Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Big Vanilla Bourbon Apple Pie

 Last week I realized I hadn't made a classic double crust apple pie in over two years!  Kind of crazy...I guess I am more of a crumble top pie kind of a girl, or I am too lazy and just go for a crisp, but once in a while you just have to make the classic double crust. 

I decided last Friday that it was about time, but honestly I had forgotten how.  I knew the basics of the crust and filling, but how long to bake for?  Luckilly my friend Gabrielle at work is a pie expert so I asked her for a few pointers.  I knew I wanted to make a huge deep dish apple pie fit for a queen! 

I am not going to lie...I didn't actually have a recipe I was following, just my classic single whole wheat vanilla crust recipe I always use which is burned into my brain.  I just doubled it and voila!  For the filling I used my Mom's favorite pie apples, Haralson and tossed them with just enough maple sugar to sweeten, and of course a generous amount of cinnamon. I also decided to add plenty of vanilla flavor from both a bean and the extract, and lets not forget...the bourbon!

Once it was all assembled it wasn't the prettiest I will admit, since I had forgotten how to properly transfer a crust to the pie and not damage it, but I knew it would be delicious anyhow once it was baked.  Ugly pies are just learning experiences as far as I am concerned, and it doesn't matter as long as they are delicious! 

It's aroma was wonderful as it baked.  The essence of fall's sweet apples and cinnamon whafting through my home was enough to make me happy.  I had to wait until the next day to enjoy it though, which was tough.  It was for good reason though, it was meant to be shared...afterall, that is what deep dish big apple pies are for! 

I was quite pleased with the result.  An intense apple pie withe the perfect balance of sweet and tart apple filling laced with plenty of aromatic cinnamon and vanilla and a hint of bourbon.  A crisp buttery crust and some cool creamy ice cream made it all quite heavenly! 

My Mom who made the best apple pies when I was young, told me that this pie recieves and A+!  I would have settled for A for taste and B for appearance, but it was up there.  I had to share some with my Grandpa, whose Mom always made apple desserts herself, and decided it was good enough to share some with my boyfrriend Scott and some of his family members. 

This pie was big enough to feed the army...well not literally but it was huge, and good thing since I needed to have a huge piece plus.  A la mode of course!  Even if you have never made an apple pie, you should definately attempt one!  Here is my recipe if you would like to taste it! 

Big Vanilla Bourbon Apple Pie
Makes One 9 inch deep dish pie

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp maple sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 tsp sea salt
seeds of one vanilla bean
a stick plus 6 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
about 6-7 Tbsp cold water

8 large Haralson (or other tart sweet apples) cut into medium cubes
 1/2 cup maple sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
the seeds of one vanilla bean
juice of one lemon
a pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp flour

coconut milk, for brushing
turbinado sugar, for topping

To make the crust, in a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, sea salt, and vanilla beans.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until it is in pea sized pieces.  Mix in vanilla and just enough water to create a smooth dough that holds together but isn't too sticky.  Add more water if needed, and knead slightly until a smooth dough is created.  Divide into 2 pieces and shape into rounds.  Cover and refridgerate until workable at least 30 minutes.  Roll each out into a 13 inch round using parchment underneath and floured rolling pin.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  To make filling, mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Place bottom crust into a deep dish pie pan and fit to edges.  Pour filling into bottom crust, then carefully place top crust over and crimp edges together.  Brush top crust with a little coconut milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Pierce top crust a few times, and place in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes then reduce oven to 375 (cover with foil if getting too brown) and bake for another  45 minutes to 1 hour until bubbling and apples are tender.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least and hour.  Serve with ice cream!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

PB & J Ice Cream

Everyone has to be able to act their age and not their shoe size once in a while...otherwise we would all just be boring adults!  I may not look like it at first glance, but I enjoy acting a little immature once in a while, acting silly and not caring what anyone else thinks.  Last Friday I was feeling like I was in need of a little seriousness intervention after a little bit of a stressful week, so I decided I needed to just have fun and make one of my childhood favorite combinations into a delicious dessert and just enjoy myself. 

I suppose I could have very well made myself a PB and J sandwich, camped out on the couch and popped in the Little Mermaid...afterall it was my favorite movie when I was 5, and I admit I know All the words and enjoy singing along to the songs...but I instead transformed the PB & J into ice cream instead!  Afterall, what makes a better Friday night than ice cream? 

So I instead made ice cream, popped in a CD from when I was younger and sang along to the music in my kitchen acting silly as I waited for it to freeze because it is not like anyone was around anyhow.  I also managed to make a pie while I waited  because why not?  Playing with the dough is fun!  The peanut butter base for the ice cream was incredibly silky you would not know it was vegan. 
It was salty and sweet...peanutty and delicious, like the inside of the peanut butter cups that were my favorite candy as a child.  Once frozen I swirled in some grape jam that I had made from some Minnesota grown concorde grapes earlier in the week.  The combination was fantabulous! 

Seriously...I ate it like a kid not caring about serving size because I could not stop myself!  I know PB and J ice cream has been done before, but I have never tasted one this good...and vegan!  As I was scraping the ice cream maker out and licking the scraper I felt like a kid!  But good thing I have picked up better dessert making skills since then!  If you would like to try some ice cream for yourself, I have included the recipe, jam and all!  But if you must you can use storebought jam to make it easier on yourself.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream  with Grape Jam Swirl
Makes 6 cups

Grape Jam:
24 oz concord grapes
3/4 cup agave nectar
juice of one lemon
a pinch of sea salt
To make jam, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.   Cook until grapes are jammy and have fallen apart, and juices have reduced about 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.  Strain through a fine meshed strainer into a jar and let cool.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 months. 
Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
3/4 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup smooth organic peanut butter (no sugar added)
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended.  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). Once processed, pour 1/3 into a freezable container with a lid, then drop a few large Tbsp grape jam on top.  Pour half remaining ice cream over, then more jam, then the remaining ice cream and more jam.  Swirl with a knife to distribute jam throughout and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Heavenly Vegan Banana Bars

When my boyfriend Scott told me he had thrown away some over the hill bananas I was shocked!  "You should have saved them for me!"  I said, "I could have made something out of them!" Any baker knows that over ripe bananas make the best bread and the sweetest cakes!  He didn't know any better, I love him anyways and forgive him for wasting good produce... hopefully next time he will think before he tosses and I can make him something yummy out of the bananas.  You can at least freeze them and make some wonderful smoothies.  I know how it goes though, I always end up with bananas that are too mushy for eating. 

Luckilly it forces me to come up with another creative use for them!  I had acquired a large bunch of bananas last week and did just that last Saturday!  Banana bread was out of the question, far too boring for me.  What I had in mind were some sort of bars. 

Bars that would be so full of delicious goodness that they would make me swoon.  So I began to think of what made the most delicious pairing with banana.  White chocolate, cream cheese, and pecans came to mind.  Vegan cream cheese swirled banana bars with banana chunks, toasted pecans and white chocolate was what I came up with! 

Oh my were they good!  From the minute I tasted the batter I had mixed up before pouring it into the pan and swirling it with the cream cheese I knew these were going to be the type of thing that you could not simply eat just one of!  They smelled like a banana cake when baking but were even better once they had cooled and I had a chance to cut them up and dive in! 

Sweet banana dough studded with crunchy nutty pecans, smooth white chocolate and decadent cheese cake like swirls.  Heavenly!  Better than any blondies I have tasted by far!  Those over the hill bananas had made them extra that just goes to show there is no such thing as bananas that need to be tossed when they simply have a few black spots.  If you have some extra bananas and feel like baking try these out, you will taste why they are called "heavenly"!

Heavenly Vegan Banana Bars
makes 12

1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread at room temperature
2 medium very ripe bananas, pureed
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups chopped vegan white chocolate
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 large banana, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1  8 oz vegan cream cheese (I used tofutti)
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp flour
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 7 x 11 inch square pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, combine buttery spread and coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the banana puree, vanilla extract, banana extract and agave nectar until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined, and stir in white chocolate, and pecans.  Fold in banana slices.  Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out.  In a medium bowl, beat together swirl ingredients until smooth, then drop by the Tbsp full onto the other batter in the prepared pan and swirl with a knife.  Bake for about one 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean but do not overbake!  Cool in the pan about 20 minutes, then lift out foil and set on a rack and let sit until completely cool.  Cut into 12 bars.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Toasted Pecan Maple Ice Cream

It may be nearly Autumn and the chill in the air may have set in but that does not stop me from making ice cream.  How else would I acquire a delicious accompaniment to my warm crisps and cobblers?  I haven't bought ice cream at the store in years and am not about to start doing so now.  Besides, how else would I infuse the flavors of fall into the creamy dessert?  I know you can buy cinnamon ice cream at the store, but what about flavors like pumpkin, apple cinnamon or toasted pecan maple? 

I look at ice cream base as my blank palate to create new flavors, seasonally of course since I am not so much craving strawberry in the fall or pumpkin in the summer. 

I love the flavor of roasted nuts in the cooler months, so this week I decided that a toasted pecan maple ice cream would be delicious!  Also it would the perfect accompaniment to the apple cobbler I was planning on making this weekend. 

So I blended toasted pecans into my vegan ice cream base and added maple syrup for sweetener along with some cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.  The smooth ice cream with the flavor of the toasted nuts was delicious, but I decided to stir in some chopped pecans for crunch at the end. 

It was wonderful!  Nutty, sweet and lightly spiced.  Delicious with maple syrup drizzled over, but even more so when paired with a warm apple cobbler! 
Don't let the chill of fall keep you from making ice cream!  You should try this out if you plan on making a warm apple dessert anytime soon! 

Toasted Pecan Maple Ice Cream  
Makes 6 cups

Ice Cream:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 cups chopped toasted pecans, divided
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients except one cup of pecans in a blender, and process until well blended.  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). Once processed, strir in remaining pecans and pour into freezable container with a lid, and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Piña Colada Oatmeal Cookies

Summer may be gone, but chilly fall weather is perfect for baking.  There is nothing more comforting than filling your home with the sweet aroma of something delicious baking in the oven and warming the kitchen. I am welcoming the cool fall weather, as it is perfect for running and I have had just about enough of 90 degrees.  I have to admit though the chill has me craving sweet things a little more.

Today was one of those days at work where I was wishing there were 3 of me to get everything done, but I managed and in order to keep myself sane, I daydreamed about what I could possibly bake when I arrived home.  For some reason I thought about the dried pineapple my Mom had recently bought me and got it into my head that it would be delicious in oatmeal cookies!  This soon turned into piña colada cookies when white chocolate and coconut were added to the ingredient list.  And yes, I know rum had to be included as well...but I stuck with the extract so I didn't mess with the moisture in the cookies. 

So when I got home, I fixed myself up some hot apple cider with a bit of bourbon and got to work!  The thing I love about this type of cookie dough is it comes together quick!  A little sampling was involved during the baking and all the stresses of the day melted off.  My kitchen was filled with the heavenly aromas of brown sugar and spice, and how can one not be happy when taking that in? 

The cookies were delicious as I sampled them warm from the pan...the dried pineapple contributing fruity tartness, the white chocolate creamy sweetness and the pineapple nutty crunch in the aromatic spice laced cookie. 

Summer may be over and it may be cool but these are certainly remeniscent of it...while at the same time being fallish with the spices and the oats.  Kind of like the time of year we are in right now, on the boarder of the seasons.  If you need a delicious treat, you must try these cookies as I have included the recipe!

Piña Colada Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2 sticks Earth Balance Buttery sticks, (or organic butter) softened to room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large organic eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp rum extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups toasted large flake coconut
2 cups  dried pineapple, chopped
2 cups white chocolate, chopped into hunks
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and rum extract, and beat until well combined. Beat in the flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and sea salt until well blended. Mix in the oats until well combined, then add coconut, pineapple, white chocolate, and mix until evenly distributed throughout the batter. Cover the dough and chill in the fridge for a few hours. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack set at the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet 2 inched apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden, but not overbaked. Let cool on sheet a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack lined with parchment to cool. Meanwhile, use other cooled sheet to bake another batch and switch off with pans as cookies come out of the oven until all the dough is used up.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vegan Almond Butter Banana Brownies

Everybody pairs peanut butter and bananas...but what about almond butter and bananas?  I think the combination is quite heavenly myself having gotten used to it when I was in highschool and my Mom would only buy almond butter for a while.  "Almonds are the king of nuts." she would say, to which I would reply "Why can't they be the queen?"  But I knew what she meant, they are a nutritional powerhouse and to this day I tend to eat almond butter about 75 percent of the time when going for nut butter. 

On Friday however I was going to be ordinary and use peanut butter and bananas in brownies when I discovered I had no peanut butter.  But no worries...almond butter to the rescue! Turns out I actually thought they were tastier than they would have been had I simply used peanut butter. 

I used my vegan brownie base, but swapped out the usual tofu for pureed banana, giving them an even fudgier texture.  I swirled a sweet almond butter mixture throughout the batter and added chocolate chips for extra decadence. 

I decided that they needed to be topped off with bananas as well since to me the puree wasn't enough.  They smelled like nutty chocolate cake as they baked and were delicious once I was able to dive in and try them. 

I was not sorry that I had no peanut butter in the house at that point and I was reminded that the ability to improvise is essential sometimes.  Plus new discoveries are made that way!  Try out the almond butter banana combination, you may just love it!  Or if you would like to experience the brownies, I have included the recipe. 

Vegan Almond Butter Banana Brownies
makes 24
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup coconut oil
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
3/4 cup pureed banana
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups chocolate chips

Almond Butter Swirl:
1 cup roasted unsalted almond butter
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

2 medium bananas, sliced
granulated sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, and spray 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 vanilla, maple extract, bananas, and whisk to blend until well incorporated. Whisk in vinegar until well blended and there are pale swirls throughout the batter. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into the prepared pan.  Whisk together almond butter swirl ingredients, then drop by tablespoonfulls onto the brownie batter and swirl with a knife.  Arrange cut banana slices on top and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 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 for about 10 minutes, then lift foil out by the edges and cool on a rack. Let cool completely, then cut into 24 bars (or use a cookie cutter if you want to make it more interesting).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vegan Zucchini Lemon Cake

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
... -Jim Davis
I love this quote, and I couldn't agree more.  As far as I am concerned you can never have too many veggies and I love trying to find ways to add them to sweet baked goods.  So after all of the tomato recipes I had recently posted, I decided zucchini deserved a chance this weekend. 

I have made both zucchini spice cake and chocolate zucchini cake in the past, so I decided to go a little different direction and make a zucchini lemon cake. I have inherited my Mom and Grandmother's love for all things lemon, and I thought the mild zucchini would pair well with it. 

I have never seen a recipe for such a cake, but that has never stopped me.  I decided that I had to puree some of the zucchini to keep the cake moist, but also use some grated zucchini skin to get the lovely green flecks which I so love. 

I added plenty of lemon to the cake layers, and at first I was simply going to flavor the cream cheese frosting with lemon but instead made a tart vegan lemon curd to balance out the sweetness of the cake and the creamy cream cheese frosting that held it together. 

I coated the outside of the cake with toasted pecans for crunch to finish it off.  It was delicious!  The zucchini blended in but it contributed a wonderful moistness to the cake.  There is no such thing as too much zucchini as far as I am concerned, you just need to know how to enjoy it!  If you are tired of the usual zucchini desserts, give this cake a try!

Vegan Zucchini Lemon Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup maple sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup grated green zucchini skin
1 cup pureed zucchini
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
Curd Filling:
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp organic lemon zest
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 8 oz pkgs tofutti cream cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup toasted pecans
plant based food coloring

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, baking soda, and sea salt together in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, sugar, juice and zest, coconut milk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, zucchini, and pecans together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30-40 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. When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers.

To make the filling, combine agave nectar, cornstarch, and sea salt in a medium pot, and whisk until combined. Add the juice and zest and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium high heat whisking constantly until thickened to a curd or pudding like consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, and let chill in the fridge until very cold, at least an hour. 
To make frosting, whip cream cheese until smooth, then add agave nectar, vanilla, and sea salt and beat until smooth.
To assemble cake, place one layer on a plate, and top with about about 1/2 cup of the frosting, spread to the edge of the cake, then spoon 2 Tbsp lemon curd over and spread to 1/2 inch from the edge so it doesn't ooze out. Top with another layer and repeat, then the next 2 layers ending with a top layer of cake (you will have extra curd for another use. Place in the fridge for about an hour to allow the filling to set up before frosting.  To frost cake, spread frosting over top and sides, smothing out as you go. Cover the sides of the cake with the pecans.  Tint any leftover frosting whatever color you desire, and pipe remaining frosting decoratively around top of the cake using a pastry bag or plastic ziplock with a hole in the corner.
*if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.