Monday, May 30, 2011

Lovely Lavander Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I am obsessed with lavander lately.  It has been finding its way into many of my dessert recipes, because I simply cannot resist the lovely purple flowers.  Can you blame me?  They have the most beautiful aroma which is soothing as well as calming.  Ever since I was a little girl when my Mom would make lavander soap from essential oil, or have dishes of lavander to scent a room, I have thought of the scent as comforting.  It wasn't until recently that I discovered how delicious it was when added to sweets, and I wish I would have discovered that earlier!  I should just plant a big pot of it on my patio for the fresh version to have an unlimited supply.  Until then I guess I am stuck with buying large amounts of the dried! 

I feel like the scent of lavander goes well with most fruits, and so last weekend when I was trying to decide which ice cream to make to accompany some fruit desserts I would be making I decided on lavander.  I know vanilla goes with everything as well, and I love it, but I was looking to be a bit more creative.  So lavander it was, but I didn't leave the vanilla out all together.  I decided to make a lavander AND vanilla bean ice cream.  I thought their delicate flavors would be perfect in a creamy coconut milk base, and I was right!  I infused some of the milk with a bit of the lavander, and let it steep overnight as well as adding some more lavander at the end to make it extra aromatic.  The vanilla and lavander together was a heavenly combination, and a perfect compliment to the strawberry rhubarb cake I had made, as well as delicious on its own.  It had a calming affect as I let the silky smooth ice cream slowly melt on my tongue...pure delciousness!  Here is the recipe if you would wish to try some for yourself! 

Lovely Lavander Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
Makes about 4 cups of ice cream

3 Tbsp dried Lavander flowers, divided
1 cup lite coconut milk
2 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar
seeds of one vanilla bean
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
a few drops purple food coloring (plant based), optional

To make ice cream, combine lite milk, and 2 Tbsp lavander in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and chill in the fridge until very cold. When chilled, combine with all ingredients except remaining Tbsp lavander in a blender, and process until well blended. Mix in the last Tbsp lavander, and pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Pour into a freezable container with a lid and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Miso Almond Brownies

I love miso so much I will put it in almost anything, savory or sweet.  Especially white miso, it has the most wonderful salty sweet flavor that makes it perfect for use in desserts!  I not have seen recipes for peanut butter cookies with it, and cobbler crusts, which I have yet to try.  I made a miso maple ice cream a while back and it was remenicent of salted caramel, so delicious!  I figured if it was awesome with vanilla based things, why not chocolate as well! 

Most people including myself think of vanilla as a blank pallate to pair flavors with, and chocolate often gets overlooked.  Brownies are a wonderful canvas to cover with interesting I thought the salty sweet miso would be perfect in them.  Afterall, fleur de sel brownies are delicious because of the salty sweet combo. 

I wanted to add another element as well, and I decided that crunchy, nutty almonds would be perfect!  I used my vegan brownie base, baked it in a tart pan, because I love the look of brownie wedges, and topped it off with a fudgy miso laced frosting.  They were scrumptious!  Chocolaty goodness with crunchy almonds and a slightly salty flavor from the miso. 

You never would have guessed it was in there, but they just had that something extra special and mysterious.  I am loving miso more and more every different way I try it, especially like this!  I will have to do more chocolate miso experimentation in the future.  Here is the recipe for the brownies if you would like to experience them for yourself! 

Miso Almond Brownies
Makes 12 wedges

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp white miso
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp pureed silken tofu
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup sliced, toasted almonds

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp white miso
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
a large pinch of sea salt

1 cup sliced toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with non-stick spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in agave nectar, along with miso, vanilla, and tofu, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Stir in 1 cup toasted almonds, and pour into the prepared pan and place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Remove from oven, and tap pan on the counter to deflate (creating a fudgier brownie).  Let cool in pan on a rack. When cool, whisk together the frosting ingredients until smooth, and spread over the brownies.  Top with sliced almonds, and cut into 12 wedges. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brownies + Blondies = Brondies

My friend good friend Laura told me that if I made a combination of my blondies and brownies her head would I decided to take her advice and try it!  Why not, afterall, brownies and blondies are delicious so why not combine the two? 

It is funny because Laura and I are kind of like the brondies.  I am the brownie, she is the highschool, she used to have the most beautiful blond hair which I was always envious of, and I have always been a brunette. 

2003 Highschool

We are now both brunettes however, but I still remember her as a blond. I am happy to have her as a friend, and the time we spend together is always too short.  I love the fact that we can be silly and joke about stuff, as well as have serious talks, that is what makes us good friends!   

I always enjoy sharing my baked goods with her and hearing her opinion of last week on Facebook when I asked which I should make and she said a combination, something clicked in my head.  I am always looking for new ideas! 

I thought her idea of combining blondies and brownies was brilliant!  I decided to call them Brondies, since they contain the best of both bars.  So to make them, I simply combined my brownie batter with my blondie batter, swirled them and voila... brondies! I decided to bake them in cupcake tins so no cutting you get the best of both worlds, the outside brownie pieces as well as the inside. They combined all of the goodness of both, sort of like a marble cake but way better. 

The vanilla in the blondies was a nice break from the intense chocolaty filling of the brownies, and the cruch of the walnuts, and extra chocolate from the chips I added created a nice textural contrast...heavenly on all levels!  Thanks Laura for the idea!  That's what friends are for :)!  Here is the recipe if you would like to make some for yourself! 

Makes 16

Blondie batter:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic coconut milk
2 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toasted walnuts

Brownie Batter (halve):
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp pureed silken tofu
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 350, and spray a 16 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, to mix the blondie batter, combine agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla, and coconut milk and whisk until smooth.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and  salt, and then mix into the wet ingredients until smooth.  Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts until well combined, and set  aside.
To mix brownie batter, whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sea salt and set aside. In a large bowl, place chcocolate and oil. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between to melt the chocolate, until the chocolate and oil are smooth and well combined. Whisk in agave nectar, along with vanilla, and tofu, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Spoon brownie batter into muffin cups (filling half full), then blondie batter, filling the other half.  Swirl with a knife.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until set, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake! Let cool in pan, then invert to remove. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Little Orange Scented Rhubarb Galettes

All last week when I went out on my runs, I was eyeing this patch of unattended rhubarb in the woods by my house. I knew nobody else would care if I cut some, because the woman who planted it has since moved, and she told me I was always welcome to pick some, as I do not have a garden of my own.  I was watching it to see when it would be perfect to harvest, and finally last Friday it was large enough to cut a good amount, enough to make at least a couple of delicious baked goods! 

Let me tell you, this rhubarb has been long and anxiously awaited!  My Grandma used to have a saying "Do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?"  It never made sense to me, and was rather silly, but you know this year, we have had a lot of rain, and the rhubarb was rather slow maybe Grandma Lyons was onto something?  Or maybe it was just the extremely chilly spring.  Very odd to be harvesting the first rhubarb the second week of May, when normally it is sometime at the beginning of April! 


So when I arrived home with my rhubarb the brainstorming of delicious treats to be made began, and I first made Strawberry rhubarb shortcakes, but then decided to make some lovely rhubarb galettes featuring simply the rhubarb.  I wanted mini galettes because I love little things, and in all honesty I halved the recipe I share with you below, because I live in a small household. 

I thought the rhubarb would be lovely with a hint of orange, and it was!  It gave it a light almost floral flavor that rhubarb doesn't normally contain when combined with simply lemon.  They came together quick, and were delicious warm with some home made vegan coconut vanilla bean ice cream!  If you have access to rhubarb, and are looking for a delicious way to welcome it being in season again, here is the recipe for these lovely galettes! 

Little Orange Scented Rhubarb Galettes
makes 4 small galettes

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp maple sugar
7 Tbsp chilled Earth Balance butter, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4-5 Tbsp ice water

1 lb organic rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp organic orange zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup maple sugar
pinch of sea salt

2 Tbsp Melted Earth Balance
Turbinado sugar

To make crust, combine flour, sea salt, maple sugar and butter in a bowl, and use a pastry blender to cut into the mixture until it resembles pea sized chunks (you can also use your hands).  Add orange zest, and vanilla and water and mix into the dough.  Knead a few times until it comes together (you may need to add an additional Tbsp more water).  Shape into 4 disks, cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold, but not hard.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each portion of dough to a 7-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick.
Place rhubarb, orange juice, zest, vanilla, flour, maple sugar and sea salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Arrange rhubarb mixture on top of dough on each round, leaving a  1 1/2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over the fruit mixture, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds. Brush edges of dough melted Earth Balance, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, 40-45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool the galette. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chocolate Red Wine and Olive Oil Cake

I have been wanting to make a dark chocolate cake featuring red wine for quite some time now, and I decided that this was going to be the weekend to do it!  I was enjoying a glass of red wine on Friday night after work and thinking about the heavenly combination of chocolate and red wine for dessert...and the thoughts of it being combined in a delicious decadent cake just got to me!  Before I knew it I was writing down the recipe and whipping up the cake. 

I decided that since red wine and dark chocolate are heart healthy, I might as well go for the full effect and use olive oil in my cake as well!  The scent of the batter alone while I was whisking it together smelled amazing...I had used a baby brunello and the fruityness of the wine combined with the scent of rich cocoa powder was amazing! 

Even better though was the aroma that filled my kitchen as it was baking!  Like chocolaty brownies but better!  I thought such an intensely flavored cake deserved a delicious frosting!  I didn't want a ganache however, I wanted it to be light and almost mousse like.  I decided to go with a whipped (vegan) cream cheese frosting which was creamy and chocolaty like a chocolate mousse!  The cake needed something else though, another element in the layers...some raspberry jam, something tart to cut the sweet and rich chocolate!  I had recently made some so I used my home made jam in between the layers and it was perfect!  

As a whole the cake was delicious!  The cake was deliciously moist thanks to the olive oil, and deeply chocolaty, lightly scented with red wine and enhanced by tart raspberry and silky mousse!  A chocolate lover's dream!  Even more perfect when enjoyed with a glass of red wine!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself! 

Vegan Dark Chocolate Red Wine and Olive Oil Cake with Raspberry Filling
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use ghirardelli)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cups tofutti vegan cream cheese
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup cocoa powder

Raspberry jam (home made if available*)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, wine, and vanilla extract together in small  bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended.  Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier (since cakes with no eggs crumble easier).  When chilled, slice cakes horizontally (very carefully as they will be fragile, using parchment slid underneath each layer to move layers if needed) in half so that you have 4 layers. To make frosting, beat all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then top with about 2-3 Tbsp raspberry jam, then another layer of cake and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, then the top cake layer. Spread frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and use remaining frosting placed in a pastry bag to pipe decoratively around the top of the cake, and at the base.  Chill for a few hours and serve!

*if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.

*Vanilla Scented Raspberry Agave JamMakes 2 cups

2 bags frozen raspberries 12 oz each
3/4 cups agave nectar
Juice of one large lemon
a pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean

Lightly blend berries, agave nectar, and lemon juice in blender (you want to keep it chunky). Pour mixture into a pot and add salt.  Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, and scrape the seeds out.  Throw the seeds and bean into the pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour jam into an air tight container. Jam will store in your refrigerator for several months.