Once upon a time, in my pre-vegan life, I used to love to bake. I'm not an expert baker, but I've always enjoyed it and feel I've met with a certain level of success. I'm often asked to bring a baked dessert when Lane and I are invited to dinner. Suffice it to say, I was confident in my baking abilities.
Then we became vegan and things changed. There is something about creamed butter and eggs and sugar that I have not been able to duplicate with vegan products. My confidence waned, and now baking intimidates me. My Kitchen Aid mixer has been gathering dust, and Lane has been missing homemade desserts. So when I stumbled upon the Daring Baker's, I thought it might be something that would help me recover my baking skills, or at the very least, get me back into the kitchen and baking again.
This month's Daring Baker's Challenge was my first official challenge. I was accepted into the group at the end of November so I wasn't officially eligible to participate in the November challenge, however, the recipe looked so intriguing, I tried it anyway. It was the Tender Potato bread which I blogged about here, and it was yummy. I'm so glad I took that challenge because this one was an utter disaster (for me), and might have dampened my enthusiasm for this endeavor.
We Daring Baker's are issued a challenge at the beginning of the month. We're all supposed to make the same recipe and compare results. You can learn a lot reading about how others interpret the recipes. Part of the challenge allows for individual creativity and it is very interesting to see what people can do! Then we are all supposed to post about our experiences on our blogs on the same day. This month it was the 22nd, however, Lane and I have been having some problems with our DSL over the last two weeks and I simply couldn't get my act together to get to the library to publish this post. At any rate, here is my tale of woe, a little late, but no less pathetic for being so!
The challenge was a Yule Log. Ok, I've made yule logs in the past, and jelly rolls, and had been successful, so this wasn't some strange new thing. All I'd have to do is replace a few key ingredients and I'd be fine. The rules require that you use the recipe as written, with a few exceptions; being vegan I'm allowed to substitute the non-vegan ingredients.
The Yule Log had three components:
- Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms
- A genoise cake
- A coffee buttercream frosting
The meringue was out, of course, so I attempted the Marzipan Mushrooms. The recipe looked easy enough and was vegan friendly. I followed the recipe exactly and to my dismay I ended up with a liquid, not a paste. What to do????? First I added some more powdered sugar, but that didn't help much and the mix was getting very sweet. I didn't think to also add cornstarch as someone subsequently suggested. I had used all my almond meal, but had slivered almonds on hand, so I threw those into the food processor, without grinding them up first! I have no idea what I was thinking, but it was a foolish mistake. Ultimately, I wound up with a crunchy almond slurry, not suitable for much. Someone suggested that I could use it in a dessert creation with apples, etc. But decorative mushrooms... nope! The slurry would have worked well as mortar on a gingerbread house! In my defense, I wasn't the only person to have trouble with this recipe. But still, it wasn't an auspicious start.
So now I was very frustrated as this was my only weekend to work on the challenge, and one component was not going to work out. Next was the cake. I'd been looking for egg-replacement powder for a while and hadn't found it in my local Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. The health food store that we shop at burned down in September and still hasn't reopened. I'd done some research on egg replacers. The recipe called for 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, ¾ C sugar, ½ C flour, ¼ C cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Clearly replacing the eggs was going to be an issue.
My first thought was to use Mark Bittman's suggestion of 2 Tbs water, 1 Tbs neutral oil (I used grapeseed), and 1 tspn cornstarch (I used arrowroot). That didn't work.
For my second and final attempt (time constraints) I used silken tofu in place of the eggs. I wound up with something resembling a cake. So I proceeded to make the buttercream, using Healthy Start Shortening and Good Earth Soy Spread in equal proportions, in place of the butter. The "buttercream" actually came out swell. I was hopeful. I slathered the buttercream on and began to roll my log. It cracked. I used some of the almond slurry as mortar to hold things together. I managed to roll up the log and cut off the ends which were supposed to be used as decorative accents on the log (stumps and nubs). Lane walked into the kitchen at that exact moment and we decided a taste test was in order. That was the end of the December Challenge. I was out of time. The cake tasted gritty(the tofu?). The buttercream was edible, but we're not huge coffee fans so it wasn't worth saving. And you already read about the marzipan!
So, I failed my challenge, but at least I tried! I leave you with a lovely picture of a yule log at one of the bakeries we passed by this holiday season.
Here's to next month's challenge!