Friday, August 8, 2008

More Adventures in Vegan Baking

I am discovering a love for baking these days, and I especially love making baked goods for groups of people, because then the goodies don’t sit in my fridge and force me to eat some every time I happen to open the door. I made this batch of classic chocolate chip cookies using the recipe from the Vegan Joy of Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I have made them once before, and I found that when you use Earth Balance and add the salt she suggests, they turn out a bit too salty. This time I may have overcompensated a bit, because I made them with Soy Garden Earth Balance, and I added less salt, and they turned out a little under salted. Nonetheless, they were pretty fantastic. I made them for my acting class, and I truly enjoyed the shocked and amazed looks on people’s faces as I told them the yummy cookies they had just eaten were in fact vegan! One girl looked at me as if I must have made them with some sort of magical poison potion, but when I explained that Earth Balance was vegan, she seemed to calm down a bit.

Baked goods are hard to pair! Elegant lightly sweet tarts and dark chocolate gateaux are much easier to pair than old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. You need something to stand up to their cakey sweetness, but also to the richer flavors in the semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli, by the way). This could probably do well with a tawny port or a light ruby port. Most white dessert wines would have trouble next to the chocolate. You might also try a late-harvest Zinfandel with a good amount of residual sugar or a Cognac with some nice caramel notes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sweet Golden Beets

As shocking as it may seem, in the not too distant past I was a beet hater! It’s true, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I once did not see the virtue of their earthy, lightly sweet magical flavor. Having roasted baby beets over a creamy celery root puree at a Christmas party last year really helped to start turning things around, though, and I’ve been experimenting with the delicious little jewels ever since. My favorite varieties are chioga (candy cane) and golden beets. They are a little lighter in flavor than red beets and lend themselves to simple preparations that highlight their naturally complex flavors. For the golden beets below, I simply peeled and chopped them into inch-wide chunks. Then I tossed them with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de province (OK, I need to look into some other spices), chili flakes, salt and pepper. I placed them on a cookie sheet in a pre-heated 375 degree oven, and I baked for about an hour. After about 45 minutes or so, I start checking every once in a while by poking them with a fork, until I get them to the right consistency (still firm, but cooked through enough to easily sink your teeth into).

Since these guys are so earthy tasting, I would recommend an earthy wine, maybe a Paso Robles Pinot Noir for something a little fruitier or a Côte du Rhône for something a little hardier. Otherwise, you might play off of their sweetness and slight bit of acid and try a wine with a little residual sugar like a lightly sweet Riesling from Germany.