Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Vegan Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls & Making Roots

Well hello there! It's been a while.

Last time we talked I might as well have been a different person for all of the changes that have happened in my life, big and little, internal and external. It’s next to impossible to summarize, so I’ll just tell you a bit about what’s going on currently.

It’s practically summer in Tangier these days, which means this is the month of events and wrap-ups. I just finished two separate dance performances, one that I choreographed and danced in and another where my lovely friend Natalia directed and we both danced. Now I’m preparing for a showcase of my dance classes that I teach throughout the academic year and once that is over I can finally start to look ahead and begin anew with summer adventures & projects.

I guess the major change in me since last fall is a sort of focusing- a honing in- on what is important to me and where that will most likely take me in my foreseeable future. As a freshly-turned 23 year old (am I though?) I’ve realized dance is more than just a passion- it’s truly my career and my life. I train harder, dig deeper and push myself more than I ever have in this field. 

I also have started to finally form some roots. Even though my freelance work and endlessly itching wanderlust will keep me traveling, the wonderfully weird city of Tangier, Morocco, is a place I can call home now without flinching. In fact, it feels good to say it. This is my home.

I tell people that 3 things happened successively when I came to Morocco about a year and a half ago. First, I fell in love with the country. Then I fell in love with my work. And then I fell in love with a Moroccan. He cinched it. Yep- I’m getting rooted in this city, and I’m happy about it.

The lovely news about all of my projects and performances wrapping up this month, is that now I have more time for simple pleasures. Reading, writing, yoga in the sun, and of course, baking. 

I go through these weird phases where I get obsessed with using yeast in everything I bake. It's usually when my stress levels are higher and I need to knead some dough to get it all out. Hence, yeasted cakes, yeasted rolls, yeasted everything. Let's stop saying yeast and just look at how delicious these are:

It's strawberry season here, so time to get crazy. These rolls are fluffy, sticky, finger-licking goodness. No excuse not to make them.

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls (vegan)
makes about 8 rolls

1 cup chopped strawberries
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1.5 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

125g vegan margarine/earth balance
100g sugar
350g flour
5g yeast
160 ml lukewarm coconut milk

2 tbsp softened vegan margarine
3-4 tbsp coconut milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

Begin by mixing the yeast with 80 ml of lukewarm coconut milk until the yeast is dissolved. Whisk in 25g of the flour, then cover with a cloth and let sit somewhere warm to double in size and get frothy, for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare the strawberry cinnamon filling by combining all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir and let simmer until the strawberries get mushy and a compote forms. Take off the heat and let chill in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Once the yeast is doubled, combine the remaining dough ingredients and knead until a sticky dough forms. If it is too dry, add a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time. Knead for about 5 minutes before transferring to a greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for another 45 min-1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and roll out your dough into a large rectangle on a floured surface. Spread the strawberry filling evenly, leaving about a 2 cm border around the edges. Carefully roll the dough into a log and cut 8 slices, placing them in a greased baking pan. If any filling falls out during this delicate process, just use a spoon to tuck it back into the rolls once they are in the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until they are risen and golden-brown on top.

While the rolls are cooling, prepare your icing by whisking together the margarine, 2 tbsp of coconut milk, powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla with an electric hand-mixer. Add more coconut milk a tablespoon at a time until it is a thick, dripping consistency.

Dollop the icing over the buns and serve warm. They are best eaten the same day, but they will last (if for some crazy reason you have extras) for another day or two in an airtight container.

I'm so happy to be back! Happy spring/early summer, everyone.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan Coffee Crumble Cake

I had a friend from America who visited me in Tangier a while back. We were making plans with another friend of mine and while on the phone with him, I said "So are you still in the coffee?" My friend looked at me funny and said "Excuse me, what did you just say?"

"I asked if he was in the coffee- that's normal, right?"

Apparently I've forgotten how to speak english. Because here in Morocco, are you in the coffee is a perfectly acceptable way to ask if you are at a cafe.

And let me tell you- the cafe culture here is huge. Somedays, I wake up and leave my apartment around 9am and while walking past the cafe just next door, see an old man in his kandora with a glass of cafe au lait in front of him and a smoking cigarrette nestled in the ash tray. I go out, do my thing around the city, and coming back around 4 or 5pm, see the same man with what appears to be the same glass of coffee and the same cigarette, still burning at the same length.

At night, instead of overflowing bars and clubs, you'll find hundreds of chatty cafes filled with teens drinking cappuccinos, juices and hot chocolate. Sometimes on particularly social weekends, instead of bar-hopping like I would do in University, I find myself cafe-hopping to see different friends. I kind of love it.

Needless to say, I drink a lot more coffee here than I ever have in my life. And as if drinking loads of coffee wasn't enough, why not consume it in an edible form as well? This is not just coffee cake as in you-eat-it-with-a-cup-of-coffee cake. This is coffee-infused deliciousness.

Cinnamon Coffee Crumble Cake

makes 1 loaf cake

100 ml soy milk
150 ml strong coffee- cooled
60 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
225g granulated sugar
210g flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tbsp flour
50g brown sugar
30g cold vegan butter
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180º C and grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix together the soy milk, coffee, oil, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Don't over-stir! Pour the batter into your pan and stick in the oven- it will bake for about 30-40 minutes total or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Make the crumble topping as soon as you put the cake in, by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers. After the cake has been in the oven about 20 minutes, take it out, sprinkle the crumble on top and let it bake the remainder of the time. If you put the topping on right away, it will sink into the cake and, granted, still taste great, but won't look as pretty. Let the cake cool, slice, and enjoy with more coffee!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Triple Berry Crumble

What happened to summer? Usually it is the time when I stay at home and relax, pick up some restaurant shifts, chill with friends, ya know. But ooh no this summer was quite the beast.

Not only did I travel around Europe a bit, experience Ramadan in Tangier, and film an upcoming dance video, but I also visited this strange place called the USA for three weeks. Besides the fact that I almost forgot how to speak english and my frequent exclamations of "why is everything so big??" it was wonderful to be back and spend time with family and friends. 

I spent a week in Minneapolis, riding my bike as much as possible without my legs falling off and soaking up that bizarre, bittersweet nostalgia that comes with going home after a long time. Then my parents and I drove up to Montreal to see my brother in his amazing new life at the École National du Cirque. After a week of exploring and developing a huge crush on that city (blog post to come...), I flew to New York. Upon arrival, I felt like I was flailing around trying not to drown in a sea of people, so I promptly took a bus to Boston to escape the madness and see my cousin. 

That is where the food comes in. My cousin, her girlfriend and I visited the greatest farmers market where berries were cheaper than water. We bought boxes and boxes and the only thing left to do was bake with them. Voila, the triple berry crumble was created. And devoured. 

Triple Berry Crumble 
adapted from Baker's Royale

170g (6oz) raspberries
170g (6oz) blackberries
170g (6oz) strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar

150g spelt flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp chopped pecans
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 tbsp cold vegan butter substitute (I use earth balance) chopped into pieces

Start by making the filling- combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Pour into an 8x8" pan (I used a weird 5x10" but both totally work) and let cool while you make the crumble. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, then add the butter substitute either with your fingers or a pastry cutter. You want it to be clumpy and crumbly. Let it sit in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 200ºC. Once it is ready, sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit and bake for 25-30 min, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool and eat your heart out.