Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Phenomenal Veganomical Flops

The chickpea cutlets were so very very good. So color me highly disappointed (that IS a color--right next to Plum and Mahogany in the 64-pack of crayolas) when the next two recipes I tried from Veganomicon were huge flops.

First were the jelly donut cupcakes.

What an awesome idea, I thought to myself. And the recipe is ridiculously simple. So I decided to whip them up in time for Valentine's Day.

Now, I'll give the recipe the benefit of the doubt because I've not had ONE good experience baking cupcakes in my oven (despite the fact that I have baked some killer cakes in there), so the bad experience could just be chalked up to yet one more cupcake disaster. *BUT* I'm also giving myself the benefit of the doubt here as well, since I followed the recipe to a T, and since I've also read numerous other tales of botched cupcakes stemming from this recipe. The uber-adorable VeggieGirl discussed their disastrous aesthetic value just last week. But Did They Eat It?'s donuts looked like they had scabies. And Rural Vegan's cupcakes looked like mutated blueberry muffins (though disaster was nullified by the cute pic she got of her chickies chowing down on them). And that's just to name a few. (Don't get me wrong, there are also many many posts of people's success with these cupcakes. But clearly something's up with the recipe when such culinary masters like VeggieGirl run into trouble.)

In *MY* case, all the jam sunk directly to the bottom of the cupcake, and the tops of the cupcakes caved in. I'm easy to please though, so I would've been fine with the horrendous appearance if only they were stable cupcakes. But since the jam all sunk to the bottom, upon unwrapping each cupcake, they basically just crumbled apart. (Thankfully, I MacGuyvered them by crumbling them all up into a sort of crumbly streudel.) The issue with the recipe seems to be with the jelly/jam. The cookbook claims you can just dollop the jam on top and leave it alone, and it will sink perfectly to the middle of the cupcake. I suspect, however, that depending on the weight of what you choose to use (jam perhaps being the culprit here due to the fact that it's much more dense and heavy then jelly), you could conceivably end up with disastrous results. I used raspberry jam, and I suspect the heaviness of it being a jam is what caused it all to sink to the bottom. Presumably the cornstarch added to the recipe is intended to act as a sort of jelly-glue, locking it into place as it bakes. But that was not the case with my cupcakes.

I *WILL* try these again though, since they are so simple (and since I liked the way they tasted--despite the fact that there have been a lot of complaints about them being yucky). Next time though: cheap shitty jelly.

The second disaster I had I didn't see coming at all, which made it all the more disappointing. I saw the recipe for beanballs last week, and they looked SO ricidulously simple, and sounded so damn tasty, that I decided I would whip them up this weekend.

Now, I *DID* roam around on the internet after these turned out to be a bomb to see if it was just me, and the general consensus seems to be that this is a good recipe and that no one's had any major trouble with it. *SO* I wanted to note that here.

However, what happened when I baked these babies is that they never solidified into a chewy, meatbally-like chunk. Instead, they just continued to have a mushy, beany, kind of doughy consistency. And despite the fact that the flavor was wonderful on them (which annoyed me even MORE, because I know that they had POSSIBILITY), I found myself having a difficult time even humoring them by eating them. The second day I had them, I crumbled them up with some more bread crumbs (as much as possible since they were still mushy) and attempted to fry them up majorly so that they'd kind of be like meat-crumbles on my spaghetti--I had much better luck going this route.

After much speculation about how I could've ruined them so badly, I came to this conclusion: 20 oz. of kidney beans does not equal 3 cups of kidney beans. 3 cups of kidney beans is 24 oz. This means, given the cup-measurements offered in the cookbook, I was technically adding a full 1/2 cup of kidney beans to the recipe that shouldn't technically have been there. Now, kidney beans don't exist in 20-oz cans, so anyone who makes this recipe is going to end up buying a big honking can. And if they make the error of assuming that the equivalent cup-measurement is correct, I think the beanballs will probably end up bombing for them. Granted, the recipe says "approximately" 3 cups. But I would venture to say that the 1/2 c. makes a HUGE difference when it comes to the consistency of the beanballs. If you don't believe me that 1/2 c. can make a difference, let me note this as well: Veganomicon says the recipe should yield 12-15 beanballs. When I was rolling them out, I was like HOLY CRAP, THEY JUST KEEP COMING. By the time I was done, I had about 20+ meatballs. Again, even a small amount like 1/2 c. makes a difference.

Crunch n' Munch verifies my thoughts on the matter as well, noting that "I’m pretty sure the recipe called for 1/2 cup [of bread crumbs], but I wound up putting more in to make them reasonably held together. My kidney beans were in a 15 oz. can, so I opened two and measured them by the cupful, based on the book saying it was about 3 cups, without thinking much about that fact that it’d be more like 24oz. I reckon the approx. & the fact that kidney beans aren’t liquid accounts for the other 4 oz. but… yeah. Anyway, I stirred in more breadcrumbs until it got to a consistency I found reasonable." Unfortunately, I just assumed that the consistency was the way it was supposed to be since the beanballs were holding together perfectly fine, and I never added extra breadcrumbs like Crunch n' Munch had the foresight to do.

So, again: I will most definitely give this recipe a second chance, as the beanballs TASTED wonderful, despite the consistency being wretched. But for those of you looking to dive in and try this recipe out yourself, please please please take note of the measurement discrepancy and aim for 2.5 cups of kidney beans. Hopefully you'll have better luck.

As balls...

As "meat" crumbles...

  • 20 oz. (or approx. 2.5 cups*) of cooked kidney beans

  • 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten

  • 1/2 - 1 c. bread crumbs*

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 2 T. soy sauce

  • 2 T. steak sauce or tomato paste

  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated

  • 1/4 t. lemon zest

  • 1/2 t. oregano

  • 1/4 t. thyme

*These quantities have been modified from the original recipe in the hopes of helping you out with consistency

(For baking--frying is pretty much common sense)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Chuck all of your kidney beans into a medium sized bowl and mash them suckers. You want them to be fairly well smooshed, but not to the point that they’re unidentifiable as kidney beans. Add in the rest of your ingredients, and then mush together with your hands until fully combined. Knead/mush them for a minute or two.

After you have everything stirred up and holding together (without being totally solid, mind you) roll up your beanballs. They should be on the smaller side; Veganomicon compares them to the size of walnuts (which made me realize that I have no idea what an unshelled walnut looks like--so maybe think "eyeball"-sized instead).

Oil up a baking sheet, place the beanballs on it, and roll them around a tiny bit in the oil so they're covered.

Bake for 15 minutes on one side, flip them, bake for another 10 minutes on the other side. If you are cooking them up with tomato sauce, at this point add your tomato sauce and toss them until they're coated. Pop back into the oven for 5 more minutes. If you're not using tomato sauce, I'd just toss them back in as is for about 5 more minutes as is, or until sufficiently browned.

(Recipe posted at Crunch n' Munch, originally from Veganomicon)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re bean balls: I made these today and they came out perfect, using pinto beans (because I did not have kidneys in a can). The secret might be that beans generally come in a 15 ounce can (at least where I live in California). I used one can of beans and the remaining ingredients as outlined. The A1 steak sauce was a little strong for my taste. Next time I will likely reduce it by half. Try again with the bean balls as they are delicious.