Chef Skye’s Browning Liquid

For purists who prefer to make their own recipe components, I’ve developed what is to my knowledge the first and only browning liquid made with organic sugar. Browning liquid is useful for adding a rich brown color to gravies, soups, stews, seitan and TVP. This browning liquid has no added caramel color, nor does it have the sweet undertaste of commercial browning liquids.

For soups, gravies and stews use 1 teaspoon per 2 cups liquid. For seitan and TVP, use the amount specified in the recipe. This recipe yields about ⅓ cup browning liquid.

Warning: This recipe produces copious amounts of smoke. Do not attempt unless you have an overhead exhaust fan for your stove that vents outside!

Ingredients:
• ¼ cup very hot water
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T dark balsamic vinegar
• ½ cup organic sugar

Technique:
In a small measuring cup, mix the very hot water, tamari and vinegar; set aside.

In a small saucepan, place the dry sugar over medium-low heat. The goal is to melt the dry sugar and bring it to a darkly caramelized stage (essentially burnt). Swirl or gently shake the saucepan back and forth occasionally as the sugar begins to melt but do not stir. Melting will take several minutes. Be sure to run an overhead stove exhaust fan as the sugar will produce smoke as it begins to burn. As the sugar continues to melt and darken, it will begin to rise in the saucepan. At this point, begin stirring gently with a wire whisk. When the sugar reaches a very dark brown color, reduce the heat to low.

Now, while whisking vigorously, add the broth mixture a little at a time to the melted sugar. The mixture will foam and sizzle, so don’t be alarmed. Very hot steam will also be released, so try to keep your hands back as you stir with the whisk to avoid steam burns. Continue to stir until the mixture is smooth and then remove the saucepan from the heat to cool. Once cooled, the browning liquid will have a syrupy consistency.

The concentrated liquid will have a rather bitter, burnt flavor; however, when used in small amounts as recommended, it will add a beautiful brown color and enhance the flavor of your favorite recipes. Store the mixture in an airtight jar in your pantry; refrigeration is not necessary. Replace the mixture after 4 months.

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Old-Fashioned Brown Sugar (Organic)

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Homemade organic dark brown and light brown sugar are both very easy to make and they have a warmer color and much richer flavor compared to their commercially processed counterparts.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup organic cane sugar
• ¼ cup organic unsulfured molasses (for dark brown sugar)
or 1 T organic unsulfured molasses (for light brown sugar)

Technique:
Place the organic sugar in a food processor with a standard chopping blade. Begin processing and drizzle the molasses into the food processor through the food chute. Continue processing until evenly combined. Store the brown sugar in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Tofu Scramble Seasoning Blend

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When preparing tofu scrambles, achieving the ideal balance of color and flavor can often be tricky. This blend will alleviate the guesswork for you; and if you prepare tofu scrambles frequently, then this seasoning blend will be a timesaver in your morning breakfast routine. This recipe yields ¾ cup of seasoning powder which will season about 16 blocks of tofu.

For each 14 oz. block of water-packed tofu, use 2 and ¼ teaspoons seasoning; or use the recipe for the basic tofu scramble (recipe follows).

Ingredients:
• 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes or ½ cup nutritional yeast powder
• 2 T onion powder
• 2 T kala namak (Himalayan black salt)
• 2 tsp paprika
• 2 tsp turmeric

Technique:
Place the ingredients in a DRY food processor or blender and process until a fine powder is achieved. Store the seasoning blend in an airtight container in your pantry until ready to use. Use the powder within 6 months.

For the basic scramble, you will need:
• 1 block (14 oz.) soft to firm water-packed tofu*
(silken tofu is not recommended for this recipe)
• 2 and ¼ tsp Tofu Scramble Seasoning Blend (see preceding recipe)
• 2 T Better Butter (from my cookbooks) or commercial vegan margarine
• coarse ground black pepper to taste

* I personally recommend soft to medium water-packed tofu for the best scramble texture.

Drain and press the tofu until it is not releasing any more liquid.

Crumble the tofu into a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the seasoning and toss thoroughly to blend. Avoid mashing the tofu.

Melt the butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Do not let the butter brown. Add the seasoned tofu and “scramble” (push and fold the mixture with a spatula) until the tofu is heated through and resembles scrambled eggs. Season the scramble with pepper to taste (and add additional salt as desired). Serve immediately.

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Bacun Bits

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This recipe yields 1 cup of deliciously sweet, salty and smoky vegan bacon bits, which are ideal for topping salads or eggless egg recipes, such as omelettes, scrambles or vegan deviled “eggs”. However, these crispy bits are not recommended for prolonged cooking in moist dishes such as casseroles or quiches, as the coconut will rehydrate and produce an undesirable texture.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes (I recommend Bob’s Red Mill™ brand)
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Seasoning ingredients:
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T dark brown sugar or real maple syrup
• 2 tsp liquid smoke
• 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (preferably from my recipe which can be found in The Gentle Chef Cookbook)

Technique:
In a bowl, whisk together the seasoning ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Add the coconut flakes and toss well to evenly distribute the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of several hours, and better overnight, to rehydrate the coconut flakes and absorb the flavors.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and distribute the seasoned coconut flakes on the parchment paper in a single layer. For a peppery bacun flavor, season with fine ground black pepper. Place the baking sheet in the oven on a middle rack and set a timer for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir the flakes, again redistributing them in a single layer. This process will need to be repeated every 5 minutes for a total of about 15 minutes for slightly chewy bacun bits, or 20 minutes for crispy bacun bits.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Store in a zip-lock bag or a suitable covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use

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