little paths so startled

living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

Archive for January 2012

homemade king cake

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King cake is my favorite desert, and I can’t believe I made it halfway through Carnival season this year without one.  I also can’t believe that I’ve never actually made a king cake before – I suppose I’ve been too busy eating everyone else’s fabulous cakes, and I’ve felt vaguely intimidated by the process of making the brioche.  But, I’m happy to say, I have found a wonderful, authentic New Orleans-style recipe that is manageable AND delicious.  It’s everything a king cake should be: moist, just sweet enough, and with a hint of orange.

This is important to me, of course, because now that Daniel and I are eating vegan, most king cakes are not for us.  This cake is indeed vegan, and as such, it’s lower in fat and doesn’t have cholesterol.  But you have my word and Daniel’s that you’d never know it.  (Don’t believe me?  I’ll bring you some.)  As a novice brioche maker, I followed the recipe closely, with just a few substitutions: I used only all-purpose flour, because I didn’t have any whole wheat pastry flour on hand, and I blended about 4 oz. of silken tofu to use in place of 1/2 cup soy yogurt, because I certainly didn’t have the latter on hand.*

The freshly-kneaded dough, before rising. I don't know how important this is, but I did rub the bowl with a bit of oil since most king cake recipes include that direction.

After I punched down the risen dough, Daniel rolled it out for me. (Yes, we use wine bottles as rolling pins.)

I spread a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon over the rolled out dough.

Then I carefully rolled up the dough.

I made the traditional loop, pinched the ends, and transferred the cake onto the parchment paper-topped baking sheet. It is, apparently, important to pinch the seams of the cake on the bottom and sides, too, because mine did leak a bit at the bottom.

My cake was browned and ready to go after 35 minutes. I let it cool for a few minutes while I made the frosting (from powdered sugar and almond milk), then I moved the cake to a plate and drizzled on the frosting.

Et voilà! Like the recipe author, I can't seem to find purple sprinkles, so I made mine by mixing a couple drops of purple food coloring into a bit of granulated sugar. The green and sparkly gold sprinkles were store bought. And probably not entirely vegan.

The texture of this cake is simply perfect.

The tiny pieces seem so innocuous - until you realize you've eaten quite a few of them. Fat Tuesday, indeed.

*Daniel and I are trying to reduce our gluten consumption, but I didn’t make this cake gluten free.  I bet it would still be great, though, with gluten-free all-purpose flour.


Written by Ann

January 29, 2012 at 1:22 am

small victories: a kitchen cabinet

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I needed a small victory this week, and getting this kitchen cabinet under control was just the thing.  I have the luxury of plentiful kitchen cabinet space, so it’s theoretically not hard to keep my shelves looking decent.  But entropy is a powerful force in our condo, and since we’ve switched from buying canned beans to buying dried beans in bulk, the little bags of beans have gotten a little crazy.  In fact, during the process of organizing the shelf, I discovered some red lentils I didn’t know we had.


The main change here is a collection of stackable glass containers to wrangle the bean collection, and the rest sort of fell into place.  Small changes, big satisfaction.  (And those lentils were delicious!)  Next up: the spice and flour cabinet.


Written by Ann

January 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm

homemade hummus

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Daniel and his family were on the hummus train way before hummus got cool, and they introduced me to homemade hummus.  I like to think of homemade hummus as its own genre; we don’t claim to replicate authentic Mediterranean hummus, but we do enjoy making infinite varieties of this wonderful dish.  No two batches are the same, and there are so many variables and variations that lend themselves to experimenting.  It’s hard to go wrong if you’re careful and taste as you go (and I would know, having made a few disaster batches).

We don’t really believe in quantifying hummus ingredient proportions, but several years ago, Daniel and I set out to quantify the ingredients in what turned out to be a rather delightful batch, so we could share the recipe with friends.  (We call that particular recipe cheater hummus because we used canned beans, lime juice concentrate, and garlic powder instead of soaked beans, juiced limes, and minced garlic.  But if you’re in a hurry, it’s still good.)  I should note that we are incapable of making a small batch of hummus, so our recipe yields enough to feed an army, or two people for a very long time.  If you’re looking for baseline proportions, though, this should be helpful.  And it is a reproducible experiment: several different friends have made their own wonderful hummus from the recipe (below).

People of the world, soak your beans! It's cheaper, you don't have to worry about sodium, and it's more environmentally friendly. And the taste is unmatched by canned beans.

Soaked beans make a world of a difference, especially when they're soaked (about 24 hours) and gently cooked (overnight in a crockpot on low, in new water) with a bit of onion and a bay leaf.

(Cheater) Hummus

1 (16 oz.) jar sesame tahini

2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans

2 (15 oz.) cans great white northern beans

7 oz. lime or lemon concentrate

5 oz. first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

2 ¼ tsp. salt

2 ¼ tsp. ground cumin

2 ¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 ¼ tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. red pepper

Dash of paprika to garnish

Drain cans of garbanzo and great white northern beans (about half of each can is juice). Combine drained beans, lemon or lime concentrate, olive oil, salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper in a medium or large mixing bowl.  Blend with hand blender until smooth and all spices mixed.  Serve with a dash of paprika and olive oil on top to garnish.  For more developed flavors, leave in refrigerator for several hours.

Yield: about 9 cups

Pita is the obvious choice for dipping, but I'm partial to carrots, sugar snap peas, and celery. Or, as in the case of today's lunch, corn chips.


1. We minced about five cloves of garlic in today’s batch.  We did add a bit of onion powder, but since the beans were already lightly cooked with onion, we didn’t need much.

2. We juiced two limes for today’s batch.  It might need a little more, but that’s what we had on hand.  We can always add that later, especially when the flavors have married/matured.

3.  Hummus is always better when the flavors have had a chance to marry and develop.  I still enjoy the just-made hummus; it just doesn’t have as much depth.

4.  Our recipe uses paprika for garnish, but we usually mix some in with the other seasonings, too.  Why not, right?

Written by Ann

January 14, 2012 at 11:43 am

garden variety

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Daniel and I have a history of buying plants in early January, when the absence of Christmas greenery reveals to us that we need more green in our space.  Three years ago, we bought a lovely cane plant, which now resides in the bathroom, to fill the space vacated by the Christmas tree.  And every new year, it seems, our pothos collection grows.  So, after a month of enjoying our holiday greenery, I decided to focus this year’s green makeover on the pony wall garden.

That particular collection of plants – mostly pothos – hasn’t changed much since we moved in, except for the addition of a taller pothos plant and a failed attempt at orchids (seen here).  I knew I wanted more height and more variety, and I knew I could rely on Daniel to find an unexpected and delightful solution.  Our pothos plants have been thriving, sending vines across the wall, down to the floor, and beyond, so Daniel suggested finding an object we could use to train the vines upward.  Off we went to the Calico Mall, where we found the perfect object: a globe on a stand.

Using small green ties, Daniel gently wrapped and attached the pothos vines to the globe stand.

Et voilà.

Once we had that clear focal point, the rest fell into place.  I got a few more non-pothos plants to add height and depth, and we added them to the collection, using pothos vines to unify the arrangement.  I couldn’t be happier with our new and improved indoor garden.

Our found driftwood takes a more prominent place in the new arrangement.

This is the view from the living room and Daniel's desk.

And the view from the bedroom.

It wouldn't be a McNair creation if it weren't a little strange, after all.

Written by Ann

January 6, 2012 at 11:35 am