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Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

Portland is an awesome place to live. It’s like the land of beer and vino, with a lot of funky, slow driving, alternative lifestyle loving, vulgar doughnut eating, striped sock wearing people thrown in the mix. There are more food and bar establishments here (not to mention strip clubs) than you can ever possibly visit. Most of the big names in music make a pit stop here, and of course if you want to be disappointed you can always catch a Blazers game. I mean, where else can you drink a pint and play Dr. Mario Brothers or BurgerTime?

But all this awesomeness doesn’t come for free. Portland seems to have a knack for attracting tons of mid-20’s/ 30-something’s that all arrive without jobs. This means that those of us already here have an ever growing amount of competition. And while it used to be the cheapest city of the west coast to live, and perhaps still is, it’s quickly growing up. Though it’s not on par with San Francisco yet, it’s trying its damnedest to get there. So while it’s truly a fantastic city with a wonderful climate and superb amenities, the hubs and I have decided to move it on down the line.

So where are we bound? To a city both of use said we’d never move to. Dallas. Texas. The Big D. Did you know it’s been over a 100 degrees there lately? Did you know my husband practically melts in the heat? Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting! My sister pretty much sealed our fate when she moved there in February. Plus the job market is supposedly not quite the ferocious beast it is here, but we’ll be the judge of that I guess.

So having said all that, the posting here will be a bit sparse over the next few weeks as we pack and clean and load and drive and drive and drive and unload and unpack and etc, etc. But I’ll leave you now with a tasty little summer treat, and hopefully there will be some cookies up here before we begin our trek across country.

Almond Amaretto Ice Cream

  • 6oz extra-firm silken tofu
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is better than light)
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 5 T Amaretto liqueur
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C sugared or candied almonds, roughly chopped

Puree the tofu in a blender with just enough milk to help it along. Once it’s completely smooth, add the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts, and puree again. Place it in the fridge for a bit to cool back down.

Now regarding those nuts, they’ll get all soggy and mushy if you just place them straight into the ice cream without doing anything to them, and nobody wants soggy nuts do they? The best way to avoid this is to candy them, but that typically involves egg whites and we obviously don’t do that here. You can sugar them however, and that’s super easy to do.

Generally you do not chop nuts before sugaring and toasting but if you chop them after you’ll break the barrier you just created and all will be for not. So, roughly chop the almonds. Bring a solution of equal parts sugar and water to boil (also known as simple syrup). Toss the nuts in the boiling simple syrup and stir them around for about 15 seconds. Now drain them, reserving the simple syrup if you like for another use, and spread them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a Silpat. Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven until they’re no longer sticky. And since you can’t tell if they’re sticky while they’re still hot, pull an almond out of the oven and set it on the counter for a minute and then test. If it’s not sticky and has a good crunch, you’re done!

So when you’re ready, spin your ice cream in your ice cream maker. Add the cooled almonds towards the end of the spinning process, or fold them in after it’s spun. Cover tightly and freeze for several hours to allow it to setup completely.

Well I guess I’ll see you on the other side, but hopefully before. If you live or have lived in Dallas and have some vegan tips for me (i.e. restaurants) please share!

Cheers!

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So all vegetables and fruits belong to different pigment families. In general there are three groups: chlorophyll (green plants like broccoli), carotenoids (orange and yellow plants like carrots) and flavonoids (red, purple and white plants like beets). When cooking veggies or fruit the acidity or alkalinity of whatever you’re cooking them in affects their ultimate appearance and texture. Acid will make spinach an ugly dull green but leave it firm while an alkaline will keep is bright but make it mushy. Flavonoids are affected differently. Acid leaves reds red but alkalinity turns them blue.

This means that if you put cherries in a cupcake batter and add baking soda (an alkaline) they’re going to turn blue. Furthermore, if you soak the cherries in whiskey and then add some of the soaking liquid to the batter, that blue hue is going to come with it. And since there is only bit of blue and a lot of tan/ brownish color from all the flour and sugar, the cupcake will take on some Dr. Seuss green eggs and ham like quality during baking. Thankfully the majority of the green pigment baked out of the cupcakes but part way through baking it looked like I was making spinach cupcakes.

This might not be true of all cherries. I’m guessing maraschino cherries would behave differently as they’re so freaking processed but I was using pure and unadulterated Bing cherries.

But regardless of rogue cupcakes pigments, I’m a huge fan of whiskey. I used to hate whiskey but during culinary school a certain instructor was very fond of the stuff and had us taste different whiskeys almost every day of the week. After a few months of tasting whiskey at 8am you start to develop a taste for it, to say the least.

Due to my new found love of whiskey, the Manhattan has quickly become my favorite cocktail. And when you order it at a bar (at a good bar, don’t order one at a dive bar) they tend to come with a whiskey soaked cherry sitting in the bottom of your glass. So of course I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a cupcake.

Whiskey Soaked Cherry Cupcakes

First you have to soak your cherries. A few hours might be sufficient. A day would definitely do. But I soaked them for two days, just to be safe.

Pit your cherries and then quarter them. I believe it took 24 cherries to get 1 cup pitted and quartered. Place the chopped cherries in a small bowl or jar and cover with whiskey. Cover and let them soak.

For the Cupcakes

  • 3/4 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C AP flour
  • 3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, about 10 swipes across a microplane
  • 1/2 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/4 C cherry soaking liquid (whiskey)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1 C quartered and soaked cherries

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Mix the soy milk and vinegar together to curdle and set aside.

Sift all your dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whisk together the sugars and canola oil. Add the soaking liquid and extracts. Fold in about 1/3 of the flour followed by 1/2 of the milk and repeat, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour.* Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid, and fold them into the batter.

Portion the batter into the cupcake pan – a 1/4 cup spoon yielded 12 cupcakes for me. Bake until they are springy and a toothpick comes out clean. These took longer than usual in my oven, I’m wanting to say over 25 minutes.

For the Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, room temp
  • 4 oz pressed extra firm silken tofu (1/2 of a Mori-Nu block)
  • Powdered Sugar, roughly 3 – 4 cups
  • Cherry soaking liquid
  • Pinch of salt

First press the tofu. Grab a few paper towels or a kitchen towel and wrap it around the tofu. Place it on the counter and put something heavy on top of it to help squeeze out the excess water. You can skip this step but then you won’t be able to add much flavoring liquid and/ or you’ll need more powdered sugar to absorb the excess water in the tofu.

After the tofu has been pressed for a bit, place it and the soft butter in a blender or small food processor bowl and blend them until well combined and “fluffy”. Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid bowl (or any large bowl). With the paddle attachment (or a spatula), add a tablespoon or two of the cherry soaking liquid and the salt. Mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. I used less powdered sugar here than I typically do because I wanted a less sweet/ not so stiff frosting, but the quantities are ultimately up to your fancy.

For Homemade Cupcake Liners

So if you find yourself riffling through your cabinet and you discover that you have about 20 different cute, fun, polka-dotted cupcake liners but not any serious, whiskey worthy, adult-like ones, have no fear. Grab a piece of parchment paper and cut it into squares, I’d say about 4 x 4 inches. Take each piece and press it into a cupcake cavity, use the bottom of a glass to help make the creases stay. Voila! Now you have plain yet sophisticated cupcake liners. Problem solved.

If you’ve ever baked with alcohol, you know that most of it bakes out of the cupcake, so typically you can’t taste much of it when all is said and done. These cherries, however, are lushes and held onto the whiskey quite well. Therefore if you aren’t a whiskey fan, skip right over this puppy and maybe try the mango cupcakes. If you are a whiskey fan, you’ll love these!

* Regarding the mixing method with the cake batter, I generally don’t worry about the flour-milk-flour-milk-flour method with vegan cakes. Usually I’m lazy and throw all my liquid in the bowl, sift in my dry, mix, portion and bake. I thought I’d try to go about the right way and see if any differences were noticed. These cupcakes did turn out to be quite moist and not in the slightest bit tough. However, that could be due to the mixing method or the fact that I used less starches than I typically do. So the moral of the story is, if you’re feeling lazy, just through it all in the bowl and forget about it. 🙂

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I don’t usually worry too much about sending my husband to the store for me. I know some women cringe when their husbands say, “I can go to the store…,” but Gary’s pretty good about knowing what I’m referring to and not coming back with a whole bunch of unnecessary items, unless it’s a Take 5 candy bar of course. Though he did come back with a Nerf basketball hoop once…

Well last week I was going to make tzatziki sauce (I really should post that recipe sometime) but I was low on dill. I meant dry dill but I wasn’t very explicit about it. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fresh herbs, but they’re too expensive for most occasions. So Gary, who’s getting very familiar with all my chef-like idiosyncrasies at this point, went straight for the fresh dill. Never even thought about the dried stuff. Both work just fine in a recipe of course but damn, what do I do with all this fresh dill now? I only needed like a tablespoon for my tzatziki.

And so one day we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. We’ve been eating at home a lot these days. We eat at home at lot normally I guess, but we’ve not even been going out on weekends lately (… $$$). So we’re getting a little tired of our usual pasta-stir fry-tacos-pizza standbys. We even had paninis one night (the only thing a George Foreman grill is actually good for). Well, it was about time for pasta again in our dinner rotation and I thought the dill might make for an interesting sauce. You never know until you try right?

Well I freaking loved it!

It’s super fragrant, hot and spicy, but not in a sriracha-thai food-makes you sweat way; in a pungent-peppery-this isn’t your grandma’s pasta way. I served it with gluten-free noodles, mushrooms and broccoli. I think leeks would have been great but I didn’t have any on hand.

This would probably go well as a sauce for a main item like broiled tofu, or salmon if you swim that way. Maybe even a dip for crudités (just use less liquid). If you aren’t a big dill fan I would probably keep on walkin, but if you are a dill dabbler you should definitely give this a go. We’ll certainly be making it again, and my husband even said he’d eat it again (sometimes he likes something but only for that evening :)).

Dill Cream Sauce

  • 12 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • ~ 10 sprigs fresh dill, more or less to preference
  • 1 cup veggie stock or bean juice
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • Juice from 1 lemon, or 2 if they’re dry
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Pull the little dill fronds off the stems. Place the tofu, dill fronds, soy milk and garlic in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree again. Take it easy on the salt and pepper and taste as you go. I like a lot of salt and pepper, but you may not have such a high tolerance for it. Pour the sauce into a small pot and gently warm it up. Pour over cooked pasta or whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

I think that was possibly the shortest recipe I’ve ever typed out! If you want to make this but aren’t sure what goes with dill, you should check out the Flavor Bible book. I absolutely love this thing. It’s not all-inclusive of course but it’s a wonderful springboard for your imagination.

I wasn’t planning on this dish turning out so I didn’t have a photo op setup so the pictures are fairly mediocre. But you can still see the colors well. I think the light minty green hue of the cream sauce is nice. 🙂

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It’s summer time, or at least it’s close to summer time. Portland summers are usually confined to about 2.5 weeks in August so you gotta do what you can to, um, help summer along.

For me summer means flip flops, sunshine and porches, fresh fruit, moscato wine and tropical drinks. It also means birthdays as it seems most of my friends here were born during the months of summer or just on its outskirts. A few days ago was one of these said birthdays, so I took the opportunity to break out my long abandoned cupcake pan and go to work.

I’m always thinking of different ways I can throw a cupcake together. Actually I have this long, two sided, water stained list of cupcakes I’ve thought of but have yet to put into reality. One of these ideas included mangoes and lime zest and sounded like a perfect cupcake for a summer(ish) birthday.

Mango Margarita Cupcakes

  • 1 very ripe mango
  • 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 C AP flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C tequila
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t coconut extract

As usual, oven to 350, line your cupcake pan with liners.

Then prepare the mango. Peel the skin off the mango and then cut the flesh away from its large and obtuse seed. My mango was so ripe it was almost falling off the seed so I just chopped it up on a cutting board. If your mango isn’t so ripe you might have to puree it.

In your mixing bowl, stir together the soy milk and vinegar and set it aside to curdle.

While the milk is doing its thing, scale out all your dry ingredients in another small bowl.

Now add the mango, tequila, orange juice, oil, sugar, zest and extracts to the curdled milk and whisk it well. You can use the KitchenAid for this but I just did by hand. Sift in the dry ingredients in two stages so you don’t overwork the gluten; you don’t need to fully incorporate the flour before adding the second half. I folded in the flour and then used a whisk at the end to break up some of the lumps.

Scoop the batter into your prepared cupcake pan. I used a 1/4 cup scoop, which resulted in 12 normal sized cupcakes and 5 mini cupcakes. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they’re springy and the toothpick comes out clean. Let stand for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Lime Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 4 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Zest from 2 limes
  • Small splash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

The main reason why I don’t experiment with cupcakes more often, aside from their caloric content, is the price of the buttercream. Vegan stick butter is almost $6 a pound. Seriously. And then to get a decent texture/ flavor you really need vegan cream cheese, which can be close to $8 a pound. Since my pockets aren’t very deep these days, I’ve been playing around with alternatives, and this tofu buttercream is definitely a keeper. It still uses the expensive butter but I ixnayed the cream cheese. And nobody will ever know you fed them straight up tofu. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

Since it’s tofu you can’t just throw it in the KitchenAid, you have to puree it first. So, press some of the liquid out of the tofu with a kitchen or paper towel. Then toss it in a blender with the lime juice and the butter. You can add the zest here too if you like. Blend it on a lower speed until it’s well combined and uniform. It’ll look like it’s broken (aka wet and weepy). Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid or large mixing bowl and add the salt, vanilla and lime zest if you didn’t already. Beat in the powdered sugar until you reach a thick and fluffy consistency, I probably used around 4 cups.

Keep the buttercream well covered either with plastic wrap or in a piping bag until you’re ready to use. Unlike meringue based buttercreams, vegan buttercreams dry out super fast.

Candied Orange Peel

  • 1 large orange
  • Simple syrup
  • Organic sugar

If you have a citrus zester, use it to zest long strips of peel off the orange. If you don’t have a zester, peel the orange with a vegetable peeler (these work great) and then cut strips out of the peels with a knife. Place the zest in a small pan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then drain the water. Repeat this two more times and then poach the zest in some simple syrup for 5 – 10 minutes, or until it’s pleasantly chewable.

Simple syrup, in case you don’t know, is just equal parts sugar and water. Place it in a pan and heat it up until the sugar dissolves. You’re done.

After you poach the zest, drain it and then toss it with some sugar and spread it out on a plate to dry. Toss is around every few minutes to make sure it’s all drying and evenly coated in sugar.

Candied orange, or lemon, zest will keep for a very long time in an air tight container, so you could do a big batch of it and keep it on hand if you wanted. You can candy lime zest too but it looses its pretty green color and turns into something that looks like a soggy old canned green bean.

I used an 808 tip to get the big mounds of frosting. A bigger tip would have been even better but I wasn’t about to make myself have to wash another pastry bag (I use the reusable bags).

These cupcakes were delicious! You get just a hint of the tequila towards the end of your bite, and the tropical citrusy flavors are bright and refreshing. And I really like the icing. The tofu does a superb job at balancing out all that fat and sugar. These would be excellent for a margarita night!

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It’s odd sometimes, the way I associate things. Or rather when things remind me of other things that are in no way connected and for some reason the connection remains strong enough for me to remember it for an unhealthy length of time.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas. And obviously since it’s June I shouldn’t be talking about Christmas anyway. But growing up we watched the movie White Christmas every single year, and it became one of my favorite movies. I still watch it, and not necessarily around or even close to December. There’s a scene in the movie where Danny Kaye is trying to “clumsily entangle” Bing Crosby with some dumb blonde dancer in their show. The idea is that if Bing gets a family then Danny will finally have some time to himself – they’ve been super busy producing their show and what not. Later that evening they go to a club to check out a sister act and Bing ends up entranced by one of the sisters, Rosemary Clooney. The girls, of course, end up in a bit if trouble and Danny insists on helping them out. When one sister asks what’s in it for them – as they are practically strangers – he says, “45 minutes, all to myself.”

The other day I was sitting on my bar stool, hunched over my kitchen sink, peeling the skins off a big basket of cooked chickpeas. I looked at the clock when I was done and the first thought I had was, “45 minutes, all to myself.” That’s how long I was sitting there shucking the skins off my chickpeas. My second thought was, “This hummus better #*%$^@*! taste good.”

Lately I’ve been on a quest to replicate the Sabra hummus. I absolutely love the stuff! It’s super smooth and creamy, yet not too airy. But there’s also this tang in it that’s not coming from the lemon juice. I couldn’t figure it out. But one day I looked at the ingredients and saw it contains citric acid, and this little lightbulb finally went off in my head. In pastry class we made these sour jelly candies and the main souring ingredient we used was citric acid. Of course! How could I be so dim?!

I made this several weeks ago using the citric acid and everyone loved it. Five of us went through a very large tub of it in just a few days. The texture wasn’t quite there yet, however, and this is where those 45 minutes come into play.

It’s been a super long time since I’ve bought canned chickpeas so I don’t rightly remember, but I’m thinking the skins have already been removed (that’s probably why they cost so much – it’s a pain in the ass). When you cook dry chickpeas you’ll notice near the end of their cooking time these clearish-white shells coming off the beans – those are the skins. Typically I just throw the whole mess into the food processor and don’t think twice about it. But my hummus is never as smooth as I want it to be. So I sacrificed my time, and my posture, and separated the beans from their shields. And I think it made a HUGE difference.

And one more thing, there isn’t any tahini in this hummus. I love tahini, I do, but I hate shelling out the money for it. It’s usually at least $7 for a jar and that’s fine if you’re going to use it all but who really makes that much hummus at home? It’s just a lot of money to spend all at once for hummus. So since tahini is only just ground up sesame seeds mixed with oil, I see no reason why I can’t do it myself. Feel free to replace the sesame seeds in this recipe with tahini if you already have it, but if you don’t, my method works just fine.

Hummus

  • 2 C dry chickpeas, cooked and shelled (or 2 cans)
  • 1/3 C sesame seeds, toasted and ground
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 4 – 6 T cooking liquid or water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic (more if you like it garlicky)
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t citric acid

So typically they say you need to soak dry beans over night before cooking them. It does help to soak them but you can cheat and skip that part if you forgot. However, chickpeas probably take the longest time of all the beans to cook, whether you soaked them or not, so don’t plan on cooking your beans off in one hour and being on your merry way. Plus with hummus, you want the beans as soft as possible – so you gotta cook the crap out of them. I put mine in a big pot, cover them with a ton of water, place it on the stove with a lid and turn the fire on med/ med-low and just walk away. It takes hours, but you aren’t involved in any of it. You can, obviously, just buy canned chickpeas… but then you miss out on the 45 minutes of shelling fun!

If you do go the DIY route, when the beans are very soft drain them, but save the liquid. When they’re cool start rubbing those skins off. It takes some time, but it definitely produces a smoother product. Put the liquid in the fridge while you’re shelling the beans.

For the sesame seeds, toss them in a small pan and turn the heat on medium. They’ll toast quickly so don’t walk away and get a manicure or anything. You need to hang around and toss them frequently. When the majority of them are toasty brown, remove it from the heat, let it cool a few minutes and then grind them up in a small coffee grinder (preferably one that you don’t use for coffee).

Once your beans are shelled and seeds are toasted, you’re ready to go! Dump the chickpeas, sesame seeds and garlic in the food processor. Add just enough liquid or olive oil to help process them but don’t pour it all in. Pulse it for 30 seconds or so until everything is getting pureed finely. Now add everything else, except the liquid, and process.

Whether you’re using the cooking liquid or just water, add it in small increments as you don’t want to end up with hummus soup. If you use the cooking liquid, the amount you’ll need will vary depending on how long your beans cooked and how much the liquid reduced. Bean juice (that’s what I call it) absorbs some of the protein from the beans (at least I assume it does) and can thicken and congeal almost like there’s gelatin in it, so you may need more or less liquid depending on how goopy the bean juice is.

When you’ve reached your desired consistency, transfer the hummus to a tub and refrigerate for awhile so the flavors can get a chance to know each other. I’m never satisfied with my hummus straight out of the processor but it always tastes way better once it’s gotten a chance to mingle. And if you want to get all fancy, make a little well in the middle of it and add some paprika and olive oil before serving it.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. Once the beans are cooked it only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to throw it all together, assuming you’ve mise en placed (gotten everything you need ready).

There’s almost always a tub of hummus or pesto or some sort of dip in my house as it comes in handy. It’s good to snack on, make naan sandwiches with, thinned out for salad dressing, or tossed with pasta – endless possibilities!

Do you have a favorite hummus or hummus recipe? Please share if so!

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I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Always. And I can’t think of any better excuse than my husband.

Just a couple weeks ago he graduated from law school (yay!!!). For awhile I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make his cake. He had already told me that he wanted a German chocolate cake, but it’s shape and everything else was up to me. I thought about making it look like school books, or perhaps something with a cap, tassel and one of those mallet things judges use. But since I hate using food coloring, none of these were overly appealing. And then it struck me!

For his present I got some family members together and we all chipped in to buy him a MacBook Air. He’d been talking about one for f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I figured since he’d worked and studied his butt off for the last three years, he deserved one. And thus the shape of his cake was born.

German Chocolate Cake

  • 2 C soy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C agave
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/3 C apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 C AP flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 C cocoa powder (this stuff is awesome)
  • 1/4 C instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a square 8 x 8 in cake pan with parchment in the bottom (don’t worry about the sides). You could use a round pan but I was afraid I’d lose too much mass getting it to look like an apple instead of a ball, so I went with the square.

Pour the soy milk and vinegar into your mixing bowl so it can curdle. While this is happening, sift all your dry ingredients into another bowl so they’re ready to dump right in when you want them.

Once the soy milk is curdled, add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar) and whisk thoroughly. You can do this by hand or with the stand mixer of course.

Add the dry ingredients in three portions. You don’t have to fully incorporate each portion before adding the next. You’re just adding the flour a little at a time to help avoid over mixing which will toughen the cake in the end.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out a bit if it’s all in the center. Bake until it springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took around an hour. When it’s done, let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes and then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Now put a cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. You should be able to remove the pan at this point, and letting the cake cool upside down will help flatten some of that rounded top.

Be sure to make the cake well in advance as it needs plenty of time to cool before you split it in half or thirds. I actually made mine several days before hand, wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out in just a couple of hours.

Chocolate Buttercream 

So I typically do half Earth Balance stick butter and half cream cheese with my frostings. Ever since I started paying attention to the way foods feel in your mouth (thank you culinary school) I can’t stand the Spectrum shortening; it coats your mouth as that stuff is solid at room temperature and therefore doesn’t really melt when it hits your tongue. You can use all butter of course but I think the cream cheese creates a lighter texture and better flavor.

In general, you use about 4 cups of powdered sugar to every cup of fat, and then augment the consistency with extracts, soy milk, etc. If you’re making chocolate buttercream, you’re obviously going to have cocoa powder in there so you will need more liquid to offset the extra amount of dry ingredients.

The frosting I made for this cake, I didn’t really like it. The flavor was fine but it dried super freaking fast and I had issues/ got tired of working with it when I was finishing the cake, as you can see from the unclean sides in the pictures. The main culprit? I think it was the chocolate. I decided to put melted chocolate in the frosting along with the cocoa powder. I don’t think it was the best idea I’ve ever had. So if you’re making chocolate buttercream, do something like the following recipe.
  • 4 oz Earth Balance Stick butter
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 4 C powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy milk as needed

Have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature and cream them together until it starts to look wet (vegan butter doesn’t get fluffy). Add the vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa powder in increments so it doesn’t snow in your kitchen. Add the soy milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a thick yet fluffy texture. You can make this ahead of time and just melt it a bit in the microwave and re-whip it with a spatula before using it.

Coconut Pecan Filling

I used this recipe from Mom in the City. I added an extra half cup of organic sugar though as I only had unsweetened coconut on hand and definitely was not going back to the store. Make sure you do this in advance as it needs to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate (or mix of semi-sweet and dark)
  • 2 oz vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
  • 2 T soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Melt everything in a doubler boiler – aka metal bowl on top of pot with hot water in it – and gently whisk it together. Store it in the fridge until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, melt it down in the microwave in short bursts of time, like 10 – 20 seconds. You need it completely liquidy but it doesn’t need to be super hot. I believe I melted mine down and then let it sit at room temp for awhile. If you’re uber talented you can just pour the ganache along the edge of the cake. If you aren’t so sure, use a piping bag like I did with a small whole or tip at the end and do it the careful way

Assembly

First, you need something to put the cake on. I didn’t have a cake board that was big enough so I cut a side out of a cardboard box and covered it with foil.

Second, you need to shape the cake into the apple. Use a small serrated knife (like a steak knife) and start by rounding the corners. Next make the indentions at the top and bottom of the apple. Get it looking like an apple before taking the “bite” out of the side.

When you do take the bite out of the side, be careful as this is your stem. You can always  reshape the stem a bit but you only have so much cake.

Now split it into layers. I did three layers but two would be just fine. Take a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and start sawing horizontally. You can score the cake all around the sides first to help ensure you’re cutting evenly. A revolving cake stand is your friend here. Place the extra layer(s) on the counter, preferably on plastic wrap or parchment so they’re easier to pick back up.

At this point you should brush away as many crumbs as you can so they don’t get in your frosting.

I also brushed my cake layers with a coconut simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves and then coconut extract added at the end. I did this to ensure the cake was moist. It definitely was moist but I don’t think the syrup was necessary, so it’s your call.

After you decrumb and syrup (or not), grab the coconut pecan filling and plop a big glob of it on the base layer. Use a large offset spatula to smooth it out. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick but I like a lot of filling, so less would be ok. Place the middle layer (if you have one) on the cake and do the same thing. Now place the last layer on the cake and crumb coat the entire thing with the buttercream and stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes. Crumb coating is just smearing a thin layer of frosting on the cake so that you will be less likely to have crumbs in the finished cake.

Once the crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with more buttercream and then stick is back in the fridge. Once it’s completely set, grab your ganache and the cake and go to town. You can ganache the whole thing or just the edges or whatever you want. Then when you’re done, (can you guess) stick it back in the fridge.

What happens now is up to you. Add more coconut goo to the top. Or just add some buttercream rosettes or pipe a pretty border. Or you could just cover the whole damn thing with ganache and make it look like the actual Apple logo. Maybe white chocolate!

Regarding the stem, I filled it with coconut goo just like the cake and then frosted it with the buttercream. When that had set I poured the ganche all over it.

And here is the happy graduate with his yummy cake! 🙂

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My tummy usually starts growling around 4:15 am – should I be awake to hear it – so it isn’t often that I take the time to make breakfast pastries. But having visitors in town seems to augment my ability to go long periods of time without eating, like maybe two hours, so I decided we all needed cinnamon rolls. With cardamom in them. And a lemony cream cheese glaze on top. They were quite tasty.

I can’t take full credit for these of course. They were adapted from Novel Eats’ recipe, which was also adapted from somebody elses recipe of course. I’ve made these a few times over the last couple of years using a flaxseed egg and have gotten mixed results, so I decided to go with the Ener-G egg. I also used a different type of yeast and modified the mixing method. Maybe it all made a difference. Maybe it didn’t. But they turned out moist and fluffy and delicious so I’ll go with it.

Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 2 1/4 C AP flour
  • 1/4 oz fresh yeast (or 1/8 oz instant yeast)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • about 1/4 t Cardamom seeds, ground
  • 2 T + 2t vegan butter, melted (I suggest Earth Balance in stick form)
  • About 2 T vegan butter, softened
  • Cinnamon sugar (just sugar mixed with as much cinnamon as you like)

If you’re worried about how long the dough will take to ferment, warm up the soy milk. If you don’t care, just scale it into your mixing bowl along with the sugar and Ener-G egg. Next add the flour, yeast, salt and ground cardamom.

A note on the cardamom, you’ll get better flavor if you use a mortar and pestle to grind it up versus using a small coffee grinder. The friction from the mortar and pestle heats up the seeds which helps draw out those aromatic oils. But if you’re in a time crunch, the coffee grinder will work just fine.

Knead the dough using the hook attachment until it fully comes together. Now add the melted butter. This may seem bassackwards but fat inhibits gluten development because it coats the flour particles, making it difficult for glutens to form their network. Adding it at the end allows the gluten structure to get a head start. You might have to help it along though, or just be patient. When you add the melted butter to the bowl, the dough is going to slide all over the place. If you give it awhile it should come together. Alternatively, take it out of the bowl and knead it with your hands a bit and then put it back in the bowl. The dough is ready when the butter has been worked in and the dough is smooth, supple and just barely sticky, if at all. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment until double.

Once the dough has fermented, punch it down, round it on the counter, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest. After about 10 minutes, use a rolling pin and work the dough into a large rectangle. The thinner you get the dough, the more rolls you’ll have so it’s up to you. Mine was about 1/2 inch thin. Make sure it’s longer than it is wide however or you’ll have just a couple of gigantic cinnamon rolls (which is fine if there’s only two of you I guess).

Smear the dough with the softened butter, leaving about 1 inch of space along the edge of the dough that will be on the outside once it’s rolled up. Now sprinkle tons of cinnamon sugar onto the dough. There isn’t an exact amount you should have here, just cover it well. You can add nuts or raisins or chocolate chips or whatever else you’d like to have in your rolls at this point.

Roll up the dough now, starting with the end opposite of the edge you left unbuttered. Roll it as tight as you can, nobody wants a sloppy loose cinnamon roll. 🙂 Grab the sharpest knife you have – I used a carving knife – and cut the log into equal pieces about an inch thick. I started in the middle and divided it in half, and then in half again, and then cut those quarters into thirds – so I ended up with a dozen cinnamon rolls.

So most home bakers use an 8 or 9 in baking dish for cinnamon rolls and just cram them all in there. That’s fine but you can also use a lined sheet pan. Pick up each individual cinnamon roll and tuck that unbuttered end under the roll so it’s sitting on its tail so to speak. This will help alleviate most unrolling and other deformation during the baking process.

Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap (or a clean trash bag) and let them proof until double. You can see the difference below between before and after proofing.

Preheat your oven to 350. When the rolls are ready sprinkle them with some additional cinnamon sugar and stick them in the oven. You can wash them with soy milk here if you like, I did not. Mine baked in just under 15 minutes. Feel free to rotate the pan half way through.

These aren’t super dark but they are done. You’ll probably get a wee bit darker results if you brush it with milk.

Lemony Cream Cheese Glaze

  • Vegan cream cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt

So while your rolls are doing their thing in the oven, make the glaze. I’m not giving you exact amounts because, frankly, you don’t need them.

Get a small mixing bowl and plop a glob of cream cheese in it. Zest part of a lemon with a microplane into the bowl. Add a pinch of salt and some powdered sugar and mix it up with a spatula or spoon. If it’s too thin, add some more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, squeeze some lemon juice in it. Too sweet? Add a bit more salt. Not lemony enough, grab the zester. You want it thin enough to drizzle but not so much that your cinnamon roll ends up swimming in it. And its lemoniness is completely up to you.

So there you have it. Yummy, vegan cinnamon rolls even omnivores from the South will enjoy. My pictures show the glaze drizzled on but I’m pretty sure there was some slathering going on while I was busy taking pictures.

And one final tip, you can make the dough the night before and stick it in the fridge. Just yank it out first thing in the morning and let it come to room temp before you punch it down.

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