Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Funnel Cake


I love amusement parks. I love roller coasters and water parks and giant swings above the park. But most of all I love the drop tower. That moment at the top of the ride where you feel the machine click and you know that you're at the very top, suspended, about the plummet to the ground is one of my favorite feelings in the world. No matter how many times you do it, that instinctual fear hits you right when it clicks and you are waiting those agonizingly long seconds to fall. For the second year in a row Greg and I have gotten season passes to Six Flags, and it's my favorite part of the summer. We had the perfect trip a few weeks ago. We got there right at opening. We rode our favorite roller coaster two times, the drop tower two times, and then we headed to the water park. We rode every ride, hung out in the wave pool, and then rode the best water rides two or three more times. We didn't wait in a single line. We did all of that by 1pm and left before we even got hungry and had to debate whether we were going to eat french fries or soft pretzels or both. But the one thing that amusement parks always leave me missing is funnel cake. I haven't had funnel cake since I went vegan, but when we got home I was determined to make one. It didn't disappoint and was a solid end to a perfect summer day.

leaves and flours vegan funnel cake

Vegan Funnel Cakes
makes eight small servings


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/1 tbl Ener-G
several cups of oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oil the 375 degrees. In a medium size bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Make the Ener-G eggs. Once thickened, combine in a smaller bowl with milk, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk the wet into the dry until the batter is smooth. It should be near the consistency of pancake batter. You can use several things to make the funnel cakes, but I used a plastic squeeze bottle that I found to be really handy. It was easy to fill and didn't create much of a mess like a piping bag could have. Very quickly drizzle the batter into hot oil looping it over repeatedly to create a nest-like structure. Let cook for 30 seconds to one minute before flipping and cooking the other side for about the same time. You want the cake to be lightly browned on both sides. Let cool for a few minutes and sift powdered sugar on top.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

leaves and flours vegan

We're over that hill that is the longest day of the year and moving full force into the heat of summer. I will never get over how magical summertime is. I constantly wake up bleary and sleepy eyed from a lack of sleep because those long days where it's light until almost 9pm make it difficult for a baker. It's hard to force yourself to go to sleep when you can still see the sun taunting you from around the edges of your blinds. Instigating you. Convincing you to stay up for another hour, or two. But summer is also the time where you can go nap by the city pool because you get off work so much earlier than everyone else. You can take your library book and read a chapter and nod off listening to splashing. Wake up just in time for adult swim. That beautiful ten minutes where all the kids line the edge of the pool, dipping their toes into the water. Enough to feel a little bit rebellious but not enough for the guard to blow their whistle. Those serene minutes that you faintly recall scorning as a youth, but now you can barely remember it through the fog of psuedo-adulthood.

leaves and flours vegan

I'm not really sure if I'm an adult yet. I don't really know when that defining time is. I have student loans and a car payment. But I also ate chips for dinner. I balance it out with a green smoothie. Is that adulthood? Realizing that you're being a little impractical and countering it slightly with something responsible. Trying to wash it all out in some giant balance of things? I've killed several houseplants so as badly as I sometimes want a cat to come home to, I'm not quite sure that I am ready to care for another life. I'm currently trying my luck with a succulent. Everyone keeps warning me that I just have to ignore it. People always kill them from overwatering, but we'll see just how quickly I can forgot to water it for six months, not noticing it shriveling away on the table.

leaves and flours vegan

Once or twice a year I have the urge to throw out all my earthly possessions. I am currently in one of those states. I convinced my housemates that it was a brilliant idea to have a yard sale. Forget the fact that we don't really have much of a yard, only so much as a walkway & a porch. Also ignore the fact that we are not on a street that anyone ever walks down. I half heartedly advertised it. We put fliers up the day before. I convinced everyone to lug out all the furniture that we didn't want while we sat on the porch for 4 hours waiting quietly. I sold a few books and maybe a cookie cutter or two. We stared at the furniture not wanting to bring it back in after all that effort and tried to pawn it off on people for free. The unused DVD shelf is currently resting several feet from the front door, as we didn't have the heart to move it a few rooms back again. I threw everything small enough into my car and donated it down the street.

leaves and flours vegan

I eliminated all the kitchenware that I bought to photograph cookies & cakes on several years ago when I started this blog and didn't know the first thing about photographing food. All of these terrible plates in too bright colors and dish towels in distracting patterns. I donated half of my cookie cutter collection. Adorable sailboats and mushrooms and kittens, that never quite come out looking quite recognizable. Endless pans for madeleines and doughnuts and bundt cakes that get used once and then stack up over time. Paring down the tea cups & saucers. They are my weakness. I hoard them and look at them and think about how beautiful they are. Those tiny, dainty china cups in delicate gold patterns but they only hold a sip or two of tea. And I'm the sort of person that makes tea two cups at a time, so they just sit there. Coming out only to photograph some beautiful almond strawberry & vanilla rhubarb macarons. I add a splash of whatever tea I have actually made several cups of already, and then they head back over to the shelf to sit there for a few more months until I find another cookie that will look nice on their saucer.

leaves and flours vegan

Is this what it is to be a grown up? To realize that it's ridiculous to have a shelf of beautiful plates that you only break out a few times a year to take a picture. To actually use everything you own or give it away to someone who will? To open up tupperware bins and marvel at how you somehow unwittingly collected 5 sets of popsicle molds in the two years since you last gave them all away? To determine that you don't need 25 silver plated spoons just because they are all slightly different shapes & patinas? To finally clear out your closet of all the clothes that don't fit you or you hate and haul them to Buffalo Exchange and swap them out for a few things that you actually need in your wardrobe to retain some semblance of togetherness? Because if so I am a total adult these days.

leaves and flours vegan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

French Macarons

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

I went on vacation at the end of last month. For quite a while Greg and I debated over a list of cities that we hadn't been to and wanted to see. Denver ended up at the top of them. As we were getting off our last plane, I could start to feel the stress knots in my shoulder finally start to relax a little. It seemed like there was more space between my shoulders and my ears. Despite all the new pollen making my eyes & throat a little itchy, I tried to take deep breaths. We climbed a lot of mountains, I worked on my fear of heights. I saw tons of elk & even a few marmots. And as vacations tend to go, it felt like it was over before it even started.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

Our time in Denver was a little less than a week, so when I requested my time off & planned the schedule several months ago I gave myself an extra day at home. Sure enough in the chaos pre-leaving & the rush of getting back into town I went into work. A day early. And had to un-request my vacation time.
Even though I came back a little less than refreshed, and am still almost unbearably stressed out, I am trying to make the best of it. It's summer time and this season never lasts quite long enough. I'm enjoying the honeysuckle around the bakery. I'm taking a cake decorating class this weekend. I'm planning trips to the city pool, more amusement park visits, and berry picking at Larriland Farms.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

This summer I am also pushing myself to work on my skill set. I'm going to get better at decorating and hopefully find time to play with sugar. I'm going to work on perfecting lemon meringue pie and macarons. I've made a really decent lemon meringue pie, but there's just a few more wee changes I want to make to the meringue. The photographs here are of my second and third batches of French macarons. I need to get a larger tip to pipe them, so the tops aren't so swirly. I want to make a hundred more batches, tweaking all the ratios and playing with baking times & temperatures. I want to get a notebook and scribble down all my notes in between batches while I drink a million cups of tea and sing along to pop punk while I was all the dishes just like I did a few years ago when we were first opening the bakery. I want to feel that excitement and newness again.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Danishes

I'm not really the gushy type. I mean I am emotional and occasionally I get a little sentimental, but I am definitely not the kind of person who kisses in public or says sappy things where other people could possibly overhear them. Until today. Five years ago, my friend Yuri was playing a show in my little college town. I made a big batch of banana chocolate chip muffins and headed over to meet him early. Yuri had another friend with him, Greg. After the show, we made chili and I made the worst batch of cornbread of my life because I was a little nervous. Greg and I stayed up until 2am talking on the hood of my car. I had to go to work the next morning but I went and got bagels at 7am so we could eat breakfast together first. And then a few hours later I took a long lunch break to eat falafel & say goodbye. He flew back to visit me a few weeks later. A month later I flew out to see him. A few months later I flew out to see him again. A year later I got accepted to graduate school. We went from 11 hours to 1 hour apart. Two years later I left graduate school, and moved to the District. We went from 40 miles to 2 blocks apart. Four years later we started sharing a house. And now it's been five years?! We still laugh and joke and are silly all the time. He can't take a picture of me that isn't ridiculous. He has supported me through really rough times, when I didn't have much hope. He challenges me, and pushes me to be a better person all the time. He's also gonna be so embarrassed when he reads this.

leaves and flours vegan cheese raspberry jam danish

When I saw that Sticky Fingers had made their first batch of danishes, I raced home from work to get them. If there is one thing that Greg and I love equally & have shared a lot of in the last five years, it's dessert. I was able to get a cheese & a raspberry danish. The pastry was the closest I have had to the butter laden version, and they were definitely some of the best sweets I have had from there. Danishes were a great surprise for a really adorable day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake




leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

I am one year older. Maybe it's just because I have literally been elbow deep in frosting so many times in the past two years or maybe it's because I am feeling sturdier more stable, but I didn't want a traditional birthday cake this year. Normally I commit to some sort of two or three layer cake, but the sweetness and the fillings and all the piping just wasn't appealing to me for 26. I was considering foregoing birthday sweets altogether, but decided that was quite sacrilegious for a sugar sorceress like myself. I remembered bookmarking a pistachio citrus pound cake many seasons ago, promising myself to veganize it eventually. I decided that this was quite the proper occasion to splurge on a pound or two of pistachios and a lime since those have taken quite the price hike this spring. I zested all my fruits. Organic only, because we are getting older and wiser and we don't want to put too many things in our bodies that may contain pesticides. I baked the cake really hastily because I decided to spend some time with friends earlier in the evening and it was getting quite late and I still needed to go to work in the morning. Of course, in the haste or the adaptation of my previous pound cake recipe something didn't quite work out and the cake was very browned on the edges but still a little under baked in the center and of course fell in the middle. I was frustrated and went to sleep cursing at it.

leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

The cake tasted good, but it wasn't something I would ever share. So I came home from work on my birthday and decided to start over. I am a perfectionist at my heart of hearts and no cake was going to defeat me. Especially not on the day when I am the queen of the world. I set away to zesting and juicing and chopping more pistachios. I folded it all together and filled my pans and scraped all the bowls. The batter tasted perfect. I put my little baby pound cakes into the oven, five minutes before my partner Greg came home from work. He walked in and mentioned how nice the kitchen smelled, then looked at the timer, saw 25 minutes ticking away, and his face dropped. I realized I had messed up some dinner plans, but he assured me it would be ok & we would only be ten minutes late. When I told him there was probably another 20 minutes of baking after that, I saw in his face that I was spoilin' some serious surprise dinner plans. After a few minutes of scrambling and panicking and not wanting to take cakes full of expensive ingredients out of the oven or waste several of my friends' time, I realized I could ask someone else I live with to take the cakes out of the oven. I asked a housemate and he so nicely agreed, so this year I got to have my cake & eat it too. Note to self for twenty six: Utilize your resources, but don't squander them. It helps if you can offer cake in return for favors. Also, buy yourself flowers more than once a year. It feels great.

leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

Mini Citrus Pistachio Pound Cakes
altered from Mini Almond Poundcakes by Isa Chandra, queen of vegan baking

1 lemon, zested & juiced
1 lime, zested & juiced
1 orange, zested & juiced
7 oz almond paste
6 oz extra firm silken tofu
2/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup citrus juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease & flour three 4x2" loaf pans.
Zest each of the citrus fruits and set the zest aside. Juice all the fruits and stir mixture well. You'll need a third cup of juice for the recipe; I stirred the remainder into the water I was drinking for prosperity. Combine almond paste, tofu, almond milk, citrus juice, and sugar in a blender or food processor bowl. Blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and melted margarine and blend again. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and zest until well combined. Whisk in wet until just combined. Add 1/4 cup pistachios and fold with a spatula. Portion into loaf pans until 3/4 full. Smooth tops and sprinkle with remaining pistachios. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tops are firm & golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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

Crust
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.