Friday, May 26, 2006


Tahinopita is Greek tahini cake -- a dense cake studded with raisins and nuts that tastes something like an enormous raisin cookie. It is "strict fasting" or "Lenten", meaning it contains no dairy, eggs, or oil and is suitable for "fasting" days in the Orthodox church.

makes one 8-inch cake

for the dough:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 ¼ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup tahini (raw or roasted; roasted lends a nice flavor)
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup sugar
¾ cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

for the syrup:

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 8-inch round springform pan (or cake pan) with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and set aside. Place the tahini in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle in the orange juice while beating with an electric beater. Add the sugar and beat well for several minutes, until smooth and lighter in color.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will be thick like cookie dough, so stop if your beaters get bogged down. Knead in the raisins and walnuts.

Press the dough into the prepared pan, using a spatula or slightly moistened fingers to press the dough into place and smooth out the top.

Bake for 35 to 38 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let the cake rest in the pan for several minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Now, you can eat the cake just like this, or dust it lightly with powdered sugar, but if you want to be really Greek about it you'll make a sugar syrup:

Boil the sugar and water together in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes to form a slightly thick sugar syrup. Drizzle the syrup liberally over the top of the cake and brush on the sides.

Cut into wedges and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Vegan Chocolate Babka

My idea of heaven: rich, buttery bread dough filled with a swirl of chocolate and cinnamon and topped with crispy, sugary streusel. This dough also makes a lovely French brioche (see variation at the end).

makes four small 3"x5" loaves or 24 muffin babkas

for the dough:
¼ cup warm water
1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup plain nondairy milk
4 TB plain mashed potatoes
8 TB nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

for the chocolate filling:
one 12 oz. package vegan chocolate chips, ground in a food processor until finely chopped
¾ tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
4 TB nonhydrogenated margarine, at room temperature

for the streusel topping:
3 TB all-purpose flour
3 TB sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 TB nonhydrogenated margarine

If making small loaves, spray four 3"x5" loaf pans with nonstick spray. If making individual muffin-sized babka, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and (important!) spray the muffin papers with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Whisk the warm water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Measure out the sugar and sprinkle a pinch of it into the water. Allow the yeast to proof for five minutes.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt together, and in another bowl mix the nondairy milk and mashed potatoes together (no lumps).

Add all the sugar, flour mixture, and milk mixture to the yeast and mix on low speed for 3 minutes using the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer speed up a notch and add the margarine a tablespoon at a time. Mix for 10 minutes. When you first add the margarine the dough will look like a mess, but hang in there and it will come back together into a smooth ball.

Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 2 1/2 hours.

While the dough is rising make the chocolate filling by combining all the chocolate filling ingredients and kneading them together with your hands until the margarine is completely incorporated. Make the struesel topping by combining all the struesel ingredients and working the margarine in with your fingers until well-combined and crumbly.

Scrape dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Press the air bubbles out and use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 16"x12" rectangle. Spread evenly with the chocolate filling.

If making four small loaves, cut the dough into four squares and roll each piece up cinnamon-roll style. Pinch the ends together to seal and place in the loaf pans.

If making muffin babka, cut the dough in half the long way and roll each rectangle up the long way. Cut each roll into twelve equal pieces and place each piece in a prepared muffin cup.

Crumble the streusel evenly on top of each muffin or loaf. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 to 50 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350º during this final rise.

Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, loaves for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Variation: To make this dough into a lovely French brioche, add 1 tsp. vanilla to the dough. Leave off the filling and streusel, and bake in brioche molds. Baking time will depend on the size of your pans.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Vegan Lamingtons

Lamingtons are a traditional Australian treat made by dipping squares of sponge cake in chocolate icing and rolling them in coconut.

To make vegan Lamingtons, follow the directions for Vegan Twinkies. You can make the batter as cupcakes if you can't find a creme canoe baking pan, but don't try to make the batter as one large cake and cut it into squares -- heartbreak awaits. You can fill the cakes with strawberry jam or leave them plain, as desired.

Let the cakes cool completely; best to make them a day ahead.

Now have a large shallow bowl of finely shredded sweetened coconut at the ready, and make

Chocolate Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup nondairy milk
2 tablespoons nonydrogenated margarine
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the nondairy milk and margarine to a boil over medium-high heat. Transfer to the top of a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the powdered sugar/cocoa and the vanilla. Whisk until completely smooth. Keep the icing over simmering water as you work to keep it soft.

Dip each cake into the icing, using two forks to help turn and coat all sides. Hold the dripping cake aloft and let the excess icing drip off. Now use two more forks to roll the cake in coconut. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining cakes.

Let the icing set for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a covered container and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.