My husband and I used to cook together a lot. When we were still living in different apartments, with different flatmates, and in different towns that was one of the highlights of our weekend. We also used to bring a lot of food to parties. Mostly dessert. And we were probably a bit snobby about our food. Of course our cakes were the best! And our tiramisù, nobody could make a better tiramisù. Then I became vegan, started a blog and made myself in charge of baking. At the beginning there was a lot of trial and error, but still people were positively surprised when they tried the cakes and cookies I took to parties. Tiramisù was a completely different thing though and at the beginning I had no idea how to veganise it. There were no vegan ladyfingers, there was no vegan mascarpone. I dreaded the idea of putting tofu in our signature dessert. Our expectations were high. One day I finally found the right kind of ingredients and the result was a tiramisù both P and I were happy with.
Since this blog is about food, I rarely get to talk about other things I like. But today’s Vegan MoFo promt is the perfect occasion to change that. I like books and films a lot and I like it even more when films are about books and writers. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film about writers. Sort of. It’s also a film about the author Stefan Zweig, whose works have inspired Anderson’s movie. (Also sort of. If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it, it’s hard to describe. I promise it’s going to be fun!) In addition the director credits several old films, like Grand Hotel. Grand Hotel by the way is based on the fabulous Novel Menschen im Hotel (Grand Hotel) by Vicky Baum. There are other novels that could act as the model for this movie, like Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth.
I have read Zweig’s The World of Yesterday but not the other works Anderson mentions. When I first saw Grand Budapest Hotel I was absolutely amazed by the fictional world Anderson had created. In the movie everything was torn apart and put back together in a way I have never seen before. The setting is a hotel in the fictional Central European country Zubrowka. The town around this hotel has similarities to Eastern European spa towns. Most of the the material was shot in Görlitz though, a small and beautifully renovated town right at the Polish border. It’s not far from Dresden where I live and it has become a popular US-movie location. Dresden also plays a little part in the Grand Budapest Hotel, I recognised a couple of streets and museum halls. In one of the most fascinating scenes in the movie a couple of characters chase each other through such a hall. Then they leave though a door and we find them back in Görlitz or somewhere else, but definitely not behind the museum in Dresden. Admittedly, this movie is not a documentary. And Anderson makes no secret of the fact that “the places [he] had envisioned just didn’t really exist anywhere“. He says he’s interested in the invention, he’s not trying to be realistic. He definitely has accomplished that. I recognised many buildings but couldn’t follow the characters’ paths because they were invented. I recognised the time period Anderson was covering but his interpretation was completely different both from the fictional and non-fictional works I have read about this period before. As I said, he put everything together again in a completely new way, even the tiniest details. The German location names used are funny and absurd and the spelling of many things is only superficially German (or French). I don’t know that much about Wes Anderson but his socialisation outside of Europe seems visible in all these details. (Or maybe he did it on purpose.)
For example, there’s a bakery in this movie called Mendl’s. In German this would be Mendl or Mendls Bäckerei. No apostrophe, I would say. At least not back at that time. Then again I might be wrong. I am siding with Konrad Duden here, who published Germany’s most influential dictionary. Thomas Mann on the other hand used apostrophes with genitive cases. So we’re probably lucky he wrote great novels instead of designing and printiong bakery signs. Anyway, Mendl’s supplies everyone with a pastry called courtesan au chocolate, which is again a mix of English and French words. Those courtesans au chocolate are a colourful and elaborate version of the French pastry Religieuse. For the movie this version was invented in a bakery in Görlitz and the recipe is online. The funny thing is that they used a dairy shop in Dresden, Pfunds Molkerei, as setting for the pastry shop. I’ve only been there once in my pre-vegan days, not to buy cheese, just because it’s an outstanding location and a tourist magnet. I only lasted ten seconds though because it was smelly as hell in there. So I cannot really imagine it turned into a bakery, even if it’s only for a few scenes. Those poor actors. Beautiful pastries smelling like aged cheese. Whatever, let’s finally get to today’s topic: “Make something inspired by a book or film.” I did not only veganise the original recipe, I changed the whole thing. Because my recipe is how I has imagined the courtesans before learning about the recipe. It’s my version of the story!
Note: For the food colouring I tried to go with natural dyes, but I think artificial ones would have been better. My colours came with a taste and I didn’t like both the matcha and the blueberry plus soda versions that much. So if you have access to artificial vegan food dyes, I recommend to use them.
P.S. We’re on the last day of our vacation and I am writing this recipe on the road. The recipe plugin isn’t working that great on our tablet. Sorry if the ingredient list looks a bit confusing. I’ll fix that as soon as we’re home.
To make the doughnuts, combine flour and yeast in a bowl.
Add milk, sugar, oil, and salt to a small pan and heat until luke warm.
Add to the flour mixture and knead for about 7-10 minutes, or until your dough is firm and doesn't stick.
Cover the dough and let it rest until doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes.
Roll the dough into 4 equally sized pieces and use differently sized cookie cutters to cut each piece into 3 differently sized disks. Note: This is what I did. It's easier just to roll each piece of dough into 3 differently sized balls.
Use leftovers to make 4 additional small balls, about the size of a grape.
Let the disks or balls rest (covered) until doubled in size.
Heat the oil in a pot. If you choose a smaller pot, you'll need less oil. Just make sure that the doughnuts will be able to float and not stick to either the bottom of the pot or to each other. Use a candy thermometer. The oil should be around 160°C to 175°C, and definitly not hotter than 180°C.
Fry the doughnuts for 1 or 2 minutes, or until crispy and browned.
Transfer to some pieces of kitchen paper towels to drain off excess oil.
To prepare the ganache, mix sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
Place soy milk and chopped chocolate in a small pot.
Heat carefully until the chocolate has melted. Make sure the chocolate doesn't burn and stir.
Remove from heat and add sugar mixture. Whisk until silky.
To fill the doughnuts, use a pastry bag with a long and small pastry tip. Use the tip to poke a hole into the big and medium sized doughnuts and then pipe some of the ganache into them. This takes a little experience but after a couple of doughnuts you should get the hang of it.
To make the red glaze combine 50 g (1/2 cup) of powdered sugar with red food colouring and 1-3 teaspoons of water, depending on the amount of food colouring you used. The glaze should be silky and not too runny.
Dip the small doughnuts into the glaze and let them dry on a cookie rack.
To make the green glaze, combine 50 g (1/2 cup) of powdered sugar with matcha powder and lemon juice.
Dip the medium sized doughnuts into the glaze and let dry.
To make the purple glaze, combine 50 g (1/2 cup) of powdered sugar with baking soda and blueberry juice.
Dip the large doughnuts into the glaze and let dry. The glaze will change its colour after a while and turn purple/blue purple.
Dip the grape sized dough balls into leftover ganache and let dry.
To make the frosting, place coconut oil and powdered sugar in a small food processor. Whip until smooth, add vanilla and whip again.
To assemble, piple some frosting onto the large doughnuts and top with a medium sized one.
Top the medium sized doughnuts with frosting and add a small one.
Place the grape sized dough ball on top.
Now try to eat this!
I am a language nerd. I spent this morning looking up why rhubarb, or rhabarber in German, is written with an h after the r. The latin word for rhubarb is rheum barbarus. Barbarus means foreign. Rheum is derived from the ancient greek rheu, and that’s where the h comes from. It indicates a certain pronunciation of the letter rho at the beginning of a word. Not that interesting? Alright. While I was looking all of this up I found some funny sentences in the book On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (highly recommended, by the way). On page 317 McGee writes that rhubarb’s “main use in the West is as a tart stand-in for fruit”. On page 367 he adds that rhubarb “often masquerates as fruit”. Both statements sound kind of mean, as if rhubarb stalks would sneak into our kitchens, drag the strawberries out of a pie and take their place only to dupe us. But I guess McGee has a point, because he also explains that rhubarb only became popular in pies and other sweet foods after sugar had become affordable. Since then it has been treated like a fruit and made palatable in desserts with tons of sweetener. But then it’s not the rhubarb that dupes us here. It’s the sugar. (See, sugar is bad.)
Last Sunday we were enjoying our last rhubarb stalks, baked into a crisp, which is basically nothing else than a very, very lazy pie. This is a simple and versatile recipe and almost every ingredient could be substituted with something else. I used coconut flour, but oat flour or even whole wheat flour would work. For the almond butter you could use any other nut butter as well. Oh, and if you don’t have rhubarb, use berries or even apples. I used a 22 cm bread pan (9-inch loaf pan) for this recipe, and that makes enough for three people. P complained that the filling wasn’t sweet enough. He’s probably right but it’s no problem to double the amount of sugar mixed with the rhubarb.
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
Place rhubarb, cornstarch, and agave nectar in a 22 cm (9 inch) loaf pan and stir to combine.
Combine remaining ingredients and stir well. Sprinkle on top of rhubarb.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft and the topping crispy.
Serve warm or cold.
Last year, when my father visited us in Dresden, he brought a box of strawberries from a grocery store around the corner. “Those aren’t good. You should not buy them,” I said. He tasted a berry and replied that they weren’t too bad. “But they are terrible compared to those we can get at home in our village!” I guess ten kilograms of childhood memories came out with that sentence. When we were children my dad would buy fresh strawberries on Sundays. Sometimes we helped him wash and slice them, sometimes he would even let us whip the cream. Nothing was better than those fresh strawberries. We ate them straight from the plant if we got the chance. For example during our bike rides, when we picked some at the edge of a field. Or when we emptied the patches in our neighbour’s garden. All these memories came back when I told my father that the strawberries here in the city weren’t good. He disagreed. He told me that the fruits back home weren’t that much better anymore. He even thought they were worse. I didn’t believe a word of what he said. That simply couldn’t be true.
During this years Pentecost vacation F and I made a trip to my parents’ place. My father picked us up from the main station in Bremen. On our car ride to my parents’ village, we drove by several strawberry fields. I got exited and mentioned something about eating them for breakfast every day. My father said I should probably find something else to eat. They had changed the breed a couple of years ago, he elaborated. Those berries weren’t worth the trouble anymore. Yes, they kept well but most of the flavour was gone. Why would he say that? Some weird berry conspiracy theory? Did he not remember how we all loved to eat strawberries together? That he always would pick them up for us? The next day F and I prepared lunch. Suddenly my father stepped into the kitchen with a box of strawberries in his hand. I smiled. I told F that this would make such a wonderful dessert. Then I looked at the strawberries. They looked very pale. I asked my father, “Why did you bring these? Were the good ones sold out?” “No,” he replied. “They do all look like that now. I thought that if you tasted them you would finally believe me.” I was still in denial. I gave one to my daughter. “Taste it! The best strawberries you can get.” She tasted and then looked at me disgusted. I said: “But those are good.” It wasn’t true. I didn’t believe what I just said. I think I just wanted to share an important childhood memory with my daughter. But there was nothing to share. I was disappointed and those strawberries were just pale, sour, and watery.
Okay, okay. Maybe this is all in my head. Maybe I am turning into one of these “everything was better in the old days” person now. Or maybe it was just the beginning of the season and I need to give those strawberries some more time to grow. There are other childhood memories to share or to improve. Like my relationship with rhubarb. This vegetable/fruit was something I mostly ignored when I was a kid. At least when it came to baked goods. Our neighbours made tons of rhubarb cakes and many grown ups tried to trick me into liking it. They pretended it was great in desserts. They pretended it was sweet. But it wasn’t. There was never enough sugar in those cakes and a kilogram of whipped cream could not change that. Back then I thought those neighours wanted us to give up our sweet tooth. But that wasn’t true. Nobody tricked us. Rhubarb was something we did not appreciate very much. We spent our afternoons stuffing our face with strawberries instead.
Now that those strawberries are disenchanted I can finally appreciate the tartness of rhubarb. It’s now my daughter who refuses to eat it. But you can make very sugary things from rhubarb, too. Sugar can be used as a preservative, for example in jams. Or syrups.They are very simple to make and they can be kept in the fridge for 1 or 2 weeks. I made a batch for my ice cream recipe, but it’s also a base for refreshing lemonade. (Simply dillute it with (sparkling) water.) If you want something tarter, rhubarb compote is a great choice, depending on how much sugar you add. For my ice cream I didn’t use too much sugar, but if you want to pair the compote with oatmeal or grießpudding, you can double the amount of sugar used. Just adjust it to your taste.
There are a couple of wonderful methods to make vegan ice cream, but I like to try something new from time to time. I admit it’s definitely not the easiest and fastest method to make ice cream. But I’ll also talk about a couple of shortcuts in a minute. This version calls for whipped chickpea brine (called aquafaba), which improves the texture a lot and makes the ice cream light and easy to scoop. In fact, even after over a week in the freezer, this batch still had a consistency similar to soft serve. Since we’re without an ice cream machine rightn now, I used my blender method for this recipe. That is a bit involved, but it will produce similar results to ice cream from a machine.
If you thing this all sounds to complicated, I have a couple of ideas for you: You can leave out the aquafaba and make this into a “regular” coconut based ice cream. You can also use an ice cream machine, if you have one. If you wanto to use a machine and include the whipped aquafaba, churn the coconut milk and syrup mixture and fold in the whipped chickpea liquid once the machine is done. Then proceed to freeze it, add the compote, and freeze until solid. If you don’t have an ice cream machine or a blender, make a simple semifreddo by combining the coconut milk and syrup mixture and the compote. Pour it into a container and freeze it until solid. Instead of scooping it out, you can slice it for serving. Another tip is to split up the workload and prepare both the syrup and the compote a day in advance.
To make the syrup, combine sliced rhubarb and water in a small pot.
Bring to a boil and cook until the rhubarb falls apart, about 5-10 minutes.
Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and pour back into the (cleaned!) pot. (Discard the rhubarb pulp left in the sieve.)
Add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.
Boil for 10 minutes and make sure the mixture doesn't boil over.
Let cool and pour into a sterilized jar. (Store leftovers in the fridge for up to two weeks.)
To make the compote, combine rhubarb and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Cook until the rhubarb falls apart.
Set aside and let cool completely.
To make the ice cream, combine coconut milk, oil, and sugar in a bowl and whisk. Add syrup and whisk again.
Transfer to a shallow container such as a brownie pan and place in the freezer.
Freeze for 2-3 hours, or until mostly solid.
Once the coconut milk mixture is frozen, combine the chickpea brine and the remaining sugar.
Whip the mixture with a hand held mixer or in a stand mixer until very stiff. This may take up to 10 minutes. You can add a splash of lemon juice to speed up the process.
Cut the frozen coconut milk mixture into smaller pieces and transfer to a high speed blender.
Blend until it has the consistency of soft serve.
Pour into the chickpea fluff and fold the fluff into the coconut mixture until everything is smooth. Make sure to do this slowly and carefully. You don't want the chickpea foam to collapse too much.
Pour into a container and freeze for another 2-3 hours.
Fold in the rhubarb compote and freeze until solid.