Monday, November 17, 2014


leaves and flours vegan pavlova

These tiny pavlovas are a summer hold-over. Another small glimpse of warmth that I have been waiting to delve into. It's the season of apples and pumpkin and cinnamon and pecans and though I have happily been drinking cider and eating pumpkin bread these last few weeks, I'm not ready to wait for another year for fresh strawberries & sunshine until 7pm. But alas, this is the last summer baking that I did in 2014. I baked the meringues early in the morning on a day off using a recipe from Hannah Kaminsky's Vegan Desserts. A friend came over in the afternoon with beautiful farm-fresh berries. We watched About Time, and even though I had seen it before I quietly cried through most of it. And then I dried my tears and made the whipped cream and we assembled the loveliest baby pavlovas. Small and light enough to not feel weighed down in the summer heat. Simple enough to allow the ripe fruit to shine. Glorious. I could write them a love song, and it still wouldn't be enough.

leaves and flours vegan pavlova

We took a drive out of the city an hour for an apple festival. We bundled up and drank cider that was pressed right in front of us and then warmed in an older copper pot. The leaves made the hills yellow & red & burnt orange. With every gust of wind more leaves blew down, landing in my hair and sticking to my shoes. It was all so right & fleeting & we had to traipse around the little town for an extra hour because there's only so much more time before it's too cold and wet and icy to be outdoors for any longer than a quick run to the trolley. And on cool, rainy days like these it's easy to remember that winter isn't so bad with blankets and pots of tea and Love Actually streaming endlessly. Here's to making the most, no matter the time of year.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

S'mores Macarons

leaves and flours vegan sweet maresa's s'mores macarons

I have been having trouble letting go of summer. I keep going outside without enough layers to keep me warm. Pretending that a cardigan or a sweater will be enough. I am not ready for these short, short, short days and all the darkness. My bones shake at the thought of snow. Winter is always a rough time for me. I have the tendency to hide in my bedroom and ignore the encouragements of friends to go out. I just want to burrow under blankets and watch endless hours of TV and not come out of my sad stupor until the spring. I am fighting these early signs of seasonal anxiety. Walking around outside, even if if just for a few minutes, to try and soak up as much vitamin D as I can. Remembering to wear socks & a scarf, and tucking an extra layer in my bag even if I think I won't need it. Avoiding sad music and books and films. Reaching out to friends and holding myself accountable for keeping all the dates I schedule. Writing postcards and quick notes to all the friends I miss, scattered across the country, to let them know just how important they all are to me.

leaves and flours vegan sweet maresa's s'mores macarons

These s'mores macarons were a going away present from my former housemate Carrie. She moved to Brooklyn right before I left DC, and sent these during a really stressful time. It's always such a nice surprise to have a really thoughtful gift show up. I have been obsessed with Maresa's macarons for some time and have written about them before here. I gushed about them repeatedly and convinced Carrie to split at least one order from their shop with me. I didn't think the almond macaron could be topped, but this s'mac was quite possibly the best treat I have ever eaten. They are charcoal shells, filled with toasted marshmallow, dipped in chocolate, and then sprinkled with cinnamon & molasses infused graham crumble. Maresa isn't shipping these delicate babies, so you'll have to visit New Paltz or head out to a Vegan Shop-Up to be graced with this particular piece of heaven. However, you can order all sorts of other magical flavors of macarons on the Lagusta's Luscious website! Now that I'm a few hours closer to the shop, I am planning a trip as soon as I can. Probably on a Tuesday so I can snag an eclair too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Black Cocoa Cookies

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar
I have now been a resident of Philadelphia for three weeks! I have taken public transportation several times a week, and didn't get lost even once! I've managed to find a bank and a grocery store and even develop some semblance of a new routine. This was one of the first things that I baked in my new oven (which doesn't have a timer?!), and I was mostly just happy that the cookies remotely turned out. I have had bad experiences with new ovens in the past, and it's reassuring to know that the temperature isn't off by 40 degrees and doesn't have wild hot spots. I may have let these cookies sit out for 36 hours trying to find a few minutes of sunlight to photograph them. The morning after I baked them I tried to photograph them outside five minutes before I needed to leave for work using a black table cloth. However it was very wrinkly from my not-so-careful packing, and it was a different sort of spooky than what I was going for with these Halloween cookies. I finally realized the light in my kitchen window is quite reasonable around noon and was able to snap these photos. Learning a new houses's light is a tricky thing indeed, but at least this time it involved treats!

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar
Spooky Black Cocoa Cut Out Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters used

8 oz Earth Balance margarine
1 cup sugar
2 Ener-G eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup black cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 oz Tofutti cream cheese
Cream margarine and sugar. While this is creaming, combine hot water and Ener-G powder to make egg replacer & allow to thicken. Add Ener-G eggs & vanilla extract to sugar mixture. Beat until combined. Add half of the flour and mix. Add remaining flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and cream cheese. Beat until a thick dough forms. Portion into two disks, wrap in wax paper, & allow dough to chill in fridge for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough between wax paper to approximately 1/3" thick & cut out shapes. The dough will hold up fine for multiple rollings. If your fridge or freezer will fit a baking tray, chill the cut cookies for another fifteen minutes before baking. Bake 12-14 minutes until edges are firm. The centers will still be soft, but will firm up slightly as they cool. If you would prefer to have classic sugar cookies, simply replace cocoa powders with additional flour. Some of these cookies are pictured as well!

Natural Black Glaze

2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup black cocoa
3 tbl agave nectar
2-4 tbl non-dairy milk of choice
In a large bowl add powdered sugar and black cocoa. Whisk until cocoa is evenly distributed. Add agave and 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk. Whisk until combined. If mixture is too thick to whisk, add additional milk. However, glaze goes from too thick to too thin, very quickly so be careful to add liquid in very small amounts, whisking to check consistency frequently. Dunk tops of cooled cookies, shaking to remove excess glaze. Allow to harden for at least 4 hours before attempting to stack. I also decorated the cookies with a vanilla glaze (some tinted with a natural green dye) and sprinkled a few of the cookies with naturally dyed sanding sugars. The dye and sanding sugars are from Confection Craft, a really lovely small business based in Portland!

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar

Black cocoa is pretty important to get the coloring of the cookies & glaze as dark as possible. You can buy a pound of Frontier fair trade black cocoa for less than $16 here! But if you can't find it locally and really don't want to order it, you can try replacing it with an extra dark cocoa. While it will still taste similar, it will not be quite as spooky. If you aren't opposed to artificial dyes, you could instead add a few drops of black dye and use regular 'ole cocoa powder in both of the recipes. But at least consider using fair trade cocoa, it's pretty important to protect the livelihoods of many people in the world.

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peanut Chew Cheesecake

I am writing this from my desk on the first rainy morning where I'm calling a new city home. The last month has been wild and busy and emotional. I have repeatedly tried to wrap it all up into a few neat paragraphs, but the words just kept eluding me. For a few years my parter, Greg and I have been telling everyone that we were going to move to Philadelphia. After a year or so, it seemed to folks like maybe we were crying wolf. But we finally felt like it was the right time & mustered up the courage to leave a city that we love and venture to somewhere new. Everything was going smoothly, but then Greg got in a bike accident and broke his collar bone in a few places. He needed some surgery and got a metal plate put in his shoulder. So while it's really cool that I'm dating a bionic man, it wasn't conducive to moving. I was able to pack everything up alone and we convinced some friends and family to help us pack up the moving truck in DC. We left behind a queen size box spring since we couldn't fit ours down the stairs of our old bed room. We got it up the stairs by opening a window. But then we repaired the banister on the stairwell, and the extra two or three inches that we added made it impossible to bring it back down.
I narrowly escaped demolishing a tiny gas station in the city in my first ten minutes in our 14 foot U-haul, and then almost hit a cop car as soon as we got to our new block. But the ride in between wasn't too bad. Just small moments of nervous energy as I had to approach a toll booth or merge across 4 lanes of traffic. We got to Philly and thirteen amazing friends came to help unload the truck. You know you are moving to the right place when you already have as many friends helping you on your first day in town as you did at your going away party in the last city.

leaves and flours vegan
photo by Massimo Catarinella

Our first week has been pretty quiet. We are unpacking slowly, working on a few projects everyday. I'm almost done assembling the kitchen, obviously the most important room in the house to me. Even though it's large for an apartment, it's half the size of what we left. And in the last three years I have acquired a ton of bakeware. I'm hoping that an ingenious storage solution will strike me at any minute.
One of my favorite candies happens to be a Philadelphia creation, so it seemed very appropriate to share this cheesecake with everyone. If you haven't had a peanut chew before, you should see if they are available in your area or let me know and we can swap candy! It's a molasses caramel filled with roasted peanuts and then dipped in chocolate. Heaven. The factory is still in the city but I maybe already checked into it, and they don't give tours. This shows you my list of priorities. Touring the peanut chew factory > finding homes for all my displaced tea cups & saucers > hanging curtains. But eating sweets will always be at the top of that list. We moved two blocks from an ice cream shop, so things are about to get dangerous. If you have any suggestions of places to eat or visit or things you love about the city, please let me know. I am pretty well versed in Philly vegan food, but there are still so many places I haven't tried before.

leaves and flours vegan Peanut Chew Cheesecake

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

Peanut Graham Crust
9 ounces peanuts
3 ounces graham crackers
10 tbl shortening

Pulse the peanuts and graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor. Melt the shortening. Pour over the cookie and peanut crumbs and mix with hands until fully incorporated. Press firmly into the bottom of your springform pan(s). This is not a sweet crust. If you would prefer it to be a little sweeter, replace two ounces of peanuts for more graham crumbs. I used gluten free graham crumbs, but they should be interchangeable with regular graham crackers.

Cheesecake Filling
24 oz non-dairy cream cheese, I prefer Tofutti
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbl blackstrap molasses
2 tbl Ener-G beaten into 1/3 cup hot water
6-10 peanut chews cut into small pieces, depending on how much candy you want in each slice

Make your cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, molasses, and Ener-G together until smooth. Place some candy around the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the batter into your springform pan. Add rest of candy and top with remaining cheesecake batter. Smooth surface & 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.

1/3 cup dark chocolate
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
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.

Once your cheesecake has cooled for several hours or overnight, top with ganache shortly before serving. I also chose to add additional peanut chew pieces around the top of the cheesecakes to give it a little more height & decoration. If it's already on the sweet side for you, additional sprinklings of peanuts would also be lovely.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Copycat Early Bird Cookies

leaves and flours vegan

I often hear that necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes necessity means having multiple days in a row craving a cookie you had in another city that you won't have again for months. It means driving to the closest grocery store straight from the gym and buying three boxes of cereal solely because you really need these cookies. It means breaking out your reserve stash of clearance mini-marshmallows that you have been hoarding for a few weeks trying to figure out the perfect thing to use them for. It means eating three cookies while in your now flour-speckled gym clothes, still dripping because the transition from elliptical to oven is not pretty.
These are based off cookies I had at Blackbird Pizzeria in Philadelphia. They started making their own sweets in house, and it was a great decision. I remember there being three kinds, and the chocolate coffee one almost swayed me but then I saw the Early Bird cookie next and never looked back. I may have eaten three or four in two days and I didn't regret it one bit. So this copycat is based off that cookie, but looking back at a picture I took, it doesn't seem to be a very close replica. Theirs is more of a classic cookie, and mine is basically an overloaded oatmeal cookies but it was still delicious.

leaves and flours vegan

Copycat Early Bird Cookies
makes 18 large cookies

1/4 cup hot water
1 tbl Ener-G powder
7 oz Earth Balance margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
2 cup oats
3 cup assorted breakfast cereal, partially crushed
1 1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine hot water and Ener-G powder, whisk well, and set aside to thicken. Cream Earth Balance and sugars. Add Ener-G eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined. Scrape sides of bowl and add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until dough forms. Fold in oats, breakfast cereal, and mini marshmallows. Beat until well incorporated. Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, portion dough onto cookie trays. Flatten with your palm and bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges of the cookies are firm & golden. These will firm up a bit as they cool, but the centers of the cookies will stay soft & chewy.
I highly suggest crushing the cereal for this with your hands, a wooden spoon or by pulsing it lightly in a food processor. I have made these cookies three times now, and learned the hard way that this amount of dough with uncrushed cereal will cause your mixer to stall and you will end up with teary eyes thinking you have killed your KitchenAid. For the cereals I used a mixture of Captain Crunch, Apple Jacks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch but you can use whatever cereals you like best. If you use Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles, you might want to omit the cinnamon from the cookie dough because those flavors might clash a little.

leaves and flours vegan

While these cookies are holding me over for now, my to-bake is list is starting to get pretty long. It's Vegan MoFo which means it's my favorite time of the year! This month I don't have time to participate in the insanity but I am following along with everyone's progress very happily. Do you have a new favorite blog? What's your favorite theme?

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