Thursday, May 18, 2006
DO YOU USE YOUR SLOW-COOKER MUCH?
I don't use mine nearly as often as I should. We often think of it as an appliance for winter meals-- stews, soups, beanpots, etc.. But it's great in the summer, too, because it doesn't give out much heat. I've baked pudding cakes in my slow-cooker, and they came out beautifully.
Peanutty Hot Fudge Pudding Cake baking in my slow-cooker
I got a brand-new automatic Rival 5 qt. Crockpot (oval) last year. It's great except for the fact that it cooks at too high a temperature. Now they tell me that, oops, yes, this was a flaw, but it's been fixed on the newer ones! What I do is just cook foods that are supposed to be cooked on "High" on the "Low" setting, and foods that are supposed to be cooked on "Low" on the "Keep Warm" setting. Whatever works! I cook the food on High for a little while at first, and then turn it down. (Here's a newer version.)
Seitan Pot Roast before and after slow-cooking
I've used my crockpot for all the usual suspects, but also for cooking seitan pot roasts and cutlets, and my special vegan "neatballs", which I developed to soak up juices from the sauce they are cooked in, so that they "plump up", but don't fall apart. (These recipes were all in my now-defunct newsletter, The Vegan Feast.)
You can see from these pictures how the "neatballs" swell up in the sauce.
As for beans, it has been my experience, and many slow-cooker experts agree with me, that beans often don't cook properly in a slow cooker. The cooking time depends on the type of slow-cooker, the variety of bean, the age and quality of the bean, the altitude, and whether you use hard or soft water. Consequently, many people used canned beans in slow-cooker bean recipes (you could freeze your own cooked beans). That said, to cook in a slow-cooker, they need to be soaked in lots of water overnight and drained, and then brought to a boil with plenty of fresh water and simmered rapidly for 10-15 minutes (and drained again) before placing in the slow-cooker with your other ingredients. Then they need to be cooked for 8-12 hours on Low, or for 5-6 hours on High. I use about 6 cups of liquid for 1 1/2 lbs. beans (which have bean soaked), though many books say 6 cups for 1 lb. I found that that left too much liquid.
" Drunken Beans" from the current issue of the Vegan Feast.
Also, I have not found it to be true that you should not add salty, sweet, or acidic foods to the beans before they are completely cooked. I do that all the time! It might take a little longer, but the only reason I have found for beans absolutely not cooking is that they are very old.
Now here's a recipe and some info from about a year and a half ago in The Vegan Feast newsletter:
SLOW-COOKER PUDDING CAKES:
Some of you may already be aware of this, but you can make yummy vegan pudding cakes in your slow-cooker or Crockpot® (you know, the kind of cake that ends up with a sauce at the bottom of the pan). It cooks in 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours, and doesn’t heat the kitchen up (not a problem now, but come summer…). I baked mine in an glass casserole 7 1/2” across the top, 2 1/2” deep, and 6 1/2” across the bottom, which I placed in my 5-6 qt. oval cooker, but I understand that you can actually bake it right in the ceramic insert of a 3 1/2-4 qt. cooker. Either way, you can use your favourite pudding cake recipe that calls for about 1 c. flour in the batter.
THE BASIC SLOW-COOKER BAKING METHOD: Proceed with your recipe as normal, in a pan as mentioned in the paragraph above, or in the insert (well-greased) of your 3 1/2 -4 qt. cooker. Cover the cooker and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Let stand, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes.
Here is an example for you to try:
BRYANNA'S PEANUTTY HOT FUDGE PUDDING CAKE
(Adapted from a recipe in my first book, "The Almost No Fat Cookbook”) 1.) Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2.) In a small bowl, mix together:
1 c. white or whole wheat pastry flour (or a mixture)
1/4 c. brown sugar or organic unbleached sugar
1/4 c. oat flour or oat bran
1/4 c. unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3.) Stir in, but do not over-mix:
3/4 c. nondairy milk
2 tsp. vanilla OR 1/2 tsp. almond extract
OPT: 2 T. coffee or chocolate liqueur
4.) With wet fingers, spread the batter into a lightly greased or non-stick 8x8 inch pan.
5.) Mix together in a small bowl:
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa
6.) Sprinkle the sugar/cocoa mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.
7.) And then pour gently over the top, but don’t in any way stir in (yes—it goes into the oven with soupy stuff all over the top!):
2 c. boiling water MIXED TIL SMOOTH WITH:
1/2 c. chunky natural peanut butter
Bake this for 35 minutes. (You might want to put a pizza pan or cookie sheet on the rack below the cake, just under it, to catch drips, if any.) OR use the Basic Slow-Cooker baking Method above. When it comes out of the oven (or slow-cooker), the cake will be on top with a sauce underneath. Serve plain or with vanilla nondairy frozen dessert.
I'd love to hear about your vegan slow-cooker adventures!