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cookie, cookie, cookies!

13 Dec

Alright, as promised here is the Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie recipe, along with another cookie recipe that seems like it will pair perfectly with a cup of tea and some time with loved ones. Fatty sugar alert: these recipes are super not healthy. You have been warned.



Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teas. baking soda
1/4 teas. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 teas. vanilla
1 teas. cornstarch
1/4 cup milk of choice
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together dry flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together sugar, brown sugars and softened margarine. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk and add to sugar mixtures along with vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture in batches, then stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

Using a cookie dropper or tablespoon, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8–-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cool on transfer to a cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Yields: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Spice and Ice Molasses Cookies

These cookies are chewy and deeply flavored. If you like a strong ginger bite, add some chopped crystallized ginger for some extra kick.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teas. baking soda
1 teas. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teas. ground ginger
1/8 teas. ground cloves
1/4 teas. salt
3/4 cup margarine, melted
1 cup organic granulated or brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teas. blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. In a large bowl, cream together the melted margarine and the 1 cup of sugar. Add the molasses to the wet mixture and mix well. In batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet until a nice dough comes together. Let chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment, if using. Roll tablespoon sized balls of dough in the remaining sugar to coat well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies have cracked and spread. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in a loosely covered container at room temperature.

Yields: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

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kittehs and cookies!

8 Dec

Animals are supposed to be able to recognize things that are harmful to them and withdraw from the edge of danger. When we see fire, we retreat. When we come across an unknown berry in the woods, we don’t eat it.

Bindhi is apparently not that bright. She is terribly attracted to two big kitteh no-nos- chocolate and coffee. Sigh. At least she looks cute when she’s sniffing cookies or when she wraps her paws around my arm and pulls with all her might to smell my mug.

Recently Leigh paid me a very high compliment, calling my Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie recipe from 100 Best the “perfect chocolate chip cookie”. Aw… That inspired me to whip some up with chocolate chips and pistachios. So good! I love that Trader Joe’s sells preshelled pistachios, it makes life so much easier. (For those who have an interest in the chemistry of baking, notice how the shape of our cookies is different around the edges. I softened my margarine in the microwave and overdid it a but, it ended up slightly liquidy. The cookies where still soft and chewy, but you can see how it affected the shape. Interesting…)

I was going to post a recipe this week for vegan fruitcake (that actually tastes good!) but thought I’d do a little pole and see which recipe you’d like more. What do you think?

how do you cocoa?

2 Dec

Well, slowly but surely we’re getting settled into our new space (hence my absence from the end of MoFo. FAIL). My new kitchen is HUGE, with tons of counter space and natural light, two things I have been sorely lacking for years, so I’m very excited to start churning out holiday goodies in this lovely new space. Of course, my best kitchen helper is right by my side, per the usual.

All I can think of is holiday baking, it makes my heart swoon. What is better than the smell of fresh baked goods, wafting from a warm oven and the eager anticipation of what is to come? I say to heck with the presents and other traditions of Giftmas, gimme the cookies/brownies/pie/cake!

Which brings me to an important issue, near and dear to my heart. Cocoa.

There are two main types of cocoa powder for baking: regular and Dutch-processed. In the picture above, the lighter cocoa on top is standard baking cocoa, while the darker, redder powder on the bottom is Dutch-processed. When I mention Dutch-processed to folks, I am often met with a blank stare, so I thought a little cocoa lesson might be in order.

Dutch-processed cocoa is cocoa that has been alkalized to reduce the acidity of the cocoa. In doing this, the natural slight bitterness (apparent standard in baking cocoa) is reduced, making for a richer chocolate flavor. I personally LOVE Dutch-processed cocoa and use it almost exclusively in my baking because of that flavor. Before discovering Dutch-pressed cocoa, I always used to add melted chocolate to almost every recipe that called for solely cocoa and no other kind of chocolate, because I felt continually let down by the lack of chocolate flavor. With the Dutch-pressed cocoa, my chocolate hound taste buds are far more satisfied (although a generous sprinkle of chocolate chips never hurt anyone). There is a depth of flavor that’s priceless in the finished product.

Technically using Dutch-processed cocoa, being more acid neutral, could require more chemical leavener to compensate (another pinch of baking powder), but I haven’t really noticed any difference swapping between them and leaving the recipe as is.

Dutch-processed cocoa can be harder to find in some areas, but it’s worth looking for. Like anything, the price can fluctuate dramatically (I’ve seen packages range from $3-$20) so check around for the best deal.

*Post amended to state the obvious- please buy fair trade when you can! Yes, it costs more, but you are helping to pay living wages for people who are working for legitimate farms where they are not slaves, but actual employees. The chocolate, coffee and diamond (and tea and bananas and more!) industries are very dark and dirty businesses to be in. Vote with your dollars!

Chocolate chip pistachio cookies and pumpkin cinnamon rolls are in my near future. What holiday baking treats do you see in your baking crystal ball?

rainy day cheer

18 Nov

I am a big fan of daylight savings so when we go off of it for the winter, it’s hard not to get a little sad. Here in the PacNW, it’s literally pitch black by 5 p.m. We’re in our rainy season, which means that even when it’s not raining we are in for primarily overcast days for several months to come. This isn’t a major complaint, so much as I’m setting the scene.

My dark commute home from work yesterday was accompanied by a torrential downpour. As I barreled alongside the other commuters, whose only goal was to get home in one piece, I began to daydream of a little bite of sunshine. Something bright and cheery to offset all of the heavy, pumpkin-laden treats we’ve been enjoying as of late. When I got home, I started pulling out ingredients only to discover that I had a scant amount of flour lingering in the bottom of the canister. I was in no mood to venture back out into the madness.

Time to improvise! Light and bright and requiring little flour… My mind wandered and landed on the deliciously simple clafoutis. In 100 Best, I have a clafoutis recipe that I love to whip up on a whim, as I always have silken tofu in my fridge and cherries in my freezer. Jim normally hates custardy things, but even he enjoys a slice. I decided to go with some little, single serving clafoutis with some frozen mixed berries.

If you haven’t had clafoutis before, you’re in for a real treat. These little morsels hold up well (great for noshing with one hand and typing with the other!), but remain tender and custard-like. If you’re afraid of baking with tofu, get over it already! You’re missing out! Also, you can make this with brown rice flour instead of the all-purpose and you’ve got clafoutis, gluten-free.

Une Bouchée de Clafoutis*

1 (12.3 oz.) container of firm silken tofu
1/2 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk of choice
1 1/2 teas. baking powder
1 teas. vanilla
sprinkle salt
1 cup berries, thawed and drained
powdered sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

In the bowl of a food processor combine the tofu and sugar and blend until mixed. Add the flour, milk, baking powder, vanilla and salt and mix until creamy and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Fill each cup 2/3 of the way with batter. Sprinkle berries on top of each cup; do not mix.

Bake for 20 minutes, until clafoutis are puffy and lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely before loosening with a butter knife and serving. Clafoutis is delicious warm, but will fall apart if you try to take them out too soon, so feel free to reheat in the microwave or toaster oven. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Store leftovers covered, in the fridge.

Makes 12 servings.

*(Josiane, I’m relying on you to tell me if I butchered the title, I haven’t studied French in over 12 years!)

a lil’ sneakums…

17 Nov

Nothing really big to post today… just some sneak peek pictures from my cake baking exploits!

Intensely Chocolate Bundt

Pressed Plum Cake

Dad Is Great Chocolate Cake

Snickerdoodle Cake

One more, for the road.

Banana Fudge Stripe

Yum!

tips for healthy baking (that still tastes good)

10 Nov

So… I didn’t MoFo yesterday. Oops.

Today, I want to discuss baking and health. I get enormously frustrated when people say to me, “Oh, you’re a vegan baker? Your stuff must be really healthy.”

Uh, no, actually. It’s not.

And then I have to try to explain to them that while it’s not full of animal ingredients and white sugar and bleached flour, it’s still full of fat and sugar and white flour. Plenty of vegans make things super healthy but, for better or worse, I’m not one of them, at least not when it comes to my books. My objective is to make things taste as “normal” as possible. I don’t want an omni to be able to tell the difference and I don’t want a vegan or someone with food allergies to feel like they are eating anything less than.

That said, sometimes it pays to clean up your act a little bit. I tend to bake way too much quite a bit and because I don’t like not baking, I have to mix it up in order to keep us healthy. It’s no secret that the recipes in my cookbooks are sometimes foods. But because I have a particular taste pallate, I don’t want my baking to taste too healthy. Where’s the fun in that?

Here are some of my tips to help you make your baked goods healthier without sacrificing flavor.

1. If a recipe calls for sugar, use a little! Even if I’m cutting the sugar content siginifcantly or are substituting a liquid, I always add a little bit of regular sugar (I use evaporated cane juice) to a recipe. Granulated sugar breaks down differently than liquid and greatly contributes to the mouthfeel of a baked good, which is the most important consideration when healthifying any recipe. Keeping a bit of sugar in there helps retain that mouthfeel, ensuring your muffins won’t be mealy like a biscuit.

2. Always use a little bit of fat. Substitute applesauce or whatever to your heart’s content, but always use at least 1-2 tablespoons of fat. Fat-free baked goods have a rubbery texture. Fat is also important to help you feel satiated, so you don’t end up eating 3 muffins instead of just 1. Oops.

3. Blend your flours. Even when baking healthier, I always do a blend of whole wheat and white flour. This goes back to mouthfeel. Whole wheat flour is grittier and more dense. It also absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add an additional tablespoon or two of liquid when substituting flours. I usually do a mixture of white flour, whole wheat and some ground oats when I’m baking for my health. This creases the fiber and protein of the baked good without it tasting like I’m eating something that came from a 1960s co-op bakery.

3. A little sprinkle (of sugar) goes a long way. I tend to cut back significantly on the sugar content in my baked goods but often, although the texture is okay, they just don’t taste that sweet on their own. I love to add a sprinkle of coarse sugar to the top of whatever I’m baking (typically muffins or cookies). This sugar doesn’t dissolve into the baked good and is then immediately available to your tongue when eating, ensure your get that desired sweetness without ingesting a mass of sugar.

4. Mix it up. It’s amazing how far a sprinkle of chocolate chips, some berries, lemon zest or a teaspoon of ginger can take a recipe. Extracts are great, too, to help create a pronounced flavor without adding calorie-heavy ingredients.

5. Don’t forgo the topping. Find a lesser-evil if something you’re making is usually really decadent. If you feel deprived you will go to the other end of the spectrum and then binge on super unhealthy things. Trust me, I’ve been there. If a recipe calls for fatty frosting, add a light glaze. Create a fruit compote to top it off. Just because you’re making things healthier doesn’t mean you have to be without.

What things to do you do to help make a recipe healthier?

pumpkin overload? never!

3 Nov

First off, I want to plug a super cool new feature that WordPress is offering: FoodPress! It’s an easy way to sift and sort through the tons of food blogs hosted by WordPress and to see some cool features that might not otherwise cross your screen. Like you need another distraction.

I would love to know the fiscal impact of lost worker productivity due to Vegan MoFo. 🙂

Is it possible to eat too much pumpkin goodness this time of year? Never! One of the most popular recipes from 100 Best is, of course, one of the recipes with a typo in it. D’oh! Here it is, in all its corrected glory, for your autumn nomming pleasure.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Always a favorite during the colder months, these cookies are very light and airy. The pumpkin adds a unique hue and a boost of beta carotene to each bite. That’s enough nutrition to convince me to have seconds!

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon. baking powder
1 teaspoon. baking soda
1 teaspoon. cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon. salt
1 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup regular sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, packed
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 teas. milk of choice
1 teaspoon. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt ingredients. In a large bowl, beat cream sugar, brown sugars and margarine until creamed. Add pumpkin, milk and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients to wet in two batches and mix until just mixed, then stir in chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the edges. If you are baking more than one sheet at a time, switch their shelves halfway through. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet and cool on transfer cookies to cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in a container with a loose fitting lid, as they are very moist, at room temperature.

Yields: 3 dozen cookies