Winter brunch with freshly baked bread

Winter brunch with freshly baked bread

It’s that freezing time of the year where I dread going to the grocery store (I don’t drive). In addition to my usual planning and stocking up the freezer, I borrowed my friend’s bread machine. The bread machine came with a recipe booklet, but most of the recipes included eggs and dairy. Since baking is more exact than cooking, I looked up a vegan whole wheat bread recipe instead of improvising. I then bought a giant bag of whole wheat flour, before realizing I had to go back to the store to buy bread machine yeast. At least these two ingredients will last me for several loaves. Luckily the seeds and vital wheat gluten were listed as optional as I had just used the last of them earlier.

Before getting started, I figured I should wipe the machine down. Turns out it needed much more than a quick clean. Below the bread pan was a horrifying mess. I thoroughly cleaned the machine, and then turned it on bake mode for 20 minutes just to be safe. Finally, I was ready to get baking.

The first ingredient was warm water, so I got started while the machine was still warm. Even though the order goes from liquid to dry ingredients, I should’ve measured them all out to avoid having to wash and dry my measuring cup and spoons half way through. The last ingredient was the yeast, and I’d forgotten the recipe explicitly stated that it should not come into contact with any of liquids. Oops. I rushed to start the machine in the hopes that it wouldn’t matter if it started kneading the dough right away. After a few minutes, I noticed that I had accidentally put it on bake mode. I tried to switch it to the whole wheat cycle, but this didn’t go smoothly either as now the machine was too hot to start. Several minutes later with the lid open, and the machine was finally cool enough.

In the excitement of watching the machine knead the dough, I forgot all of my worries. Then the window fogged up during rise time. While waiting, I planned my next loaf of bread. Turns out milk powder is only used because many people put their machine on a delay, and without a delay I could easily substitute it with non-dairy milk or even yogurt.

When the bread begun to bake, the room filled with the lovely aroma of the honey lavender included in the mix. I was tempted to devour it right as the machine beeped, but instead I carefully removed the bread pan to cool in the oven. I left the oven door slightly open to avoid a crinkly and soggy crust.

The wait was worth it. As I sliced the loaf, the texture was perfect. I had a plain bite, and the taste was incredible. It was perfect alone, or with a simple spread of margarine or coconut oil. But I was inspired to quickly whip up a healthier cashew spread with just a hint of honey.

While thinking of other toppings like almond butter and bananas, I tried to come up with a savoury option that wouldn’t overpower the delicate flavour of the bread. There was a fresh bunch of carrots in the fridge, and I always had extra chickpea flour around, so I decided to make some chickpea omelettes. I even had some chickpea milk, but any non-dairy milk would do (even water works in a pinch). I usually only make enough batter for two, but this time I made enough omelettes for the entire week. A perfect winter brunch. I usually drink a matcha latte when I wake up, as I don’t like eating breakfast too early. Then by the time I’m done sipping on my tea and planning the day, I’m ready for a meal.

Winter brunch with freshly baked bread

The omelette sandwich tasted great with the cashew spread and topped with alfalfa sprouts. It would also be great topped with fresh cucumber, cherry tomatoes, or peppers. The only thing left to improve is the size of my slice. I’m still getting the hang of it, but while my slices are this thick I’ll just have to stick to open-faced sandwiches.  

Brunch at Cafe Landwer

Brunch at Cafe Landwer

Last weekend, on my way to the park, I noticed a new cafe had opened up on University and Adelaide in Toronto. It looked like a cute brunch spot, and I got even more excited once I saw it was Cafe Landwer.

Brunch at Cafe Landwer

When I visited Israel, I met some of my childhood friends at a cafe by the same name. I remember it clearly, because the food looked great and I regretted only ordering their mint lemonade. I especially remember the name of the cafe because I had trouble pronouncing it, and accidentally referred to it as Cafe Lavender.

After checking online, I confirmed that the new cafe was in fact a new branch by the same company. I wasn’t hungry then, so I made plans to try out their food the next day. When I arrived, the place was filled to capacity and the wait for a table was 20 minutes long. Even though that is a pretty decent wait time for great food, it was unbearably hot by the door and I was starved. I debated leaving, but was too eager to try their vegan breakfast option. I decided to endure the heat.

While standing by the hostess, I overheard two separate parties boldly request to be seated before others on the list. I say boldly, and not rudely, because of the charming way they asked. The same way you’d expect people to ask at any other Israeli restaurant, with the notion that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. A more extreme version of “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no”. The hostess politely laughed, and continued to seat people according to the list.

Between these interactions, people watching, and scoping out the food, the time went by quickly. Once over, my wait was rewarded with booth style seating and a great view of the bar. Since I already knew what I was getting, I only glanced at the menu to make sure it was the same as the one online. Water arrived swiftly after, and I was delighted that it came before placing my order. As one of the few water lovers out there, I always appreciate when waiters bring water in addition to drinks and keep my glass full (especially if the food is spicy).

Brunch at Cafe Landwer

The vegan breakfast took up the whole table, as the omelette was served on a plate and the sides were brought on a wooden tray. I believe this is the first plant-based omelette I’ve ever had at a restaurant, and it tasted a million times better than my own homemade attempts. The herbs and grated carrots elevated the omelette’s flavour, resulting in pure perfection even without the accompanying dips and spreads.

While the sun dried tomato spread paired beautifully with the omelette, my favourite was Cafe Landwer’s roasted eggplant and tahini spread. After dipping the freshly baked bread in the tahini and salsa, I couldn’t imagine a better combination until I tasted the eggplant spread. I’ve encountered millions of eggplant dishes over the years, and they all pale in comparison to this small masterpiece. I’d love to know their secret, or at least be able to buy a tub of it weekly.

The vegan breakfast also included carrot spread, halva spread, jam, coconut yogurt & berries, and a guacamole which would be the highlight of any other brunch. I savoured every bite, and started plotting my return for their legendary coffee and a plate of halva Rosalach.