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Whiskey Truffles

Not long ago, some friends and I formed a whiskey drinking club. We convene monthly to drink whiskey and talk about drinking whiskey. We call it… Whiskey Club.

It started as a Twitter conversation between Dawn and me (because I enjoy whiskey and Dawn does not but wants to) and turned into a flurry of 140-character messages involving 5 or 6 friends. Katy started a Facebook group, and Whiskey Club was born.

Erika hosted the most recent meeting, a swanky Prohibition-themed party complete with costumes and live jazz — Erika has an amazing voice and Katy recruited an orchestra friend with a double bass, so she sang while he plucked. We sipped bourbon and scotch from teacups, speakeasy-style.

Erika prepared a delicious spread, and I brought some of these truffles. The hooch adds a hint of vice without overwhelming.

If you live in Seattle and enjoy brown liquor, won’t you join us next month?

teacup image by Carlos Javier Sanchez

Whiskey Truffles

adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS cheap whiskey
  • cocoa powder (1/4 cup? 1/2 cup? I just dumped a bunch on a plate.)

Instructions:

  1. Melt chocolate chips and coconut milk in a small saucepan; remove from heat and stir until smooth. Stir in whiskey and vanilla.
  2. Drop spoonfuls of chocolate onto a parchment- or waxed paper-covered cookie sheet and chill 20-25 minutes, until chocolate loses its shine. Remove from waxed paper, roll them into balls, and roll in the cocoa powder. I found it easier to place the cocoa powder on a plate and roll the chocolate into balls on the cocoa powder.
  3. Place truffles back on cookie sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Store in the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating them.

Makes… a dozen? 15? That sounds about right. Original recipe says 24, but I think I made them a little bigger than the book did.

Awaken… Piecaken!

Continuing in Vegtastic!’s guest post series, a post from my brother Carl! Carl just moved to Seattle and he’s single, ladies. He’s also looking for a job, potential employers. This Thanksgiving dessert was his first attempt at vegan baking, and he nailed it! He’s a master pie maker, so all of the recipes in here he sorta winged. He gives me undeserved credit for inspiring Piecaken, but it was all him.

(The order of events in this entry may or may not be correct. Mostly not correct. Probably. It was a few weeks ago and baking and drinking go very well together.)

I laughed out loud when my sister, Helen, showed me the picture. There in front of me was one of the most ridiculous culinary concepts I had ever gazed upon: the Piecaken. The name alone conjured images of not just mythical sea-monsters, but of pure excess and indulgence. From that moment I knew that this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.

Before this revelation, I had a few simple dessert ideas in mind; a couple pies, or maybe a cheesecake. But pie baked into a cake? This was one challenge I could not pass up. “It must happen,” was my knee-jerk reaction. Not only was I going to do a Piecaken, I was going to do two Piecakens on top of each other, a creation a lovely young blond I’d recently met stated “could get a girl pregnant.” This only offered further encouragement.

A procedure of this sort needed a carefully laid plan. Because I wanted Helen to enjoy this godless endeavor, I knew it had to be vegan. No problem. Vegan baking is really no more difficult than baking with eggs and butter, so that offered no obstacle. I didn’t want to go overboard with creativity, as it was my first attempt, and did not have time to make another if my first was a failure.

I decided to do simple chocolate and vanilla cakes, two classic favorites that most can agree on. The pies were not so easy. I wanted to blend compatible flavors, and given I’d never thought about what pie would taste best with what cake (in the same bite, of course), I had to wing it. Also, it was late, the store was closed, and I needed to get the first pie out of the oven and into the fridge that night. We had dates and raisins. Dates. I’d never had a date pie, but why not? They’re sweet, have a wonderful consistency, and I had few options. My doubts were put to rest as soon as I had a small taste of the filling. Why had I not made date pie sooner?

So, into the oven it went, then to the rack, and finally the crowded refrigerator (possibly the greatest obstacle of the procedure, Piecaken tends to not only consume the human soul, but shelf space as well). I then went to bed, realizing I needed to rest and gather strength for the epic battle I would soon face.

I woke up full of piss and vinegar, but mostly the former so I dealt with it before I headed down to the kitchen to continue. While I still needed another pie filling, I figured I’d bake the first cake, the chocolate. I took out the springform pan, put a healthy dose of Pam on it, and mixed up the batter. I took out the date pie; it was cool and ready to go. Pouring half the batter in the springform, I began to worry if there would be enough batter to make this work. I went forward anyways. In making Piecaken there is no room for doubtful minds. I placed the pie with the pan side up and popped it out into the batter. The pie held strong and retained its shape. So far, so good. I then poured the rest of the batter over it, only barely submerging the crust. The oven was ready, but was I? I took a deep breath and put the first half of the beast into the heat.

I quickly ran to the store. I already knew what I was going to do with the vanilla half: apples. Yes, it is not the most innovative pie filling, but few things go together like apples and vanilla. The chocolate-date concoction was ready to be birthed by the time I got home. Helen was up and around and was generous enough to help me cut up some apples while I made the oil-crust, the same I used for the date pie. The oven was still hot, so the pie was inserted. After it was done, all I could do was wait. The pie had to be cool enough to place in the batter, and the chocolate-date half needed time before I could pop it out of the springform. I would like to say I spent my time waiting trying to solve world hunger and bring down the TEA party once and for all, but it would be more realistic and honest to say that I drank beer and watched South Park.

Time passes. The pie is cool. The first half is cool. Forwards!!! The vanilla half was mixed up, the batter poured, pie placed snugly, and into the oven it went. The batter was gluten free, and did not rise well, creating a plateau in the cake where the pie sat. Oh well. The second half was done, and needed to cool. In this time, I whipped up some powdered sugar frosting and covered the chocolate date half. My most grave error in the Piecaken experience was the frosting. Almond extract. The stuff sucks, and I’m never going to use it again. I had already frosted too much of the layer to turn back, so I stuck to the same frosting recipe, Almond extract included, and whipped up some more to cover the cooling vanilla-apple half.

My creation weighed over nine pounds. The finished product was a sight of awe and wonder. I longed to cut into it to get a cross-section view, but knew that must come after all the other delicious food my mom and sister had prepared was consumed.

After dinner, we all sat there staring at the frosted behemoth on the table, realizing we needed time before we dug into it. We were all faced with a great challenge, and face it we would, together. After an hour or so our stomachs had just enough room for dessert. I made the first incision; this was the moment of truth. Would it be like in the pictures? Would the pie and cake be perfectly separated? Or did the cake batter somehow permeate the pie crust, and disintegrating the filling the batter? Second incision. I lifted the first piece out. I took a sigh of relief. The Piecaken was awakened, in all its photogenic glory. We all ended up sharing the one rather large piece I’d cut out. Aside from the almondy taste of the frosting, the flavors blended perfectly. Piecaken was complete. Helen had inspired a brutal culinary conflict that will be repeated time and time again.

Chocolate chip monkey brownies

This recipe is based on one of the first I veganized and posted on VegWeb way back in 2007: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Brownies.

(Can I just say how awesome VegWeb is? The interface hasn’t changed a bit in the five years I’ve been using it, but it’s still a fantastic crowdsourced resource for vegan recipes.)

I call them “monkey brownies” because they use banana instead of egg — I was living in a suburb of Boston (booo) without a car in 2007, and the Shaw’s down the street definitely didn’t have commercial egg replacer or ground flax. Mashed banana seemed like the best alternative, and even though I’m not a huge fan of bananas, you can barely taste them.

Based on the comments, I doubled the baking chocolate and added chocolate chips. And because I never got to have nuts in brownies growing up (my bro hates them), I added a healthy dose of walnuts for added omega-3s.

They’re soy-free if you use soy-free peanut butter, Enjoy Life chocolate chips and a nut milk — I am loving the new Blue Diamond coconut-almond mix.

Monkey brownies

makes one 8″ x 8″ pan — 16 small squares

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, room temperature — the really creamy and processed kind
  • 2 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mix the banana and sugar. Add the peanut butter and melted chocolate.
  3. Mix flour mixture into sugar mixture, adding the non-dairy milk a little at a time.
  4. pour into a greased/floured 8″x8″ pan. Mixture will be very thick, so you may need to spread it out a bit.
  5. bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out more or less clean. They will solidify a bit as they cool, too, so it can be a little soft in the middle.

Vietnamese crispy donuts (xôi chiên phồng): Seattle, meet your next obsession

Street food is super hot right now. The Guardian shared a list of the world’s best street foods, and xôi chiên phồng (xoi chien phong) — Vietnamese crispy donuts —  were conspicuously absent.

They’re my new obsession.

Erika was invited to the grand opening of La Lot, a new Vietnamese restaurant, and Mary, Janet and I got to join. We were treated to a buffet including the best fresh tofu spring rolls ever (they had a little bits of crunchy fried spring roll wrapper on the inside), skewers of shiitake mushrooms, taro-filled sweet dumplings, and a bunch of stuff other stuff that wasn’t vegan (Erika confirmed that these dishes were).

Mary and I went to the bar for a cocktail, and when we turned around, there was a golden orb larger than a bowling ball on the buffet: xôi chiên phồng. A server cut it into pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors, and we dug in, and our worlds changed a little bit.

Xôi chiên phồng is made from “coconut-infused sweet jasmine rice, fried into a crispy ball” (“xôi chiên phồng,” from what I can tell on the web, translates to “bloated, fried sticky rice“) and is almost like toffee: crunchy at first, then softens to a delightful chewiness.

The manager stopped by our table to ask how we liked the food, and I gushed about the donut. “How do you make them?” I asked. He clarified that he did not make them, and that they’re deep fried — here’s a good explanation of the science behind it.

He explained that they are popular street food in Vietnam, but are virtually unseen here.

Xôi chiên phồng are supposed to be good with spicy foods, and “it’ll stay [puffed] like that for 5 hours.”

La Lot is open to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and I think xôi chiên phồng will soon be a popular post-bar snack.

Karioka: deep-fried chewy Filipino dough balls

Prepare yourself for the most delicious dessert you’ve (maybe) never heard of: karioka (also spelled kareoka, not to be confused with karaoke, and just as fun). Or maybe karioka are old hat to you — I just assume that my thoughts and experiences reflect everyone else’s in this world.

Something about deep-fried dough balls on a stick, glistening with syrup, caught my fancy one day at Uwajimaya. Looking at the ingredients, I noted that they were vegan.

Madeline shared with me a recipe from Art of Dessert, which provides a thorough and foolproof walk-through of preparing karioka. Rianne’s version is crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a coconut-brown sugar glaze you will want to eat by the spoonful.

I don’t have a deep-fryer, but a emptying a bottle of canola oil into a deep frying pan did the trick — I’d never deep-fried before, and found it to be frighteningly easy. Hellooooo, chicken-fried chickpea cutlets!

Just be careful not to overknead the dough (this isn’t seitan, folks) — this will make the insides cakier. Still delicious though.

Coconut Chai Rice Krispies

SpaBettie posted a recipe for orange cardamom rice krispie treats that I have been meaning to make for a while.

Go look at them — I’ll wait. Aren’t they pretty? Don’t they look fresh-tasting and summery?

I am a huge, huge fan of cardamom. Teenage-girl-with-Justin-Bieber huge. Autograph-my-chest-so-I-can-later-tattoo-it huge. Malamute huge. Audaciously huge.

It’s probably the best spice out there. Seriously, candle companies, please manufacture a cardamom candle so that my apartment can always smell festive and exotic.

However, the brisk air has me craving warmer flavors, and sunny oranges aren’t capturing the season for me.

So, playing with the cardamom theme, I tweaked it a bit. Added other chai spices:

And toasted coconut.

Image by Joyosity via Creative Commons

And there you have it, a cozy, easy dessert for autumn days.

Coconut Chai Rice Krispies

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs vegan margarine (I’ll try coconut oil next time — makes more sense, right?)
  • 1 (10 oz) package Dandies marshmallows
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut*

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a large pot.
  2. When butter is completely melted, add marshmallows and spices. Stir until marshmallows are completely melted
  3. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows and toasted coconut until completely mixed.
  4. Press mixture into a greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ pan (for more, shorter squares) or 9″ x 9″ x 2″ pan (for fewer, taller squares). When cool, cut into squares.

* To toast coconut, heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add coconut, stirring until fragrant and brown.

Vegan Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

During my first week at the small liberal arts institution in Maine that I attended for college, I sampled two unfamiliar local delicacies: Moxie and whoopie pies. I never took to the first, but developed an instant love for the second, mainly because Moxie is rancid carbonated urine, while whoopie pies taste like kittens playing with unicorns — magic.

Whoopie pies are essentially marshmallow fluff, sugar, and shortening sandwiched between the tops of cupcakes. They’re sold everywhere in Vacationland, and the best ones come wrapped in plastic so that the cake softens into the filling and it all turns into a delectable stick-to-your-fingers mess.

After I graduated from college and moved to Boston and then Seattle, I left whoopie pies for good. Or so I thought.

The New York Times (who loves coastal Maine possibly more than they love even Portland, OR, which is to say a lot) published an article in March, 2009 proclaiming them as the successor to the cupcake, and put whoopie pies on the national foodie map. They’re everywhere. Even Trader Joe’s and Starbucks sell them, and Oddfellows Cafe here in Seattle has held a whoopie pie baking competition for now two years running.

Peanut butter and fluff is a lunchbox favorite that easily translates to the whoopie pie, and since you can never go wrong with peanut butter (unless you’re deathly allergic, I guess), I typically make mine that way.

Since marshmallow is traditionally made with gelatin, whoopie pies wouldn’t be vegan without some help from Suzanne and her wonderful rice-based fluff.

Ahyup. The way life should be.

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pies

(adapted from VegWeb)

Cakes:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 3 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer blended in 4 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 1/3 cup Suzanne’s ricemellow creme
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

I’m still tinkering a bit with this; 1 cup ricemallow creme : 1/2 cup shortening : 1/2 cup powdered sugar : 1/2 cup peanut butter makes too little, while 1 1/2 : 3/4 : 3/4 : 3/4 makes too much. I believe that the above stated quantities are the perfect amount, but when in doubt, go with 1 1/2 : 3/4 : 3/4 : 3/4.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Beat together sugar and oil until combined; stir in coffee, soy milk, egg replacer and vanilla.
  4. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add wet to them. Stir until just mixed.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop with a trigger, scoop batter into mounds 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together peanut butter and shortening until combined. Add ricemallow creme and beat until incorporated. Stir in powdered sugar. Pipe or spread between two halves.

My mom made raw cheesecake!

That’s right, my very non-vegan (but veg-supportive) mother made a very non-traditional dessert.

My dad is having surgery on Monday, which sucks in and of itself, but the fact that they had to call off their vacation for the procedure makes the situation all the more bitter. This comes just a few weeks after the passing of a close family friend, so their spirits were already low.

So, I figured this was a good time for a visit and flew down to California for the weekend.

Mom hinted that there would be something sweet waiting for my arrival.

And there was! She made Vegan Culinary Crusade’s coconut lime cheesecake. I had tweeted the recipe, hoping to try it myself, and its manifestation as reality was wonderful — sweet, rich, unbelievably creamy, and quite fresh, just as I imagined it to be. My brother, not knowing it was vegan or raw, agreed that “the date cake” was really good, nodding his approval.

“wait! I forgot to put coconut on it!”

I knew it was a good thing Mom’s on Twitter.

She also stocked the fridge with tofu for morning scrambles,

baked cornbread because the bread she had on hand has honey,

whipped up a batch of quinoa salad (minus the cilantro — my brother is a cilantro hater),

left a sweet surprise on my nightstand,

and didn’t mind that I obsessively photographed it all for my blog. She even got in on the camera action.

Goodness, I’m spoiled. Thanks, Mom!

Low-fat vegan brownies

Much like adolescent girls with Twilight heartthrobs, brownie lovers fall into two camps: team fudgey and team cakey.

If you are a member of team fudgey, you will enjoy these brownies. If you fall into the cakey camp, you might want to look for an alternative dessert. Or, you can suck it up and just enjoy something ooey and gooey and chocolately, which describes these brownies pretty accurately.

If you are on a low-fat or soy-free diet, you will also love these brownies — they use no oil or egg replacer.

What do they use instead? Black beans.

So, they’re actually kinda sorta good for you, in the same sort of way that Vitamin water or baked potato chips are good for you. As in, not really good for you, but not as bad as some alternatives.

I’m not going to say these are the best brownies on the face of the planet. They aren’t. They lack the oily crumb that makes full-fat brownies, fudgey and cakey alike, so delicious. You probably wouldn’t request these brownies as part of your last meal.

They’re also sort of polarizing: some people will gobble down, like, 5 of them, while others will take a bite and leave the rest untouched on their plate — I served them at a party and this is exactly what transpired.

So why am I posting such a love-’em-or-hate-’em-recipe that even I say is not the most delicious thing since the dawn of time?

Well, mostly because I’ve been curious about black bean brownies and wanted to report the facts and only the facts, ma’am. And I suspect you may be curious about them too. Plus, I feel that the spirit of VeganMoFo is an honest representation of everything you’ve cooked — what vegans really eat.

Also, they’re really good for what they are: a low-fat dessert — low fat desserts are never going to be as scrumptious as their full-fat alternatives.

Smother them in So Delicious coconut frozen dessert and hot fudge and call it a brownie sundae and you’ve got it made. That sorta defeats the purpose of low-fat, but increases the deliciousness factor. Or, stir them into a blended frozen banana.

I used No Meat Athlete’s black bean brownie recipe using all purpose flour instead of whole wheat and walnuts instead of hazelnuts, and added chocolate chips for a little extra decadence.

Vegan Magic bars

My college dining hall served some pretty killer dessert options, and these babies were one of my favorites.

In fact, I credit magic bars for ending my first foray into veganism. And also for 7 of the freshman 15.

After going vegetarian my freshman year, I deviated back to pescatarianism during my junior semester abroad in Russia because reliable sources told me I would starve in The Motherland if I did not — I wouldn’t compromise now, but I was young and naive then.

Despite allowing fish into my diet, I still consumed an insane of dairy in Russia. What, no meat? Why, serve her some cheese, comrade!

I ate dairy products I never would have eaten in the US. For example, I remember sitting in a small cabin above the arctic circle two ours outside of Murmansk, eating condensed milk on thick crackers, with a local repeating over and over “sgushonoye malako… sgushonoye malako… gushonoye malako” — condensed milk — before I could finally remember how to say it.

When I returned home, I was so disgusted with dairy — not from any ethical standpoint but just the bloated over-consumption of it — that I gave it up. And eggs, just for good measure. And I ate vegan all summer, aided by muffins and cookies from Nabolom.

But that all ended the day following my return to campus when the dining hall served no other than magic bars, those rich confections of chocolate and coconut atop a crust of buttery graham, bound by a sweet web of… sgushonoye malako. I caved.

I’ve managed to recreate almost everything I enjoyed before going vegan, but condensed milk has been the proverbial thorn in my side, being the one item that I could not find a vegan substitute.

But someone made a vegan condensed milk, and my little vegan world is full of magic (bars) again.

Vegan Magic Bars

Adapted from AllRecipes

makes 9

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup  margarine, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 (330 ounce) can condensed soy milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine butter and graham cracker crumbs, and press into a greased 9″ x 9″ pyrex dish.
  3. Pour condensed soy milk over crumbs.
  4. Evenly cover with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until coconut is toasted.
  6. Refrigerate until cool, then cut into squares.

Susan tweeted her pleasure at the number of cats in VeganMoFo posts, but that there could always be more. Zeno crawled into my light box while I was taking photos, and was happy to pose for the camera.

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