Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Root Beer Floats

leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters

December has been a wild month. I can't believe 2012 is nearly over. The last quarter of the year is insanely busy in the bakery world. I went from a non-stop production of pies to making endless trays of cinnamon buns & gingerbread. It's now slowed down for a few days. There are still a fair amount of sweets to make for New Year's celebrations, but nothing like the last few weeks. After a long string of twelve to thirteen hour days, having yesterday off was a much needed relief. I wanted sweets, but nothing that required me to whisk or bake or measure. I settled on root beer float shooters! I decided to make them the wee-est bit fancier by dipping the juice glasses in white chocolate and coating the rims in nonpareils. I bought Luna & Larry's Vanilla Island coconut ice cream because it is my favorite vanilla flavor available in the store and I didn't feel like churning my own batch. This might have been a slight mistake, because the coconut flavor is a little too prominent. It doesn't really pair well with the root beer, so I highly recommend using a soy or almond ice cream with a more neutral flavor. I used a small cookie scoop and added 2 portions of ice cream before slowly pouring in the root beer. If you have never made a float before, then you should be forewarned that there is a lot of foam when the soda and the ice cream meet. I let the soda hit the nonpareils because I like the way the colors slowly diffuse into the frothy top of the glass.

leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters

I went into work early this morning to bake bread and fill the bagel bins and even managed to bake a few batches of cupcakes before the snow set in too hard. I am quite happy to be back home and warm before the sun sets. I have the next two days off! I am not sure what things I will try to accomplish, but there is a strong possibility that I will watch Love Actually for the fifth time this week. I cut all the pieces for mini gingerbread houses several days ago, so maybe I will finally find time to assemble & decorate them! I finally caved and joined Pinterest, so it is also likely that I will be browsing that for a few hours. I need to find some inspiration for my 'to bake' list. It's getting a little low for the first time in many months. What's on your to-do list? Have you joined Pinterest yet? It's so addictive!

leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters leaves and flours vegan root beer float shooters

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Toffee & Peanut Brittle

leaves and flours vegan food gifts saltine butter toffee

I pre-ordered Vegan Food Gifts: More Than 100 Inspired Recipes for Homemade Baked Goods, Preserves, and Other Edible Gifts Everyone Will Love because I knew that the combination of Joni's food brilliance and Celine's photography must have a spot reserved for it on my bookshelf. I already had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head about what everyone would be receiving this winter, so I didn't make too many of the items yet. I knew that everyone would expect sweets, so I wanted to make sure that I surprised them all a little bit. Instead I laid out a tarp and broke out the fabric dye and paint brushes and all sorts of markers and what not early one morning. Things turned out pretty well, but by the end of the night I still ended up in the kitchen churning out a few snacks to fill the remaining nooks & crannies in the box. So at around 8PM I decided to try this amazingly simple saltine butter toffee. I didn't add anything extra to the toffee, aside from an extra sprinkle of coarse sea salt on top of the chocolate. The broken pieces were sweet & salty, had a lovely crunch, and are incredibly customizable. Toss a few ounces into a cello bag with ribbon, and you're sure to get on every neighbor's nice list. Or at least get to pet their five month old Bernese puppy!

leaves and flours leaves and flours vegan peanut brittle

I also made a large patch of peanut brittle. I have made several pounds over the last few weeks and I think I have finally perfected my recipe. I'm not quite ready to share it with anyone. Sometimes you have to hold your cards. There's only one other recipe that I am not willing to share, because it's the best thing that I have ever done ('s the pastry cream that I use in my fruit tarts). I haven't made too many other brittles, but I have a growing list: ginger sesame, chocolate covered hazelnut, and pumpkin seed. Do you have a favorite brittle? What treats did you make for all your loved ones this year?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cute as a Mitten

leaves and flours vegan mitten sugar cookies

Buttons are cute, but mittens are way cuter. I have had a mitten cookie cutter for a few years, however it wasn't the best shape. It was one of those cookie cutters that makes sense when you see it labeled in the basket with all the others, but once the cookie is baked people have no clue what it is (also filed under: the teapot cookies I made last year that stumped everyone). Recently I saw this Wilton cookie cutter with a much more defined thumb, and it had to be mine. I even waited in line at a Michael's on a Saturday in the middle of December to purchase it. That is patience.
So I made these adorable sugar cookies. I flipped half of them over before baking so that I could have pairs of mittens! I was running a little low on time the afternoon I made these, so I didn't split the icing and tint it multiple colors and pipe it on to make more defined cuffs and what not. I think the single color lets my sprinkles shine though. I am so hooked on the mitten cookie cutter that I have gingerbread mittens in my oven baking as I type this.
This morning I broke out my candy thermometer and made some other sweets, but I managed to misplace my camera (again). This has been one of those months where I can't keep track of most objects. I am really on-point as far as getting things done, but I have probably lost about 10 pens while crossing things off my to-do list.

leaves and flours vegan mitten sugar cookies
leaves and flours vegan mitten sugar cookies

Monday, December 10, 2012

Playing Catch Up

My yeast theme might be falling apart a little this month. I keep having really great intentions. There was a nice little list of all the things I wanted to make: sourdough loaves and cinnamon buns and a dessert version of a soft pretzel. I have been baking incessantly, just not many things with yeast. I did manage to make a batch of soft pretzels, but I have blogged about them before so I didn't think they warranted another post. I also made more rocky road fudge and a few pounds of peanut brittle. There have been tons of baked donuts and rice crispies. I made Hanukkah cookies last night and stuffed myself full of latkes too. At work I have been making tubs full of gingerbread men. That's right tubs. I can't even count the hundreds of cookies I have rolled out any longer. Things have been so busy. I can't remember the last night that I got a full eight hours of sleep, but hopefully it will happen soon. Until then I will caffeinate myself to a mostly functional state.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirled Bread

leaves and flours vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Swirled Bread nutella filled

Thick yeasty bread filled with a homemade chocolate and hazelnut spread? Count me in. When I saw this recipe on Maple Spice, I knew it was only a matter of time before it went into my oven. I enjoyed this bread for breakfast for a few mornings. Due to the minimal sugar in the bread and the lack of sugar in the nutella spread I made, it actually wasn't a sweet bread. It was just rich and complex and super filling. However, I am sure if you used a store bought chocolate hazelnut bread, it would be much sweeter. You could also add a bit more sugar to the bread dough if you are hoping to eat it as a dessert rather than a breakfast (but what really is the difference these days).
I very loosely followed the no-tella recipe in Veganomicon. I basically pureed hazelnuts with cocoa powder and a bit of vanilla extract and canola oil until it was smooth enough to spread on the dough. I am sure that if you actually used hazelnut or peanut oil and added the recommended sugar that it would be even more phenomenal. Also, I baked this bread in a bundt cake pan than already doesn't get enough use. I don't have an angel food cake pan, because vegan angel food cake is still sort of a mystical thing. I didn't have any problems with the bread sticking to all the indentations once the pan had been floured.

leaves and flours vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Swirled Bread nutella filled leaves and flours vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Swirled Bread nutella filled

I was really excited to use those rose tea cups & plates. I have been having a ton of wonderful thrift luck lately. Last week I found, the tea cup & saucer and a bundle of saucers that all very loosely matched the tea cup for just a dollar. Recently I have also found all sorts of wonderful vintage napkins and bakeware that I can't justify spending twenty dollars on but have no problem grabbing for a dollar or two. I even found a few more vintage mason jars at a shop called Jinxed when I was in Philadelphia this weekend. I thrift pretty regularly but often forget to document my finds. Sometimes it's nice seeing how beautifully everything pairs together.

leaves and flours thrift finds

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

leaves and flours vegan fruit tart leaves and flours vegan apple lattice pecan pie

A few sweets went undocumented throughout the month since they didn't pertain to chocolate. My favorite dessert, a fruit tart, complete with a thick shortbread crust, my top secret pastry cream recipe, and several of my favorite fruits. You also see an apple and pecan pie from the bakeshop. The apple pie is topped with a faux lattice crust, using one of these handy dandy lattice cutters. It doesn't work quite as well as you might originally think. Even after rolling it a few times with a heavy rolling pin, I had trouble picking out many of the little squares of crust. Sometimes even resorting to just cutting squares with a paring knife. It still took quite a bit less time than folding lattices over 80 pies. So I am thankful for that.

leaves and flours vegan banana nut bread

After getting a flat tire on a stressful Saturday morning, one of my coworkers fixed it for me. On my lunch break, he took my tire off, patched it, and got it back on with ample time left for me to eat. I returned the favor with a loaf of banana bread. I added a cup of crushed walnuts to the batter, and even more to the top of the loaf. I even took the time to run an oiled knife over the top of the batter so that the loaf had that perfect split down the middle. That's how you show someone you really wanted to put in effort.

leaves and flours vegan yeast donut failure

Somehow it is already December. That means it's time for me to come up with another food theme to get me through these hectic holidays. I decided to go with all things yeast. My first thought was donuts. I haven't made many batches of baked yeast donuts that really won me over. This attempt was definitely not one of them. I left the dough to rise away over my warm little radiator. It rose the first time, but after I cut them, they didn't rise again. I baked them anyways and hope for the best. Unfortunately they just remained flat little doughy disks. Perhaps it is just time for a new jar of yeast or maybe the recipe was just a flop. But I am sure that I can come up with a successful batch before the end of 2012!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Malted Pretzel Brownies

leaves and flours vegan malt frosting pretzel brownie

I have a confession to make. I am someone who loves box mix brownies. I have never made a brownie from scratch that I thought compared to the box mix version. I like my brownies directly in the middle of fudgy and cakey. I am just hard to please. Because of this, I don't make brownies very often. I had seen a photograph a few months ago of brownies baked into cookie cutters to give as gifts and thought it was genius. I set out to make a batch of brownies to fill all my favorite cookie cutters with. As I started pouring the batter in, I realized it was all leaking out from the bottom of the cutters. Even though they were flat on the cookie sheet, there was nothing to hold the batter in and keep the cutter from starting to float a little. I tried taping parchment around the bottom but it still didn't really work. I got one successful cookie cutter brownie, but it wasn't even cute enough that I felt compelled to take a picture of it. Lesson learned: if you can only find one picture of something on the whole wide interweb, there is probably a good reason that no one else has recreated it.
So as I quickly realized that I didn't need a whole batch of brownie batter to fill the cookie cutters, I decided to bake the rest like normal and work off another idea. In comes the the white chocolate pretzel brownie from Vegan Treats. I had two of these in Philadelphia last month, and I haven't been able to get them out of my mind since. They were just their standard brownie topped with buttercream with the lightest hint of cocoa, ganache, and the chocolate covered pretzel. I had already fallen in love with the malted buttercream I made, and thought it would work well with a salty pretzel. I was definitely correct. Eating a whole square of these brownies was a feat, but I did accomplish it. The rest were slowly nibbled away at in bits and pieces over several days.

leaves and flours vegan malt frosting pretzel brownie

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turtle Tracks Fudge

I cannot believe how quickly time has been going by lately. It feels like November just started a few days ago, and yet I am already writing another rent check. It must be a good sign that things are moving smoothly. I have been feeling pretty confident in myself lately. I have been working on a few small crafty projects and making some larger plans that I am not quite ready to spill the beans about yet (how elusive of me). I am really looking forward to December too. While I really enjoy having time to just hangout and watch obscene amounts of the X-Files, I am going out of town at least twice in December. Eating at the best spots in other cities will always be one of my favorite things to do. Besides the obvious, which is making all the sweets.
I finally made the second flavor combination of fudge that I had intended on making when I made the rocky road batch. I planned the timing well because a few hours after cutting it, six friends came over for a few hours. While they all played Mario Kart the pile of fudge kept slowly diminishing. What I am saying is that this recipe makes a ton of fudge. So if you aren't planning on feeding the masses, then you probably want to split it in half. What I am also saying is that I don't get video games. I didn't grow up playing them, so maybe it is just a total disconnect. I actually tried to play Mario Kart for the first time a few weeks ago on the easiest level with my partner, and it just made me really panicky. Maybe it's a skill that is a lot easier to pick up on as a child. Or maybe I just archaic hand eye coordination?

Turtle Tracks Fudge
base veganized from Kraft's Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup Earth Balance
2/3 cup full fat coconut milk
12 oz semisweet chocolate
1 ten oz container Ricemellow Creme
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 ounces vegan caramels, chopped into small pieces
additional pecans or caramel sauce for decoration

Line a 9x13" or 9" square pan with parchment (I used a larger pan this time because I wanted thinner pieces of fudge). In a heavy bottomed pot combine the sugar, Earth Balance, and coconut milk. Stir continuously over medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes. Stir in chocolate, vanilla, and Ricemellow creme. You will need to stir quickly. I highly recommend an electric mixer. Fold in pecans and caramel chunks, then pour into the pan. I reserved a few unchopped pecans and added additional caramel sauce to the top to add a little more visual appeal. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing into squares with a sharp knife. It's also best if you can find a knife without indentions on the side. You will get a much prettier cut.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Pudding Pie

leaves and flours vegan chocolate pudding pie

I made this pie for my partner's mother's birthday. I made her a cake last year, so I felt like switching it up this time around. I had made Greg's dad a cherry pie with a crumb topping for his birthday, so I thought it would be cute to make them corresponding birthday desserts. Not that anyone else would really notice something like that, but you can't blame me for overanalyzing sweets.
While I have made plenty of puddings before, I never have filled a pie with pudding. I have filled them with fruit and coconut cream, but never pudding. And that was just something I needed to correct. I searched around for a few recipes and realized that the chocolate pudding pie recipes from Vegan Pie in the Sky and Smitten Kitchen were nearly identical. That meant that it couldn't be a bad choice. I used the measurements from Smitten Kitchen, because I like breaking out my scale to weigh chocolate. I decided to make things even more special by using Valrhona chocolate & cocoa powder. Topped with fresh coconut whipped cream and more chocolate, you couldn't go wrong.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate pudding pie

I kept delaying this little birthday pie, and it worked out pretty splendidly since today is my father's birthday too. My sister's birthday is later this week. So maybe this little shout out will reach them virtually since I can't be there in person. Just know that I would make you both pies or cakes or fresh baked loaves of bread. Whatever you wanted.
When you can't be home for the holidays you have a little more time to think about what family means and how grateful you are for it. Not just for the family that's celebrating birthdays a few hundred miles from your home, but the family that warmly welcomes you to their holidays even when you aren't blood. Thankful for the parent's best friends who call you to check up on you, and the people you come across in life who will someday call your hypothetical children (but more likely will watch your cats). And the friends that come back to town to catch up so quickly over just a single meal or cup of coffee, but you miss them as soon as they are gone again.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate pudding pie leaves and flours vegan chocolate pudding pie

Do you have something you only make on special occasions? Normally for me it's waffles. You know you are loved if I have broken out my waffle iron at any point in time. I wake up hungry. So if I appreciate you enough to delay my breakfast for longer than ten minutes, you are in a great place.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nutella Truffles

I had really great intentions of posting three times this week. I had everything baked and photographed by Saturday. All I had to do was write something. And then the Thanksgiving rush started. For the last five days I have worked between ten to twelve hours everyday. The last three days have been go time. My two assistants and I managed to bake around five hundred loaves of breads, three hundred pies, eighty tarts, and seventy six pounds of cornbread!! Last night, as soon as I got home from baking all day, I got a call telling me that one of the stores was already sold out of pumpkin pie. I managed to restock it all this afternoon, but I am not quite sure how long it will last. Thanksgiving is a wild time in the baking business.
So if you have had a hectic work week, are traveling pretty far, or maybe you're just waiting until the day of, then I have something you could whip up pretty easily. These truffles aren't too challenging, all you need is a little time management. You basically melt the chocolate, let it cool for 2 hours, roll the truffles, and voila! You could use whatever chocolate hazelnut spread you can find. Justin's is generally my first choice, but I have heard a lot of praise for Rawtella lately! If you want a more appealing look you could use finer chopped hazelnuts, but I prefer the texture the course ones add.

leaves and flours vegan nutella chocolate hazelnut truffles
Nutella Truffles
veganized from My Baking Addiction

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon hazelnut extract (optional)
3/4 cup hazelnuts

Using a double broiler, melt the Earth Balance, coconut milk, & chocolate hazelnut spread. Whisk frequently until the mixture is fully melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add extracts. Pour into a shallow pan and allow to cool for two hours. Using a tiny scoop or spoon, portion out truffle center and roll quickly into a ball. Roll in chopped hazelnuts, and allow to chill for another ten minutes to firm back up from working the chocolate.

leaves and flours vegan nutella chocolate hazelnut truffles

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Malt Buttercream

When I ordered the pound of malt powder, I wasn't sure quite how much there would be. I knew that powders generally tend to be pretty light, so there had to be at least a few cups. I didn't realize that I would be able to use such a small amount to make so many malt balls! I knew instantly that I would have to make a malt frosting. The first batch I made to taste, and then recreated it a second time writing down measurements as I went. While I love the preciseness of baking, I find frosting fascinating because it is very much just tweaking things until you get it to the consistency you desire. There's a lot more give and take. And it's hard to mess it up. If it's too wet you add more sugar, and if it's too thick you add more milk. Now that's something I can appreciate it. There's nothing I hate more than throwing away food.
I tried to make a wild variation on the chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW with half dark cocoa and half Valrhona cocoa and then replacing a half cup of flour with a vegan malted milk powder I made. But you couldn't taste the malt flavor at all in the cake, so I added even more malt powder. Then the cupcakes baked pretty weirdly and cracked all over the tops. I wouldn't dare share the recipe with even my worst enemy. You should just make your favorite chocolate cake recipe and join me from there. I topped my pitiful little cupcakes with a malt frosting that made them much more delightful. The chocolate & malt combination tastes like a dreamy milkshake I once had at Lula's Sweet Apothecary. I cut a few mint striped paper straws in thirds and stuck them into the frosting for even extra milkshake appeal.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate cupcakes with malt frosting
Malt Buttercream
enough for a dozen cupcakes

1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup malt powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk of choice
Cream the Earth Balance and shortening together until no lumps remain. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Add remaining powdered sugar, malt, cocoa, vanilla, and 2 tbsp of the milk. Beat until fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. If too thick, add remaining milk a tablespoon at a time.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate cupcakes with malt frosting

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Little Blogger Birthday

Today marks one year since I wrote my first blog post! It has definitely been a roller coaster. I have changed so much as a person and learned so much as a baker since this all started. I spent a little time after I got home from work this afternoon going through old posts. When I was in Tennessee a few weeks ago my friend Jenna mentioned to me how my blogging "voice" has changed. I hadn't really noticed it, but after re-reading everything, I definitely think she's right. I was so succinct and methodical in my writing, which makes sense as I was constantly writing scientific things for school. But over the last little while I have become much more comfortable with telling stories and being personal than I was. This little blog has done a lot for my confidence, landed me a job, and helped me meet a few new friends!
I have a lot of chocolate sweets that I thought about posting today, but nothing felt quite right. So instead I decided to do a cheesey 'what I did this summer' type wrap-up and even give you a little sneak peek at what I am planning for the next few weeks.

My favorite things from the last year

leaves and flours vegan M&M cookies
leaves and flours chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes veganleaves and flours vegan chai tea shortbread tea bag cookies
leaves and flours vegan baked speculoos donutsleaves and flours vegan fruit tart
From top to bottom:
M&M cookies, chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes, chai tea bag cookies, speculoos donuts, and fruit tarts

There's a lot more to come. I have been playing with a lot of malt powder. I have made truffles & pie. There are still a cake and some bread still on my to-bake list for this month of chocolate. After November is over I am not sure what direction I will take. I have been enjoying the theme, but I'm not sure that anything else can top chocolate. I mean it's not really feasible to do a month of pistachios, but I suppose I could do a month of nuts or tea flavored things? I would love to do a month of bread, but I am afraid that it would kill the motor on my beautiful KitchenAid. Also my mixer matches my blog layout?! Pistachio and mint aren't only great flavors, but happen to also be my favorite color.

I will also leave you with one final factoid. When I was trying to brainstorm blog names a little over a year ago, all I could think about was this scene in Stranger Than Fiction. I might wanna be Maggie Gyllenhaal's character a little too much. No shame.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Malt Balls

My favorite candy growing up was Whopper's Robin Eggs. I mean regular Whoppers would do, but if you were gonna give me the chance to eat the brightly colored egg shaped malt balls than the regular ones would be left piled up. Since fall isn't really prime robin egg season, and I didn't really feel like trying to emulate their spotted candy coating, I went for classic malt balls. These taste just like the bags I remember devouring at the movies. The crunch is a little crisper. I might try a few more batches and further tweak the malt/chocolate ratios, but these are spectacular as is. You will need a few specialty ingredients. But I think this is one of the times that it is really worth waiting anxiously by your mailbox.

leaves and flours vegan homemade malt balls whoppers

Homemade Malt Balls
makes 2-3 dozen candies, depending on size

12 oz white chocolate
1 cup soy milk powder*
3 tbl malt powder
9 oz semi-sweet chocolate

In a double broiler, melt your white chocolate. While this is melting combine the soy milk and malt powders in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in melted white chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Then using either a small scoop or a teaspoon portion out the filling. Roll into balls and allow to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate and gently coat the candy. Allow excess chocolate to drip off and allow chocolate to harden at room temperature for 30 minutes.
* I haven't tried it, but I do think this would work with rice milk powder too if you want to make the malt balls soy free.