Friday, March 19, 2010

Vegan Recipes of the Week: Spelt Bread and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillows

Thank you to everyone, especially my readers on, who posted such interesting and though-provoking comments to last week’s entry.  It was great to read so many opinions on the issue of veganism, the philosophies behind it, and how vegans fit into our larger society.

I’m going to take a lighter approach this week and offer you two new recipes, one a continuation of creATE’s Adventures With Sourdough, and the other the start of a new creATE theme, vegan cookies.

Last week, I switched gears in my sourdough bread activities to try spelt sourdough bread.  Here’s a bit of history on spelt, before I explain the process of making the actual bread, which turned out to be quite involved.  Spelt is one of the most ancient grains, first grown around 5000 B.C.E. in ancient Mesopotamia.  In Europe, spelt is very popular and is known by many names, including “Farro” in Italy and “Dinkle” in Germany.  Besides having funny names overseas and a great, nutty flavor in baked goods, spelt has a high fiber, protein, and B vitamin content than wheat.  Its tough hull makes it difficult to process by modern methods, protecting the grain from pollutants and insects, and thereby decreasing the need for pesticides.  Spelt has a lower gluten content than some processed wheat products, so those with gluten sensitivities may be able to eat spelt.

Making the spelt bread was more labor-intensive than the basic whole-wheat sourdough I wrote about in previous entries.  The results, however, were well worth the effort.  I’d recommend starting your spelt bread in the late afternoon or early evening.

In a large bowl, mix together 5 cups whole spelt flour and 1½ tsp. salt.  In another bowl, mix together 1 ½ cup distilled water, 2 Tbsp. agave nectar or other natural sweetener, and ¼ cup sourdough starter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until a moist dough forms.  Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and let sit for one hour in a warm place.

After one hour, uncover the dough, stretch it and fold in half.  Repeat 3-4 times.  Cover again, let the dough sit for thirty more minutes and repeat.  Repeat this process two more times for a total of four “stretch-and-fold” periods.

Cover the dough with a plastic bag and let sit for twelve hours, or overnight.

The next morning, place the dough on a lightly floured board.  Fold the sides of the dough upwards and pinch the sides together at the top.  Place the dough top side down in a lightly floured bowl, cover, and let sit for 1½ hours. 

After one hour, place a pan of water in the lower rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  This creates humidity in the oven that simulates the environment of a Dutch oven or clay baker.  Flip the bread from the bowl on to an oiled baking pan.  Bake for 45 minutes. Cool loaf on a wire rack and enjoy!

Having just purchased the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and finding that the recipes in the book have completely changed my vegan baked goods, I’m going to try to also publish one vegan cookie recipe each week.  Here’s the recipe for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows I baked last week:

Chocolate dough:
½ cup oil
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup or other natural sweetener
¼ cup nondairy milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda

Peanut butter filling:
¾ cup peanut butter
¼ cup agave nectar
¼ cup nondairy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, maple syrup, nondairy milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Stir in flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda until mixture forms a moist dough.

To make the filling, mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl until uniform.  Divide into 24 balls.

To assemble the cookies, scoop a tablespoon of dough and flatten with your hands to form a round disk.  Place a peanut butter ball in the middle and wrap the dough around the filling to a “pillow.”  Place the cookies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!