Yes, folks. You read that right. I, Kelly "Bacon" Bakes (okay my real middle name isn't actually bacon, but isn't it pretty to think so? [name that novel!]), have done the unthinkable: I have baked sans eggs and butter. *cue locusts, dramatic screams and women fainting everywhere* "But Kelly," you ask, "what on earth could have prompted you to go against everything you know and dive into the unknown depths of vegan baking?" Well, dear readers, let me tell you...
Last May, I took a page out of Tom Haverford's Treat. Yo. Self. book and went to a food blogging retreat called Eat Write Retreat. I learned a ton about food writing and styling, met a lot of really wonderful people in the food blogging community (hi if you're reading this!) and got to connect with the sponsors of the event. Though I was surprisingly shy throughout the weekend [unheard of, I know!], what I found most valuable about the conference was the way the sponsors reached out to the bloggers and wanted to hear what we had to say about products. They had representatives there, some who even spent the weekend with us and came to each demonstration and workshop, talking about our interests and our blogs and getting to know the people who use their products.
"What does this have to do with vegan baking, Kelly? Get to the point." Ahh, yes. Well, after the event, a number of the sponsors stayed in touch with the bloggers and offered opportunities for giveaways for bloggers & their readers. The folks at OXO were giving away Healthy Eating Tools to test out and sent me a free hand-held mandoline to try.
I couldn't wait to tear off the plastic and get to slicing but first, I needed some inspiration. Luckily, I had a coffee date with a vegan friend from my grad program who had longingly stared at the baked goods I brought to class for two years, never once getting to sample anything I made because I was too scared to bake without eggs and butter. I immediately knew that the first thing I wanted to make with my mandoline was a vegan tart for Russell.
The tart dough was incredibly simple--flour, salt, water, vegan powdered sugar and vegan margarine. In terms of texture, it was slightly softer than dough made with butter, but it made it much easier to roll and yet after it baked was almost as flaky as dough made with butter.
I rolled the dough out pretty thin (this is healthy, remember?) and made my own apricot "jam" by reconstituting dried apricots in water and then blending with an immersion blender. Apricots are already pretty sweet, so I wanted to cut back on sugar any way I could. Now that I've made my own apricot jam, I much prefer a purer fruit taste as opposed to traditional jams that pack a much too sweet punch (baking vegan and shunning sugar, who have I become?!)
Next came the fun part: trying out my hand-held mandoline. I have to say that once I tried it, I was hooked. I tested it out on a carrot first and it sliced so effortlessly that I had to lift the mandoline off the bowl to make sure it was slicing because I didn't realize it was actually working! The pears gave a little more resistance, but were still easy to slice. To demonstrate the ease of use, I made you this exciting video complete with sports clapping build up and music to match the sexy slices of fruit it makes:
OXO Hand-Held Mandoline [FMP]http://www.kellybakes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/OXO-slicer.m4v[/FMP] There's also a really handy safeguard that came with it, but I was so worried about trying to prop up my phone to take a video that I didn't bother to use it! whoopsie! (Mom, if you're reading this, you'll be happy to know that all of my fingers are intact and I have made a habit of using the guard!)
The best part of it all was that the tart was pretty tasty. In fact, I gave it to two of my non-vegan friends and several of my coworkers who couldn't tell it was vegan! Score!
BUT WAIT! It gets better! The kind folks at OXO not only gave me a free hand-held mandoline slicer, but they want to give you one too! There's a few ways to win this nifty tool (I promise, once you try it, you'll want to slice every fruit and veggie in your kitchen with it!). Being that I left my comfort zone to try vegan baking, I want to hear about a time that you conquered one of your culinary fears! Leave a comment below and I'll choose a winner by Friday, April 6th at midnight! You can also like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter for more chances to win! Good luck!
Vegan Pear Tart with Apricot Jam
for the tart dough: 1 1/4 C all purpose flour 1/4 C organic powdered sugar (apparently regular sugar can be filtered with animal bone char making it not-vegan. who knew?) 1 stick vegan margarine, cold & cubed 4-5 T ice water (depending on humidity) pinch of salt
Combine flour, sugar & salt in a bowl. Cut in margarine with two knives or pastry blender until margarine is pea-sized. (alternatively, you can do this in a food processor, though I always seem to get a little pulse-happy and the pieces end up too small) Add 4 T of water and stir with a spoon to combine. I always seem to need an extra tablespoon of water to get most of the flour incorporated, so use your judgement. Form dough into a ball without overworking it. Flatten slightly into a disc-shape and cover with wax paper. Refrigerate for at least a half hour.
for the topping: 1/3-1/2 C apricot jam** (see note below) 1 large pear, thinly mandolined (and yes, I just made that a verb)
Pre-heat oven to 400F. While oven is pre-heating and once the tart dough has sufficiently chilled, removed from the fridge and roll out into a 1/8"-1/4" thick rectangle on a floured surface. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until just golden brown and puffed. While tart shell is baking, slice the pear into thin slices (on the OXO, I'd recommend the second setting so they're not too paper-thin). Once tart has baked, spread with apricot jam.
**You can either use a low-sugar store-bought jam or reconstitute dried apricots yourself. I used about 10 dried apricots to 2 C water and brought to a simmer until the apricots puffed up [it took maybe 20 minutes]. I then blended with a stick blender until I had a lovely jammy substance and let it cool while I prepared the tart.
Next, layer slices of pear in rows or any other design you fancy, making sure to overlap them. Brush tops of pears with more apricot jam or sprinkle with organic sugar. Bake in the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes or until pears begin to look dried out.
Disclosure: I was given an OXO Mandoline to use and one to give away to a reader. I was not compensated in any way for this post and the opinions expressed here, as always, are mine. I am selective with the products and brands I choose to work with. I have been using OXO products for years and welcomed the opportunity to work with them as a blogger.
...and the winner of my very first giveaway and the soon-to-be proud winner of an OXO hand held mandoline is *drumroll please* Michael Martin!! Congratulations! I'll be in touch shortly to get your mailing info! Big thanks to all for sharing your baking victories :) keep on baking and conquering those fears!