Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

leaves and flours vegan meringue

Though I have been no where near as diligent at keeping up with blogging in the last few months, if you have been around for a while you probably know that I am obsessed with all things involving meringue. From trying to make french macarons and "the world's best cake" to the lemon meringue pie I posted last. When I was making the topping for the pie, I knew I had to make an extra bit of fluff to bake off a few dozen meringues. The crisp exterior and marshmallowy interior is perfect. I made half vanilla and half one of my favorite flavors, hibiscus. Flavored & tinted naturally with hibiscus powder.

leaves and flours vegan meringue

The concept of horchata cookies had been mulling around inside my head for a while. While I made eggnog snickerdoodles a few months ago and knew I could easily make a horchata flavored cookie in a similar way, I felt compelled to add rice to the cookie. I added a fair portion of super soft, steamed rice to the mixer after everything was blended and while the dough taste amazing the cookies just got a funny, plastic-like texture as they cooled. Several friends offered up suggestions such as making a rice meal to add or pureeing the steamed rice before mixing it into the dough. I haven't revisited the concept yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

leaves and flours vegan horchata cookies

I was craving something with a crumb topping when I stumbled on Top with Cinnamon's chocolate vanilla crumb cake. I veganized the recipe, which was simple as could be. It was great with coffee. Rich but not too sweet and cut easily into beautiful, big slices. The cake was a little too dense for me, so I might play with the recipe again a little more in the future trying to get a slightly lighter texture and maybe a little more vanilla flavor in the base of the cake batter.

leaves and flours vegan crumb cake

Busy, busy, busy. Trying to stay focused and calm. Working as hard as I can to make all my dreams come true and keeping my chin up until the winter is over. The days are already getting so much longer. I'm much happier in the sunlight.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lemon Meringue Pie

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Meringue Pie

Today we were forecast to have a blizzard. Last night I stayed up far too late, excited to see the snow start to accumulate but it just kept flurrying on at the same steady speed it had for the last 24 hours. I woke up repeatedly throughout the night, peeking around the blinds hoping for a winter wonderland. To no avail. While we got a few inches, it was nothing near what I anticipated and was quite disappointing. Last winter I was a snow naysayer. There was too much, too frequently and it often also involved a lot of ice and early morning drives to work that didn't mix well for me personally. However this year I can take public transit and leave my car buried, and I have a whole new outlook on snow. I am still hopeful and will patiently wait for the rest of winter my first real blizzard.

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Meringue Pie

In all the bright white and coldness of winter, I am ecstatic about citrus. We never fly through boxes of clementines and lemons and limes faster than in the depths of January and February. I was craving lemon meringue pie and knew it was time to give it another shot. Last time I used the meringue recipe from Hannah Kaminsky's Easy As Vegan Pie. While it was totally delicious and an amazing option, the texture of the meringue was a lot thicker & denser than the meringue on Veggie Galaxy's pie. I had heard a rumor that they used soy protein to make their meringue, and I gave it a go. While I'm not divulging my recipe, it was very similar to their lighter, more marshmallowy texture. Since I had lent out my kitchen torch, I broiled it in the oven and left it in for a split second too long. I decided that I didn't like the heavily broiled look on the lemon meringue pie, so I removed the top inch of meringue and broiled again with a close watch. As that was cooling, I ate the over broiled meringue from a bowl and it was pure heaven. A chocolate pudding pie in a graham cracker crust with that meringue would be a killer s'mores pie for the summer.
Do yourselves a favor and go buy several lemons. Come home and make a lemon meringue pie. The recipe from Mister Nice Guy is a great option for the pie filling, but I haven't ever used their meringue recipe so I can't vouch for that. Since this pie is so much easier to make than you expect, you should probably spend some time making dozens of tiny hearts or leaves or snowflakes for the edges of your crust. Because you're waiting for a snowstorm, and who knows when that will come?

leaves and flours vegan Lemon Meringue Pie

Monday, January 19, 2015

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

I'm not a New Year's resolution type of person so I don't really have any promises to myself or hold any particular expectations, but lately I have been trying to make little life changes to just stay as focused & healthy & happy as possible. For example, I've never been a messy person. Ever since I have lived on my own, I have kept things generally tidy. Maybe a tiny mess here and there, dishes left in the sink for one day because I am too sleepy to wash them after dinner, or a pile of jeans & cardigans that I plan on wearing again before washing. But I have even been trying to break those habits. While I make my coffee in the mornings I have been tidying up the kitchen. Putting away all the dry dishes, rinsing out the sink, wiping down the counters. I make the bed before leaving the house & place the pillows and blanket in their proper places on the couch.

leaves and flours vegan Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

I stopped drinking diet soda a week ago. Something that I have long had a problem with and always mean to stop doing. I've also been consistently packing my lunches in the mornings so that I don't eat garbage from a convenience store while I'm at work. I've been taking B12 and making sure our grocery cart has more greens in it than it did before. I'm trying to come up with more interesting dinners so that we aren't tempted to eat out as frequently as we did in DC. Just little things that I am trying to make routine. I remember hearing before that it takes 60 days for something to become a habit, so I'm on my way.
While searching for dinner ideas, these peppermint hot chocolate cookies from Bakers Royale crossed my path. I made a batch & shared it with a few friends because dessert will always be a part of my life no matter how much kale I am eating. I believe that sugar is ok occasionally, and I hope you do too!

leaves and flours vegan Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies
recipe inspired by Bakers Royale, cookie recipe adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips (divided into 2 half cup portions)
1/2 cup Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbl agave
3 candy canes, crushed to pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat mat. Combine milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla and mix until combined. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder and mix until dough forms. Fold in a half cup of the chocolate chips. Using a 2 tbl scoop, portion dough onto tray. Flatten with palm and then make a large indention with thumb. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are firm and allow to cool. Fill wells with Ricemellow creme. In a double broiler combine remaining half cup of chocolate chips, coconut milk, and agave. Heat while whisking until a smooth ganache forms. Allow to cool for several minutes, then pour on tops of cookies with a spoon and smooth on top of the cookie. Sprinkle with candy cane pieces. Allow ganache to solidify before eating unless you want a huge mess!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

These last few months have been interesting for me. My whole life I have been busy. Balancing work and school and friends. Since childhood there hadn't really been a time where I had an extended vacation. Sure I have had a week off here and there, but it's always been filled with travel. My summers in college were filled with extra classes to prepare best for graduate school. I would only take a class or two, but then I would still spend the rest of the day in lab tinkering around with my algae cultures. I graduated college in the summer, and moved from Tennessee to Baltimore the next day. After a few semesters I decided I didn't want to pursue a phD anymore and started work for Roots Market building their bakery. The first few months were long and then the next 2 years were so busy that they slipped by without my barely noticing. So these last few months in Philadelphia, I have only been working part time. I have had more free time in my life that I did since I was a child. While I have a few large projects that I haven't mentioned yet to the general public, I honestly haven't made much progress on them. I have really been reveling in being able to do whatever I want. And while I have felt my share of guilt for not being more proactive or successful just yet, I'm trying to enjoy it.
I got my library card and have ready ten books since we moved. I've visited a few museums and parks. I've binge watched TV and written long letters to all the friends I miss in places all over the country. I've slept in and gone to bed whenever I want. I have been casually tinkering the the kitchen, developing new recipes and making old favorites for no one other than myself. It's the first time in my life that I haven't been so consumed by stress that I feel like I am melting down. It's been so nice.
Today it's twenty degrees, windy, bitter cold and the steps are still icy from the snow we got earlier this week, but my kitchen is warm and sunny. And I listened to The Goodbye Party & Radiator Hospital and danced around the kitchen, singing and baking banana bread and drinking tea. And while I know that this period of time is coming to an end and I'm ready to challenge myself again, I'm really happy that I let myself have this break. And I'm ok with wallowing in my emotions and really letting myself feel for the first time in too long.

leaves and flours vegan Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

This pavlova is one of the recipes I have been tinkering with. The last time I made meringue I used Ener-G egg replaced and while it help up nicely, I don't find it to have the most appealing flavor. This time I used a soy protein powder. The meringue whipped beautifully and tasted much better out of the bowl. I accidentally under-baked these a little which you can't see but can tell while eating because they are a little too chewy and not crisp enough. The whip is the new So Delicious cool whip again, but I have decided that it's not something I will be purchasing any more. It's time to invest in a little nitrous whipped so I can make my own perfect coconut whip cream with more consistent results.
Because of the cold, I wanted to make a heavier pavlova than I did in the summer so chocolate raspberry came to mind. While I tried to make chocolate meringue THREE times, each time the meringue melted in the oven. I have a feeling that the fat in the cocoa powder and the soy protein must be chemically incompatible, so I gave up and went for a ganache on top. Classic, simple, delicious. I also made a chocolate whipped cream and while it covered up some of the flavors of the cool whip that I didn't enjoy, I don't think that it looks very nice. The ganache is the more attractive way to go while chocolate meringue is eluding me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Cookies

leaves and flours vegan eggnog snickerdoodles

Tonight and tomorrow are some of the busiest cookie-making days of the year. There's not too many days besides Christmas Eve that absolutely require a plate of cookies. Since I'm not working in a bakery mass-producing thousands of cookies this year, I decided to switch up the standard mix of gingerbread, snickerdoodles, spritz, and sugar cookies to include my favorite winter flavor: soy nog! I made these eggnog snickerdoodles from Amy's Healthy Baking using Silk Nog and adding some extra spices to both the batter and the spiced sugar because that's how I roll (insert bad joke drum roll here). I have a half a carton of soy nog left, and I'm hoping to make another soy nog cheesecake before I slowly sip away at it in the middle of the night.

leaves and flours vegan gingerbread cookies

I also decided that I couldn't forego classical cookies all the way, especially when making a new recipe (I mean you gotta have a fail-safe) so I made gingerbread mittens with my top secret recipe. My lips are sealed on this one and I don't think I will ever share it, but the recipe from the PPK is a very solid option if you don't have a top secret recipe of your own yet. Decorating gingerbread cookies is easily the best part of the holidays, so make sure to gather all your nearest & dearest to frost, sprinkle & snack. Happy holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

S'mores Puppy Chow

leaves and flours vegan S'mores Puppy Chow

It's crunch time! There's just a few more days left to get all those presents bought and wrapped for locals, and if you haven't gotten everything in the mail than you better overnight it to get there in time! In the craziness of the holidays, maybe you don't have time to bake anything super special but want a treat for an evening with friends or family. This s'mores puppy chow from Sally's Baking Addiction is easy peasy to veganize. Just grab a bag of Dandies mini marshmallows and everything else is pretty straight forward. You'll have your crunchy, sweet treat in less than 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

leaves and flours vegan

Post-move I have been trying to reduce the amount of baking supplies I hoard. I found a pre-made Oreo crust at the very bottom of my box of supplies and knew it had been there for so long that I didn't remotely have a clue how old it was. A chocolate cookie crust called for one thing, pudding pie. Chocolate pudding pie is a tried & true classic. I have blogged about it before, so it's not enough to warrant a new post. However this time around I used So Delicious's new coconut whipped topping. While I think it tastes remarkably like Cool Whip, the texture was a little off for me. It was very heavy and quite hard to spread on top of the pie even though I had let it thaw overnight in the fridge & then beat it for several minutes to try to make it fluffier. I think if it were something that I was going to pipe whipped cream onto, it would be perfect for that & probably hold it's shape remarkably well. I have another tub in the freezer and a few more ideas for what I am going to do with it next.

leaves and flours vegan

Every year in DC my friend's host a vegan Thanksgiving dessert potluck. After 9pm once we have all gotten through dinners with our friends & family and maybe foraged through the meal to find the bits & bobs that are vegan, we get together to eat dessert together. Since I spent the last few years up to my knees in pie every holiday season, I decided to take a new route for the dessert potluck this year. I made an apple gingerbread bundt cake, tweaked from the apple cider cake recipe on Pickles & Honey. It went too quickly for me to photograph well. However, in my post-food coma I was wise enough to grab a few of the cookies I made to snap a photo of the next day. I saw these maple walnut cookies during Vegan MoFo on Shannon's blog. I decided to fore-go the frosting since there would be so many desserts and opted for a maple glaze & sprinkles instead.

leaves and flours vegan leaves and flours vegan

Greg was in Europe for two weeks and while he was kind enough to bring me back German chocolate bars that are more amazing than I could have even expected, I also got a little stir crazy. I used that momentum to buy a bus ticket to New York and convinced my friend Melanie to go with me. Despite walking around in the pouring rain for almost 8 hours in a city that neither of us are fond of, we had a pretty nice day. I got an amazing hot dog made solely of root vegetables and then topped with more pickled vegetables and a kale caesar salad from Yeah Dawg. But most importantly and the sole purpose for the trip, I got a dozen macarons. Sweet Maresa's released her winter flavors, and I knew I needed to try them. Pictured are hot chocolate, gingerbread, black licorice, carrot cake, caramel pecan, and pistachio. All phenomenal, but I think the gingerbread macaron is one of my new favorites.
I have also fallen pretty under the spell of copper lately. I bought my first copper pan because it was beautiful and not too expensive. Greg's mom, who is an amazing hunter of antique & vintage goods, was kind enough to buy me these copper pots & pans. Just look at that double boiler! A very good start to my newest collection.

leaves and flours vegan

And almost a whole year after they were posted in Kristy's cookie swap, I finally made the gluten free turtle cookies I bookmarked. Considering that we are now almost halfway through this year's cookie swap, one could say that I am a little behind in my pleasure baking. I'm going to an in-life cookie swap this weekend, and I am struggling to try and figure out what I want to make. I have tossed around many ideas. Traditionally I feel like I should make gingerbread or snickerdoodles or maybe some snowflake & mitten sugar cookies. But I think I might mix it up. Maybe eggnog cookies? I made a batch of pistachio pudding cookies that I want to tweak and make a little better, so that might be a good option. The pressure of making something with no restrictions whatsoever. It's almost overwhelming.

leaves and flours vegan

One of my main routines since my move to Philadelphia has been drinking too much coffee and eating doughnuts. Dottie's Donuts has been growing super rapidly. Originally wholesaling on the weekends to a few coffeeshops, they have now expanded to 6 days a week and are being carried at so many shops! While my favorite is the classic cinnamon sugar, Dottie's really specializes in their interesting flavor combinations. The donut shown here was a Little Baby's exclusive with a glaze of Little Baby's smoked cinnamon ice cream, chocolate drizzle, and waffle cone chunks. Other favorites have included horchata, apple cider, and sweet potato. But they just keep cranking out amazing flavors like Silk nog and cranberry tangerine. If you are in the Philly area and haven't tried these doughnuts yet, you are really messing up.