Sunday, October 19, 2014

Harvest Pumpkin Date Bars - Gluten Free and Vegan

Harvest Pumpkin Date Bars - Gluten Free and Vegan

Oat Crumble Crust

3/4 C Coconut Oil
1 C Coconut Sugar
1/4 t Molasses
1 C Bob's Red Mill GF Flour
1/2 C Almond Flour
1/4 t Xanthan Gum
1 t Vanilla Extract
1 C GF Rolled Oats
1/2 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Sea Salt

Pumpkin Date Filling

1 13 oz Package of Date Paste *
1/4 C Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/3 C Canned Pumpkin Puree
3 T Unsweetened Apple or Cherry Juice

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with parchment paper.
Start by making the filling so that it may cool and be easier to handle when building your bars.
Place the date paste and apple sauce in a small saucepan on low heat and combine using a fork.
Next add the pumpkin puree and combine, again I have found a fork works best for this.
Now, add the juice and really stir it up until mixture is warmed through an about the consistency of thick frosting. remove from heat and let cool.

Next make the crust. Start by combining the oil, sugar, molasses and vanilla using a hand mixer on low speed in a medium mixing bowl. It takes a few minutes for the coconut oil to warm up. Be patient and mix until slightly fluffy in texture. In a small bowl combine GF flour, almond flour, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. stir mixture well and then add to the oil/sugar mixture and mix on low speed for a minute or two until well incorporated. Next, using a large spoon, stir in the oats.

Okay, it's time to assemble the bars. Press half the oat mixture in to the parchment lined baking pan. I used the bottom of a metal measuring cup - it's tricky and sticky! Now place tablespoons of the filling on top of the oat mixture in the pan. Use a butter knife and carefully spread evenly over the bottom crust mixture. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top and again carefully press down - I used the bottom of the metal measuring cup again.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then carefully lift the whole solid slab out by holding the edges of the parchment paper. Lay this whole thing - parchment and all on a cutting board. Cut into squares and let cool 10-20 more minutes before serving. These store well if you put parchment under and between layers of bars. I did not cover them for storage - but things don't last long around here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Aged Vegan Cashew Cheese

Cheese. Delicious. Creamy. Cheese-y. Cruelty-free. Dairy-free. Dreamy cheese.

Honestly, this stuff is delicious. 
I recently served some at some holiday gatherings and folks thought it was dairy cheese.
Some folks thought it was goat cheese and some thought it was brie. 
Everyone thought it was yummy.
1 1/2 C raw cashews
1 1/4 C cold water
2 heaping tablespoons non-dairy yogurt with active cultures
1/8 - 1/4 cup sauerkraut juice (from active probiotic sauerkraut - not the stuff in the can)
1/3 C coconut oil
1/8 C nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
teeny tiny pinch of garlic powder
2 teaspoons agar powder (not flakes)

Start by soaking 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews overnight in 1 1/2 cups of cold water and 1/2 tsp. salt.

In the morning the cashews will be swollen to about twice their original size.
Discard the soaking water.
Put the drained cashews, 2 T soy yogurt*
*you can use this:

1/3 Cup coconut oil (use refined if you don't want your cheese to taste like coconut)

1/8 Cup Nooch (nutritional yeast -loaded with B vitamins including B12!)

Blend it all up until very smooth - 5 minutes or so.

Here's something cool! This is a Chinese pickling jar.
The top fits into a ring on the top of the jar that is a reservoir. 
This lid keeps bad bacteria out while allowing the contents to breathe a bit.
As gases form during fermentation, the lids burps occasionally.

Pour your blended cashew mixture into a jar.
If you don't have one of these fancy schmancy jars, just use a regular big jar and cover the top
with a cotton cloth - like a clean handkerchief or cloth napkin or clean old cotton t-shirt
and hold it in place with a rubber band around the rim.
This will keep bad stuff out but let fermentation occur without exploding the jar.

Here's a close up of that reservoir I mentioned above.
I'm like a regular show-off.

Ok so - here's the story, if you want something mild and buttery, let this ferment for 24-36 hours 
depending on how warm your house is etc. 
Taste test your mixture after 24 hours. If you like it you're done with fermentation.
If, on the other hand you want something sharper, more along the lines of sharp cheddar or blue,
then allow your mixture to keep fermenting. 
I just made a batch of sharp - something akin to a sharp white cheddar,
I let ferment for 48 hours.

When fermentation is done, find a couple of ramekins or small dishes you can use to mold your cheese.

Line  them with cheesecloth

You can add some nice looking herbs or edible flower petals or fruit , if you like.
This photo below shows some crushed pink peppercorns.

As your cashew mixture ferments, little bubbles will form on the top.
You may also see some liquid accumulate at the bottom.

Dump the whole mess into a saucepan and heat on medium low.

Lightly sprinkle the agar powder over top - whisking vigorously after each 1/2 teaspoon.

Whisk. Whisk, Whisk.

Pretty soon the mixture will thicken.
Keep whisking another minute.
Then turn remove from the heat.

Pour into your prepared, cheesecloth lined containers

Smooth the surface gently - don't press too hard!

Lightly cover by folding over the cheesecloth and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Remove your cheese from the mold and unwrap the cheesecloth.
Wet your hands just slightly and sprinkle them with salt.
Rub the salt on the surface of the cheese and put the unwrapped cheese back in the refrigerator
for at least a few hours and up to 2 days.
By letting the cheese rest it dries on the outside creating sort of a rind.
Now - you can serve the cheese fresh and/or you can let it age.
I do both.
I make a small round for eating fresh and I let the larger round age unwrapped for 2 days
then I wrap it in parchment and let it age for as long as I can stand it.
Usually I can make it a week without eating a bit, but it can keep aging after you have some.
I have made it 3 weeks.*
After that it is uncharted territory and you are on your own.

I'm telling you, it's beautiful stuff.
This is a wheel that was aged about 2 weeks.
Make cheese. You can do it!
*aging update: I cut small cubes out of this batch and aged them for different amounts of time.
After about 2 months I had something like an asiago in texture. 
After 1 year I had some thing very dense and hard, almost like a Parmesano Reggiano
Am I suggesting you do this? Heck, no. 
I'm just saying I did.
That's what we call CYA ;)