01 July 2010

Sugar Shock

What kind of food-centric blog would this be if it never paid tribute to the sweeter side of the deliciousness spectrum every now and then?  Obviously, with my sweet tooth and limited willpower, the chances of never seeing another post on sugary goodness (or badness, depending on how you look at it) are essentially nil.  Mind you, I don't indulge as much as I used to way back when--I don't even like my sweet treats that sweet--as I really believe in the benefits of all things in moderation.  But even during summer, when farmers' markets are rife with naturally sweet, ripe stone fruit, sometimes they just won't cut it for me.  Thankfully, this summer's weather has so far been unusually pleasant--meaning temps in the upper 70s Fahrenheit at the hottest--which I still consider appropriate for oven usage and frequenting the kitchen for extended periods of time.

I have been making the most of my ability to do just that, diverting at times from the savory, more substantial mealtime fare to whip up some sweet treats.  Rather than experimenting with various ideas I have stored away, I instead opted to try a few recipes from fellow members of the big and beautiful blogosphere.

Pastéis sem Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)
Mihl over at seitan is my motor seriously knows how to bake up some tasty desserts.  These tarts reminded me so much of watching travel shows with my roommate that warm feelings of nostalgia compelled me to make them almost immediately after seeing the recipe.  I've never eaten the traditional version, pastéis de nata ("pastries with cream"), so I have no clue how they're supposed to taste and can only assume that the non-vegan version would be quite rich, due to a heavy presence of eggs and cream.  In any case, Mihl's vegan version (the name of which means "pastries without cream") was delightful, with the slightest tanginess from the soy yogurt and mild coconut flavor from the coconut milk.  I didn't have black salt, which explains the fleck-less custard.  My tarts also didn't end up with the characteristic blackening--probably because I didn't read the directions closely, so my oven wasn't as hot as instructed and the pan wasn't at its highest position--so I ended up broiling them for a few minutes.  Clearly, broiling still failed to produce the right look, but it did at least brown up the pastry shells nicely.

Toffee with toasted pecans
Quite honestly, I'm not a very big fan of toffee.  The amount of fat in such a creation sort of scares me, so that type of candy is a rare indulgence consumed in very tiny portions.  But when my mom mentioned dipping frozen bananas in chocolate, I was reminded of an ice cream stand I used to visit as a kid, accompanied by my mom and older sister.  The place used to hand-dip ice cream bars in chocolate, then coat them your toppings of choice.  I always picked almonds or sprinkles, but my mom would usually select nutty toffee bits.  I frowned upon her choice back then, but since then, I did develop a bit of taste for them, which is a bit odd, considering my longtime aversion to "buttery" things in general.  (It seems I've always been a bit of the oddball in my family.)  So toffee bits sounded like a tasty homage to lovely childhood memories...but finding an appropriate vegan substitute would be tricky.
Fortunately, I found this Vegan Toffee recipe at The New Vegan Table.  The process was so straightforward that it made me question why I don't give candy-making a shot more often.  Because nuts go into nearly everything I consume, I topped the toffee with toasted pecan pieces.  Some of them didn't stick too well, due to the candy setting up so quickly, but the candy still tasted good.  It certainly was buttery--toffee essentially being equal parts butter (here, Earth Balance) and sugar, with some water and vanilla extract thrown in--but I admit, I did like the classic, caramel flavor of these shards of sticky-sweetness.  If there is another toffee-making session in my future, I'll be sure to add the toasted nuts into the warm candy before spreading it onto the pan to cool.

Blueberry-Banana Bread
After submitting to the decadence of pastries and candy, I didn't exactly fancy more fattening sweets.  But what does one do when faced with the task of utilizing overripe bananas and a carton of blueberries on the brink of dilapidation?  Naturally, my first thought went to quickbread.  Again, it's not one of my favorite ways to bake (or things to eat, for that matter), but I figured I'd give the method a go, out of convenience and a strong desire to prevent wastefulness.  FatFree Vegan Kitchen's Blueberry-Banana Bread was looking mighty tasty anyway, and I particularly liked the fact that the recipe calls for no added fat.  I only made minor changes to the procedure by adding the zest of one lemon and using unsweetened almond milk with added vanilla extract instead of vanilla soymilk.  The bread was dense and not too sweet (which I enjoyed), with just a hint of citrus to complement the tangy-sweetness of the blueberries.  The banana flavor was actually quite subtle, so this is a good way to use up bananas when you don't want to eat something strongly banana-flavored.  Yum.


Now that I feel saturated in sugar, I think I'll hold off on the sweets for awhile and gladly return to cooking savory food.
*****
On an unrelated note, I was recently notified of Bread Without Butter's inclusion on Guide to Culinary School's List of Top 50 Vegan and Vegetarian Cooking Blogs.  This blog is actually my way of combining two longtime interests--cooking and writing--to share with whomever chooses to follow along, rather than to specifically gain readership.  So I truly appreciate the fact that people actually read my blog (thanks guys!) and you might imagine how flattered I am to have it mentioned in the company of some wonderful veg blogs.  The list links to some of my regular blog reads while also linking to others that are completely new to me, so check it out to discover more of the wide world of veg cooking.

7 comments:

  1. That all looks delicious! I go through phases where I crave sweets and then other times I won't want to even look at them. Thanks to my sugar crazed husband though, I still get to bake sweets even when I'm not into eating them (which I think is the fun part!)
    I think I'm going to try that toffee recipe- thanks for the link!

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  2. I got a sugar high just reading this post ;-) I loooooooooove toffee, I will definitely try that recipe! Thanks!

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  3. Those custard tarts look so good. I need to stop looking at food until after I eat lunch. I am dying here :)

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  4. I never had vegan toffee, I think. I loved it pre-vegan and I should give this a try. I am so glad you liked the pastéis! We were totally addicted to them. The black salt is only for taste, but in my experience a lot of it gets lost during baking. So it doesn't matter much.
    P.S. The flecks are from a vanilla pod I used.

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  5. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I used vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean. That makes more sense in terms of how fleck-less my custard turned out haha.

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  6. I never had vegan toffee, I think. I loved it pre-vegan and I should give this a try. I am so glad you liked the pastéis! We were totally addicted to them. The black salt is only for taste, but in my experience a lot of it gets lost during baking. So it doesn't matter much.
    P.S. The flecks are from a vanilla pod I used.

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  7. Those custard tarts look so good. I need to stop looking at food until after I eat lunch. I am dying here :)

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)