Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lemon Coconut Cheesecake

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Coconut Cheesecake

There might be green grass & tulips now, but I made this spring-inspired cheesecake in the dead of winter. I made it on a bitter, cold day when we had run out of oil and were waiting for the tank to be refilled. I really needed an excuse to turn the oven on & wish for warmer days. There's not much of a sunnier combination than lemon and coconut, so that is what I went with. I tweaked the recipe from my soy nog cheesecake to incorporate those flavors. And just for the record, if you have never had the pleasure of living in a house heated by oil consider yourself lucky. Our giant, old house in DC requires thousands of dollars of oil to make it through the winter. And that's not toasty warm, it's just tolerably chilly & with the windows wrapped to keep out the drafts.
Luckily worrying about heat is over, since it finally hit 70 degrees this week. I opened the windows. I broke out my shorts. I wore a skirt without tights. It was magical. I even braved the crowds to see the cherry blossoms in peak bloom for the first time. I snuck onto an empty lot a few blocks away and picked a ridiculous amount of daffodils to fill a few milk bottles. I am starting to see lilies in bouquets at the grocery store, so I know May is rapidly approaching. My favorite flowers are the lilies that bloomed in my mother's garden. They always opened up right around my birthday, my favorite time of the year. Not just because it's my birthday, but because May is the most beautiful month of the year. So here's to cheesecakes and flowers and perfect spring afternoons.

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Coconut Cheesecake leaves and flours vegan Lemon Coconut Cheesecake

Lemon Coconut Cheesecake
makes one 10" cheesecake

9 ounces lemon cookies (I used Back to Nature's California Lemon)
4 ounces shredded or flaked coconut
1/2 cup shortening

Crush the cookies & coconut to crumbs in a food processor. While those are being pulsed, melt the shortening. Pour over the cookie crumbs and mix until fully incorporated. If the cookie crumbs still aren't wet enough to hold together when you squeeze it in your hands, then add another tablespoon or two of shortening. Press into the bottom and up the sides of your springform pan.

Cheesecake Filling
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoon EnerG Egg Replacer
28 oz Tofutti cream cheese (3 1/2 tubs)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 cup sugar
scraping of one vanilla bean
zest of one lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm the coconut milk and whisk in the egg replacer. Allow to slightly cool & thicken for several minutes. Meanwhile in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all the remaining ingredients. Add coconut milk and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour into to springform pan, smoothing the top of the cheesecake. Bake for 40 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is only slightly wiggly but appears firm. Allow to cool overnight. I topped it with coconut whip, additional lemon cookies, and tons of toasted coconut flakes.

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Coconut Cheesecake

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cherry Jello

leaves and flours vegan Cherry Jello

Even with the last minute snow, spring is officially here. Yesterday I saw the first daffodils. It's a good sign. It's time to crawl out from under my comforter and stop watching so much television & reading too many novels. It's time to repair my bike & ride around the city. It's time to make some plans for my future & stick with them. It's the time to fight to be the person that you want to, because the long days and cool nights are on your side. It's ok to sleep a little less if you're out enjoying the sunshine and smiling endlessly. Spring is when I finally feel motivated again.
Springs also a good time to look back at the last few months and assess my position. Whatever aspect of your life, it's always a nice time to change directions and work on something new & inspiring. Just because things have been quiet around here, doesn't mean I haven't been working hard on things. I just haven't been digitally documenting them like I use too. I dropped the camera that I borrow to photograph things for this blog while photographing these macarons. Maybe because I was in a hurry to eat my Valentine's sweets but probably because I am the most klutzy (so it's actually a little surprising that I didn't drop it ever before in the last year). One time at work I dropped a five gallon glass jar of coconut oil. Of course it was summer in a bakery, so the coconut oil was molten. I cut three of my fingers and ruined a pair of jeans trying to gather up all the little shards of glass in the slippery mess. The camera was a little less dramatic, but has had more lasting effects on my life.

leaves and flours vegan Cherry Jello

Winter decided to spurn me one last time by leaving me with a super swollen throat & sinusitis. I spent most of yesterday afternoon gargling salt water and craving jello. My jello of choice & what's pictured here was the unflavored Natural Deserts jel pack & tart cherry juice left over from the frozen bins of cherries I order for the bakery. In the last few months, the company seems to have stopped making their jel must to my avail. I have searched high & low and have only found two boxes of flavored powders. I found a substitute for my old standby made by a brand called Simply Delish. Their strawberry was good, and the raspberry was even better. The texture is ever so slightly tougher than Natural Desserts jellos were, but my main problem is that Simply Delish doesn't seem to offer an unflavored powder so I can control the flavors like I would prefer. I know that I can use agar powder to make what whatever flavored jello I want, but the packets are so nostalgic. And if spring makes me anything, it's wistful.

leaves and flours vegan Cherry Jello

While I have waxed poetic before about my best friend Jenna and I having same-brain, she also shared some similar feelings regarding the approach of spring & talked about some of the exciting life changes she is going through on her blog Kitty Cat Stevens recently. I hope you will seek her out on the internet and encourage & help support her business if you are a book lover too. There's nothing more wonderful than giving a friend a gift that someone has poured so much of themselves into. One of my favorites gifts in the last few months was the napkins photographed here. They were a beautiful present from my housemate for feeding her cats while she was away for the holidays. I mean of course I would feed two of the best cats in the world no matter what, but the textiles screen printed by Sara Lee Parker were the icing on the cake. So if you're looking for something nice to give to a special person here are two great places to start. Here's to spring, feeling re-energized & ready to start anew.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sweet Maresa's Macarons

leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons

I have heard the cliche phrase "never knew what you were missing" used in all sorts of dramatic & ridiculous ways. But I never really got quite what it meant until I tried my first macaron. I didn't realize that this amazing category of sweet had been missing from my life until I tried one of Sweet Maresa's little beauties. As I have never had an egg white laden macaron, it's hard for me personally to compare Maresa's to the traditional French version. But I hear tell that they are indistinguishable. Either way, these vegan macrons won't leave you wanting for anything. Maresa uses all natural, organic, fair trade, & GMO free ingredients. She also never uses palm oil! If you didn't know, palm oil is one of the leading sources of deforestation.

leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons

While I might not have known what I was missing, once I did, I quickly made up for lost time. I ordered multiple boxes of macarons three times in the span of 5 weeks. So now I have done my homework and can offer all sorts of solid opinions. The staple flavors are rose, vanilla, pistachio, & almond. Without a doubt, almond is my favorite. It's so perfectly almond-y and always beautiful. The pistachio is my second favorite. Maresa recently reformulated the pistachio macaron to also include a pistachio paste buttercream, so I'm sure it's gotten even better since I last tried it. The vanilla is good & I would suggest it for those without an adventurous palette, but I am just not a vanilla-sorta girl. I adore vanilla beans, but mostly as a base for pairing with other flavors. And when there are so many other interesting flavor combinations offered, I just can't not chose them instead. I have an intense hatred towards rose (I know, I know, I'm a freak), but a friend who I ordered that flavor for said they were quite swoon-worthy.
I have also tried several of the baker's choice flavors. The burnt caramel pecan is at the top of my list for those. I am a sucker for pecans, and the burnt caramel filling just puts it over the top. The jasmine macrons were easily the most beautiful macaron I have ever seen. They also tasted great & were perfectly floral without being overpowering. I also tried cocoa vanilla & black hibiscus! There hasn't been a single flavor I wouldn't order again. There's a few more on my bucket list: lavender, chocolate raspberry & creamsicle! Plus Maresa is always dreaming up all sorts of new concoctions based on what ingredients she finds at local markets, so there's always new combinations to lust after.

leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons

If you have ever interacted with Maresa or Lagusta either in person or online, you know without a shadow of doubt that they are the sweetest people in the world. So the next time you need to spoil yourself or buy a gift for someone you love, you should order something from their shop! Support small, woman-run, vegan businesses that work hard to source the best ingredients for the earth & the people on it.
Have you ever tried a macaron from Sweet Maresa? What did you think, and what flavors did you try?! I haven't ever been to the shop in New Paltz, but I am hoping to make a little pilgrimage there someday. It will be a dangerous trip, because I have no restraint around macarons or chocolate. Since I was already paying for shipping with my macarons, I also ordered a few chocolate goods from Lagusta's Luscious! Because it made economical sense, not because I have an insatiable sweet tooth. There were cute vinyl records & beautiful anatomical heart chocolates that made great Valentine's Day gifts. But now I'm already thinking about the amazing cream eggs & chocolate bunnies they just added to the shop! The Bluestocking Bonbon series is incredibly inspirational, so you should check that out too. Sorry if I am getting carried away, but it's hard not to gush when people make things this magical.

leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons leaves and flours vegan Sweet Maresa's Macarons

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Samoa Cheesecake

leaves and flours vegan Samoa Cheesecake

A few months ago I bought a tin of raw coconut sap crystals because I wanted to try them, but I didn't really have any intentions for it. I knew that it boasted all sorts of claims like being high in nutrients and having a low glycemic index making it diabetic friendly. But being someone who doesn't generally avoid cane sugar, it just kept sitting around. Eventually I forgot to buy sugar for long enough to work my way to that unopened tin of coconut sugar in a late night baking spree. I knew that it didn't taste like coconut, but had more of a caramel flavor. But while I was thinking about the combination of coconut and caramel, I knew there was no other flavor duo that would suit me that night. So I settled on a samoa cheesecake. Last year I made these homemade girl scout cookies, and they were easily some of my favorite sweets ever baked. I decided to turn them into a new medium, because all I have been craving this year is cheesecake. And I made it gluten free so that I could share it with a few friends.
While I used coconut sugar, it could easily be substituted for regular cane or brown sugar in these recipes. The brown sugar would help lend the filling a similar caramel note that the coconut sap crystals add. If you want to read a little more about various sugars, I highly suggest Fork & Bean's guide to sweeteners.

leaves and flours vegan Samoa Cheesecake

Samoa Cheesecake
one 9" or several mini cheesecakes, varying based on size of pans used

Coconut Shortbread Crust
8 ounces cookies (I used these gluten free animal crackers which are very reminiscent of shortbread)
4 ounces coconut (flakes or shredded)
10 tbl shortening

Pulse the cookies and coconut to crumbs in a food processor. Melt the shortening. Pour over the cookie and coconut crumbs and mix with hands until fully incorporated. Press firmly into the bottom of your springform pan(s).

Cheesecake Filling
24 oz non-dairy cream cheese, I prefer Tofutti
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tbl vanilla bean paste or scraping from 3 vanilla beans
2 tbl Ener-G beaten into 1/3 cup hot water

Make your cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and Ener-G together until smooth. Pour into crust filled pan. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until the cheesecake appears set. Allow to cool for at least 4-6 hours before attempting to slice the cake. I find that overnight is best.

Coconut Caramel
1 can full fat canned coconut milk
1 1/3 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoon brown rice syrup
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch sea salt
4 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

In a small sauce pan combine coconut milk, sugar, brown rice syrup, cream of tartar, sea salt, and Earth Balance. Allow to come to a low boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the mixture has thickened into a syrup and smells like caramel. It will also darken in color. Once removed from heat stir in vanilla extract and allow to cool.
While the caramel is cooking, spread your coconut on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. After 4 minutes stir the coconut to ensure that the coconut isn't browning unevenly. Remove when at least half of the coconut is lightly browned and continue to stir on the pan while it is cooling, as the coconut will continue to toast while the pan is hot. These steps can be done while the cheesecake is baking to limit your time in the kitchen.

1/3 cup dark chocolate
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon agave nectar

In a double broiler heat all ingredients whisking frequently until the chocolate has totally melted and the ganache is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes before assembling the cheesecake.

For the mini cheesecakes, I held the cheesecake upside down and spooned ganache over the bottoms. I was afraid of dipping them like I would samoa cookies because my gluten free crust was a little fragile. If you have a full size cheesecake, I might forego the ganache dip. I toyed around with the idea of scattering mini chocolate chips along the bottom of the crust before adding the cheesecake filling to give it some semblance of a chocolate dipped bottom, but I ended up holding back on my 9" cheesecake and did regret it later.
Pour your caramel over the tops of the cheesecake until it comes to the edges. Top with ample toasted coconut flakes, and ganache stripes to mimic the cookie. Also whatever you do, don't combine your coconut and caramel before topping your cheesecake. I tried it, and it ain't pretty y'all.

leaves and flours vegan Samoa Cheesecake

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

S'mores Cookies

The winter always seems to bring out the worst in me. It inflates all my fears and self doubts. It makes me less motivated, tired, less social. It's too cold to spend time outside and too dark to convince myself otherwise. I have been trying to fight the winter blues for a few weeks now. I'm trying to remind myself to keep my chin up. There's only a few more months until it will be warm again, and the days are already starting to get longer. I've been trying to convince myself that it's ok to stay in my bed on my days off and write letters and drink endless cups of tea. But it's hard to not get weighed down by a lack of "productivity" this time of year. This is a cookie that came about because I have drank too much hot chocolate and wanted to use the rest of my mini marshmallows in something new. These cookies came about because our house was too cold and I needed an excuse to keep the oven on for an hour or two. So I could stand in front of it and place my hands on the sides to finally warm them up without taking another bath. The overflowing plate of cookies was a good excuse to pile under blankets and watch a movie marathon. The empty plate was a good reason to go to sleep, comfy and happy. Sometimes winter isn't too terrible.

leaves and flours vegan S'mores Cookies

Vegan S'mores Cookies

1 tbl Ener-G powder
3 tbl water
1 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbl vegan "honey" syrup or brown rice syrup
1 1/4 cup graham flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350. Combine Ener-G and water and allow to thicken. Cream Earth Balance and sugars. Add egg replacer, syrup & vanilla. Slowly mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips & mini marshmallows. Scoop cookies, slightly flatten tops, and chill dough for at least two hours to keep from spreading. Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges of the cookies are slightly browned. Some of the marshmallows not fully inside the cookie dough might expand and get bubbly. They look a little silly, but still taste great.

leaves and flours vegan S'mores Cookies

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It is as Easy as Vegan Pie

In the never ending slew of arbitrary holidays, like national donut day, squirrel appreciation day, and bring your daughter to work day, I finally remember that's it's national pie day! Normally I would celebrate pie day in March, but hey, this arbitrary holiday finally works in my favor. I was offered a review copy of Hannah Kaminsky's newest cookbook Easy As Vegan Pie back in October. The holidays came and I got all sorts of bogged down, and three months later I am finally done baking three of the pies so I can give you a complete opinion!
leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan

I made the speculoos pumpkin pie first thing. It was October, and I was set on trying a new kind of pumpkin pie. The speculoos filling sounded like it would make the typical pumpkin pie heavy and maybe a teeny bit too rich, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much lighter it was than I expected. It was creamy and gently spiced. A delightful new twist on an old favorite. I over-baked mine a teeny bit so the top cracked, but it was nothing some coconut whip and coconut whip beating with additional speculoos spread couldn't fix. If I hadn't been so set on trying Hannah's perfect pie crust recipe, I would have probably tried it with a speculoos cookie crust too.

leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan

The cannoli pie was next on my to-bake list. Made from a rich cashew mascaparone and an ice cream cone crust, you can't go wrong. It was rich and satisfying. The cannoli pie recipe was unlike anything I have ever made before, which is something I have come to expect from Hannah's books. She has a knack for twisting classics into something new & refreshing.
I made the Greek silk pie just after New Years. Made with containers of Greek style coconut or almond yogurt, it was a much healthier twist on silk pie. While much more resolution friendly than you average pie, I felt the need to top it with more whip and an extra dusting of cocoa powder to fully indulge my sweet tooth.

leaves and flours vegan
There are so many more recipes I plan on working my way through. Hello snickerdoodle pie, we'll be officially meeting before the end of winter. Her lemon chia seed meringue is first on my list for the spring, and the Southern girl in me was thrilled about the chess pie! Aside from the phenomenal recipes, there's beautiful photographs to accompany each pie and all sorts of phenomenal sides & toppings to further enhance your baking like coconut bacon, vegan honey syrup, & speculoos cookies.
For the gluten free folks Hannah has provided a great tart shell recipe, and for those inclined towards the savory side there's all sorts of quiche, tarts, & even a wasabi pea pie! If you haven't added Easy As Vegan Pie to your bookshelf yet, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


leaves and flours vegan challah

I am normally the sort of person who gets things done quickly and efficiently. But lately all the things that need to do are purely self motivated and without deadline. So I have been putting them off for longer & longer. I have still been baking. I have about seven things baked and photographed, but I haven't made a single peep on this little space in two weeks for no real reason other than I haven't sat down & told myself that it was time to make it happen.
I got a pretty gross flu type thing, and for the last week while I laid in bed for hours on end, I kept thinking that I would magically write a new blog post. But that never happened. Instead I read six young adult books. Because teen fiction is really my main drive at this point in the winter. It keeps me from growing stir crazy at work on my lunch breaks or rolling out endless cinnamon buns, and it keeps me pedaling the stationary bike at the gym. It has also been winding it's way into my dreams. I keep waiting to find out that I am truly a witch or that I can overcome the government in a post-apocalyptic society. I re-read one of my favorite books, the Golden Compass. I read all three books of the Infernal Devices (which is infinitely better than the Mortal Instruments). I read Divergent & Insurgent, and am currently the 89th hold on the last book in the trilogy. I just checked out three more random young adult books today, A Great & Terrible Beauty, Legend, and Daughter of Smoke & Bone. So forgive me if things are a little quiet around here. I just keep hoping to grow into my magical powers that will help me break this spell of winter.

leaves and flours vegan challah

I can't remember when I made this challah. I had promised Greg numerous times that I would make it, and I finally kept my promises. It's Isa's recipe from the PPK. The bread was wonderfully soft and fluffy and a beautiful shade of yellow. I felt like the banana flavor was a little too strong for me, so next time I might try to use either pumpkin puree or applesauce or some other sort of mixture to replace it. I forgot how much I love braiding bread. It's been so long since I was on a bread kick. There was a time where I was making the the yeast braid from Seitan is my Motor once a month or more.
Also in the last week I have learned that it is very difficult, but not impossible, to cook & eat dinner with a book in your hand. If you are right handed you probably want to save that hand for the stirring and what not, but you can set the book down on the edges of the stove that aren't hot and turn the pages with your right hand when needed. Also, it's best if it's a book that you bought so you don't smear pasta sauce or soup all over the pages before you return it to the library & sadden an actual teen. They have volatile emotions, so it could cause an uproar. And they might be a witch or a fairy or demon hunter, so it could turn out badly for you. Consider yourself forewarned.