Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vegan, Taking It Slow!

Lately we have had a lot of newcomers to Bloodroot asking for vegan food.  We are very pleased with this new trend!  Whether for environmental/political reasons or for health - we have always tried to minimize our dependency on animal products.  After 35 years, I think we have become quite proficient in finding the best vegan dishes in ethnic cuisines.  We are able to recognize which recipes would not be hurt by switching butter to grape seed or olive oil, and which could exchange coconut milk for cow's milk or cream, and still expect the flavor to be familiar and delicious. But we also have folks who come in and say that they once tried to be vegan, but found it too hard to do.

So this blog is about how to make it easy.  First, you don't have to decide to be entirely vegan all the time, right away.  You first have to build a repertoire of things to eat. Don't just go buy vegan junk food.  Don't figure you will simply switch tofu for meat.  Neither of these strategies will be any good nutritionally and will surely disappoint your taste buds.  You will need a pantry with appropriate foods.  I am often shocked by how much coconut milk and coconut oil I use, forgetting that there were always pounds of butter in the freezer and not only milk, but heavy cream and half & half always in the refrigerator, before I tried to make most of our food vegan.

I've discovered that there are two kinds of coconut oil.  I don't use the ones labeled "natural" or virgin.  They smell too much like hair pomade or suntan lotion.  We use Omega organic coconut oil.  It is a clear odorless liquid in Summer, and of a white cold cream consistency in Winter.  It is always kept at room temperature.  (We sell containers of it at Bloodroot)  We make pie crust and scones and cookies of it, and sometimes we saute with it.

How about beginning to try vegan by making a cake?  A really delicious cake!  Below are two recipes for cake.  Our chocolate "devastation" cake has been on our menu for years.  We have made whole cakes for birthdays and weddings.  It is a favorite, and it can be whipped up in 5 minutes, once you have really good cocoa and chocolate (we use Valrhona) and sourdough starter.  The latter is available from us (free), especially on Sundays, when we use it to make sourdough pancakes. Or there is a recipe for how to make your own on p.418 of our cookbook, The Best Of Bloodroot  Vol. II or on p.342 of The Best Of Bloodroot Vol.I.

The orange hazelnut cake is made much like a traditional cake.  It tastes wonderful.  You don't have to tell anyone that either cake is vegan.  These cakes will make your reputation as a baker!  Next time we will get to a few main dishes, and later, ice creams.

Sourdough Chocolate "Devastation"  Cake

A very easy and delicious vegan cake. You will need good quality unsweetened cocoa to make it.

1. Lightly oil two 9˝ cake pans. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl: ¾ cup unsweetened good quality cocoa powder*, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups unbleached white flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons instant grain coffee**, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Stir together with a dry whisk.

3. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl: 1 cup thick sourdough starter, 2¼ cups water, 2 tablespoons vinegar, ¾ cup grapeseed oil, and 1½ teaspoons vanilla. Stir well with a whisk.

4. Combine wet and dry mixtures with as few strokes as possible. Some lumps are not a problem. Turn into pans immediately and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and cool on racks.

*Such as Vahlrona
**Your favorite kind will do

Chocolate Frosting

This frosting sets up firm and protects the cake from becoming dry. Because of this, this cake will stay fresh about five days in the refrigerator if covered with plastic wrap. From Mary Préjean.

Note: when making the above 2-layer devastation cake, double this frosting recipe.

1. Chop good quality semi-sweet chocolate* to measure 1 cup. Combine with 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, ¼ cup grapeseed oil, and 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder*. Place over lowest heat or melt in double boiler (a pan of simmering water with a heatproof bowl set over it).
Don’t stir until chocolate is entirely melted. Alternatively, the pot of frosting mixture may be put in a warm place, such as on top of the stove, while the cake bakes.

Once the chocolate melts, stir gently with a spoon until mixture thickens slightly. Frosting will be soft but will thicken as you stir it.

2. When cakes and frosting are cool, spread frosting over cake.

Makes enough for one 9" cake
*Such as Vahlrona

Orange Hazelnut Cake

1. Lightly toast 1 cup hazelnuts at 300°F. Rub skins off with a towel. Oil two 9˝ cake pans and line with waxed paper rounds. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Turn nuts into a processor and pulverize together with 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder,
1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons potato starch. Turn out into a bowl. Add 3½ cups all-purpose flour and stir together with a dry whisk. Set aside.

3. In mixer, use flat beater to cream 2/3 cup firm coconut oil (chill if necessary) with scant 1 cup sugar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier and 1 teaspoon orange oil (or 1 tablespoon orange zest). Add 1/3 cup flax seed eggs* (see The Best of Bloodroot Volume Two Vegan Recipes glossary) and 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract.

4. Measure 2 cups orange juice and ½ cup water. Alternately add dry ingredients and liquid to mixer, beginning and ending with flour mix. Don’t overbeat. Turn into prepared pans and bake until tops are evenly brown. Cool cakes on racks five minutes; turn out onto racks and let cool entirely before frosting.

*Flax seed “eggs”: Soak ¼ cup flax seeds in ¾ cup hot tap water in a blender for 15 minutes. Turn machine on and blend until quite thick and most seeds are crushed. It will look like grey caviar. Store these “eggs” covered in the refrigerator. They will keep 2 to 3 weeks. Use a rounded tablespoon to replace 1 egg in cornbreads or cakes.


 Coconut oil must be firm, so refrigerate 2 cups of it if this cake is being made in the summer. Turn firm coconut oil into mixer, and using the flat beater, beat well.  Sift 2 cups of confectioners sugar into mixer and beat well for at least 3 minutes.  Add a few drops of orange oil and a splash of vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Finally add 2 tablespoons of the thick top from a can of coconut milk and beat again.  This makes a lovely frosting.

makes enough for one 9" cake


  1. Awesome Selma! I made the devastation with einkorn flour this week and found it even more tender and delicious...a bag of flour is coming your way soon, I promise!!! xx Rachel

  2. great blog, Selma! Keep it up!