Archive for Author Rebecca Coleman

Why We Love Pandemic Baking So Much

Like many of you, I have been baking a lot in the past few months. Maybe unlike you, one reason why was a new cookbook I’m working on, but that wasn’t the only reason.

I’m sure you, like me, as you scroll through your Facebook and your Instagram feeds, see pic after pic of your friends pandemic baking. Sourdough. Banana Bread. Cookies.

Banana Bread

For sure, a great deal of this is just because we’re home more. And maybe bored. So might as well bake something?

Baking, in all its ways, brings comfort. There’s something satisfying about getting your hands in dough, and then there’s the fantastic smells that emanate from the kitchen. And finally, you get to eat it. Warm, steaming bread, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside. It’s a sensual feast. It brings comfort in the form of carbs, sense memories of sitting at our mother’s or our grandmother’s tables. A time when life wasn’t so complicated, and just leaving the house could potentially kill you.

Pandemic baking also involves an element of care. Sourdough especially has been popular during the pandemic, because it’s kind of like a child or a pet. And if you don’t have a child or a pet, sourdough is a great place to pour your nurturing energy into.

I’m going to float another possible hypothesis. That pandemic baking is about getting things done. It’s an easily achievable goal.

Date Squares

If you haven’t read it yet, there’s a great article going around called Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful. It’s an interesting article, and you should definitely read it, but there’s one part of the article that particularly stood out to me, and that’s the concept of ambiguous loss.

The author interviews Dr Pauline Boss, who talks about this weird sense of loss and grief we are all experiencing right now… but not from anything specific. Just…. stuff.

“It’s harder for high achievers,” she says. “The more accustomed you are to solving problems, to getting things done, to having a routine, the harder it will be on you because none of that is possible right now. You get feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and those aren’t good.”

Yeah. So this is me. I’m the get shit done girl. And now, all of a sudden, everything is changed. Shit is no longer getting done, or if it is, it’s taking a whole lot longer than it used to.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things,” she says. “It’s partly responsible for getting a man on the moon and a rover on Mars and all the things we’ve done in this country that are wonderful. But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution, at least for a while.”

Sourdough. Sourdough is the answer my friends. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s defined. It maybe takes you a couple of days, but you set out to make a loaf of bread, and two days later, there it is, crunching under your knife as you cut into it. In a world that feels out of control, in my kitchen, I have all the control. I am the master of all purpose flour.

And that tiny moment of feeling like I’m in control again, even if it’s just for a short while, feels great. It’s the one thing I can control in the chaos.

And then I get to eat it.

Vegan Cinnamon Braid

Well, hello there, October.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one, but this year feels like it has been both the longest and the shortest of all time.

Like when we were in quarantine? So slow. But things feel a bit more normal now, but also, has it really been six months since the pandemic began? Time feels like it has ceased to have meaning.

But life goes on, even during a global pandemic, and that means seasons changing, leaves falling, and I can start baking again, because it’s not so hot. (though TBH I used my Breville Smart Oven Air all summer for baking and it was 6 kinds of awesome).

Vegan Cinnamon Braid

So it’s fall. October. Let’s break out the warming spices.

Cinnamon.

Nutmeg

Cloves

Cardamom

Ginger

I’m doing some fun experiments with a couple of my other pastry-loving friends (more later), but I’ve had brioche on the brain. And I started to wonder if I could do a vegan brioche? Turns out you can!

If you wanted to make your life simpler/easier, you could just make this Vegan Cinnamon Braid as straight-up cinnamon rolls. Or if you wanted to make your life easier still, you could omit the rolling all together and just make it as a loaf of bread.

Brioche is what’s referred to as enriched bread. “Enriched” usually means the addition of milk and/or egg yolks. The final result is soft and rich.

Want more Aquafaba recipes? Check out my new cookbook: Aquafabulous!: 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Bean Water)

Obviously in a vegan version there is no milk and no eggs, but Aquafaba makes a pretty good substitute.

The fancy braiding part of the Vegan Cinnamon Braid looks complicated, but I have faith you can do it. It’s actually not really that hard.

Cinnamon Braid Vegan Aquafaba

Vegan Cinnamon Braid

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oatmilk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup aquafaba
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast (or one packet)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Method:

  1. In a heat-proof container, whisk together the oat milk, olive oil, sugar, and aquafaba. Place it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. You want it to be warm, but not hot, just a little over room temperature, like between 80-90 degrees.
  2. Place the warmed mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it. Leave for 5-10 minutes to bloom.
  3. Add the flour and salt, and, using the dough hook attachment, begin to mix. Leave it to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth.
  4. Form into a ball, drizzle a little extra olive oil over and rub it all over the ball. Place the ball back in the bowl, cover, and allow to rise somewhere warm for about an hour.
  5. After the first rise is complete, punch it down and then place in the fridge to do a second, cold rise. This should go for four hours, or overnight.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and place on your work surface. Divide in half and then divide each half into 3 to make 6 dough balls. Work with 2 at a time.
  7. Roll the balls out into rectangles, as thin as you can get them. Then brush each rectangle with melted vegan butter, and sprinkle over an even, thin layer of cinnamon, brown sugar and cardamom. Starting at the long edge, roll it up into a roll as tightly as you can and pinch the seam shut. Now using a sharp knife, cut down through the middle of the roll lengthwise. You want to try to get all the way through the outer layers to the centre of the roll. “Butterfly” it flat open. Now take both split rolls and attach them together at the top. Weave one over the other to create the “braid,” then pinch together again at the bottom to fasten. Place in a greased loaf pan and cover and allow to rise one last time, about an hour or two.
  8. When you’re almost ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F, and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.
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