Posts Tagged ‘Dessert’

I would like to start this post by giving a shout out to the greatest football team ever to walk God’s Green Earth: the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In honor of the World’s Best Football Team, I bring you the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. Each – the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chocolate Chip Cookie – really are the consummate players in their respective fields – professional sports and cookies. As a connoisseur of both, I do not use the term “world’s best” lightly; so rest assured that these are some seriously good cookies.

Last summer the New York Times published a writer’s quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. After interviewing a number of famous bakers, the requirements for the perfect chocolate cookie seemed to boil down to this list:

1. Use good chocolate
2. Use a lot of chocolate
3. Sprinkle the cookies with salt
4. Serve them warm
5. Make ‘em big
6. Rest your dough for 36 hours

I had you until #6, didn’t I?

Let’s break down the list.

#1 and #2 – Use good chocolate and lots of it.

The NYT article features a recommendation for the use of chocolate disks as opposed to the traditional chocolate chip because of how they melt – the disks will melt to create a more uniform strata of chocolate within the cookie rather than the isolated chunks of chocolate the chips create. Also, all contributors to the article strictly adhere to a cacao content of no less than 60%.

I’ve tried this recipe with both – disks and chips – and I will vouch for the use of disks over chips. You can find fancy chocolate disks online, but I found mine in the chocolate section at Whole Foods on a trip I made to the Mainland in November. I used the Noel Royale Buttons with 64% cacao content and was quite pleased with the results.

#3 – Sprinkle the cookies with salt.

Salt is used in baked goods to heighten the flavor of the other ingredients and to add a new dimension to the sweet. Salt is called for in this dough and then, just before you pop them into the oven, generously sprinkle the unbaked cookies with coarse sea salt – the grains will bake into the tops of the cookies and will adhere much better than if you try to sprinkle them post-baking.  MmmmmMMMmmmm ……

#4 – Serve them warm.

This really is a no-brainer. While some things do improve in flavor after a cool down period on a wire rack, chocolate chip cookies are so darn good warm because of the ooey-gooey factor of melted chocolate. Let the cookies cool just long enough so as to not scald your tongue – maybe 10-12 minutes – then break one of these in half and marvel at the perfect-looking ribbons of chocolate spanning between your fingers. Yum! These do, admittedly, taste amazing even at room temperature, but do be sure to enjoy some warm straight out of the oven!

#5 – Make ‘em big.

Again, this seems like a no-brainer, right – the bigger the better! That’s not always true, however, with mini- desserts being all the rage these days – some people will actually turn down a cookie for being too big. Incredible! But there really is a reason for super sizing chocolate chip cookies, and it’s not just so that we can make big pigs of ourselves. The bakers in the NYT article refer to it as the Rule of Thirds:

“First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so … A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. Then there’s the center, which is soft. A bull’s-eye the size of a half-dollar yielded easily. But the real magic … is the one-and-a-half-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”

Making your cookies six-inch beasts will result in this symphony of textures and flavors.

#6 – Rest your dough for 36 hours.

The science behind letting the dough rest for 36 hours is that it allows the dry ingredients to fully absorb the wet ingredients. When you first mix the two together, your butter ingredient will act as a barrier between the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Let the dough rest for a full 36 hours, however, and that barrier is broken down and your wet ingredients get fully absorbed by the dry. This results in a cookie that has a greater depth of flavor; with caramel and toffee undertones from the brown sugar and a more fully developed appearance of brown when baked. The dough is also a bit more crumbly at this point and holds together much better when rolled into golf ball sized hunks and placed on your cookie sheet. They retain their shape better when baked and what you end up with is a perfect looking – and tasting – cookie.

I have made these several times, and a few times I cheated the 36-hour rule – once I rested the dough overnight for about 12 hours and another time I only rested the dough for about 3 hours. You will still end up with very, very good cookies that no one will scoff at – but the magic really is in that 36-hour rest period. 36 hours of rest = cookies that look too perfect to be true.

And that brings us to the recipe. What, in my opinion, makes this version even better than the original? The exclusion of animal products. Below is my cruelty-free version of the NYT original and I cannot recommend these enough. Make these for your Valentine and I promise you they’ll swoon. You can thank me later 😀

Chocolate Chip Cookies
The original NYT recipe can be found here

Adapted from Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tbsp (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) Earth Balance (or other butter alternative)
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (8 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
½ lb bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream Earth Balance and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add canola oil, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.


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Spritz Cookies

After the cake debacle left me with no sweet treat for my guests, I kicked into overdrive to find an adequate replacement that I could make with the clock ticking. As I scanned my cupboards for inspiration, one thing jumped out at me, a most unsuspecting item: a box that looked like it came to me straight out of 1972. It was a cookie press that I had scored new in the box for $1.99 several years ago. It remained new in the box in my kitchen as I had never even opened it to make use of it.

I quickly found a recipe for cookie press cookies from Martha Stewart that looked easy and for which I had all the ingredients on hand. I subbed in Earth Balance for butter and canola oil for egg yolks (2 tablespoons of oil per each large egg yolk the recipe called for). To make the dough festive, I divided it in half and mixed in green food coloring to one half and red food coloring into the other half. I topped the cookies off with some sanding sugars before popping them into the oven.

I could not believe how easy these cookies were to make, or how easy the cookie press was to use. Literally, just point and shoot! I can’t believe that for all this time I have been missing out. Now I want to make spritz cookies every day … just because I can. One trick that I did develop was to use two cookie sheets, but only put one in the oven at a time, so as to chill the other. I had found with my second batch that the dough coming out of the press did not stick to a hot cookie sheet. As one batch baked, I let one sheet cool over my sink and stuck the dough and press into the fridge to let it chill. I found that this system worked quite efficiently for me.

My secret for perfectly done cookies is to pull them out of the oven before they look done. If you leave them in until they start browning they are, in my opinion, already too far gone. I know that some people enjoy the crispiest cookies the best. Admittedly, I am not one of them. For these types of cookies, in particular, I enjoy a nice crisp outside that yields easily to a soft inside. To achieve that effect, I timed these cookies at exactly 10 minutes. I sacrificed the first batch by letting them go for 12 minutes, which resulted in very crispy browned edges and bottoms. They did not end up the trash, though – I set those aside for the extra crispy lovers among us to enjoy. I did not, however, put them out for all to see!

Spritz Cookies
Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 6- 8 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Earth Balance (or other butter substitute of your choice)
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
3 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Add canola oil and mix, then add flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

2. Fill a cookie press with the dough, and turn out cookies 1 to 2 inches apart onto a non-oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored sanding sugars.

3. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. To ensure even baking, rotate sheet halfway through the baking process. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

One of my guests who enjoyed these cookies asked about any sweetener substitutions I made. Oops – busted! Despite my commitment to cutting out refined sugars, the two holiday recipes I’ve made thus far this season – fruit cake and these cookies – have found me sneaking sugar back in. We discussed the difficulty of mitigating health resolutions and ingredient substitutions with tried-and-true traditions. Have any of you had success with substituting some of the naughtier ingredients in traditional holiday recipes with their nicer and healthier counterparts? If so, please share your stories and tips in the comments below.

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Thai Tapioca Pudding

The other day, I was involved in the type of incident that makes me think, “Only me….”

Wednesday was Kamehameha Day, a state holiday in Hawaii. I was enjoying my day off, but there was some work to be done, so I stopped by one of our facilities on my way to town to do some errands. As this particular facility is in a state building, I expected the main entrances to be closed and that I would use my key to go directly into our space. Instead, I found the doors to our space open, and remnant carpet piled up outside of it. I peeked in and saw a new carpet almost completely unfurled in the room, only a 3 foot wide strip of concrete remaining exposed. “Hello?” I called in, and I was met by the two men redoing the carpet. I asked them if it was OK for me to go through the space and they said sure, it was not a problem. I cut through the room into one of our offices, where I was surprised to find several other people there, as well, doing some work. We all have a problem staying away, I suppose …

I finished my task in about 15 minutes and I was excited to be back on my way to town. Sunglasses on my face, purse slung over my shoulder, my two phones in one hand, my car keys in the other, I went back out the way I came. This time the men were not in the room, and everything looked the same … yet it took just one foot placed onto the concrete for me to realize that something was very, very different. Imagine the most perfect of pratfalls, the classic slip on the banana peel … suddenly I was looking up at my feet and involuntarily unleashing a noise that was somewhere between a yelp and a shriek. I came down most ungracefully onto my lower back with an astonishingly loud thud.

The two men, having heard the ungentle meeting of my body to the concrete, came running into the room and their jaws dropped at the scene before them. I looked up in dismay and asked the question to which I already knew the answer: “What am I covered in?”

“Carpet glue.”

That’s right, folks. In the fifteen minutes that had passed from my entrance into the space, a very thick layer of industrial carpet glue was spread onto the concrete. The men had left it for a few minutes to become tacky, when along I came, unsuspecting and obliviously toting along all of my belongings … that were now covered in glue.

The men, who were very kind, told me to quickly get up and get to the bathroom because the glue is water-soluble. The unfortunate thing about wallowing in a puddle of carpet glue is that the only way to get up out of it is to roll around in it some more so that you can position yourself to stand up without slip-sliding and falling again. Talk about adding insult to injury! As I stood up, big fat gloplets of glue dropped from me to the floor. One of the men helped to lift me out of my shoes, which were now sticking quite stubbornly to the floor, and I hurried into the bathroom, where I discovered that the glue was only kind of water-soluble. I was able to get most of it off of my hands, but it was smeared all over my arms, all over my back from my mid back down to my thighs, it was on the front of my shirt, it was all over my purse, it was on my phones, it was on my keys, it was on the remote locking device for my car, it was on my sunglasses … at least the part of my glasses that I had. I had hit the ground so hard that one of my lenses had popped out!

I quickly realized that I was fighting a losing battle with the glue in the bathroom. I decided to focus my efforts on my hands, so that I could grip the steering wheel of my car without becoming one with it, and my keys so that I would not be sticking a glue key into my ignition. Having accomplished a decent enough job on my hands and keys, I came back outside where the men were waiting for me with my shoes, which they had unstuck from the floor and cleaned for me. After I assured them many times that I was OK, they cut a large scrap of carpet for me to place on my car seat so that I would not get glue all over my car. Of course, when I got home and stepped out of my car, I then had carpet stuck to me, and I wondered if the neighbors were watching (somebody should be, I thought … it really was quite funny).

Into a big bucket of soapy water went my clothes and sunglasses (the men had retrieved my other lens from the scene of the accident) … under the no-nonsense scrubbing of a scrubber sponge went my skin … cotton balls bathed in baby oil removed the remaining gunky glue from my keys and car remote … my phones were dismantled and placed in front of a fan … and I took some ibuprofen and applied to ice to my sure-to-be bruised lower back. One of my phones survived, but the other had to be replaced by Verizon (and with a different model, at that, since they stopped making my old phone … I’m finding the new one a bit difficult to warm up to.)

So … what do you do when your foot takes an unexpected step and your day ends up with you all covered in glue? First, you laugh at the absurdity of it all, and then you make a big batch of tapioca to soothe your bruised and battered self.

In the past month or so I’ve grown quite found of tapioca pudding but I hadn’t yet tried making it for myself. I made two different batches in an attempt to get the consistency right (traditional tapioca calls for eggs to thicken it up). For the first batch I used two tablespoons of Ener-G egg replacer, which made the tapioca quite thick. I actually really liked the consistency of that batch, but I made a second batch with a thinner consistency, which is what is listed below. First I enjoyed my tapioca warm with sliced strawberries … then I enjoyed it again later chilled with mixed berries. Both were delicious … and both helped to make the soreness of my aching back more bearable.

Thai Tapioca

½ cup large tapioca pearls
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup vanilla soy milk + 1 tbsp Ener-G egg replacer
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

1. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, add tapioca pearls, and simmer (keeping some bubbling action) over medium low heat for 10 minutes. Be sure to stir often to prevent the tapioca pearls from sticking to the pot. (The package of tapioca pearls recommended letting them soak for 24 hours in a cup of milk. I wanted my tapioca now so I devised this step to hasten the process.)

2. Whisk the soy milk and egg replacer together. Whisk it into the coconut milk mixture, along with the sugar and salt, and be sure that everything is well combined. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate to serve chilled.

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Coconut Rum Cake

Often times, people seemed surprised when they find out that I enjoy cooking and food magazines. As the majority of cooking magazines do not cater to a vegan audience, this surprise is well merited. In the true spirit of the DIY lifestyle, I enjoy a good challenge and most of the recipes in these magazines are just that: a tantalizingly delicious-seeming challenge. I like to tear out all of the recipes that intrigue me, file them away in my recipe binders, and have them at my fingertips for those days when I want to flip through them and satisfy my impulse to get experimental with dinner (which is most days, really …)

Last week we were fortunate to have our friends Kate and Chris honeymooning on Maui. When we had them over to the cottage for dinner one night, I wanted to serve something tropical and island style. After flipping through my desserts binder of torn-out recipes, I instantly decided upon a coconut rum cake that was featured in a 2007 issue of Gourmet Magazine (perhaps the most not-vegan friendly food magazine of them all …). It took a bit of tweaking, but this cake turned out beautifully. It was also deceptively easy to make, which only adds to the love.

For the coconut cream, I stuck a can of full fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight and skimmed the cream that rose to top out of the can. You can also just stick the can in the fridge in the morning if you are planning on making this later in the day.

Coconut Rum Cake
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine September 2007

1 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
3 tbsp canola oil
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ stick Earth Balance, melted and cooled
½ cup coconut cream

3 tbsp Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
5 tbsp coconut cream
1 tbsp dark rum
1/8 tsp vanilla
½ cup confectioners sugar

Coconut flakes

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil and flour a 9” round cake pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy yogurt, oil, and sugar. Gradually whisk in the flour mixture until just combined. Pour into the cake pan and tap pan on counter to expel air bubbles.

3. Bake cake until golden brown and the cake starts to pull away from the side of the pan, about 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a rack and cool for 10 minutes more. Generously brush the top and side of the warm cake with the coconut cream, allowing it to soak in completely before brushing on more. Cool cake completely.

4. To make the icing, beat together the Tofutti, coconut cream, rum, and vanilla until smooth, and then beat in the confectioners sugar. The icing should be smooth and a little runny. Smooth the icing over the cake, allowing it to drip over the side. Top with coconut flakes.

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This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a L’Opera Cake, which features a cake made with 6 egg whites and 6 whole eggs. *Sigh* Daring Bakers, what are you trying to do to me? Make me throw my vegan lovin’ hands up in frustration and cry “Woe is me!”?

Ha! Not this gal. I happily accept your egg-laden challenge.

This is why I love these DB challenges. They push me to be a creative problem solver in the kitchen. I had never even heard of a L’Opera Cake before this month. This recipe looks very involved but I found it to be quite easy to complete. Here are the elements of a L’Opera Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).

Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavored to suit your tastes.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved.

Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

I made some adaptations (of course) to both the recipe and the assembly. For my cake I decided to go with an almond, coconut, and berries flavor combination.  Here’s my play-by-play:

Saturday night: I made the jaconde by replacing the many eggs with a combination of soy yogurt, Ener-G “eggs”, and canola oil. I knew that I would not achieve a sponge cake with this recipe but I believed that I would accomplish a delicious almond cake, which was exactly what I ended up with. Also, instead of two cakes I made just one. I also made my syrup ( I chose coconut flavoring) and white chocolate (I used Bittersweet’s recipe to make my own).

Sunday early afternoon: I made my buttercream and I made my ganache/mousse. I used all of my white chocolate for this step and did note reserve any for a glaze, so out went the glaze from my recipe. Not a problem! I sliced up some berries to add to my layers. I assembled my cake and decided to leave it a bit rustic looking with rough edges (rather than smoothing them out for a more refined look) because I was planning on serving it as dessert at our Memorial Day Barbecue (the red, white, and blue look of the cake made it quite appropriate for the occasion).

The cake set up in the fridge for a few hours, and it was then served to great fanfare. The cake disappeared in a jiffy and some declared it a brand new favorite. I will definitely be making this DB recipe again. Big mahalos to Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, Lis from La Mia Cucina, Shea from Whiskful, and Fran from Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie for creating this challenge.

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.


1 cup soy yogurt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground almonds (You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or do as I did – make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you will use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 Ener-G “eggs”
2 tbsp canola oil
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp Earth Balance, melted and cooled (plus a little extra for greasing the pan)

1. Preheat the oven to 425◦F.

2. Line one 12 1⁄2 x 15 1⁄2- inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and brush with melted Earth Balance.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat the soy yogurt and sugar together until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a second bowl beat the almonds, icing sugar, Ener-G “eggs”, and canola oil on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

5. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the soy yogurt mixture into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted EB. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of the pan.

7. Bake the cake until it is lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven.

8. Put the pan on a heatproof counter or trivet and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover it with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pan over, and unmold.

9. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature.


1⁄2 cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp coconut cream

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

¼ cup nonhydrogenated shortening
¼ cup Earth Balance
3 cups powdered sugar
¾ tsp vanilla
¾ tsp almond extract
3 tbsp vanilla soymilk

Beat the shortening and EB together until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes. Ad the extracts and soy milk and beat for another 5-7 minutes, until fluffy.

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp coconut cream (put a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight and use the cream that rises to the top)
1 tbsp Malibu coconut rum

1. Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp of coconut cream in a small saucepan.

2. Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the rum to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.

3. In the a mixing bowl, whip the remaining 1 cup of coconut cream.

4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse/ganache.

5.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

1. Cut the cake into four equal squares. Line a serving plate with asquare of parchment or wax paper.

2. Place one square of cake on the parchment or wax paper and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup.

3. Spread about one third of the buttercream over this layer. Top with cut strawberries.

4. Top with a second square of cake. Moisten this square with the flavoured syrup.

5. Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake

and then top with blueberries. Place a third square of joconde on top of the blueberries. Wet the joconde with syrup, top with the remaining buttercream, place cut strawberries on top, and then place the final square of cake on top of the strawberries. Wet this cake with syrup and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

6. Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

7. Serve the cake slightly chilled

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It’s been a busy month. Forgive me?

Now that it is mid-May and spring is beginning to work its wondrous magic in most places, I do not have to feel guilty about sharing a recipe for a warm weather treat like ice cream. I love ice cream and I highly recommend that everyone, if you do not already have one, keep an eye out for ice cream makers going on sale. I love my Cuisinart ice cream maker. It is so quick and easy to use, the possibilities are endless, and there is something so satisfying and lip smacking good about eating freshly made ice cream that is free of preservatives and scary ingredients such as corn syrup.

This particular ice cream combines the flavors of carob and fresh strawberries. Cocoa powder would work just as well in this recipe, I just happen to really love the flavor of carob. Enjoy!

Carob Strawberry Ice Cream

1 block firm silken tofu (I used Mori Nu brand)
1 ½ cup vanilla soymilk
¼ cup Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
¼ cup carob powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sliced strawberries

In a food processor, process the tofu until smooth. Add the soymilk, Tofutti, brown rice syrup, carob, and vanilla to the tofu and process until well blended. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is ready, gently fold in the sliced strawberries.

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When I was younger, I wanted to be Jewish.

My friends all attended Hebrew school in the evenings or on the weekends. Every summer they all went away to co-ed summer camp run by the Jewish Community Center. (I was shipped off every summer to an all girls’ Christian camp.)  My friends all attended JCC dances, and they all practiced and perfected their Hebrew for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

All of my crushes wore yarmulkes.

It all started in the second grade when I was pulled out of Catholic School. The school I had been attending, St. Peter’s, was close to my neighborhood and my mom would walk me there and drop me off on her way to work downtown. I spent those years wishing I was Catholic, instead of Presbyterian. Presbyterian seemed so dull to me – no wafers, no wine, so mysterious little closet into which you would disappear and spill all of your secrets. Eventually, however, the wish to be Catholic was borne out of a sheer survival instinct. Once a week after religion class we would all be marched into the church adjoining our school, where we would be filled with the fear of hell fire and brimstone for our damned souls if we did not take communion, confirmation and confession to redeem ourselves. Once communion began, those few of us who were unfortunate enough to have not been born Catholic would be plucked out of the pews and sent back to an empty classroom to sit with an aide because this part of church was for Catholics only. There we would idly sit, waiting for those gaining redemption (or, more accurately, at that age watching others taking part in said redemption but were by association being redeemed, as well) to return to sit amongst us who remained sinners. I began to imagine my sins emanating from me like a bright pulsating light as I sat amongst all of my more pure classmates. As I began to get more and more concerned about our souls, public school suddenly seemed like a much preferable option to my mother.

Rather than enrolling me in the neighborhood public school, my mom camped out for several nights to secure me a spot in a magnet program at Linden Elementary, all the way across town. Each day my little short bus pulled up to my door in my gentile neighborhood of Fineview on the north side of Pittsburgh to take me to school in Point Breeze, which, with neighboring Squirrel Hill, was comprised of a large Jewish population. Straight away I became fast friends with Lena (who has made appearances on the blog in the past, such as here, here, and here) and we began to share our holidays with one another – I would make her little Easter baskets with chocolate eggs and wrap up trinkets in Christmas paper, and she would bring me Slush Puppies for Hanukkah (not particularly Jewish, to my knowledge, but delicious and appreciated, nonetheless) and flourless treats for Passover. I think she may have actually brought me matza one year, which eased the sting of having to eat chocolate bunnies instead of Passover fare.

This year, when I saw that Lena’s visit would occur during Passover, I couldn’t resist planning a vegan Seder. With Lena as consultant, we planned a menu of matzo ball soup, seitan pot roast brisket, and a flourless chocolate hazelnut torte. Lena was enthusiastically and adventurously on board with this plan; others, however, were a bit more dubious … which only added fuel to the vegan fire.

The matzo ball soup was made using the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, which is incredible – light, fluffy, delicious balls of matzo floating in a rich sea of vegetable broth. For the seitan recipe that is used in the pot roast brisket, I adapted Vegan Yum Yum’s adaptations of the now famous on the web Seitan O’ Greatness. Finally, for the chocolate hazelnut torte, I adapted a Passover dessert recipe of Martha Stewart’s.

I must admit that it was with slight trepidation that I served the seitan brisket. I felt fairly confident that it would turn out fine, but it really was a shot in the dark. Happily, it turned out better than fine – it was delicious, as was the torte. The brisket was so good that we packed it up the next day and took it on a picnic lunch in the form of sandwiches when we went upcountry to Kula to play frisbee golf.

I apologize for posting this Passover menu well after the fact this year, but be sure to bookmark this post and return to it for next year! (I also apologize for the subpar indoor photos .. there was no way to wait until the light of day to capture the moment!)

Seitan Pot Roast Brisket

4 cups vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 tsp salt
5 tbs nutritional yeast
2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 1/2 cup water
5 tbs olive oil
2 1/2 tsp mustard
2 1/2 tbs soy sauce

1 yellow onion, sliced
8-10 red potatoes, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
5-6 garlic cloves
2 cups faux beef bouillon (I used Vegetarian Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base)
1 tbsp Italian herb blen

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the dry ingredients together until well combined. Mix the wet ingredients together. Add wet to dry and knead the dough for a few minutes. Let it rest for 3-5 minutes.

2. Form the dough into a pot roast loaf shape. Wrap the loaf up tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove and let cool.

3. Turn oven temperature up to 420F. Lightly spray a roasting pan (or, in my case, a large glass casserole dish) with cooking oil. Place seitan brisket loaf into the center of the pan. With a sharp knife, slice several shallow (appx. 1/2-3/4” deep) lines across the loaf for a more “realistic” brisket appearance.

4. Arrange the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic cloves evenly around the seitan loaf (its ok if some crown on top of it.) Pour the no beef bouillon over all of it, and then sprinkle with the Italian herb blend.

5. Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the vegetables are tender, appx 30-40 minutes.

6. To serve: arrange a slice of brisket on a plate with some of the roasted vegetables, spoon some broth over, garnish with salt, pepper, and parsley. Enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Torte with Passover Fudge Glaze

1 1/3 cups whole hazelnuts
3/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1/3 cup matzo cake meal
¾ cup vanilla soy yogurt
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp melted Earth Balance

Flaked coconut

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment, and spread hazelnuts on top. Bake until fragrant and toasted, about 10 minutes. Place nuts in a clean kitchen towel, and rub to remove loose skins. Place 1/3 cup nuts in bowl of food processor, and pulse until finely ground; reserve. Roughly chop remaining 1 cup nuts, and set aside.

2. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan with margarine; dust with cocoa powder and sprinkle in the chopped hazelnuts.

3. Whisk together remaining 3/4 cup cocoa powder, ground hazelnuts, matzo meal, and salt; set aside.

4. Use a handheld mixer to beat the soy yogurt and sugars together until well blended. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, approx. 35-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

6. Prepare glaze by whisking all ingredients together and pour over the cake.  Cover with flaked coconut.  Slice and serve.

The next day: picnic lunch


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