Sylvan’s Grand Unified Pancake Theory

pancakery

Right around the time I made this blog I embarked upon an important mission:  The quest to create one pancake recipe to rule them all, or at least one that could be my go-to for most of my pancake needs.

Historically I rather suck at pancakery.  For years I used the same recipe, only to find that over time, for reasons unknown, it became less and less satisfying; every time I made it the returns diminished more and more.  Surely, I thought, with dozens of cookbooks and the whole internet at my disposal I could come up with a recipe that was delicious and reliable!

I went through my cookbook library and a ton of vegan food blogs and collected well over a dozen recipes that fit my criteria:

  1. 1 – The recipes all had to use the same general set of ingredients, which had to be easy to find pantry staples, not stuff I’d have to buy special just for pancaking.  
  2. 2 – The recipes had to be for a regular, nonflavored pancake – what you’d call “buttermilk” in omnivorous circles.  If I wanted, say, pumpkin pancakes, I’d have to find a different recipe.
  3. 3 – The recipe had to serve 1 person generously – when I make pancakes I want to EAT SOME DAMN PANCAKES.  In that regard at least I was set; I’m really good with fractions, so sizing a recipe up or down would be easy work.  

I took those dozen recipes and put them in a file in my Paprika app.  I then made a chart of all their ingredients, comparing and contrasting the amounts and any specific recommendations on brand or method.  From this I compiled a single recipe from the chart and started experimenting.

Right away a problem presented itself:  a lot of the recipes had way too much baking powder, which leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.  The first two iterations of the Grand Pancake had at least a teaspoon too much, but I didn’t want to cut it down any more than I had to or the pancakes wouldn’t rise enough.  Pancakery is tricky; you want to get a quick, significant rise without damaging the flavor, and you have to be careful not to overdevelop gluten in the batter and make the cakes tough and chewy.  Leavening balance is key, as is technique – and technique always tended to be where my suckery reared its ugly head.

However, after two more attempts, I found what I believed to be the right balance, and by now, I’ve made this recipe at least six times with tasty, reliable results.  Thus I am prepared to share with you…*drumroll*…the Grand Unified Pancake Theory!!!

I’ll be waiting to hear from the Nobel Committee.

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Recipe: Vadouvan Aloo Gobi

aloo gobi

Ahhh, Aloo Gobi…the go-to Indian dish for so many vegans.  Who doesn’t love cauliflower and potatoes? (If you don’t, don’t answer that. Let me keep my illusions.)  To me, Indian potato dishes are among the highest culinary expressions of our favorite humble tuber.  

What makes this version of the staid classic take-out dish a little different is the type of “curry” used. In India there’s really no such thing as “curry powder;” people make their own spice mixtures for the most part and even those you buy are as varied as the individual dish for which they are formulated.  Most households have a version of garam masala to which additional spices are added during cooking, often freshly ground for the best flavor and aroma.

Quick vocab lesson:
masala = mixture
garam = warming

Now, Vadouvan is a type of masala that features most of your usual suspects:  cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, mustard seeds, and the like – but it also contains ingredients like garlic and shallots.  Why?  Well, the Pondicherry region of southern India where Vadouvan hails from has a strong French colonial influence, and as you learn in culinary school, French cuisine gets into everything eventually.  

You can of course make your own blend; over here on Fat Free Vegan (home of many marvelous recipes) there’s a version that involves baking the wet ingredients, drying it out, and chunking it up yourself.  Delicious? Hells yeah.  A pain in the butt?  Hells also yeah.  

I generally just buy it by the jar.  For years I was ordering mine from Williams Sonoma – dreadfully overpriced, but amazing.  Eventually though they stopped carrying it and I hoarded my last jar until, unfortunately, it started to lose its aroma and flavor.  Age and heat are two sure-fire spice killers.

Then, during my recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I happened into a Savory Spice Shop, and found a new version.  One whiff of the jar’s contents and I nearly started drooling in the store.  At $9 a bottle it seems a bit steep, but if you read the recipe I linked to above, you know making this stuff is involved and time-consuming, and to me it was totally worth the money.  There’s another blend over at World Spice Merchants I’d like to try, too (and I must say their website is almost painfully beautiful), but for now at least I’m totally sold on Savory’s (plus there’s a Savory shop in Austin!).

Now, as the Savory website says, this masala is best used with lower temperature cooking so the high heat doesn’t destroy all the yummy nummy nuances, but my Aloo Gobi recipe turns out to be just the ticket!

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Recipe Adventure: Vegan French Dip Sandwiches

recipe adventures

Welcome to another regular feature (hopefully) here at Stumbling:  Recipe Adventures, wherein I try a recipe and tell you how it went.  I won’t repost it, obviously, as it’s not my work, but I’ll tell you if I changed anything, what I made to go with it, and any other observations.  

(These will pretty much always be successful and delicious recipes, though I might fail at them epically through no fault of the writer’s, which I will definitely share.  I’m not aiming to snark on all our lovely food bloggers.  I figure it’s a good way to spotlight some great blogs and cookbooks without a lengthy review.)

This week I tried a recipe for Vegan French Dip Sandwiches from Connoisseurus Veg.   

The way to make absolutely sure I’ll try your recipe is to involve sautéed mushrooms.  I can seriously eat an entire carton of mushrooms in one sitting if they’re sliced and cooked in a bit of oil until crusty, salty, and meaty.  

I made this recipe twice this week because the first time wasn’t enough (and I needed to use up the bread).  It’s seriously, seriously good – even though I kind of borked it the second time.

Things I Did Differently to the Recipe:

1 – No onion.  I totally forgot to buy one, so I just skipped that step.  Instead, I added some oven-roasted (the first time) or sautéed (the second time) zucchini to get the added texture, if not the flavor.  I recommend adding them or some other roasted veg to the sandwich regardless – that extra meatiness and heartiness made it even more filling.  But I got lazy the second time and tried sautéing them with the mushrooms, and that just didn’t work – the jus at the end ended up cloudy and way too thick, more of a shit-on-a-shingle situation (which was DELICIOUS, don’t get me wrong, just not what I was going for).  But definitely use the onion – I have no doubt the flavor would be through the roof with awesomeness.

2 – I didn’t use mustard or mayo on my sammiches either (mayo is the devil and all I had was regular yellow mustard, which seemed kind of sacrilegious to me).  I think a good spicy mustard would be a nice addition, though.

3 – I also used sliced baby bellas instead of full on portobello strips; the Target I was shopping at had portobellos but they looked kind of manky.  As flavorful as the sauce is you could probably get by with a regular old white button mushroom if that’s what’s available – just try and get a good sear on the shrooms to make them extra meaty and savory.

4 – I bought a package of “Philly cheesesteak rolls” in the bagged bread section, and slathered/toasted them – but I’d recommend baguette, like she says, or something that you can slice partway through.  The buns I had were fully sliced, and with a sloppy filling like this it works better if you have a little bread buffer to hold it together.

Other Thoughts:

1 – If you’re in a cheesesteak mood, do what I did and reduce the liquid longer so it thickens to less of a jus and more of a sauce; then you could top the whole tasty mess with whatever variety of cheese you like. Definitely go with the melty variety, though, or a cheesy cashew-based sauce over top.  

2 – I originally found this recipe via Pinterest.  I’d never tried any of Connoisseurus Veg’s recipes, but I’ll definitely be back.  I like how it’s lively but not overly cluttered – so many food blogs these days are so loaded with ads and links and crap they’re a headache to browse.  Plus, any vegan food blog with a dinosaur name is more than all right with me!  Try out her Welcome page for favorite recipe recommendations.

 

 

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Recipe: No Seriously, There’s Pumpkin in the Chili

chili with an iIf you’d told me a decade ago that one day I would put pumpkin in chili, I would have called the cops on you.  But not only is it practically undetectable, it thickens the whole mess beautifully and packs a rather substantial nutritional wallop.  

If you’d rather omit one of the beans and add in a bag of veggie crumble to make it more “bowl of red”-like, feel free. Also, if you’re of a heartier constitution than I am, go for the gusto with canned chipotle chilis; just don’t come crying to me when your face melts off.  

Obviously the best way to enjoy such a beast is with a ton of Fritos; you could, I suppose, add terrifying substances like guacamole or sour cream of whatever source you prefer. Like most chili recipes it makes a metric assload, but also like most, it freezes beautifully.

There are other ways to enjoy chili, believe it or not – it’s also quite delicious stuffed into a gigantic baked potato (or sweet potato, nom nom) or over rice or another grain; as I understand it some crazies out there even put it over pasta. You could even make a tamale or shepherd’s pie type thing out of it, if that’s your jam. But don’t serve it with jam. For the love of God.

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Recipe: Homemade Limoncello

When life hands you lemons, your only real recourse, other than having life committed for random acts of fruit, is to introduce booze.

I’ve had a book on homemade cordials that I’ve been wanting to delve into for years, but it took a series of coincidences to get me to finally try my hand at liqueur-ing.  My roommate’s friend wound up with ten pounds of lemons (be careful what you click for on home delivery grocery websites), and said roommate decided to make candied lemon peel.  That left her with a ton of lemon leavings – the actual juice, the guts, the less attractive bits of peel.

As luck would have it, I had just saved a Limoncello recipe to my database that very day. Limoncello, a wildly popular lemon liqueur made primarily in southern Italy, is usually way overpriced in stores but dead easy to make at home. Providence!  While she pared down her peels, I squished the leavings into a half-empty bottle of what might just be the shittiest vodka in the universe (we were using it primarily to make perfume).

What can you do with it?  Well, in Italy, limoncello is primarily served as a digestivo – an after-dinner cordial, usually chilled.  I like it straight out of the freezer when it’s all slushy, but if you’re not into straight up lemon sugar insanity, you could mix it into a whole host of things.

An Italian Mule – substitute the limoncello for the vodka in any standard Moscow Mule recipe; you could also swap out the lime juice for more lemon, or stick with the lime and go for Mixed Citrus Altogether.

Sparkling Limoncello Cooler (click for recipe) – lime juice and sparkling wine with your cordial is a combination I’ve seen several places, most often using Prosecco.  There are a lot of variations adding other fruits, like sliced strawberries or raspberries.

 Limoncello Sunrise – Like the tequila-based original, this one uses grenadine and orange juice, layered in the glass to look all fancy.

Lemon Meringue Martini – I definitely want to try this one!  Limoncello, whipped cream flavored vodka, half-and-half (I was considering if coconut-based creamer would work well, particularly a vanilla flavor) and some lemonade.

For something a bit fancier, try the Raspberry Basil Limoncello Cocktail; or this lovely looking Tuscan Pear Cocktail with limoncello, ginger liqueur, blood orange juice, and so forth.

Another one I’m anxious to try, since I love PAMA pomegranate liqueur:  Basically shake 4 oz PAMA, 6oz vodka (probably a better one than perfume vodka), and 2oz limoncello with ice and serve martini style (or just drink it out of the shaker, I won’t judge).

And in the non-cocktail arena, Creamy Coconut Limoncello Popsicles!  Oh my Lord they sound amazing, and have only four ingredients.  That’s the nice thing about a citrus liqueur like this one; you can do all sorts of things with it and coconut milk, always a plus for the vegan lush.

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