Monday, February 25, 2013

Samoa Hamantashen

leaves and flours vegan samoa hamantashen

Two years ago was the first time I made hamantashen. I think Greg and I just googled vegan hamantashen recipes and made whatever we found. I remember them being good, but never saved the recipe. This year we decided to take on the challenge of making several recipes until we found one that we were blown away by. We made 4 batches over the course of 2 days. Two of the recipes were good. One recipe was mediocre. The last recipe resulted in pre-jammed biscuits. While I appreciate a good biscuit, it does not make for a good cookie. We also had a large number of our cookies fall apart during baking. I was upset. I don't take failure well, and frankly it has been a while since I have experience a baking disaster. I couldn't sleep because I was too busy trying to figure out how to make perfect hamantashen. Luckily for me, the next morning Greg's sister posted a round up post of interesting flavor combinations which offered an alternative to pinching the edges that I thought might work. But it also caused us to change flavor course. I was no longer satisfied with raspberry, strawberry, and chocolate. I now needed something more interesting. So I settled on samoa and he made a few of the PB&J variety. We still had cookies fall apart with the folding rather than pinching. I decided the main problems were that we were overfilling the cookies (who can blame us?!) and over-flouring the counter as we rolled them out. Once I remedied those two grievous errors, we had plenty of beautiful, photogenic hamantashen. The dough recipe that follows is adapted from the inspiration for the samoa hamantashen I saw on Kitchen Tested. I liked that dough, but my favorite was Hannah's recipe from Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season. It's probably the recipe we will use again next year.

leaves and flours vegan samoa hamantashen
Samoa Hamantashen
halved & veganized from Kitchen Tested
1 cup Earth Balance
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup full fat canned coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
Coconut caramel, recipe follows
13 oz chocolate chips, semisweet or dark.

Cream Earth Balance and sugar. Add coconut milk and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Add flour in halves, mixing until a thick dough forms. Chill for at least one hour before using (make coconut caramel filling during this time). Roll out between parchment paper with as little extra flour as possible. This will help keep your hamantashen from falling apart. Add approximately a half teaspoon of filling to the center of each circle, then either fold the sides or pinch the edges together to create a triangle. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-14 minutes until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Once cookies are cooled dip bottoms in melted chocolate. Drizzle additional chocolate in zig zag formation over top of cookies then sprinkle remaining coconut from the filling on top.

Coconut Caramel
1/2 cup full fat canned coconut milk
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

In a small sauce pan combine coconut milk, brown sugar and Earth Balance. Allow to come to a low boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the mixture has thickened into a syrup and smells like caramel. It will also darken in color. While this mixture is simmering, spread your shredded coconut on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 4-7 minutes. After 4 minutes stir the coconut to ensure that the coconut isn't browning unevenly. Remove when half of the coconut is lightly browned and continue to stir on the pan while it is cooling, as the coconut will continue to toast while the pan is hot. Reserve 1/4 cup of the coconut for sprinkling on top of hamantashen. Stir the other cup of coconut and the vanilla extract into the caramel. This will fill at least 2 dozen cookies, potentially more depending on amount of filling placed into the cookie and the amount of times you eat a spoonful of caramel for good measure.

leaves and flours vegan samoa hamantashen

I ended up making extra coconut caramel and now I feel like I have to make more samoa cookies to really utilize the rest of it. Otherwise I will end up eating it with a spoon when I get home from work and am too sleepy to make myself a real dinner. I can't get the majority of those flavor combinations I read about out of my head. I can't decide what next year will be. Caramel apple? Spumoni? Who knows.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Black & White Cookies

I feel like I have become a bad gift giver. Not consistently, but sometimes. It's bizarre when it strikes. The panic sets in as I go through dozens of ideas in my head trying to sort them out. At Chanukah, I thought I had gotten my partner the best gifts possible. But I forgot to check the completely accessible book shelf. One of them was in fact perfect. So perfect that he had already been given it for a holiday a few years earlier. I eventually returned the book and replaced it with two pounds of vegan M&Ms. They disappeared quickly and all was forgiven. Fast forward to the next season of gift selection and I knew I couldn't bungle it again. I decided to go homemade, because it's just practical. I can make something that I know no one else has already gifted. The shortage of vegan black and white cookies has been mentioned a few times in our history, so I decided to finally attempt it. Having never eaten a black and white cookie I was a little nervous about this adventure. So nervous that I also bought two boxes of chocolate, you know, just in case. But everything turned out nicely, and we even had fancy chocolates to boot.

leaves and flours vegan black and white cookies

I used the recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, a tried and true cookbook. I used orange zest but omitted the lemon zest/extract. I also added 2 tablespoons of black cocoa powder to the chocolate portion of the frosting to make it darker. If you don't have black cocoa powder, you could still add a bit of dark or regular cocoa powder to enhance the color a little.
The baking of these cookies was a two part stealth mission. There is a little over an hour between when I get home and when he walks through the door after work. The first day I baked the cookies, hastily did the dishes, and then cleaned the house to remove any fresh baked cookie odor from detection. The next day I frosted these cookies really quickly while also performing neighborly duties. Someone needed assistance getting their 200lb scooter out of a truck bed?! Of course they knocked on the door right as I was ready to apply the fickle chocolate icing. I went outside and attempted to finagle the back wheel to the little ramp as he steered the front wheel. As the scooter started to roll down the ramp I had to quickly walk backwards hoping it wouldn't roll me over. My life flashed briefly before my eyes. I am not the most graceful, and there is roughly a thirty percent chance that I will take a tumble at any given moment. Luckily I safely made it back inside, got the grease off my hands, and finished frosting the cookies in time. So no hate for the imperfect frosting.

leaves and flours vegan black and white cookies

As we were snacking away and watching the X-files, I decided to research a bit more about black & white cookies. I was curious why the cookies were so cakey, and figured it out pretty quickly. They were basically a way to utilize left over cake batter created by bodegas and other small markets?! Have you learned anything interesting facts about food lately?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cherry Chocolate Chip Madeleines

leaves and flours vegan cherry chocolate chip madeleines

My love for Valentine's Day is still overflowing. I wanted so badly to sneak in one more holiday relevant post before the fourteenth, but I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. My partner got sick earlier this week and gave me his cold as an early gift. I am still not sure if it pairs well with a little black dress, but at least we didn't make any major plans for tomorrow night. After a wave of exhaustion hit me at lunch today, I worked my schedule out to leave a little early. I got home before dark and was even able to snap pictures of the remaining madeleines before I napped and drank a few cups of ginger tea. It's back to the bakery in the morning. I have a few dozen more pounds of strawberries that I need to dip in chocolate!
I had seen a chocolate dipped cherry madeleine a few weeks ago, and it sparked my interest. I knew Hannah had a much more animal-friendly recipe for a lemon lime version, so I tweaked it to make it all pink and chocolatey. I opted for mini chocolate chips in the batter instead of a ganache to keep the cakes a little lighter. I used tart cherries but maraschino would work as well. If you are reading this in the future and it's pleasantly warm out, you might even be able to use fresh cherries. You could just use additional non-dairy milk in place of the juice, and you might want to add a bit of cherry extract to boost the flavor.

leaves and flours vegan cherry chocolate chip madeleines leaves and flours vegan cherry chocolate chip madeleines

Cherry Chocolate Chip Madeleines
Adapted from the Lemon Lime Madeleines in Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season

1 cup flour
2 tbl tapioca starch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
6 tbl non-dairy milk of preference
2 tbl cherry juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbl mini chocolate chips
9 whole cherries, chopped

If using jarred cherries, pat dry and allow as much juice to be removed as possible. Chop into small pieces & set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil & flour your madeleine pan.
In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients from flour to salt. In a small bowl combine milk, melted Earth Balance, vanilla and cherry juice. Whisk until combined. Fold gently into dry ingredients. When almost combined, add chocolate chips and cherry pieces. Spoon into madeleine pan until all wells are even. Once in the oven, lower the temperature to 375. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges are browned.

leaves and flours vegan cherry chocolate chip madeleines

Without another holiday for a month, I am hoping to bake more elaborate things at home. I know I want to experiment with cannoli again. Third times a charm, right?! I will also never be over donuts. I feel like there are probably some other things bookmarked away that I will have to dig up. Is there anything fun on your list of sweets to make?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stamped Cookies

I grew up in rural Tennessee without too many friends. As I have gotten older and moved several times, I have had the great luck of gathering an amazing group of them. Most days without even realizing it, I am surrounded by strong, inspiring women. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the best friend. I often forgot that my phone exists and that messages on social media aren't the most proper way to communicate your feelings for someone. But when I break out of my reclusive ways, I realize how lucky I am to have them around. My friends do so many mind-boggling things. They and aren't afraid to push themselves and inspire me endlessly. One of my oldest friends, Kaelah, was the first person in Nashville to open a mobile clothing boutique. She somehow balances a million projects, being a mother, and running several businesses seamlessly. For the longest time, Jenna was my the only other friend I had working in a bakery. Now she is working for a start-up marshmallow shop, working as a styling assistant, and pursuing her passion of book making. Izzy is an amazing artist, who runs a terrific distro called Brood X. Natalie has the best fashion sense. She designs clothing and hunts out perfect vintage pieces. My friend KC just finished a film entitled From The Back of the Room discussing women in punk. So many people in my life pour themselves into everything that they do. It's always good to remind them how wonderful they are.

leaves and flours vegan fondant lace stamped cookies

I have been obsessed with stamped cookies for several months now. I am not exactly sure where the first time I saw one was, but I have seen countless renditions floating around the internet. Last year I saw Bakerella use springerle molds on fondant to create molded cookies. While I wanted pretty desperately to invest in a few molds afterwards, I have forced myself to show a little restraint. I seem to have a pile of rarely used baking supplies that is already quite extensive. Instead, I followed another trend and just bought a simple rubber stamp from a craft store which can be used with food dye to create beautiful images without the need of extensive decorating skills. While you can use the rubber stamp technique on either royal icing or fondant, I chose the later. I used a cheap bottle of black liquid food coloring I had left over from last Halloween. If you only have black food coloring gel, you can thin it out with a bit of alcohol or vanilla extract. I attempted a few different techniques for stamping the fondant. Painting the food coloring onto the stamp didn't work very well for me. It seemed to work best if I dabbed a rubber kitchen sponge in the dye, and then dabbed that onto the sponge. I didn't look for an empty stamp pad at the craft store, but I think that might be the best option. You could soak it in the food coloring, and then probably reuse it for several weeks afterwards. I also started with a fairly complex stamp, and probably should have attempted something without a lot of detail until I figured out what worked. I really liked playing with the contrast of the image by using different amounts of dye and also the placement of the stamp on the fondant. I probably should have made a larger batch of cookies to have more to experiment with.
Aside from the stamping technique, this was also my first time using fondant. I have always been a little afraid of it. But I didn't find it too difficult. You can either buy pre-made fondant or use this recipe for homemade marshmallow fondant from Manifest Vegan! I used a series of heart cookie cutters for both my cookies and fondant. I wasn't sure if I wanted there to be a rim of cookie showing or for the fondant to completely cover the cookie. I am still not sure if I have a solid preference. I really enjoy the way all of them look.

leaves and flours vegan fondant lace stamped cookies leaves and flours vegan fondant lace stamped cookies leaves and flours vegan fondant lace stamped cookies leaves and flours vegan fondant lace stamped cookies

I am sure that most people feel similarly, but I am proud of all the people that I have chosen to keep close with over the years. They are all endlessly smart and sassy. It's nice to know that they not only stand up for themselves and fight for what they want, but also all take time to fight for others less privileged. It's the middle of winter, most arguably the worst season of the year. But it doesn't feel so terrible when you have so many people to love.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

There are some great duos in the world. Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy. Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone. Pancakes & maple syrup. Apples & cinnamon. But nothing quite compares to peanut butter and chocolate. Sorry jelly. I know PB&J flavored sweets are all the rage these days, but I will always be Team Chocolate.
There was a food service size tub of peanut butter sitting on the shared food shelf in my house. It could have fed a small army of first graders. Every time I opened the kitchen cabinet it kept calling to me, begging for me to eat a tablespoon or two. After a few days and a few cups of peanut butter slowly devoured, I decided that it would be best for me to turn the peanut butter into something really rich that I couldn't eat too much of without regretting it. I settled on truffles. They are the quickest little treats, super indulgent, and look really nice in a box with a doily. Because sometimes you just have to share the perfection that is peanut butter and chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
yield varies based on scoop size, approximately 2 dozen

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly if not using chips
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tbl PB2, highly optional

In a double broiler combine the chocolate, peanut butter, coconut milk, and salt. Melt until the mixture can be whisked completely smooth with no visible bits of solid chocolate remaining. Pour the ganache into a bowl and allow to chill for at least an hour until firm to the touch and scoopable. Using either a tablespoon or a disher, portion out small chunks of ganache. Allow to chill for ten minutes once scooped. Then quickly roll the chocolate into balls and roll the truffles in cocoa powder (If you have PB2 feel free to combine it with the cocoa to roll the truffles in). The truffles keep well chilled or at room temperature and are good for several days. Because of the intense peanut buttery-ness, the cocoa powder will absorb into the truffle after an hour or so. It is best to re-roll these in cocoa powder shortly before serving. I really like the rustic look the patchiness of the cocoa powder lent to them.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate peanut butter truffles

Because I had the PB2 laying around from a past Vegan Food Swap, I initially thought I would roll the truffles completely in the powdered peanut butter. But this was not as pretty or tasty as I had expected it to be. The powder because really sticky and it didn't add any extra peanut butter flavor. Since I had already poured it into the bowl I just added cocoa powder to it and proceeded to roll. It you want to avoid the mess or don't enjoy the bitterness of the cocoa powder, you could definitely dip these in melted chocolate. They would look beautiful with a sprinkle of sea salt on top of the chocolate. You could also roll the truffles in chopped peanuts to add a bit of texture, but since I had already done with the nutella truffles I made recently I decided to switch it up.
I used a sugary cheap peanut butter, but if you are using a natural spread you might want to lean towards a semi sweet chocolate. I also just had Earth Balance's new coconut peanut butter, and I feel like that would make for an amazing flavor in this recipe! If you haven't given it a chance yet and aren't opposed to coconut, then you'll probably be blown away by how terrific it is.
So if you haven't come up with anything for Valentine's Day to surprise your partner or best friend or mother with, these chocolate peanut butter truffles are my suggestion. They pair well with roses and/or a movie marathon on the couch in your pajamas. A girl can't ask for more.