Beautiful Restrictions


I was recently invited to attend a wedding celebration for good friends of ours.
Ecstatic, we did the usual most people do to prepare; plan a gift, get a new outfit, a hair do…
but you see I also had the pleasure of being asked to cater.

For the small gathering, I was asked to bring the desserts, only there were a few little catches.
Being vegan was a given, so any baked goods were to be egg and dairy free, but add a few more allergies and the offerings now needed to be gluten and nut-free too.

I am a girl who loves a challenge. And this day was to be all about love, wasn’t it?

I wanted to have a few selections, so I opted for small, and the mother of the groom suggested that it would be great if we didn’t need to cut cakes or fumble with too much extra cutlery. Small and quaint, that was the goal.

With weeks of research in, I gave myself two days to prep and begin baking. Thankfully, I had a Daring Baker deadline looming, and, like always, I figured it would fit into what was going on in my life this month.

Of course, ever since a botched my daughter’s first birthday cake, I’ve always seemed to find gluten-free baking a little daunting.
Since that day, of any research I could muster, I’ve realized that it take a good number of replacement  flours to create a good combination. Different flours do different things. Some are starchier, heavier and most create a much drier batter than you might be used to. Considering this, I thought I’d create a bit of a safety net by combining my little cakes with a touch of fruit.
That and I put together a few recipes, you know, just in case.

CARAMEL APPLE GATEAU TATIN

1/4 Cup White Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Flour
3 Tablespoons Spelt Flour*
2 Tablespoons Cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
1/4 Cup Hot Water
1/3 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

5-6 Firm Apples, I used Empire
2 Tablespoons Butter, vegan
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Apple Juice

*To go gluten-free, substitute the spelt for 3 Tablespoons of rice flour.

Peel and slice the apples 1/4″ thick.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, then shake over the sugar.
Once the sugar has begun to melt and bubble, add the apples in an even layer.
Cook until the apples are tender, then add the apple juice, stirring to incorporate. Coat the apples well before removing from the heat to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Combine the flours. (If not going gluten-free, 3/4 cup of an unbleached AP, may be substituted.)
Add the cornmeal and baking powder and sift together.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut oil and the sugar with a stand or hand mixer until well combined.
Mix the ground flax and the water, then add it and the vanilla to the sugar mixture.
Alternate adding the flours and the soy milk until everything has been added.
Spoon about 3 slices of apples, along with a little “caramel” into a oil sprayed miniature muffin tin.
Next drop the batter, by the tablespoonful, over the apples then bake for 18-20 minutes.
Cool slightly, then gently run a knife around the edges to release the cakes.

If desired, garnish with dried apple chips.
To make, thinly slice one apple with a mandoline. Squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Drop onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and leave in a 200ºF oven for at least 2 hours or until crisp.

The Way The Peanut Butter Cookie Crumbled


It would seem that I’ve been having a short slue of serendipitous mishaps in my kitchen lately.
First I have the uncheesecake pops from the Daring Bakers challenge and now I have crumbly peanut butter cookies.

After a craving and an urge of inspiration from seeing a jarful of banana jam, I wanted to make thumbprint cookies. My first batch of cookies were pretty good but with a cup of oatmeal they lost the peanut butter Pow! and were mostly just oatmeal cookies with a sinkhole of banana in the center. A cookie I’d try again, but just not for this…

Next, I stuck clear of the oats and stayed traditional. I pretty much mimicked my Nana’s peanut butter cookie recipe. (You know the ones with the fork or potato masher prints?) To veganize, I just left out the egg and added a drop of soy milk. No matter how I’d mixed the batter it was dry. I added another tablespoon of milk, then another… and another. I managed to shape them into balls to get into the fridge but there was no way I would be getting a potato masher anywhere near these things. I flattened and shaped a trays worth by hand and watched the edges crack as I squished my thumb into the middle to get the jam blob in.

The results were creamy, peanut-buttery but d-r-y. Certainly not a satisfying cookie. As the jar runnith empty, I was getting tired of inventing new disasters to eat. Then it donned on me that these were good for about one thing – and no, not wanting to waste everything, it wasn’t the compost. These crusty, crumbly cookies were just that, crust and with combined with something even creamier, a potentially perfect dessert base.

Given that mini tart pans make for a great finished dessert, these looked almost like they came from the bakery with little to no effort. Of course, if you don’t have the pans, I’m sure you could go larger into a pie dish. Of anything I’ve learned lately is to just go with the flow, because you might just end up with something pretty great where you least expected it.

CRUMBLY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE CRUST

1/3 Cup Margarine (or Butter)
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Soy Milk

Cream the margarine and sugar.
Add peanut butter and vanilla mixing well to combine.
Add the baking powder and salt followed by half of the flour.
Combine the soy milk then add the remaining flour.
Refrigerate for about one hour, or freeze for later use after shaping into a disk and wrapping well.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Break off walnut sized pieces, flattening as best as possible and press into tart pans.
Bake for 10-12 minutes cooling completely before filling.

Fill with vegan caramel 1/2 way up the sides and top with an even layer of walnut halves.
Melt a semi-sweet or dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat safe bowl over simmering water until smooth.
Pipe or drizzle chocolate over top of the nuts and lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Chill until ready to serve.

Vegan Caramel


A super treat perfect with so many things especially vegan brownies, Caramel Walnut Tarts and coffee.

VEGAN CARAMEL

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Vegan Butter, like Earth Balance
1/2 Cup Soy Milk
Pinch of Salt

Make sure to have everything ready… mise en place, as they say.
Melt the sugar in a large saucepan over medium, heat.
Remove the sugar from the heat once it has liquified and has become a light amber colour.
Note that it may take a bit to get things melting, but once it gets going, keep a keen eye on it as the sugar will go from ligt to amber to burnt quickly.
Add the margarine, whisking while it melts.
Sprinkle over the pinch of sugar.
Finally, add the soy milk. Take caution as it will spatter and bubble. (Sugar is much hotter than water when it boils.)

Whisk the caramel until it’s smooth. Transfer it to a heat resistant container like a mason jar or a Pyrex measuring cup. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Refrigerate until you are ready to use. Warm briefly prior to serving to liquify.
It will keep for up to two weeks.

Yield 1 Cup.