Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

leaves and flours vegan cinnamon sugar pull apart brioche bread

When I originally made Celine's brioche recipe I knew it would be a recipe that I would make several times. I also knew I had to try her pull apart variation, especially since it has a much shorter chilling time.
I'm going to be honest with you, I have never been a cinnamon bun fan. I love the swirls of cinnamon through the dough, but I don't desire the too sweet sticky icing ever. That is not to say that there have not been a few low points where I have devoured a grocery store, chemically vegan cinnamon bun or two. But if I were planning out a breakfast option for friends, I would choose this cinnamon sugar variation over buns. The pull apart bread is positively to die for. It's slightly yeasty and just enough sweet. No toothaches necessary.
You will need a mixer with a dough hook, a rolling pin, and a pretty specific pan size. I didn't have a 7.75 inch x 3.75 inch x 2.75 inch pan. I did have a pan that was about 5 inches longer and similar heights and depths. I put in all the squares of cut dough because they fit, but during baking a few of them popped out. I was glad for the foil I put down on the oven rack below. If you have a smaller pan, just put in a fraction of the dough. If you have a slightly larger pan, the pieces might fall over a bit during a baking so that they pull off a bit weird. You could also split the dough into two mini loafs. Or even bake the bread in rose form like Tiffany for a real 'aww' factor.

leaves and flours vegan cinnamon sugar pull apart brioche bread

Also, if you make this bread early in the morning your whole house will smell heavenly for most of the afternoon. That's the kind of aromatherapy I enjoy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

leaves and flours vegan blueberry streusel muffins

There's been a lot of changes in my life lately. In the past few weeks I took a leave of absence from graduate school and got offered a job as the head baker at a vegan bakery opening this spring. As the bakery is still being renovated, I am temporarily working as a pastry assistant in Great Sage, the vegan restaurant the group also owns. I've been learning a whole lot about baking on commercial equipment, lifting 30 pound boxes of vegan cream cheese onto top shelves of walk in fridges, and adjusting to the quick pace of a kitchen during brunch service.
I've also been adjusting to working weekends and having off on random weekdays. One of those random weekdays was a quiet, dreary Monday. I could feel myself coming down with a cold. So after filling myself with a fruit smoothie and vitamin C pills I walked across the eerily empty street and bought a pint of blueberries. I went home to catch up on silly TV shows, while I baked these muffins and drank a lot of hot tea.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
This will make 6 jumbo muffins or a dozen standard size.

1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/3 cup Turbinado
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almond milk
2& 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1& 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Streusel topping
1/4 cup Turbinado
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1& 1/2 tbsp cold Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream Earth Balance and sugar. Add applesauce, vanilla, & milk. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder salt, and cinnamon. Add half the dry mixture to the wet, mix to incorporate, and repeat. Fold in the blueberries by hands. Fill liners 3/4 full with batter.
Combine all streusel ingredients. Cut the butter into the sugar and flour using a fork and some patience. Sprinkle on top of muffins. Bake for 28-33 minutes or until toothpick comes out cleanly.

leaves and flours vegan blueberry streusel muffins

These muffins are really, really dense. If you want a light, airy muffin this is not for you. This was a first attempt at this recipe, so I have a few changes that I suggest. Next time I might add even more blueberries, as the flavor was not quite as strong as I would like. I would probably add additional cinnamon. I might even attempt to throw in a handful of oats next time around to add a bit more texture.
If you are going to use frozen blueberries, make sure you keep them in the freeze until you are putting the batter into the muffin liners. Otherwise your berries will start to melt and ooze and turn the batter all purple, unless you are into that kind of thing.

leaves and flours vegan blueberry streusel muffins

Has anyone else had any wild life changes recently? It is both terrifying and exciting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rocky Road Ice Cream

So maybe last night when I told you about my cupboard full of marshmallows, chocolate, and waffle bowls you could have guessed what was coming. Winter aside, my ice cream maker has been getting a lot of use. I made this rocky road ice cream to try and finish up a few loose ends. A bag of slivered almonds left over from the fruit tarts, a few marshmallows left over from rice crispy treats, and a bar of dark chocolate that only got partially eaten during a stressful study session.

leaves and flours vegan rocky road ice cream

I used the chocolate ice cream recipe from The Vegan Scoop, my new favorite cookbook. I used a mixture of regular Ghiradelli cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate, because I wanted the ice cream to be pretty dark. It was definitely chocolatey and rich, but next time I might even try a higher percentage cocoa. Seventy eight didn't have quite enough of a bitter edge for me.
For the batch of ice cream I used around 1/3 cup of slivered almonds and I cut around 8 Sweet & Sara marshmallows into fourths. I would recommend hand mixing those into the ice cream just as you are placing it into the container for the freezer. If you put them in the machine they are more likely to get stuck together or so covered in ice cream that they look less appealing.
This ice cream was my favorite so far. The chocolate flavor was rich, the almonds added just enough crunch, and the marshmallows froze really hard to add a bit more texture and creaminess to the mix.
I recently signed up for my first CSA, so I will have fresh fruits and vegetables for most of the summer and fall. I am pretty excited to turn some of those fruits into seasonal ice cream flavors! There are so many great ice cream flavors in my head already and with Hannah Kaminsky working on an ice cream book, I know there will be plenty more I am adding to that 'to spin' list.
Do you like really dark chocolates? I use to think they were too bitter for me to eat. But recently I have been finding them really enjoyable. Do you recommend any chocolate brands?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nutella Stuffed Cookies

Almost a month ago I found a jar of accidentally vegan nutella. I knew I wanted to make with the other half of the jar, but I had to keep it around for a little longer. Just to savor it. I know I can make more now that it's gone, but sometimes I have a bit of problem with kitchen hoarding. As a child I had a play kitchen, and unbeknownst to my mother, I used that kitchen to store cookies and chocolate and all sorts of treats. My secret wasn't revealed until my baby sister found the chocolate, sat down and covered herself & her white dress in it. Sometimes when I open my cupboards I still see that pattern. The visible items tend to be vegan marshmallows, a pound bar of chocolate, waffle cone bowls, and maybe a can of soup peaking through if it's a good week.
So I finally broke the spell and finished the jar. While nutella swirled blondies were good, nutella stuffed cookies were infinitely better! I used a recipe from Cookin' Canuck for guidance, and veganized it by just subbing in Earth Balance and Ener-G. I felt it was fairly reliable as it pretty closely resembled the recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough I use. I was not disappointed. The cookies were soft and chewy, with the nutella staying melted even hours after they had cooled. They were rapidly consumed at a friends birthday party, which leads me to believe that I need to break out my stash of hazelnuts hidden somewhere in that cupboard. There have been several nutella recipes floating around the internet. It's basically just pureeing toasted hazelnuts with either melted chocolate or cocoa powder. If you don't feel like winging it, then I think Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe might be a good place to start.
Rolling the cookies in sugar gave them a wonderful exterior, so I recommend splurging on it this once. Also don't forget to add the salt! It really makes these cookies special. I also gave the cookies a few grinds of pink sea salt while they were still warm to amp up the sweet & salty combo.

Do you find yourself storing away special foods that you can't bear to finish off yet? I can't be the only one who does this. I do at meals too. I have always saved my favorite foods for the last few bites of the meal. Except for when I eat leftover cupcakes for breakfast, that's just starting the day off right.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade Milk Duds & A Very Caramel Filled Valentine's Day

I have never been the biggest fan of Valentine's Day. I tend to lean more towards the cynical side and normally disgusted by the intensely commercialized pseudo-holiday. If you care about a person, I think you show them on most days rather than save it for mid-February when you give them a stuffed animal.
All these negative feelings aside, my partner and I celebrated Valentine's Day this year. I was given a really terrific sampler from Obsessive Confection Disorder. The rice crispy treats were soft and chewy and partially dipped in chocolate. The caramels were beautiful. Each had a few flecks of gold leaf on top!

leaves and flours vegan caramelleaves and flours vegan caramel

I decided to keep with the caramel theme and make him homemade milk duds. I have made them once before, by simply dipping caramels I bought from Pangea in chocolate. But this time I knew I wanted to try to make my own caramels. I used the recipe from Dog Hill Kitchen again, this time heating it to the higher temperature suggested for candy rather than for a sauce. I poured the caramel in an 8x8" pan and let it cool for 30ish minutes. I then used a knife to help me pull off small chunks of caramel that I rolled in my hands to small balls. If the caramel is still a little too warm, the balls will tend to flatten again as they harden. You can reroll these in your hands a few minutes later if that is the case, or just have disks instead of balls. After these cooled I dipped them in melted dark chocolate. And voila, homemade milk duds.

leaves and flours vegan homemade milk dudseaves and flours vegan homemade milk duds

Now while this all sounds lovely, there were a few problems with the caramel. It set a bit too hard. I had intended to cut the rest of the slab of caramel into small pieces and wrap them in parchment. While I managed to cut a few, I knew it was futile and dangerous to attempt to cut the other pound. Instead I broke it into a few large rectangles and rolled into a rough rose shape. I intended it to just be an inedible centerpiece, but of course he plans on eating them. I hope he doesn't break a tooth.

leaves and flours vegan caramelleaves and flours vegan caramel

I also attempted some homemade Snickers bars, but those were a total failure. The nougat I attempted was way too soft and when combined with the too hard caramel, the texture was just really off. Maybe I will give it another shot in the future.
I know there are plenty of Go Max Go bars replacing the candies that I miss, but I haven't found a good peppermint patty yet. Maybe that will be next? Are there other candies or candy bars you haven't seen veganized and hope for?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


leaves and flours vegan brioche

There is nothing that I crave more than bread. It's so satisfying and filling. I've been really interest in homemade breads lately. The loaves at grocery stores are rarely milk, honey, and corn syrup free, so I thought it would be best to do it myself. And if I am going to make bread, then I want it to be something really rich.
I had seen Celine's brioche recipe in the summer, but didn't have a standing mixer with a dough hook. I have been patiently biding my time, and now I can make it as frequently as I want. Granted, this bread is no after thought. There is almost a day in preparation as you must let it refrigerate for several hours. I made my dough in the evening and let it chill overnight, because the smell of bread baking makes for a really wonderful morning.
Not only was the bread delicious alone, but it made amazing stuffed french toast. I used a silken tofu batter full of spices and vanilla bean and stuffed it with a cream cheese & strawberry mixture. This picture does not do the taste of the stuffed toast justice. The hint of coconut in the bread works really well with the other french toast flavors.

leaves and flours vegan brioche stuffed french toast

If you love bread, then I highly recommend this recipe. It isn't challenging, and only takes a little patience due to the chilling time. Do you make your own breads?

leaves and flours vegan brioche

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tea Cup Cakes & Coconut Frosting

leaves and flours vegan coconut frosting tea cup cakes

While I am a fairly proactive person in terms of reducing waste, reusing what is possible, and recycling, I have had trouble with silicone cupcake liners. I have tried twice before, but they always seemed to rip the cake or bake oddly. Unless you are having friends over, reusable liners also make serving the cupcakes to people a bit more difficult. These are the only silicone mold that I have considered buying in years. I saw them on a clearance shelf, and thought about how impractical it was to buy them. I went home and looked more up on the internet, and decided to go back and buy them anyways.
These are from Birkmann, a European company, and sold under the name of CakeCups. There's also an American version by Fred & Friends that were a little cheaper, if you wanted to order some online. These would be adorable for a tea party or little girl's birthday. I would also love to make a tea or coffee flavored cake to really step up the game.
I recently bought a container of Earth Balance's coconut spread. When I used it in the confetti cookies, I knew it would make a wonderful coconut frosting. The frosting was light & airy, similar to a whipped cream frosting. It was so light in fact that as I tried to top the cupcakes with chocolate covered cherries, a few of them sunk right through the frosting! Keep in mind that things which contain coconut oil turn to liquids when they are warm, so you really have to wait until these cupcakes are cool to frost them.

leaves and flours vegan coconut frosting tea cup cakes

Coconut Frosting
(enough to lightly frost twelve cupcakes)

1/2 cup Earth Balance coconut spread
~2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons almond milk

Warm coconut spread to room temperature. Beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and milk, until desired consistency. Beat several minutes on high speed until very fluffy. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes. Frosting will thicken as it sits.

leaves and flours vegan coconut frosting tea cup cakes

I ate one of these with a cup of hot blueberry hibiscus tea. It's such a beautiful shade of red. And then pink and white cupcakes?! Maybe I am getting Valentine's fever after all.

Do you like silicone molds? I bought another pack last night that I thought might work too. I'm not sure if I could ever stop using cupcake liners. They are so beautiful! At least I reduce my paper waste by using kitchen towels instead of napkins?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Confetti Cookies & Strawberry Cream

leaves and flours vegan confetti cookies

I remember seeing these cookies on Namely Marly a few months ago when I was in my cookie craze. I forced myself to wait a few weeks to try them and give myself a chance to bake a few non-cookie things. These cookies are so wonderful. Their flavor is subtle & satisfying, and obviously they are adorable.
If you haven't ever made roll out cookies before, I don't think these should be your first attempt. I would practice with a few batches of a simple sugar cookie before you try this dough. As Marly suggested, this dough is infinitely easier to worth with when it is icy cold. I made the dough one night when I had some spare time and kept it in the freezer until I happened to have a pint of strawberries on hand. If I made these again, I would break the dough into around 4 smaller batches and individually wrap them. That way each section could stay in the freezer until you were ready to roll it, and you wouldn't have to deal with cutting a thick block of frozen dough into smaller portions.
I was not shy with the flour when rolling these cookies either. Prior to baking there was lots of extra flour stuck to these guys, and they still looked fine. I rolled the dough between sheets of parchment paper, and it definitely made lifting the cookies quite a bit easier. By the time I got to the last scrap of dough, the nonpareils had begun to bleed a bit. There were really pretty color streaks through some of the cookies as the nonpareils moved while I rolled the dough.

leaves and flours vegan confetti cookies

Even though I have a small chopper, when I tried smashing one strawberry it just ended up in large chunks. So I threw in four and pureed them. I think I might have added a tad more than one strawberry to the cream, but it was pretty close to her recipe. I know it seems like you should add more fruit, but the more you add the more likely it is that your frosting will separate and look less appealing. Even with the small amount of fruit, the flavor really comes through. Like I already said, it's wonderful.

leaves and flours vegan confetti cookies
leaves and flours vegan confetti cookies

I find the whole rolling-baking-sandwiching process to be really cathartic. Do you stress bake? I know I do. But I also bake when I happy, so I don't know if it's actually relevant to my emotional status.

*These are going to be posted at Sweets for a Saturday. There aren't many other vegan treats, but a lot of ideas for things to veganize!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fruit Tarts

I don't think it's difficult to make cute treats, it just takes a little practice. I find it harder to create something elegant, that stands alone, and one desires to look at for a while before they eat it. That's what tarts are for me. Tarts are something that make me stand at bakery counter windows for far too long, just looking all the beautifully molded crusts, thick creams, and shiny decorations that I know aren't vegan. Vegan Pie in the Sky's recent release has had my daydreaming for a while now. This is a variation on the Strawberry Kiwi Crème Tart. It uses the shortbread pie crust, and the cashew crème from the recipe with additional fruits on top. My friend and I doubled the recipe, and used six 4" & three 3" tart pans with removable bottoms. If you have tart pans with removable bottoms, it makes cleanly removing the tart quite a bit easier.

leaves and flours vegan fruit tarts

The shortbread crust take a little love. Just have patience. Eventually all the butter will mix into the dough, but it might make the process a bit quicker to use a pastry cutter. We tried filling the pans in a few ways. The first technique we tried was rolling out the dough. This dough is not suitable for that, it will just rip.
What we found worked the best was making a ball of dough and firmly squishing it against the round bottom of the pan until it was smooth and thin. Then trim the excess from the bottom, and place it inside the other portion of the pan. Make a long rope of dough, and wind it inside the tart pan. Cut where needed, and firmly push the dough in. Make sure that the two doughs are sealed together, the sides are thin, and then trim the excess dough off the top of the pan.
There was not room in my freezer for all the pans, so we froze a few and refrigerated a few. We also used pie weights on a few, and no weights on most. There really wasn't much notable difference between the crusts. The crusts with pie weights had a few divets where the weights had rested during baking, but they all ended up to be a similar thickness.

leaves and flours vegan fruit tarts

Making the crème for these takes a little forethought. If you don't have a vitamix or other really powerful blender, you are going to want to soak the cashews for at least 8 hours or overnight. Because I have a vitamix, we got away with only soaking them for 2-3 hours and blending for a long while. We followed the recipe closely, only adding the seeds of two scraped vanilla beans rather than extract. I also want to note that if you don't have agar powder, you could probably get away with it in this recipe by just adding less liquid. However, in several of Vegan Pie in the Sky's recipes, the agar powder is necessary. And agar flakes are NOT interchangeable.

leaves and flours vegan fruit tarts

We used a mixture of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi, and sliced almonds on the tart. After adding the fruit, we brushed on a mixture of apple jelly thinned with water. This helps seal the fruit to keep it fresher and adds a really beautiful shine. You could probably get away with a different jelly if that's all you have in your fridge, but apricot and apple will add the least amount of color to your tart. Let the tarts sit for a few hours for them to firm up. There's a little bit of a waiting game in waiting long enough for them to be firm and waiting too long, to where the fruit starts to look not as lovely. These pictures were taken the morning after making the tarts, and you can probably see that the sliced fruits aren't quite at their peak any longer.
If you wanted to make this tart gluten free, I recommend using an almond meal crust. The flavors really complement each other. We also had additional crème left over that I used to make a parfait with several layers of fruit. That could be a really elegant dessert in a glass if you don't want to mess with a crust.

Tarts can be really simple or a labor of love, but I think are worth the wait. Is there another dessert that stops you in your tracks when you see it?

*These are going to be posted at Sweets for a Saturday. There aren't many other vegan treats, but a lot of ideas for things to veganize!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Strawberry Ice Cream

I am still quite confused on the distinctions of frozen desserts, especially when one starts considering vegan frozen desserts. If ice cream is defined as a 8-10% milkfat frozen treat, and sorbet is just a non-dairy frozen desert, then where's the distinction for vegan ice creams?! I obviously need a primer on this. Basically what I am saying is that the strawberry ice cream I made I suppose is somewhere in between an ice cream and a sorbet. It's a puree of fresh strawberries, blood orange juice, and coconut milk with a slight hint of agave and vanilla. The texture is definitely more sorbet like, as it lacks the creaminess of what I consider to be ice cream.

I used a recipe from My Darling Thyme which is a variation on a recipe from David Lebovitz of The Perfect Scoop. Confusing enough yet? I substituted blood orange juice for regular citrus and used agave rather than brown rice syrup. The consistency of the ice cream was perfect. It was easy to scoop and yet melted quickly in my mouth. It was simple and wonderful. I wish the blood orange flavor had come through a little more, but I remedied that by eating it with the remaining blood orange syrup from my coconut blood orange bundt cakes.

I am officially hooked on making my own ice cream. There are several more batches on my "to make" list, so I hope you're ready to get churning. There's also a few tips on making ice cream without an ice cream maker in the recipe links above, so no one feels left out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coconut Blood Orange Bundt Cakes

All the wonderful shapes of bundt cake pans are something that really stirs my heart. There are so many beautiful ridges and swirls that look beautiful dusted with powdered sugar or dripping in flavored syrups. While I understand the practicality in making a single, large bundt cake, there is something much more satisfying to me about miniature cakes. Maybe it's that each serving remains beautifully intact and is just enough to satiate a single person. I have seen several pans that make four to six 1 cup bundt cakes, I hadn't seen many as petite as the one gifted to me by a wonderful friend.
I made the coconut blood orange bundt cakes from Vegan Yum Yum. The desert was great, but wasn't at all what I expected. The cake tasted like a simple, moist vanilla cake with barely the slightest hint of coconut flavor. There was no discernible blood orange in the cake itself, which is a little disappointing seeing as I even replaced an extra 1/4 cup of the coconut milk with fresh juice. I only used around 2 tablespoons of batter in each cavity (~ 3/4 full) and still needed to slightly cut the bottoms of the cake which were fairly rounded.
The syrup was a little to thick for me after cooking it to the suggested temperature for decorating the plates. If I were to make the syrup again, I would cook it to a lower temperature and use it as a glaze for the whole cake potentially. You will need around two blood oranges to make the cake and syrup. Make sure to strain the juice, or your syrup will have a strange texture.

This was a really simple, quick dessert that I would make if people were coming over to dinner. It isn't too sweet and is fairly light. It's probably best to attempt it this season, as blood oranges are fresh now. They are one of my favorite fruits. Do you enjoy them?