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!