Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Complementary baking

Some of my favourite foods come from the oven—cookies, cakes, pies, roasted veggies.... But using the oven to bake just one thing isn’t very efficient. Preheating and maintaining the temperature in a fairly big airspace just for one pan of food uses a lot of electricity and isn’t good for the environment or the wallet. Not to mention, it makes the house all kinds of hot—this is a good thing in the winter, but not so much in the hotter months. And even though autumn officially started in Australia on Saturday, it’s still pretty warm here.

None of this is enough to stop us from using the oven. We just try to be a bit smarter when we do heat it up. In our house, the oven is stuffed full whenever it is turned on. This usually takes some major strategery—which pans will we use that can fit together; which dish needs to be on which shelf; how long and at what temperature does each dish need to bake; when should batters be mixed and poured into pans...

Sunday, after eating pancakes and reading the paper, Andy and I had a long, drawn-out baking-fest. He was bored (I was doing the crossword) so I suggested he bake some cookies. He flipped through our newest cookbook acquisition, Joy of Vegan Baking, and decided to make both Lemon Bars and Jam-Filled Oat Bran Muffins. And since we had the oven on anyways, he declared, we should have something baked for dinner; his choice was the potato pizza from the latest issue of Vegan Voice magazine (which I didn’t get photos of). And then he requested that I be in charge of the Lemon Bars.

Andy started on the muffins in the early afternoon. Instead of oat bran, he ground up some rolled oats. He kept the wet ingredients separate, in the fridge, waiting for the oven to be preheated before mixing (since the baking powder activates as soon as it hits moisture).

After he had finished with the muffins, he boiled and mashed some potatoes and mixed up the pizza crust.

When he was done in the kitchen, I put together the shortbread crust of the Lemon Bars, pressed it into a slice pan, and put it in the fridge. Then I blended up the topping in a bowl, using mango flavoured silken tofu (not noticeable over the lemony-ness) and custard powder in place of corn flour.

When it came time for dinner, we put our carefully worked-out strategies into action. Andy mixed his batter while the oven heated, then filled muffin cups with batter and jam. We topped the pizza crust, and baked the shortbread. The muffins came out looking delicious, the pizza was rolled out a little thin and fell apart while we ate, and the Lemon Bars took much longer to set than the recipe called for. But everything was really tasty, and now we’ve got treats to last us all week.

Lemon Bars

Jam-filled Oat Muffin and a Lemon Bar

We had another oven meal last night to use up a few leftovers and old veggies. Last week I made an Ethiopian-spiced tofu and vegetable stew. We blended it up and stirred through some leftover barley. This was poured into a crust. The whole lot was topped off with a mixture of mashed potato, sweet potato, garlic, miso and sunflower butter (for a cheesy flavour). I called it Ethiopian Goatherd’s Pie—because it’s not quite shepherd’s pie.

At the same time, Andy made some gourmet-style stuffed sweet potatoes. He steamed a few big chunks of sweet potato, and the hollowed out the insides. They were stuffed with a bread and corn mix flavoured with cranberry jelly and orange marmalade. This was a very yummy, Thanksgiving-flavoured side dish, and that stuffing is likely to make more appearances in our house.

And finally, because Vaala asked after my last post, I’ll share with you my recipe for pastry crust. It’s a mix of recipes and techniques from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah, Wild Morsels, and my mum. This is enough to make one standard sized crust, or six topless mini-crusts. If you need a top, double the recipe.

¾ c. sifted flour
¼ c. ice cold margarine (leave it in the freezer for 20 minutes)
1/8 tsp. salt
2 T. ice water

--Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in margarine with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add ice water and mix well, kneading slightly to incorporate all the flour. Form into a ball (or six small balls, for cupcake-sized pies) and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out between two sheets of cling wrap to desired size. The cling wrap keeps it from drying out the way a floured surface does. When you transfer the crust to your pan, peel off the top piece of cling wrap and flip the crust into your pan, and use the other cling wrap to press it in to place. Fill with something yummy, bake and enjoy.

19 comments:

Vaala said...

Thanks for the pastry crust recipe :)

I wish we had a whole day for baking (or that I could get J into the kitchen for long enough to make something like muffins - he'll race in long enough to snaffle a couple straight out of the pan though!).

Any letup of the rain yet?

Theresa said...

Yes, yay, it's been sunny since last wednesday! Gloriously so--bright blue skies with just an occasional puffy cloud. We've been hanging clothes on the line, putting pillows in the sun (to kill mould) and trying to get rid of the moss that grew all over our little back patio.

VeggieGirl said...

Lemon bars?? Muffins?? Fabulous!! And thanks for the fabulous crust recipe!!

nora said...

wow, i love the amount of forethought you guys put into baking efficiently, it's really admirable, and i try to do stuff like that to a certain extent but i seem to alwaus fail :(

the "goatherd's" pie is so creative, especially the topping, and those sweet potato stuffers don't look half bad either! keep rockin!

Mandee said...

I love the idea of filling the oven and then having lots of delicious food to eat!

Gina said...

I love love lemond bars :) Yummy stuff!

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I just got The Joy of Vegan Baking, too! The lemon bars look great. I'm going to try your pastry crust recipe soon. Glad to hear the weather has let up!

steph said...

Oooh, those lemon bars look awesome.

DJ said...

Those lemon bars look AMAZING! I could go one right now! I also like the sound of your Ethiopian goatherd's pie!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Sounds like you and Andy are quite the team in the kitchen! It is definitely a good thing to try and use the oven as resourcefully as possible!
And those lemon bars.... look amazing.

Bianca said...

I loved those Lemon Bars! And I also had to bake them about 15 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I was nervous they would never set! But once they did, they were worth the wait.

dessertobsessed said...

ohlalala i am loving those lemon bars! and the muffins look pretty tasty too!

JENNA said...

I will be searching out lemon bars tomorrow! I haven't had one in ages!

Mike K said...

The Joy of Vegan Baking is one of my favorite cookbooks, even though I don't bake nearly often enough. I love cookbooks with lots of photos, and that book is just fun to thumb through once in a while. The stuffed sweet potatoes look great, as do the muffins and bars.

Vegetation said...

Mmmm your lemon bars and muffins have me drooling! And I love Andy's stuffed sweet potato!

the little one said...

I didn't have any luck with those Lemon Bars. I think it was the pan I used. I definitely need to try it again. Generally, I love that book.

vko said...

Love your efficient, coordinated oven use! Synchronized cooking & baking with your partner is such a nice thing.

Lyn Rose said...

WoW! That lemon one at the top looks soooo good! (So do the others, but I love lemon sweets). I love your blog- I just spoke to my friens who lives in Brisban Australia and I want to visit so badly! I'm saving up. Well it's nice to connect with you. come to my site some time... www.beautiful-vegan.blogspot.com in Toronto, Canada!

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

The lemon bars look fantastic!!!