Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Baker Challenge - Livin' it up Vegan and Gluten-Free

I need to start off by saying I am not a vegan nor do I lead a gluten-free life, not even close. As far as the vegan thing goes, I think I could honestly live without meat (oh but it would be hard) however I think my biggest hang up would be the no dairy and no eggs. Not to mention my first encounter with a vegan overly reeked of garlic and I vowed never to become like that. Reeking of garlic that is, from every pore. And the gluten-free thing, all I can say is it must be hard to have to go totally gluten-free as so many things have gluten in it even if they don't outright say 'gluten' in the list of ingredients. Both lifestyles can add up in time and money when you start trying to find substitute ingredients or recipes.

The September Daring Baker Challenge was to make Lavish Crackers and we were instructed to make them vegan and optionally gluten-free. We were also instructed to make vegan plus gluten-free dips to accompany our crackers. The cracker recipe seemed simple enough consisting of only 6 ingredients plus toppings. Since I know people who either need gluten-free diets or dairy/egg-free diets I figured I had better make this a true challenge to see if I could meet these needs while still pleasing a be-all, eat-all audience (us).

First, the Lavish Crackers from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Since the recipe was relatively simple I decided to make it twice, one using an all-purpose flour and soy flour mix (above right) and another using a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (above left) that consists of rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, soy flour, corn starch, and xanthum gum and was supposed to be a 1 for 1 sub. I was surprised that the instructions for making the gluten-free version seemed simpler (but definitely was not cheaper). Well, silly me, my first time buying a gluten-free mix was not the most successful as I realized later on that this particular mix "does not work well with yeast" and the recipe calls for yeast. Well it did rise some but clearly not as well as the non-gluten-free version but I don't know whether to attribute that to the gluten or the mix-no-likey-yeast version.

The trick was to roll the dough out as paper thin as possible and the gluten version was very easy to work with. The gluten-free dough I struggled with and did not get it as thin as I would have liked, mostly because the suggested method of rolling the dough between parchment paper was just not working well at all. I cut the dough and I used an assortment of salt, golden and black toasted sesame seeds, and poppy seeds.

No super fancy shapes for the bulk of the chips although I did have some extra dough to play with and inspired by a recent Family Fun recipe, I made bone shaped crackers. I don't know if this would be considered offensive to the vegan type but I figured if anything, they can serve as a precursor for all your Halloween party snacks and maybe someone will find them amusing...

For my dip(s) I wanted to do a recipe that called for dairy and use some substitutes to see if it ended up being edible, dare I say, delicious too. My knowledge of gluten-free products is shamefully puny and so if I used something that turns out there is hidden gluten ingredients in them, I'm sorry. As a backup I made some hummus just in case the others didn't count. My first dip was a Sun-Dried Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper, and Pesto Dip that used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Soymage Vegan Parmesan Flavored Topping and my second dip was a Butternut Squash, Walnut and Parmesan Dip which used soy milk and again with the Parmesan topping.

I was actually really impressed with the cream cheese substitute - eating it straight up, sure, you can tell the difference but in the dip it worked like a charm. The Parmesan topping was a little off in taste though and I'm not sure it helped the dip too well. I think soy cheese in general is going to have a hard time competing against regular cheeses, at least for me. All said and done, we took the haul down to my in-laws this weekend and by far the favorite was the tomato pesto dip. I am excited to use the leftovers as sandwich spreads and veggie dips for lunch this week. Very flavorful and healthy too!

I'm sure glad for this fun challenge and the fact that it wasn't another expand-my-gut recipe for a change. Check out the hosts, shellyfish and natalie, for this month's challenge as well as all the other completed challenges!

Sun-Dried Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper, and Pesto Dip
with the help of All Recipes

Half recipe of Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto replacing the Parmesan with Soymage Vegan Parmesan Flavored Topping
One roasted red pepper (can use canned)
  • Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Add more or less tomato pesto to your taste. Add soy milk to thin to desired consistency.
Butternut Squash, Walnut and Parmesan Dip
modified from Sauces and Salsas by Christine France

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon margarine
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tablespoons Soymage Vegan Parmesan Flavored Topping
3-5 tablespoons regular soy milk
salt and ground black pepper
roughly chopped walnuts to garnish
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Halve the butternut squash, then scoop out and discard the seeds.
  • Use a small sharp knife to deeply score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern: cut as close to the skin as possible, without cutting through it.
  • Arrange both halves in a small roasting pan and dot them with the margarine. Sprinkle the butternut squash with salt and pepper and roast over high heat near the top of the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Tuck the unpeeled garlic cloves around the squash in the roasting pan and continue baking for 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender and softened.
  • Scoop the flesh out of the squash shells and place it in a food processor or blender. Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the squash. Process until smooth.
  • With the motor running, add all but 1 Tb of the Parmesan and then the milk. Check the seasoning and spoon the dip into a serving bowl; it is at its best served warm. Sprinkle the reserved Parmesan and the chopped walnuts on top.
*This may also work well with other types of squash. Acorn ...mmm!

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmmm, the butternut squash dip sounds absolutely divine! I made butternut soup this weekend...I love that stuff!


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