Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan Home Brew: Part 1, The Wort

I got my shit together and completed the first step of my first batch of home-brewed beer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several of my dearest friends got together and bought me an avalanche of beer brewing equipment. The only missing ingredient was... ingredients. For that, I went to the closest home brewing supply shop, San Francisco Brew Craft. The place was smaller than I expected, and I instantly found myself in front of the hirsute dude working behind the counter. He greeted me with, "hey, what's up?" and before I finished explaining that I needed ingredients he'd already started filling out a hot pink "Beer Recipe and Brewing Instructions" sheet. I told him I was thinking about a pale ale a little less hoppy than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. He scribbled a couple more things on the sheet and started shoveling ingredients from bulk containers around the shop. This was a pleasant surprise, as I had expected to be handed a dense box of pre-selected ingredients. Instead, I was getting a customized set of ingredients and brewing instructions! I was out of there in under 15 minutes, a mere $42 poorer.

I had prepared for Brew Day by reading SF Brewcraft's brewing instructions and the first chapter of "How To Brew," which came with my brewing supplies. I also watched Homebrew Heaven's awesome "Getting Started Homebrewing" DVD, wherein Chris and Don demonstrate the rudiments of brewing and bottling your own beer. (I watched this video repeatedly, mostly for my fascination of the cheap porn production quality.) Finally, I talked to my good friend and brewing veteran Dave for reinforcement.

Despite all this preparation, the whole process seemed to take all day. It took forever to heat the wort, and then to bring it to a boil after adding the malt extract. Then it took forever to cool it down to "pitching" temperature, which was a little higher than ideal due to my impatience. Consequently, I rehydrated my yeast about an hour too soon, but assured myself that yeast is a hearty little organism and wouldn't mind waiting for all the delicious sugar I was about to feed it. When I pounded the lid on the fermenter and stuck the airlock into its hole I really had no idea if I had succeeded. I had to wait for a couple days to know for sure.

And man, did I succeed! The airlock was bubbling along happily in the second and third days (see the video!), and calmed down toward the end of the week. The beginning of the week enjoyed ridiculously hot weather (high 70s!), so the beer didn't hit ideal fermenting temperatures for a couple days. I left it near an open window with a temperature-activated fan to keep things between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm pretty confident that this is going to turn out well.

Next episode: Secondary Fermentation.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Made Chocolate Chip Cookies

There was no soy milk, so I ate them with beer.
I finally made something with my own two hands for VeganMoFo 2011.  I decided to cease posting boring, every-day fast food simply for the sake of posting something.  The rest of my October posts will discuss stuff that I made myself.  (Exceptional exceptions excepted.) Consequently, this is my last October post.  JUST KIDDING.  Probably.

So, back to cookies. I used to make chocolate chip cookies all the time throughout my adolescence. While my peers were playing sports and making out, I was getting high and chubby on cookies. My parents got a microwave/convection oven back in the late 80s and we all thought that it was the shit.  It came with a cookbook that showcased some of the amazing things you could do with this cutting-edge technology.  One of the recipes therein was an ordinary chocolate chip cookie recipe that exploited none of this technology.  It was a straight-up, dependable recipe that I used to pump out hundreds of perfect chocolate chip cookies.  (By "pump out," I mean, "pump through my digestive system.")  Then, one day, I grew up and became vegan.

Since being vegan, I've made chocolate chip cookies about three times.   The first time, I adapted that wonderful recipe from my youth.  The results were disappointing.  I tried a couple vegan-ready recipes after that.  Shrugworthy.  Finally, I tried the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking.  Oh, em, gee.  They turned out so well.  They were lightly crunchy on their perimeters, chewy at their epicenters.  I shaved a minute off the bake time with each of the three batches and the last one was the best.

I was curious about the Internet's opinion of this recipe, so I did an image search.  It's certainly popular.  But I'm surprised by their wild variation.  Mine definitely turned out darker than others'.  Maybe that's because I used golden brown sugar instead of light brown. Well, I don't care;  I'm just glad that I can resume pumping chocolate cookies through my digestive system.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Herbivore's Grilled Soy Chicken Sandwich on Focaccia

Did you know that Ansel Adams was a failed
food photographer?
Yes, another fricking sandwich. Hey, it's what I ate.  I'm just being honest.

The thing about living a couple blocks away from Herbivore for most my vegetarian life is that I have eaten almost everything on their menu.  That's bad because the menu no longer holds delightful surprises.  It's good because I have confidently isolated three menu items that rarely disappoint me: the Southwestern Scrambled Tofu, the Sandwich Featured In The Title Of This Blog Post, and a Third Item To Be Disclosed In A Future Blog Post.  This sandwich makes the list simply because the soy chicken is tangy.  It's coated in a delicious garlic-lemon sauce, and it's perfect.  It even comes with Herbivore's signature Absurdly Copious Side Salad!