Archive for July, 2009

Blue Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies


On my way home from my vacation in Holland, I stopped in New York to visit friends. Of course I had to bake while I was there! The funny thing was, and I didn’t think of this till now, was that everything I made was blue! That’s a fairly uncommon color for baked goods, but it just happened that way…The first thing I made, I baked with my friend (and old roommate!) Erin, and we made chocolate chip cookies with blue cornmeal in them. They were tender and chewy, and had a nice grainy crunchy texture because of the cornmeal. The dough was blueish-purple with tiny specks of blue, and when they baked they retained a similar color, although got nicely browned on the edges. The dough was particularly tasty, and though this recipe makes a small batch, Erin and I certainly consumed a lot of dough before the cookies even made it into the oven!

We were baking also for a friend who is wheat-free, so we used a white spelt flour that they had on hand. My experience with spelt flour is that it works very similarly to regular all-purpose wheat flour, sometimes coming out a little heavier once baked. This white spelt though was no problem, and worked just how I think AP flour would have baked too. Feel free to substitute AP flour in yours if you don’t have spelt on hand though, the conversion should be the same.

1/3 cup plain soy yogurt
1/2 cup Earth Balance (room temperature)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup blue cornmeal
3/4 cup white spelt flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use an ungreased cookie sheet, set aside.
Cream Earth Balance and sugar together, then add vanilla and yogurt. Now add the blue cornmeal, flour, and baking powder; mix well, fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Makes 1 dozen cookies, plus a little batter for eating raw (the benefits of being vegan!).IMG_9856

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream


Tara did it again! The powers combined of Jesse’s favorite flavors (and mine too!) plus Tara’s ice cream making genius, there was clearly no going wrong this time. The deep and dark richness of the chocolate was brought out by the coconut milk, which really just lent it’s flavor and texture to the smoothness of the ice cream – you couldn’t taste it directly. It worked very well with the peanut butter, creating a smooth cream that was undeniably out of this world. We also found some Soyatoo Whipped Rice Cream (vegan whipped cream in a can!) at the store, and made a warm caramel sauce, and busted both of those out for ultimate ice cream sundae galore!

1 cup of coconut cream
1 cup non-dairy milk (we used soy, but any of the richer non-dairy milks could work too, like almond or hemp milk)
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, depending on your flavor preference
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

Blend all ingredients together. It should have the consistency of a thick smoothie. Taste and make sure you like your combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and adjust accordingly. Add the chopped dark chocolate at the last minute so it doesn’t get blended completely. Then you simply place this mixture in an ice cream maker, and follow your ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions. Top liberally with vegan whipped cream and caramel sauce, and you could even throw on some rainbow sprinkles and a cherry if you’ve got them on hand! This would also be great as a milkshake, if you make the ice cream and then blend it with a bit of extra non-dairy milk.

Three Layer Lemon Carrot Cake

IMG_9752For Jesse and Tara’s roommate Paul’s birthday, he requested a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I have a great stand-by recipe, and it is one of my favorite cakes to make, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make it for him.

There was a minor mishap because we used a pan that was too big for the amount of cake batter that we had, and our two layers of carrot cake were quite thin. Instead of stressing out about it too much, we decided that it was a great opportunity for us to make a third layer! Paul chose a lemon cake layer to go in between the two carrot cakes, and that sounded perfect!

I used a sponge cake recipe from Hannah Kaminsky’s My Sweet Vegan for the lemon layer, but I added a bunch of freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest. This layer ended up looking fantastic! The top was beautifully browned, and was crisp and crunchy, and had a lovely split in the top-center so you could see the lighter yellow cake underneath. However, when we cut into the finished cake to eat it, this layer was quite gelatinous. It seemed a bit undercooked, but unlike most raw cake batters it was the consistency of a heavy lemon custard, more like a lemon pie or something. I had been the recipient of a cake made from this recipe for sponge cake before, and it had worked out perfectly and was fluffy and beautiful…I had imagined that the added lemon juice this time would react with the baking soda and would puff the cake up even more. However, I think we either added too much lemon juice (so there was too much liquid overall) or  else our baking times and temperature were incorrect. We hadn’t wanted to burn the top while baking so maybe we just had the oven temperature too high? It wasn’t what we had envisioned, but it still tasted nice anyway, especially with the cinnamon flavors in the carrot cake and the lemon zest that we added to the cream cheese frosting.

This is the crispy top of our lemon cake. Isn’t it pretty?IMG_9719Here is my carrot cake recipe. I’ve had it for years and it never fails to be moist and delicious! It’s easy to change it or put different mix-ins into it, depending on what flavors or textures you want. I’ve made it into many successful cakes and cupcakes and it’s always a hit! This makes a thick 9×13-inch cake, or else two 9-inch round layers.

2 1/2 mashed bananas**
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrot
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon (or use mostly cinnamon and add a bit of nutmeg and ground cloves for added flavor)
Depending on what flavors I want, I often add liberal amounts of: chopped nuts, raisins, grated coconut, or chocolate chips.

**Sometimes I also replace some or all of the bananas with applesauce. I use a ratio of 1/2 banana = 1/3 cup applesauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans, or one 9×13-inch sheet cake pan.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine and stir until just mixed.
Bake for about one hour but check often after cake has been in the oven for 45 minutes. It should be firm to the touch but moist inside.
IMG_9737Cream Cheese Icing Recipe:
*Note: Usually I just make it up as I go along, but this is a good starting point. On the top and sides of our cake, we used a basic cream cheese icing, and in between the layers we used a lemon cream cheese icing (we just added lemon zest and a bit of juice to the cream cheese icing we had already made).

Blend the following ingredients with an electric beater till extremely creamy:
8 oz. Tofutti cream cheese
2 Tblsp. Earth Balance (or other non-dairy margarine)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar (add until you get desired consistency)

Candy Bars

IMG_9690Vegan candy bars are often hard to find. Tara and I really wanted to make something that would fulfill our sweet/salty/chocolate/chewy/crunchy needs, so we thought a lot about how to create those flavors all in one candy confection. Though small, these candy bars packed a punch, and definitely were worth all the work we went through to put them together! Next time, I will try to find a mold in the shape of a rectangular chocolate bar, so that our finished product looks more smooth and precise. However, the handmade shapes we created were fun and original, even if somewhat gloopy.

We made two types of candy bars. We had gone through all combinations of flavors, and drawn out diagrams of how each candy bar would be built. Some were simple, others were incredibly complex with layers and layers of wafery-thin cookies and balls of peanut butter and some sort of vegan nougat that we never quite figured out how to make. Eventually we abandoned these complex plans and decided to fulfill our intense Snickers needs…One of our candy bars started this way, and so it had a home-made shortbread cookie bottom with gooey caramel and salty peanut filling layered on top. We covered the whole thing in dark chocolate. After the chocolate set and hardened, it had a great crispy outside shell and the caramel was nicely stringy and chewy. The salty-caramel combination was devine!

Our second type of bar was also delicious. We sandwiched layers of almond marzipan, dried cranberries, and pistachios between two thin shortbread cookies, and covered the entire sandwich with rice-milk based white chocolate. Drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with pistachio pieces, this was a sweet confection that blew my taste buds, and was very pretty! Each bite made me want more.IMG_9700

Banana Split Pudding Brownies

IMG_9641We had a TON of bananas. We had chocolate cravings. We needed something gooey and delicious to take with us for a picnic on the beach. What to do? Where to turn? Well, as usual, Isa Chandra Moskowitz (of the Post Punk Kitchen) came to the rescue with her Banana Split Pudding Brownie recipe in Vegan With A Vengeance. We made two variations, one with the banana topping and one without. We added chocolate chips to both. The ones that we didn’t put topping on, we made thicker and they ended up gooier and fudgier. Both were delicious and very banana-y.IMG_9627Once our immediate chocolate cravings were satisfied, we had extras, and the brownies proved to be very popular as a party snack; they disappeared from the plate in mere minutes. The banana-topped brownies were also delicious with home-made ice cream scooped on top as a brownie-banana-split-sundae!

Two Kinds of Focaccia


We got this lovely recipe for fluffy focaccia bread from Sarah Raven’s cookbook In Season which is absolutely gorgeous and mouthwatering in every way. Preceeding every recipe is a short personal story, and the book is filled with her own recipes as well as those from friends and family. There are brightly colored photographs of her foods, as well as pictures of Sarah working on her farm and harvesting the fresh produce seen in all her dishes. I also love the way the book is organized; it is seasonal, and for me, in an age and place (California) where nearly all produce can be grown fairly locally in all times of year, this way of reference is very refreshing. It certainly makes me think about what ingredients I’m using and when. For instance, if you want to work with a specific fruit or vegetable, you have to think carefully about what season it is ‘traditionally’ grown in and then you can find a host of recipes to work with. Sarah Raven lists this focaccia recipe as a Sungold Tomato Focaccia (her favorite type of cherry tomato), and it is under the “July/August” section in her book, where she writes that “Good tomatoes are the defining taste of summer, when their round, juicy softness comes into its own. The more of that justpicked, slightly acrid – almost poisonous – smell that they have the better. They are, after all, related to deadly nightshade…”

This recipe is very easy; however, like most yeasted breads, it just requires that you have the time and patience to let it rise. This one has multiple rising times, so it takes awhile. But it is certainly worth the wait, for the finished bread (and baking aroma) is amazing! We used a bit less oil than the recipe called for, and so I’ve written it how we made it below. We also doubled the recipe, and made one loaf savory and one a bit sweeter, which was a nice contrast! The toppings we used for each loaf is also written below, but the bread ingredient amounts are listed for only one loaf of bread.

IMG_9565 Continue reading ‘Two Kinds of Focaccia’

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July 2009

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