Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chai Shortbread Tea Bag Cookies

I have a serious obsession with cookies lately. All I want to do is make incredibly intricate cookies full of swirls and patterns or shaped by hand or with my a few neat cookie cutters. I have seen pictures of these tea bag cookies floating all around the blogosphere for a few months now. They have been on my to do list since I originally saw them, but I was waiting for the right occasion. One of my friends moved away last month. As someone who likes tea a lot, she likes it even more than I do.
So I broke out the chai spices, the black tea, and got to work with my bench scraper. The recipe that I used for my cookies was decent, but not the best. The cookies didn't have near as much flavor as I was hoping for, even though I added extra spices, vanilla bean, and a few teaspoons of ground tea leaves to the dough. I only chilled the dough for an hour because I was pressed for time, so if I were to try it again I would definitely let it sit for 24 hours to help the flavors develop more. I also suggest melting the Earth Balance, steeping chai tea in it, and then allowing it to cool & resolidify before making the shortbread dough.

leaves and flours vegan chai shortbread tea bag cookies

After your dough is chilled, you roll it out like any other cut out cookie dough. You have a few options of the cutting process. You could either trace a tea bag on a bit of parchment and cut it out to use as a template or free hand the process. I went for the latter option. You can use a knife, but I found a bench scraper to be the easiest tool to work with. After cutting each tea bag, I poked a hole in the top with a Wilton #5 round tip. I did this largely because I was worried that the cookies would swell a bit after baking and my string would not fit through the holes. If you have thin baker's twine, than you can easily get away with a #3 or #4 if you want them to look a bit daintier.
After baking, I dipped the cookies in dark chocolate thinned with a teaspoon of coconut oil. I threaded my string through the holes and made tags with a bit of fancy paper I had left over from some other craft project.

leaves and flours vegan chai shortbread tea bag cookies

Overall I definitely think these cookies were a success. They didn't taste exactly like I wanted them too, but their cute factor was an overwhelming win at her going away party. Do you like getting really crafty in the kitchen or do you prefer straight forward baking? Have you seen any other adorable baked goods lately?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Confetti Birthday Cake

leaves and flours vegan confetti birthday cake tart cherry

Last week was my 24th birthday. I decided that this year I was going to break out one of my fancy aprons and make myself a really ridiculous birthday cake. I didn't have any intention of eating it, because I am a little overwhelmed with sweets lately. But I knew if I made it took enticing enough, it would slowly disappear from the kitchen.
I have somewhat of a problem with hoarding sprinkles. I looked into my giant tupperware bin full of sprinkles and pulled out several types that I had never opened. If I won't use them on my own birthday cake, then what good are they? It's like filling cabinets full of china that never gets used. Beautiful, but a waste.
I also filled the cake with a tart cherry filling. This was only my 3rd time making a layered cake at home, and my first time filling one. I was a little too nervous about the cherry juices leaking out and piped my rim too far into the center of the cake. Be reckless and just do a thick line around the edge of the cake. That way you can pack in more cherries per bite!
I wanted a colorful, shiny, sprinkle encrusted cake. Coating the top is easy peasy. The sides are where it gets a little tricky. I set my cake on the edge of my kitchen sink and tilted it slightly and basically tossed handfuls of sprinkles onto it. This is not incredibly effective. I sort of had to push the sprinkles into the cake. I wasted tons of sprinkles and eventually got frustrated and stopped attempting it. I was fine with the patchiness on the sides. I was also really pleased that when I washed all the sprinkles into the food disposal and turned it on that a burst of colored water shot out!

leaves and flours vegan confetti birthday cake tart cherry leaves and flours vegan confetti birthday cake tart cherry
leaves and flours vegan confetti birthday cake tart cherry leaves and flours vegan confetti birthday cake tart cherry

Confetti Birthday Cakee
Three 9"cakes, each approximately 1.5" thick

2.25 cup almond milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
4.5 tsp ENER-G mixed with 1/3 cup water
2.5 tbsp vanilla extract
2.25 cup sugar
0.75 cup oil
4.5 cup flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1.25 cup sprinkles

Curdle the milk with the vinegar. Make ENER-G eggs and allow to thicken for several minutes. Add vanilla, sugar, oil, and egg replacer to the milk. Sift dry ingredients into mixer. Add wet to dry and stir until just mixed. Add sprinkles, and mix until distributed evenly.
Pour batter into three oiled 9"cake pans. It is also recommended to cut parchment circles for the bottom of each pan, as the sprinkles tend to stick to the pan. Bake at 350 for 40-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool fully before icing.

Tart Cherry Filling

48oz tart cherries
2 cup cherry juice
0.5 cup sugar
0.5 cup cornstarch

In a small bowl combine 0.5 cup of cherry juice and cornstarch, set aside. Combine tart cherries, 1.5 cup of juice, and sugar in medium sized sauce pan. Allow mixture to come to a boil, stirring frequently. Once rapidly boiling, add the cornstarch slurry to the pan. Whisk until smooth. Allow mixture to boil several minutes until the juice reduces to a thicker syrup like consistency. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

I iced the cake with a triple batch of the vanilla buttercream from VCTOTW. I am not an icing fan, so this was just enough for the rims inside the layers, a thin layer all around the exterior of the cake. If you are wanting to pipe borders or want a thicker layer of frosting, you will definitely need a larger batch of frosting.
You are also probably going to have cherry filling left over. That's not a problem. Throw it in your fridge and use it to top some waffles the next morning. Get wild and add some coconut whipped cream and maybe another handful of sprinkles, it's still your birth week after all.
Have you ever made yourself a birthday cake? Or bought yourself a really extravagant birthday gift? I think those are my favorite things to do. Each year I buy myself a few small things that are a little silly, but that I want. This year I bought a pack of mint striped paper straws, a mouse cookie cutter, and a tooth cookie cutter.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

M&M cookies

I have been searching for vegan M&M's for quite a while now. For a while the only option was Whizzer's chocolate beans, but they were not ideal. The chocolate was a little bitter, and while it's nice that they were dyed naturally, the colors were a little boring.
I finally heard about Vermont Nut Free Chocolates a few weeks ago and immediately ordered three 16oz bags of their dark chocolate skippers**. After the cost of shipping, it was $25 well spent! They not only look identical to M&Ms but taste exactly the same. I think someone would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them.
I have used most of the first bag making M&M cookies. I have a lot of plans for the remaining candy, but it might end up with me just eating them on the couch while I watch movies.

leaves & flours vegan m&m cookies

Vegan M&M Cookies
recipe adapted from Ghiradelli

1 tbl Ener-G powder
1/4 cup water
1 cup Earth Balance
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Vermont Nut Free dark chocolate skippers

Preheat oven to 350. Combine Ener-G and water and allow to thicken. Cream Earth Balance and sugars. Add egg replacer & vanilla. Slowly mix in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in dark chocolate skippers slowly, being careful not to crush the candy shells. Scoop onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Slightly flatten the tops of cookies and bake 10-12 minutes, until edges of the cookies are slightly browned.

leaves & flours vegan m&m cookies

These cookies remind me of being a little kid. They are so bright and colorful and satisfying. I think my birthday approaching has me feeling a little nostalgic. I've been watching a lot of children's movies like Hook & Willy Wonka. It's a nice little escape from everyday stress. What's your favorite childhood film?

**A few people have been confused by the Vermont Nut Free Chocolate website. If you read carefully, the ingredients for the dark chocolate skipper are listed immediately after the milk chocolate skipper. You will see that they don't contain any sort of dairy product. There isn't any verification on the sugar (whether it is bone char processed or not), but they are vegan enough for me.