Grey, rainy days where you don’t have to go to work just call for hours of cooking! I had nowhere to go today, and the downpour outside discouraged me from walking to the bus to go anywhere, and I really didn’t want to work on my thesis, so I decided it would be fun to do some baking (and watch House, MD, but that was more background noise. Don’t judge me). I had a large container of cherries in my fridge and a big bag of gluten-free flour, so I figured I was good to go! Epic food adventure day was ready to roll.
I love cherries. They’re pretty much my favorite fruit. The prospect of a big bowl of ripe, juicy, ruby-red cherries is one of the few things I look forward to in summer. I also love cooking with them, so when I saw this recipe for cherry vanilla muffins, it seemed like a match made in Heaven. This recipe is vegan, which is really cool, except for the fact that I had no way to get the egg replacer she uses. So I used real eggs instead. 1 egg is equal to 1 1/2 tsp of the egg replacer, so I used 2 eggs, with a little warm water added to make up for it. I also used gluten-free all purpose flour, because I’m all about cutting out that gluten 🙂 Anyway, pitting the cherries took for freakin’ ever because I had to do it by hand. I may have eaten one or two while I was working, which didn’t help. Ok, there’s no “may” about it. I definitely did 🙂
The batter turned out a little thicker than I would have liked, probably because of the gluten-free flour. I’m going to lighten it up a bit with some more almond milk next time, I think. But it still looked pretty and tasted nice, so I went with it.
During the last five minutes or so of baking time, I made the vanilla glaze. It was thinner than I would have liked, so next thing I’ll reduce the amount of almond milk. The vanilla taste can also be a little overpowering, so I might reduce that as well. Either way, it still turned out tasty, kind of like a vanilla caramel.
The muffins themselves didn’t turn the light golden-brown we usually expect from muffins, but I’ve noticed that seems to be a trend with gluten-free flours, so I wasn’t too worried. The muffins passed the toothpick test, and they came out smelling delicious. The texture was really cool…closer to a cupcake than a muffin, which I’m fine with, because it was lighter than most muffins, particularly gluten-free ones. They also tasted amazing! The cherry and the vanilla work perfectly together; sweet, but not too much so, and firmness of the cherries counteract the fluffiness of the muffins. I am definitely adding this to my list of regular baking items!
So the muffins were a great mid-morning snack, but I needed something more filling for dinner. On rainy days, I crave warm, comforting meals. Upon taking stock of what I had in my pantry and fridge, I decided to attempt this recipe for Carrot Apple Ginger soup I found the other day. I don’t usually go for soups, but I’m game for trying almost anything, and this particular soup has several of my favorite ingredients in it: apple, ginger, and garlic. So I figured I might as well give it a shot! I added cracked black pepper into the broth mixture to spice it up a bit (ginger is spicy on its own in a soup, but the pepper adds a different layer of spiciness). I used Swanson organic vegetable broth; out of the broths I’ve tried so far, this one is my favorite because it’s not too salty or overpowering. I also used a dash of cinnamon instead of nutmeg, because I love how well ginger and cinnamon work together.
The reason I don’t generally go for soups much is that they tend to just have one texture. I’m a texture-eater, so I need more than one in what I eat. The amount of blending the original poster recommends gives the soup a consistency between a broth and a puree, which is too flat for me. So when I made the carrot mixture, I chopped some of the carrots slightly larger and thicker than the others. When I blended the soup, it left some very small chunks of carrot here and there, which gave me the texture I needed. I garnished it with black pepper, a dash of sea salt, and some cinnamon. The result was very spicy (just right for me!), and on the sweeter end of savory. I really enjoyed this soup! Next time, I’m going to experiment some more with different veggie and spice add-ins to see what happens 🙂
After all of that, I still had cherries left, and I wanted to do some more baking. So I thought, why not try baking a pie? I’ve never made pie crust before or anything, but since I had all afternoon. I figured it would be fun. One of the vegan pages I follow on Facebook put up this awesome recipe for a Cherry Pie, and it didn’t look too difficult. I had all of the ingredients, and so Operation: Bake a Pie was under way. I made the filling mixture first, but I only used about half the recommended amount of sugar because the fruit is sweet enough on its own 🙂 I also added in some fresh blueberries, since they work really well with cherries in a pie (or anything, really!). I did use the lemon zest, because citrus zest brightens up pies like nobody’s business.
The next task was the dough. Again, I used gluten-free flour. The recommended amount of water wasn’t enough, so I added cold almond milk as needed to get the dough to the right consistency. I made sure to freeze both sets of dough for 20 minutes before rolling it out, because gluten-free dough tends to be extremely delicate, even more so than regular pasty dough.
Rolling it out was a little difficult, and I think I made the crust in the pan a little too thick. But it worked, and it didn’t break, so I’m rather pleased with myself.
Making the lattice crust for the top of the pie was time-consuming and stressful, and it didn’t look as good as I wanted it to, but again, first attempt. I think it turned out well regardless.
I had to wait 55 minutes while it baked, and then another hour for it to cool. But as soon as the mandatory cooling period was up, I attacked that pie with a fork and knife. Not only did it look and smell delicious, but it tasted fantastic as well. The crust was perfect, and it tasted like a regular gluten crust you’d get on a pie from a bakery. It was crisp, buttery, and flaky. The fruit mixture was the right mixture of sweet and tart, and the lemon zest added a lovely citrusy floral note to the whole thing. Overall, I’d declare my first attempt at pie-making a rousing success. And it’s vegan, to boot! No animal substances whatsoever. That definitely makes my body happy, in addition to my taste buds 🙂
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a piece of pie sitting on the plate next to my table just begging for me to eat it. Happy eating, everyone.