So, Vegetarian Times and Arrowhead Mills are hosting a gluten free holiday re-do contest. When I saw this, I screamed like a little fangirl and automatically reached out to my mom for a family recipe to enter. She and my grandma unearthed a recipe from my great-grandmother: Steamed Pudding. Not having grown up eating this recipe, I immediately envisioned a steaming jell-o mold. This is definitely not what steamed pudding is (thank God)! This specific recipe is technically a steamed date nut bread, which my mom grew up eating each Christmas. I was excited once I saw the ingredients. It's was simple to make and it wasn't hard to convert to a vegan and gluten free delight!
Usually when I try to veganize and de-glutenize an old family recipe, things go wrong for the first few attempts. I've learned over the years to have very low expectations! It's just the nature of gluten free baking, I suppose. Vegan baking has become second nature to me now, so that I'm not too scared of. The gluten free flours that I've experimented with don't even scratch the surface of their vastness. There are so many flours to choose from and so little patience I have! If you do venture out of the prepared gluten free flour blends (which can be awesome!), you will have to prepare yourself for a little trial and error work. After using grain flours like sorghum, teff, millet and rice in baking, I now have a (somewhat) better understanding of their properties. Sorghum is fattier and makes very moist but crumbly cakes. Teff is similar in texture, but I find it to me more crumbly and have a more pronounced flavor. Millet and brown rice flours are my favorite to use because of their mild flavors and their lighter texture. Rice flour is lighter than millet, so I usually use more of it in my ratio.
In the beginning, I was very irritated with xanthan gum. This is used to replace the bounciness of gluten in gluten free recipes. One time, I used way too much in a cookie recipe and my cookies had the consistency of glue. Gross. After omitting xanthan gum from my recipes after that, I learned my lesson. Xanthan, like all fine things, needs to be used in moderation (most of the time, sparingly!). I have begun to use it again because my baked goods would come out to be too crumbly and fell apart. The xanthan gum, when mixed with flax seed "eggs", helps to bind batters together and give them a sturdiness that gluten would normally do. I use only a quarter teaspoon here, but it makes all the difference.
I kept the flavors the same in this recipe. Although, if you would like to experiment with different nuts and/or dried fruits, feel free! I used hazelnuts for this batch, but I would definitely like to use pecans or walnuts to see how the texture changes. Also, you do not have to use the sea salt as a garnish, but I highly recommend it! It's a simple yet extraordinary experience to taste sweet and salty together. Mmmm...
So, without further a-do, my 4th generation vegan, gluten free steamed pudding!
Date Nut Steamed Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
Yield: 6-8 servings
*Note: You will need a steamer to make this recipe the traditional way. However, I've tried it in the oven and it comes out pretty good that way. I'll include those instructions too!
In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add the dates and oil/Earth Balance. Lower heat to medium-low and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes. Turn heat off and add sugar, flax, vanilla, and vinegar to the date mixture. Let it cool while you prepare the dry ingredients.
Sift together the flours, spices, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine with a sturdy spoon. Fold in the nuts, if using.
Prepare a stove top steamer by filling the bottom with water, making sure to leave some room between the water and the pot. Pour the batter into the pot and steam for about 2 hours or until a cake tester comes out clean. Check the water level periodically to make sure there is some still in there.
Let the pudding cool thoroughly before turning it out onto a plate or platter. Serve with the caramel sauce and perhaps a sprinkling of course sea salt (if you wanna). Sing Christmas carols.
If you want to bake the pudding instead, grease a loaf pan or line a muffin tin with liners and pour/scoop the batter in. Bake at 350 F for about 25-30 mins for muffins and about 35-40 for a loaf. Make sure to test the pudding with a cake tester or toothpick before removing it. The batter is quite moist and it can be hard to tell when it's finished.
Salted Caramel Sauce
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and oil/Earth Balance to a boil. Let boil and thicken, stirring to make sure it does not burn. Once thickened, lower heat and add salt, vanilla, and milk of choice. Turn heat up to medium-low and stir until thickened and glossy. Pour on top of pudding and devour!
P.S. If you'd like more information about the Vegetarian Times contest, visit this link. I'm excited to see what everyone makes (so I can take their ideas! =P)!
Welcome to Ichiban Vegan!
This is my blog that covers all kinds of seasonal vegan recipes that I create and/or adapt. Since I decided two years ago to cut all animal products from my diet and spending budget (no more leather and cheese sandwiches!), I have been on a mission to sharpen my culinary skills and master the use of all plant based ingredients. All the while, I try to make food that I would want to eat even if I wasn't vegan. I've found that by thinking this way, I can sell my food to non-vegans fairly easily. I mean, let's face it. If you hand someone a plate of delicious pumpkin snickerdoodles, you don't really need to tell them that you didn't use eggs or butter, right? Until, after they've eaten 10 of them, you say, "Oh, so those are actually vegan!", will they look at you in astonishment and/or horror.
Luckily, throughout the past two years, my family and friends have been very supportive of my lifestyle. I was hesitant at first to attempt to cook things from scratch with the idea that my skills were not as honed as they should be. In order to produce palatable vegan food for those who aren't too keen on vegetables can be a bit of a challenge. Most people when they hear the term "vegan" automatically think of a block of tofu and a big question mark. They also like to throw you pity parties whenever they mention meat. "Oh, but you can't eat that...", they say with a false sense of remorse. I just want to say that I really find this funny; I don't find it offensive at all. I always laugh along with people when they make fun of my diet. I realize it seems extreme to many people, but I also realize that everything is relative.
In case you didn't notice, I'm taking this opportunity to tell my vegan origin story. I know no one wants to hear it every single blog post, but they may be curious later on. Many people ask why I live and eat the way I do, so now they have a convenient place to go read about it (and I can get on with my day...just kidding =P). Going back to when I was a senior in high school, I decided to give up meat for New Year's because one of my best friends was a vegetarian and she had introduced me to classic veg foods like falafel and hummus. These are staples in my diet now, but back then they were strange and exotic treats that I was in awe of. (WTF are chickpeas?!) Since I found new foods that were meat-free, I thought I could give up meat and be totally satisfied. Well, I was right. My diet then consisted of lots of pretzels, grilled cheese, and frozen veggie burgers made from GMO soy. YUM. Well, at least no cows were harmed in the process. (Or so I thought!)
The funny thing is, I still ate fish for years after I gave up meat. I became what I found to be a "pescetarian". I loved the diet. I ate all the sushi I wanted and didn't feel guilty. Because, let's face it, fish don't have souls, right? That was my thinking. Or rather, I didn't think of it at all. Inside, I knew I was contributing to the death of a living thing, but I let my taste buds run the show. To this very day, I still remember how delicious fresh fish tasted. It is the one thing I miss the most. I often tell people that so they understand that I'm actually a former person (I'm being sarcastic, I hope you realize! ^_^). I also wanted to stay true to the way I grew up. My all-time favorite comfort meal was broiled fish and gohan, Japanese white rice.
My heritage is definitely something that has inspired me to cook the way I do. I am a cluster of ethnicities, one of which is Japanese. My paternal grandmother (Ba-chan!) is from Japan. On both sides of my family, I come from WASP ancestors who hail from Ireland, England, Wales, Poland, and Germany. There's also a teeny bit of Spanish and Italian Catholics in there. (That and the Japanese really throw people off.) I've always loved learning about peoples' ancestry. It's one of the great characteristics of America. You never know who will show up (or what food they'll bring)! I always try to mix things up by taking inspiration from other cultures in my cooking. I think that is one of the best ways to connect with others apart from language.
Sometimes, vegan diets can be boring (just like any diet!). One of the ways I make food interesting is to use different ingredients. The word ichiban means "number one" in Japanese. I used this term in my blog name because I hope to create the best possible vegan food that I can with all types of ingredients. Most of my food will be free of gluten, if not all of it. Gluten-freedom comes from my other side of the family that carries celiac disease. I've grown up with my grandmother being gluten free and eating that way when I visited her. She always struggled to find good packaged foods to eat. My mom was diagnosed later in life once her symptoms became too unbearable. I haven't been diagnosed, but I decided recently to try gluten free cooking and baking just to force myself to become more creative. I realize that, like anything else, variety is the spice of life! So, using wheat for everything is probably not ideal.
As far as why I'm vegan, I direct you to Food, Inc. and The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life. Those books peaked my interest in the diet and also in the ethics surrounding said diet. My decision was an "experiment", just like my decision in high school to be a pescetarian. As for the first few weeks, I was upset I couldn't eat sushi. Other than that, giving up dairy and eggs was easy. I was already drinking almond milk all the time, so that wasn't an issue. In a culinary sense, eggs are only useful to bake with in my opinion. Otherwise, they often made me sick when I ate them anyway. Not an issue there, either. After two years, I barely think about cheese or eggs as food. I don't crave them at all. (Plus, there are some REALLY good ways to substitute them. I'll just say, thank God I'm not allergic to nuts or seeds!).
So, here I am: a vegan in her early twenties with a food obsession. What else is there to do but blog about it? =) Now, with all the origin story crap out of the way, I'd like to get to the fun part: COOKIES! These snickerdoodles are a fall celebration in your mouth. Snickerdoodles are traditionally a Christmas cookie in my family. My grandma would make them with us every year and I couldn't get enough of them. Once I started baking on my own, I made sure to make them for Christmas whether anyone else wanted them or not. (More for me!)
I decided that I didn't want to wait to eat my beloved snickerdoodles this year. As soon as October rolled around, I switched into Fall Mode. That means cinnamon on EVERYTHING! Cinnamon toast, cinnamon oatmeal, cinnamon tofu...it's all fair game. Naturally, I think of snickerdoodles when I think of cinnamon. But, in order to appease the retail gods who tell us that we should put pumpkin into everything once September comes, I decided to alter my recipe. Pumpkin-doodles, it is! I used pumpkin pie spices to coat these cookies for a little dimension. Really, this recipe isn't that original. But, these are mine! I adapted them from my family's go-to recipe for every Christmas.
I love snickerdoodles for their airy and crumbly texture. These are a little bit more moist in texture from the pumpkin. This is definitely not a bad thing. They almost resemble a cross between a cookie and a quick bread. You will find out sooner or later that I am a bit obsessed with quick bread, my favorite baked good in the universe (along with it's portable alter-ego, the muffin). Please feel free to enjoy these cookies with friends and family, the way they should be (ie, a batch for you and a batch for them!).
Here's to a new blog and new beginnings! I hope after this rant you will still follow me on my vegan journey to achieve deliciousness! Kanpai (Cheers)!
Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: approx. 25 cookies
* I find that the cookies appeal to those who aren't used to coconut sugar's mild sweetness with the addition of the cane sugar or sucanat. If you prefer your cookies more subtly sweet, omit this.
** You can also use a silpat. Otherwise, lightly grease your cookie sheet to avoid a catastrophe. =)
This is my very first food blog! I post revised conventional recipes of foods that I hold near and dear to my heart. My cooking here is all gluten-free and cruelty-free, but full of flavor and comfort.