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.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rocky Road Fudge

My freshman year of college I told my mother that I didn't want a birthday cake. I told her that I had eaten a lot of cake in the last few weeks and was sort of over it. She set out to find a birthday appropriate cake alternative. I came home to find a 3 tiered fudge "cake". She had made batches of both chocolate and peanut butter fudge and let them set in cake pans. After popping them out, she stacked them up and stuck several candles in the top layer. There must have been 15 pounds of fudge. Even with the help of many friends I couldn't eat it all. I remember having plastic wrapped chunks of fudge in my freezer for most of the year. So maybe that is why I associate fudge with birthdays. Maybe it's because fudge is so rich and indulgent. Maybe it's because I refuse to let fudge just be fudge and feel compelled to make it even more elaborate.
Yesterday was a friend's birthday, and she is someone who I felt definitely deserved something extra special. Originally I set out to make both rocky road and turtle track fudge, but things didn't quite go as planned. I was trying to mix the marshmallows into the molten fudge by hand and I just wasn't quite quick enough. The fudge was starting to crystalize already, and I knew that I didn't have time to separate it into two bowls to add the different mix-ins. So I just went with rocky road for now. If history could repeat itself, I just would have made the fudge base in halves but now you can learn from my mistakes. Also, I don't have an electric hand mixer, but that would be really useful for this project. My fudge still turned out beautifully and everyone involved was content.

leaves and flours vegan rocky road fudge
Rocky Road 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 bag Dandies, halved
1/2 cup Ricemellow Creme
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Line a 9" square pan with parchment. Chop almonds and half of the dandies into small 1/4" pieces. In a heavy bottomed, large pan 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, Ricemellow creme, and the uncut Dandies. You will need to stir quickly. I highly recommend an electric mixer. Fold in almonds and remaining marshmallows and pour into the pan. I reserved a few marshmallows and almonds for 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.

leaves and flours vegan rocky road fudge

I have made this fudge a few times before tweaking the recipes in various ways. One time I made it using 7oz of Smucker's Marshmallow topping, which is chemically vegan. It tasted great, but definitely was a much softer set & had to be kept in the fridge. I have made it with all Dandies. It tastes wonderful and has the same consistency as this batch. I haven't made it using only Ricemellow yet, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. I used a mixture because I had a jar of the creme that had been lurking in my fridge for a few months that I wanted to finish and already needed to buy a bag or marshmallows to make the flavor combination I wanted.
I will definitely be revisiting my turtle tracks idea too. I have caramel and pecans just dying to be swirled into fudge. I also wouldn't mind trying a moose tracks version. I am thinking chunks of peanut butter cups mixed in would be really ridiculous?! I should probably just turn all of my favorite ice cream flavors into fudge. Cookie dough? Nutty buddy? A girl can dream.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Tarts

I sort of got in the swing of things with vegan MoFo. I spent almost everyday that I had off baking numerous things to document throughout the week. With that sort of obligation gone, I am a little afraid that I will let the month slip away too quickly without blogging. I decided to remedy this by giving myself another theme for the month, something I am really passionate about, chocolate. So while there won't be 25 posts about chocolate, I am hoping to get a solid handful in. Before I know it Thanksgiving will be here and I will be knee deep in pies at the bakery and come home only to collapse into my warm bed.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate hazelnut tarts

Chocolate Hazelnut Tarts
makes six 4" tarts

1 batch of shortbread tart dough from Vegan Pie in the Sky
1 batch of dark chocolate orange custard from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats*
1 cup of toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Make the tart shells. While they are cooling, make the custard. Pour into shells and allow to cool for 2 hours. Top with chopped hazelnuts and serve cooled. These also make really great parfaits. I will probably make this custard repeatedly with different flavorings and mix-ins!
* I omitted the orange from the custard and added 2 teaspoons of hazelnut extract. You don't need this, but it does add to the depth of the flavor

leaves and flours vegan chocolate hazelnut tarts

Friday, November 2, 2012

October Vegan Food Swap

This was the second time that I have participated in Cat of The Verdant Life's vegan food swap. I am really glad that it went as swimmingly as I had imagined again. My package came from from Leslie of Eat4Health. It might have been a little tricky for someone advocating healthy diets to compose a package for someone with as big of a sweet tooth as me, but she did great!

I got two chocolate bars, which I am tucking away to bake with. I also got several great snacks that I have been putting in my lunch box most days. I hadn't tried the edamame goji berry combination before, and was pretty pleased with the mixture. I love the strawberry fruit leathers. I have been trying to ration them to one a day, but it would be too easy to eat the whole box at once. I got two Builder Bars which I ate for breakfast the last two days with some fruit. I have a long, early morning commute, so it's always nice to have something that I can eat while driving that will also keep me full for a few hours. I knew that I like the chocolate peanut butter bar, but also got to try a chocolate mint one for the first time. I was glad that the mint wasn't too overwhelming like I thought it might be. My favorite part of the package was defeinitely the Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit mix. It was so good! I love their mini chocolate chips, so throwing in some pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried apples and cranberries can only make it better. I am sure that it would be great in a trail mix muffin. But that would mean I would have to stop eating the bag a handful at a time in the very near future!
If you want to participate in the Vegan Food Swap, you can join here! This was the last swap for 2012, so you will have to check back in January if you want to join!