Friday, December 30, 2011


Another year is on it's way, and with that I thought I would compile a list of things I want to practice or learn in the upcoming months to help keep me focused and motivated.

1. Tarts & Pies:
I have mini 4" tart pans and a brand new 9" tart pan. I recently thrifted a ceramic pie dish. AND I even have a fancy dough cutter to make beautiful lattices and a copy of Vegan Pie in the Sky that hasn't been broken in! It's time for me to fix this. I think I am often discouraged from making whole pies just because they aren't as convenient to share with friends in multiple locations as cookies or cupcakes.

photo by the PPK                                          photo by Randy Mayor

2. Cakes:
I have a few Wilton course books on cake decorating that I would love to break out. Similarly to how I feel about pies, I feel about tiered cakes. I really want to practice torting, icing, and fondant work, but there aren't many occasions to bust out such a cake for. I will have to make up some excuses!

photo by Sprinkles Bakes

3. Sugar Cookies & Gingerbread:
I would love to be able to produce batches of sugar cookies that are really intricate and also consistent. I also really want to attempt making my own cookie stencils rather than relying on standard cookie cutters! Also, I have never made a gingerbread house. I plan on fixing that next winter, though I doubt I can produce something as breathtaking as this gingerbread brownstone by Kitchen Table Scraps.

source unknown                                          photo by Kitchen Table Scraps

4. Confections:
I've never made candy before. I want to attempt to make fancy chocolates, as I have no actual experience in tempering. My friend Sheena went to pastry school, and I think she might be able to help me out here. I also want to make a few batches of caramel and figure out what works best for me.

5. Assorted:
Crème brulèe is something that I have always though about but never actually attempted. A kitchen torch would also be handy for toasting marshmallows! Now that I have a standing mixer, I think I might get the ice cream attachment and try a few batches of vegan ice cream! I doubt I will ever be able to touch Lula's Sweet Apothecary, but cashew based ice creams are something my dreams are made of.

Do you make lists of resolutions? If so, what are the things you hope to accomplish in 2012?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cake Mix Muffins

leaves and flours vegan cake mix muffins

I was back in Tennessee for a week. There was lots of snuggling cats, catching up on sleep, and TV watching. It was nice to see that the small town grocery store had expanded their selection of vegan foods. They even carry Daiya and Tofutti cream cheese now! An even bigger shock was that I got home to find a dozen muffins waiting for me!
My mom had seen this recipe on a show called Hungry Girl. You just mix a box cake with 16oz of canned pumpkin and bake. The pictures you see are from a spice cake mix, but the original ones she made were using a chocolate cake mix. The chocolate was definitely my favorite. I’m going to refer to it as a muffin, but it straddles that muffin-cupcake boundary that is so vague. It’s sweet like a packaged muffin, but with a little frosting could easily be passed off as a cupcake as well. If you threw in a handful of mini chocolate chips, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and the Otis Spunkmeyer muffins I remember eating out of the vending machines during high school. The spice cake had a pretty subtle flavor even though she sprinkled cinnamon sugar on the tops before baking, so I would recommend adding additional spices to the batter. To make them more muffin-like I would also throw in a handful of nuts and dried fruit. To make the crust crisper, you could also sprinkle Turbinado or another large crystal sugar on top.
Making cakes from scratch is easy enough that I don’t ever think of buying a mix, but it’s convenient if you aren’t in your own kitchen or are out of a few ingredients. There are a few other routes for boxed cake veganizing as well. A can of soda gives variable results, but can work out. Apple sauce normally works pretty well too. Just make sure that you read the labels on the mixes! There’s not a consistent approach to what brands/flavors are dairy & egg free.

leaves and flours vegan cake mix muffins

One of my other stand-by mix recipes is for brownies. Combine a package of brownie mix and a pureed can of black beans (liquid included) and bake according to the box. The best box mix to use is the Ghiradelli double chocolate mix. The resulting brownies are really fudgy, so if you like firm brownies this might not be your best option. I use to make that recipe a lot for film screenings for my animal rights’ group when I was an undergraduate. People never suspected that they were eating beans, and the brownies have added protein and nutrients compared to when made with oil and eggs. Using beans in baked goods might sound a little odd at first, but Chocolate Covered Katie does it too!
On a complete unrelated note, here are the cuties that I cuddled with while I wasn't sharing my kitchen antics with you!

Do you take any baking shortcuts when you are super busy or out of town? I love freezing an extra batch of cookie dough and thawing it when I want to make more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

S'mores Thumbprint Cookies

leaves and flours vegan s'mores thumbprint cookies

My grand plans for the rest of the Sweet & Sara marshmallows and Smuckers marshmallow topping, were these s'mores thumbprint cookies. I had seen the idea on a non-vegan blog called How Sweet It Is, and wanted to veganize them so, so badly. I started with the chocolate thumbprint cookie recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance. I used a mixture of regular and dark cocoa powders. I also subbed vegetable oil and almond milk for the peanut oil and soy milk, and added extra flour to make the dough a little thicker since I didn't have time to chill it.
I rolled the dough in small balls, slightly smaller than a quarter. Half of the balls I coated in crushed graham crackers prior to baking. After 6 minutes in the oven, I either pushed in half a marshmallow or made a large thumbprint. I baked them for another five minutes. While still warm, I filled the thumbprints with marshmallow topping. I also dusted the tops of all uncoated cookies with graham cracker crumbs (and even a few that I did roll, because I am overzealous like that). The marshmallows do get quite puffy in the oven and expand. Let them cool on their own, because if you squish them down with your hand, you will get large craters in your cookie. They will deflate quite a bit.

leaves and flours vegan s'mores thumbprint cookies

Personally, my favorite cookies were the ones with half a marshmallow in them and rolled in graham cracker prior to baking. However, none of them were disappointing. I attempted to broil the cookies to make them appear more s'more like, however my oven was uncooperative. You could try that, or use a kitchen torch if you happen to own one. The slight brown color I did get on the edges of the marshmallows is so similar to the color of the graham crackers, that it's difficult to differentiate.
I wonder what recipe I will get obsessed with next? I have a long to bake list, but am leaving town tonight to visit my home in Tennessee for a week. Does everyone else have huge folders of potential baking projects? It's normal to dream about cookies too, right?

I also just heard about this site called Spencer's Market. It's basically a Vegan Cuts or Living Social type site that it is specific to vegan food! I mean, who doesn't want to know about new vegan snacks, right?!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rice Crispy Treats

leaves and flours vegan rice crispy treats

I have been on the hunt for vegan marshmallows for about two weeks. It has been a complete test of my patience. When I get obsessed with a recipe I can not be distracted by anything. That is how I have felt about rice crispy treats and s'mores thumbprint cookies (coming soon!) recently. Sticky Fingers normally has Sweet & Sara marshmallows in stock, but they were out of everything except strawberry last week. A friend went to Pangea and offered to bring me some back, but I denied because I was heading to Root's Market the next morning. I shouldn't have turned her down, because Roots only had coconut covered marshmallows! I started getting desperate, and in a frenzy called Roots on Monday morning to see if they were getting more in soon. They had gotten a shipment overnight, and I detoured on my way home from work solely to buy two containers of vanilla marshmallows.
Last night I FINALLY made rice crispy treats. I only made a small batch, because I have grand plans for the second tub of the marshmallows. I know that people frequently make rice crispy treats with Dandies marshmallows, which makes sense because I know from experience they melt really easily in hot chocolate. Sweet & Sara's have a flavor that I think is superior, but they definitely don't melt as easily. After a lengthy period of time on the stove, I realized it was futile and resorted the microwave.

Rice Crispy Treats
~Enough for a square 4-6" pan

5oz container Sweet & Sara vanilla marshmallows
2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp Smuckers marshmallow topping
heaping 2 cups rice crispy cereal*
Optional chocolate, caramel, or peanut butter for drizzling

In microwave melt marshmallows and Earth Balance, for approximately 2 minutes. With a spatula, quickly stir in marshmallow topping and cereal. Spoon into a plastic container or pan lined with parchment paper. Gently press down. Let cool in fridge for at least 2 hours.

*To make these gluten free, make sure you use a brand of rice crispy cereal that is certified gluten free such as Erewhon. Most of the cereals have barley malt extract added, which isn't suitable for a gluten free diet.

leaves and flours vegan rice crispy treats

I melted dark chocolate with a teaspoon of coconut oil to drizzle on mine. My partner reports that they are the best thing I have ever made, which is funny because they are probably one of the easiest!
Do you like your rice crispy treats plain or do you prefer to add mix-ins?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I am finally done with my 3rd semester of graduate school! I spent my first truly free weekend in months by making sugar cookies. I found this recipe about a year ago, and it has been my go to recipe for sugar cookies since. The only changes that I make are adding vanilla bean paste rather than extract, and I normally throw in a tablespoon or 2 extra cream cheese. The dough is incredibly thick, so if you aren't making it in a standing mixer be patient and prepare for the upper body workout.
Definitely don't skip the chilling step. I normally refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or two before I start the process. I always roll the dough out between parchment paper with extra flour under the dough and a bit sprinkled on top. The cookies will be really soft when you take them out of the oven, but do firm up quite a bit as they cool.

I have seen an overwhelming amount of Christmas cookies lately, so I thought it would be awesome to make a batch of Chanukah cookies. I also threw in a few snowflakes because I haven't used those cookie cutters yet this winter either. Piping royal icing is something that I both love and hate. I think of it as an endurance sport, because I spend at least 3 hours decorating just 2 dozen cookies. I hope one day to get to the skill level of Bridget who runs Bake at 350, but for now I am pretty pleased with where I am. The most important thing I have learned about piping sugar cookies is how important it is to have the proper consistency of icing for outlining and flooding designs. Outlining icing should be similar to the consistency of toothpaste, while flooding icing should be similar to shampoo. I don't really follow a recipe when I make royal icing, I normally just mix powdered sugar with a bit of corn syrup and water until it's the right consistency. I used vanilla extract in this frosting, which is why the shade is more of an off-white. If you want truly white frosting, you need to either use a clear vanilla extract or something like almond or lemon.

It was getting dark pretty quickly, so you might be able to tell that some of the icing isn't dry yet in these photos. These cookies take so long to dry. Be patient, and don't stack them until the next day! I also recommend baking the cookies the night before you plan to frost them. Do you have any other tips or tricks for elaborate piping?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kitchen Sink Muffins

Finals week is a rough time, no matter how prepared you think you are. You eat terribly and sleep sporadically. You search for tasks that you can do instead of studying for an exam or writing the last page of a paper nearing its deadline. These are the times when I decide that it's appropriate to clean out the fridge finally. In doing so, I need to find a use for the small portions of food piling up in assorted tupperware containers and mason jars. The perfect recipe for that are these muffins from Bake & Destroy.
These bad boys may not be beautiful, but they were warm and (some what) nutritious. I used a mixture of whole wheat and spelt flours, turbinado, coconut milk, shredded coconut, cranberries, dried blueberries, and granola. I thought about throwing in some chia seeds, but since I had already eaten those in my morning oatmeal I just stuck with the ground flax seed.

leaves and flours vegan kitchen sink muffinsleaves and flours vegan kitchen sink muffins

In order to further delay the writing of my last paper I did three loads of laundry, took out the recycling, washed all the dishes I could find strewn around the house, went to the gym, and then used leftover chocolate from the cookie bars to make this rolling pin. I really don't use my chocolate molds enough. This one is from Bake It Pretty, a great shop for molds and cupcake liners and what not!

leaves and flours

Does anyone else play this game when they have an approaching deadline? I try to tell myself that it's ok because it teaches me how to work well under pressure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Speculoos Caramel Cookie Bars

I got my holiday gift a little early this year. My partner and I are both pretty impatient when it comes to surprises, so we exchanged presents on Monday. I sponsored a chicken for a year in his name at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary, which I thought was pretty neat. However, I got outdone! He surprised me with a pistachio KitchenAid standing mixer! I have been wistfully staring at pictures of this mixer on their website for many months now. I couldn't believe that it was finally mine! After grinning incessantly and taking a few photos, I decided it was time to put it to use making him something extravagant.

I had seen this recipe on Seitan is My Motor earlier this month and knew it wouldn't be long before I cracked open my second jar of Speculoos spread to attempt it. I have made a dulce de leche before, but this time something went wrong. My caramel never firmed up even though I cooked it for quite a while. In attempts of saving it, I threw in some agar. This made it thicker so that it was no longer a liquid, but it gave it the texture of a custard. I knew that it was going to be too thin for successfully cutting the bars, but I used it anyways.
I really enjoyed the cookie crust from this recipe. It was firm and not too sweet, which balances the super sweet cookie butter layer. I melted two teaspoons of coconut oil into the dark chocolate I used for the top layer, and spread it with an offset spatula.

leaves and flours vegan speculoos caramel cookie barsleaves and flours vegan speculoos caramel cookie bars

All in all, my bars were a mess because of my caramel error. But I will definitely attempt these again. They remind me of a Twix bar with a subtle hint of cinnamon. In fact, next time I might try the caramel from this vegan Twix bar recipe. I might also try using the 'dulce sin leche' recipe from VCTOTW, which uses brown rice syrup as a main ingredient.

leaves and flours vegan speculoos caramel cookie barsleaves and flours vegan speculoos caramel cookie bars

Sometimes it's good to have a reminder that baking is a trial and error process. At least I have a beautiful mixer now! Did you ask for kitchen or baking supplies for the holidays? I think I have a never ending list of things I would love to have.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies

My partner hates everything about Christmas except for two things, The Christmas Story and these cookies. Last year, he and his housemate made these for their families and neighbors, and I am sure that everyone was pretty excited. These cookies involve one of my favorite wintery combinations, candy canes and chocolate. There aren't many combinations of chocolate and mint that don't please me. While I think my favorite might still be the peppermint brownie, it's really a close call.
This is the second time we have made these cookies this month. The first time they got eaten so quickly I didn't have time to take a picture. Our standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies is the Ghiradelli recipe using Earth Balance and Ener-G powder. Since the grocery store nearby didn't have vegan chocolate chips, we crushed a bar of 52% dark semi-sweet chocolate. We also threw in 4 pulverized candy canes and a few drops of peppermint extract (be careful to add slowly, mint extract is normally very strong!). I think it's a pretty terrific ratio, but you could save some of the candy canes to place on top of the cookies after baking if you want them to look a little prettier.
Just so you are forewarned, the candy might melt during baking and make it a little tough to remove the cookies from the tray.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate chip candy cane cookies

Do you make any other desserts with candy canes?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

leaves and flours vegan chocolate crinkle cookies

I knew I had to make something great for my work holiday party. I also knew that it had to be beautiful so that all of the omni's would grab them without thinking. The science crowd can be pretty tough to convince that vegan food can be delicious.
I decided on a batch of chocolate crinkle cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. While I highly recommend that you buy a copy of the cookbook too, I found the recipe online for those of you who haven't bought it yet. The blogpost I am linking to is misleading, because the recipe is definitely from VCIYCJ and not written by this lady (you can even see the open cookbook in the photos).

leaves and flours vegan chocolate crinkle cookies

I used a bar of 54% dark chocolate and dark cocoa powder for this recipe. It really adds to the flavor and appearance of the cookies. Chilling the cookie dough will make the rolling process much easier, but you will still probably want to keep a towel nearby to wipe cookie dough and sugar off your hands. Definitely don't skip the granulated sugar rolling step. The thin layer of granulated sugar keeps the powdered sugar from getting really wet and looking gross and makes the outside of the cookie a lot firmer.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate crinkle cookies

I make cupcakes because they are cute, but I make cookies because they are something I want to eat. This cookbook won't fail you. Some of my other favorite recipes are the Lazy Samoas and the Citrus Glitters. What's your favorite cookie?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gluten Free Coconut Lime Loaf

leaves and flours vegan gluten free coconut lime loaf

Gluten free baking is still something that intimidates me. I have so many flours around that I have gathered, but am never sure what the best way is to combine them. Maybe I should have started with buying a pre-mixed gluten-free flour combination, but what's the fun in that? When I saw this recipe posted by PeaSoupEats, I knew I would need to try it. I have been on a citrus kick lately, and with a friend who is gluten sensitive in town, it was the perfect excuse to try it out.
For the two cups of flour, I used a mixture of almond meal (~3/4 cup), coconut flour (~1/2 cup), white rice flour (~1/2 cup), and tapioca flour (~1/4 cup). I subbed the the 2 measures of cointreau, for 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil.
To help in easing the loaf out, I baked it with parchment paper in the pan for easy removal. My folding wasn't incredibly precise, so the edges are a bit wonky. But the edges perfectly baking didn't seem as important to me as removing the loaf unbroken. I know from experience that coconut flour browns pretty rapidly, and my loaf was definitely a bit darker than hers with the same baking time but I think the flavor is worth it. The flavor of this loaf was something that I really enjoyed. My batch turned out a little too moist, but I think I can remedy that when I bake it again.
Do you have any tips for gluten free baking? What are you favorite flours or flour combinations?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Speculoos Frosting

To correspond with the many bloggers from countries that celebrate St. Nicholas day, I decided to make a second Speculoos spread recipe. While the cookies I posted about yesterday were delicious, they didn’t really highlight the taste of the cookie butter as much as I would prefer. I thought the texture of the spread would really lend itself to a making a peanut butter-esque frosting.

leaves and flours vegan speculoos frosting

I still haven’t decided what type of cupcake would go best with this frosting. I saw a lot of different variations on the internet with most people seeming to settle on chocolate. However, I went with a simple cinnamon & vanilla bean cupcake that I thought would enhance the subtle spiciness of the frosting. I used the vanilla cake recipe from VCTOTW (I know, again) and added a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Speculoos Spread Frosting
Enough for piping lightly on 12 cupcakes

3 tbsps shortening
heaping 1/2 cup Speculoos spread
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Cream shortening and cookie butter in a standing mixer or with electric beater. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Add remaining ingredients. Beat for a little longer, until fluffy.

leaves and flours vegan speculoos frosting

This frosting was very, very light. And tasted just as delicious as I had imagined. One of my taste-testers said it was like eating a Christmas cookie in cake form. I can't wait to play more with the second jar of cookie butter I bought. Just this morning I saw a recipe for chocolate caramel speculoos bars on Seitan Is My Motor!
What are your favorite holiday recipes? I'm trying to think of something that will wow all my omni co-workers at our holiday party this Friday.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speculoos Spread Snickerdoodles

I remember the Speculoos craze in 2009. It seemed like every blog I read was either using it or searching for it. The cookies, the spread, whatever they could get a hold of.
I found a jar of Speculoos spread at Trader Joe’s for the first time recently and swooned. While I had eaten my fair share of Biscoff cookies on many Delta flights, I hadn’t ever seen the spread. It was pretty magical. I spread it on my toast and an apple and had the great realization that I must bake something with it.

(photo from

For those of you who are unaware of what Speculoos/Biscoff cookies are, they are a caramelized biscuit with a hint of spices. And most of the time the cookies and a spread made from the pulverized cookies are vegan!
Speculoos cookies are also a Belgian and Dutch tradition for celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 5th or 6th depending on which country you are in. So I thought I would make two recipes using the spread as a modern twist on those traditions.
The first recipes I made was a cookie (if you can’t tell, I have been on a cookie craze lately). While the recipe I followed, looked much different than my results, I was highly pleased. My cookies were very similar to snickerdoodles, with a pleasantly crisp outside and thick chewy center. I ate them with a cup of hot tea and wouldn’t change a thing. I’m not sure if the differences in our results were due to a difference in the spreads or I somehow mucked up the recipe. I haven’t repeated it to see yet, but soon!

leaves and flours vegan speculoos cookiesleaves and flours vegan speculoos cookies

Along with the spread, Trader Joe’s also sells a Speculoos/Biscoff type cookie they refer to as Bistro Biscuits if you want to try the cookie. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can also buy the cookies and spread from Biscoff in the US (and I think get bonus points if you are a Delta frequent flyer). If you would rather make the cookies or spread yourself there are great recipes here and here.
Have you ever eaten the cookies or the cookie butter? Are you as crazy about it as I am? One of my friends described it as ground up Cinnamon Teddy Grahams, which I find to be pretty accurate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

This week I wanted to make snacks for a few of my canine friends. After perusing the internet for some inspiration, I decided it wouldn't be too difficult to make a batch of vegan peanut butter treats.

Vegan Peanut Butter Dog Treats
Around 15 treats

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix flour and baking powder. Stir in peanut butter and soy milk. Roll out dough on parchment paper to a 1/3" thickness. The treats won't spread, so place closely together on cookie sheets lined with parchment or a silpat mat. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

leaves and flours vegan peanut butter dog treats

For additional 'aww' factor I piped some peanut butter decorations on using a Wilton #3 tip.
This peanut butter won't firm, so I don't recommend these for treats you plan on storing.
I suggest using a low sugar peanut butter; it's not good for pups to eat too much sugar. Also, I wouldn't advise using almond milk. I've read a lot of scary things about severe almond allergies in dogs.

So far all of the dogs have been really happy with them! Tail wags galore.
Do you have any fun DIY gifts for your companions? Has anyone tried making vegan cat treats?!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies

leaves and flours vegan white chocolate cookies

Yesterday I saw a pomegranate sitting in a produce aisle and couldn't remember the last time I had eaten one. I gladly bought it, soaked it, and pulled out all the arils. While I was making the macadamia nut cookies I had the brilliant idea to set aside part of the nut-free dough and throw in a few arils. The results were wonderful. The pomegranate added the right amount of tartness and texture to the cookies.
I happily ate the remaining pomegranate while sitting around in my pajamas watching TV. Now my lips and fingers are a charming shade of pink!

leaves and flours vegan white chocolate cookies

Do you ever change a recipe mid-baking? It seems to be a habit of mine.