Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Black Cocoa Cookies

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar
I have now been a resident of Philadelphia for three weeks! I have taken public transportation several times a week, and didn't get lost even once! I've managed to find a bank and a grocery store and even develop some semblance of a new routine. This was one of the first things that I baked in my new oven (which doesn't have a timer?!), and I was mostly just happy that the cookies remotely turned out. I have had bad experiences with new ovens in the past, and it's reassuring to know that the temperature isn't off by 40 degrees and doesn't have wild hot spots. I may have let these cookies sit out for 36 hours trying to find a few minutes of sunlight to photograph them. The morning after I baked them I tried to photograph them outside five minutes before I needed to leave for work using a black table cloth. However it was very wrinkly from my not-so-careful packing, and it was a different sort of spooky than what I was going for with these Halloween cookies. I finally realized the light in my kitchen window is quite reasonable around noon and was able to snap these photos. Learning a new houses's light is a tricky thing indeed, but at least this time it involved treats!

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar
Spooky Black Cocoa Cut Out Cookies
makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters used

8 oz Earth Balance margarine
1 cup sugar
2 Ener-G eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup black cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 oz Tofutti cream cheese
Cream margarine and sugar. While this is creaming, combine hot water and Ener-G powder to make egg replacer & allow to thicken. Add Ener-G eggs & vanilla extract to sugar mixture. Beat until combined. Add half of the flour and mix. Add remaining flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and cream cheese. Beat until a thick dough forms. Portion into two disks, wrap in wax paper, & allow dough to chill in fridge for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough between wax paper to approximately 1/3" thick & cut out shapes. The dough will hold up fine for multiple rollings. If your fridge or freezer will fit a baking tray, chill the cut cookies for another fifteen minutes before baking. Bake 12-14 minutes until edges are firm. The centers will still be soft, but will firm up slightly as they cool. If you would prefer to have classic sugar cookies, simply replace cocoa powders with additional flour. Some of these cookies are pictured as well!

Natural Black Glaze

2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup black cocoa
3 tbl agave nectar
2-4 tbl non-dairy milk of choice
In a large bowl add powdered sugar and black cocoa. Whisk until cocoa is evenly distributed. Add agave and 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk. Whisk until combined. If mixture is too thick to whisk, add additional milk. However, glaze goes from too thick to too thin, very quickly so be careful to add liquid in very small amounts, whisking to check consistency frequently. Dunk tops of cooled cookies, shaking to remove excess glaze. Allow to harden for at least 4 hours before attempting to stack. I also decorated the cookies with a vanilla glaze (some tinted with a natural green dye) and sprinkled a few of the cookies with naturally dyed sanding sugars. The dye and sanding sugars are from Confection Craft, a really lovely small business based in Portland!

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar

Black cocoa is pretty important to get the coloring of the cookies & glaze as dark as possible. You can buy a pound of Frontier fair trade black cocoa for less than $16 here! But if you can't find it locally and really don't want to order it, you can try replacing it with an extra dark cocoa. While it will still taste similar, it will not be quite as spooky. If you aren't opposed to artificial dyes, you could instead add a few drops of black dye and use regular 'ole cocoa powder in both of the recipes. But at least consider using fair trade cocoa, it's pretty important to protect the livelihoods of many people in the world.

leaves and flours vegan Halloween Cut Out Cookies chocolate sugar

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peanut Chew Cheesecake

I am writing this from my desk on the first rainy morning where I'm calling a new city home. The last month has been wild and busy and emotional. I have repeatedly tried to wrap it all up into a few neat paragraphs, but the words just kept eluding me. For a few years my parter, Greg and I have been telling everyone that we were going to move to Philadelphia. After a year or so, it seemed to folks like maybe we were crying wolf. But we finally felt like it was the right time & mustered up the courage to leave a city that we love and venture to somewhere new. Everything was going smoothly, but then Greg got in a bike accident and broke his collar bone in a few places. He needed some surgery and got a metal plate put in his shoulder. So while it's really cool that I'm dating a bionic man, it wasn't conducive to moving. I was able to pack everything up alone and we convinced some friends and family to help us pack up the moving truck in DC. We left behind a queen size box spring since we couldn't fit ours down the stairs of our old bed room. We got it up the stairs by opening a window. But then we repaired the banister on the stairwell, and the extra two or three inches that we added made it impossible to bring it back down.
I narrowly escaped demolishing a tiny gas station in the city in my first ten minutes in our 14 foot U-haul, and then almost hit a cop car as soon as we got to our new block. But the ride in between wasn't too bad. Just small moments of nervous energy as I had to approach a toll booth or merge across 4 lanes of traffic. We got to Philly and thirteen amazing friends came to help unload the truck. You know you are moving to the right place when you already have as many friends helping you on your first day in town as you did at your going away party in the last city.

leaves and flours vegan
photo by Massimo Catarinella

Our first week has been pretty quiet. We are unpacking slowly, working on a few projects everyday. I'm almost done assembling the kitchen, obviously the most important room in the house to me. Even though it's large for an apartment, it's half the size of what we left. And in the last three years I have acquired a ton of bakeware. I'm hoping that an ingenious storage solution will strike me at any minute.
One of my favorite candies happens to be a Philadelphia creation, so it seemed very appropriate to share this cheesecake with everyone. If you haven't had a peanut chew before, you should see if they are available in your area or let me know and we can swap candy! It's a molasses caramel filled with roasted peanuts and then dipped in chocolate. Heaven. The factory is still in the city but I maybe already checked into it, and they don't give tours. This shows you my list of priorities. Touring the peanut chew factory > finding homes for all my displaced tea cups & saucers > hanging curtains. But eating sweets will always be at the top of that list. We moved two blocks from an ice cream shop, so things are about to get dangerous. If you have any suggestions of places to eat or visit or things you love about the city, please let me know. I am pretty well versed in Philly vegan food, but there are still so many places I haven't tried before.

leaves and flours vegan Peanut Chew Cheesecake

Peanut Chew Cheesecake
one 9" or several mini cheesecakes, varying based on size of pans used

Peanut Graham Crust
9 ounces peanuts
3 ounces graham crackers
10 tbl shortening

Pulse the peanuts and graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor. Melt the shortening. Pour over the cookie and peanut crumbs and mix with hands until fully incorporated. Press firmly into the bottom of your springform pan(s). This is not a sweet crust. If you would prefer it to be a little sweeter, replace two ounces of peanuts for more graham crumbs. I used gluten free graham crumbs, but they should be interchangeable with regular graham crackers.

Cheesecake Filling
24 oz non-dairy cream cheese, I prefer Tofutti
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbl blackstrap molasses
2 tbl Ener-G beaten into 1/3 cup hot water
6-10 peanut chews cut into small pieces, depending on how much candy you want in each slice

Make your cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, molasses, and Ener-G together until smooth. Place some candy around the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the batter into your springform pan. Add rest of candy and top with remaining cheesecake batter. Smooth surface & bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until the cheesecake appears set. Allow to cool for at least 4-6 hours before attempting to slice the cake. I find that overnight is best.

1/3 cup dark chocolate
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1 tablespoon agave nectar

In a double broiler heat all ingredients whisking frequently until the chocolate has totally melted and the ganache is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes before assembling the cheesecake.

Once your cheesecake has cooled for several hours or overnight, top with ganache shortly before serving. I also chose to add additional peanut chew pieces around the top of the cheesecakes to give it a little more height & decoration. If it's already on the sweet side for you, additional sprinklings of peanuts would also be lovely.