool you. First, I did not make pie plate sized cookies this morning. That is a cocktail plate, and the cookies are about three inches in diameter. These are a bit larger than the original recipe specifies, so I added about three minutes per sheet to the listed cooking times. Second, one cookie is not a plated serving around here. Ahem. Well, maybe an 8-inch cookie.

Also, I didn’t eat one of these for breakfast. That’s my story.