Molten Lava Cake

molten lava cake
molten lava cake

Lava cakes are fascinating; they ooze chocolate as if by magic. The desserts are designed somewhat like a chocolate torte combined with a little bit of soufflé. Their lush chocolate flavor deepens as the outside cake sets, yet the inside remains deliciously gooey. In a traditional recipe, this molten center is enhanced with the use of eggs. In preparing this dessert vegan-style, I turned to a chunk of chocolate to recreate the melted interior.

My search for lava cake recipes revealed several, but I chose one that was already vegan to make things easier. For high altitude, I merely reduced the leavener slightly. Next I scaled it down to make just one cake, and it’s good that I did. This treat is so intensely rich that half of the cake was extremely satisfying. I easily shared it, but you can double the recipe if you aren’t in a sharing mood.

Molten Lava Cake adapted from Vegan Chocolate Lava Cakes

Shortening, to grease the ramekin
1 TBS cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting the ramekin
1 ounce unsweetened soy milk
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup + 1/4 tsp all purpose flour
scant 1/8 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
1 TBS + 1 tsp vegan sugar
1/2 TBS vegan butter, melted
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 TBS vegan mini chocolate chips, melted
1 piece dark chocolate
Chocolate shavings and vegan whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 3-ounce ramekin and dust with cocoa powder. Shake out the excess powder. Add milk and vinegar to a bowl and whisk. Set aside a few minutes to curdle.

To a medium bowl, sift together 1 TBS cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt. To a medium bowl, add sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and applesauce. Add curdled milk and whisk until foamy. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until no large lumps remain. Add melted chocolate chips and stir again. Pour batter into prepared ramekin. Push piece of chocolate into center of batter, then push batter over chocolate to cover.

Place filled ramekin on a baking sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the edges have pulled away slightly and the top no longer feels wet. Place the ramekin on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. When cool, run a knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it. Put a plate over the ramekin and carefully invert the cake onto the plate. Dust the cake with chocolate shavings and add a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Until next time, happy baking!

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites

This time of year I get a little excited for Charoset, the classic Passover relish made from fruits, nuts, spice, and grape (in the form of juice or wine). The combined tastes of those food elements dance playfully on my tongue. Some traditions make charoset into a paste rather than a relish, so I thought it would be fun to make a food item that melded the two forms. That is how I decided on dessert bites. A little pureed and a little chunky, with all of the wonderful flavors that I love.

This recipe is raw so high altitude baking wasn’t an issue. I merely wanted to create my version of this treat and share it with you. These bites make an energetic afternoon snack, a quick breakfast, or a healthy dessert. They would be appreciated for Passover or Easter, or anytime you want to savor the combination of apples, nuts, and grape juice.

Charoset-Inspired Dessert Bites inspired by Haroset Balls

1 cup dried apple
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp powdered clove
2 TBS almond meal
powders to roll the bites in, optional

Line a tray or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place dried apples, apricots, dates, and raisins in a bowl and cover with grape juice. Let sit for 15 minutes so the juice can soak into the fruit.

Place walnuts and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are roughly chopped. To the food processor, add the soaked fruit and any juices from the bowl. Add the spices and pulse until everything is finely chopped and well combined. Add the almond meal and pulse a few times to evenly distribute. The mixture will form a large ball in the food processor bowl.

Transfer the large ball to a bowl. Remove small amounts at a time to form balls the size of walnuts. Place balls on the lined tray and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. When firm, roll each ball into powder, if desired. I used ground up freeze-dried blueberries, dried raspberry powder, cocoa powder, goji berry powder, and maca powder. (Can you tell in the picture which bite has which powder?)

charoset dessert bites and toppings

Store up to 3 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. Yields: 24 sweet treats

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Irish Soda Bread with Currants

Irish soda bread with currants
Irish soda bread with currants

I should begin by saying that I attempted the following recipe with great trepidation. I had never made bread before, except quick breads that you essentially pour into a pan like you do with cake. You will see in my other posts that I’m not fond of making pie shells either. Both bread and pie crust recipes have directions such as, “move dough to a lightly floured surface,” or “knead until the dough forms a ball.” These types of instructions make my blood run cold. I am a bread wimp. But, if you are too, I have good news. I made bread and so can you. All that’s needed is the right recipe.

I pored over a variety of Soda Bread creations. They generally require no yeast and little or no kneading, so I figured it was a good place to start. Most importantly, they aren’t expected to have a light crumb or to look airy and beautiful. Great … bread I can make! The only change needed was to reduce the baking soda for high altitude. So, with a little Irish inspiration and luck on St. Patrick’s Day, I faced my fears and created my fruity loaf. The only drawback was when my favorite taster laid eyes on the baked treat and excitedly, yet incorrectly, thought it was chocolate chip bread. But all was redeemed when I slathered it with vegan butter and jam.

Irish Soda Bread with Currants based loosely on Classic Soda Bread from Williams Sonoma

1.75 cups unsweetened plain soy milk
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
550 grams plus 1 tsp all purpose flour, divided (plus extra for work surface)
2 TBS vegan sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1.25 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Whisk together soy milk and apple cider vinegar, then set aside to curdle. Spray an 8” tall-sided round cake pan with baking spray then dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together 550 grams flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the currants. Add grapeseed oil to the soy milk mixture; no need to stir. Gradually add this milk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until the dry ingredients are moistened. With your hands, knead the dough in the bowl to just combine the ingredients. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, lightly dusting your hands with flour if needed. Press dough evenly into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the top with 1 tsp flour.

With a sharp knife, mark an X in the top of the dough so it will bake properly in the center. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Cover the pan loosely with foil halfway through the bake time.) Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before upending the pan to remove the bread.

soda bread and chai tea
soda bread with jam and tea

Note: I listed the flour in grams as precise measurements are best when making bread.

Until next time, happy bread baking!

Coming Back From a Failed Kitchen Experiment

Coming Back From a Failed Kitchen Experiment
Coming Back From a Failed Kitchen Experiment

I love to fiddle with new ingredients or combinations in an attempt to make a recipe vegan. Sometimes I get a wacky baking idea in my head. Will a flax egg and extra oil work in place of a chicken egg? … it depends. Do all vegan butter substitutes work the same? … not really. Can I use chickpea liquid and soy creamer to get a whipped cream with stiff peaks? … definitely not.

That last concept popped into my head the other day while trying to make a raw cheesecake without coconut oil. While working towards a thickened batter I even went so far as to add melted cocoa butter. The entire project was a disaster. It deflated a bit, then got lumpy, then turned into something resembling a thin pudding.

Not one to waste expensive ingredients, I put my creation in the fridge hoping that a novel dessert image would pop into my head. Genius struck when I realized that it was Pi Day (March 14, a.k.a. 3.14). My glop would become a pie! Well, more of a tart, but at least I would have an edible treat. And, seeing as Saint Patrick’s Day was also looming, a bit of green was added in the form of matcha tea powder.

So, I went from a creative wreck to a celebration of Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day. This meandering path often happens when I’m experimenting in the kitchen, although I won’t bore you with the countless steps and added ingredients I went through along the way. The above photo shows that some baking catastrophes can be averted, even edible, but others are not as lucky. Those failures never make it to a photo shoot.

Until next time, happy experimenting!

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl

apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl
apricot pistachio bark with tahini swirl

Dried apricots and pistachios seem to be ending up in so much of my food lately. They were in my muffins last week, and my Moroccan stew the other night. And now they feel right at home in this chocolate bark. I started out with the idea of making a bark, and the two just showed up in my ingredient list. Luckily they pair well together, and they are complimented by a touch of tahini.

Admittedly, the idea of adding tahini to chocolate bark wasn’t mine. I borrowed it, but made a few alterations in the no-baking-needed recipe I found. Chocolate bark can really be any combination that sounds tasty to you, so feel free to borrow my recipe then modify it to suit your tastes. But keep the tahini swirl in. Trust me.

Apricot Pistachio Bark with Tahini Swirl adapted from Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Tahini

1/3 cup chopped roasted pistachios
3 TBS chopped dried apricot
6 oz vegan chocolate (I used a bar with fruity notes to complement the other flavors)
2 tsp runny tahini, warmed (I used Soom Premium Tahini)

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine the pistachios and apricot in a bowl and set aside. Chop the chocolate and place it in a stainless steel bowl. Melt it gently over a double boiler. To do this, fill a saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the bowl of chocolate over the simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When it is almost fully melted, remove the bowl from atop the saucepan and gently stir the chocolate until it melts completely. Add the pistachios and apricot to the chocolate and mix it in with a spatula.

Pour the chocolate into the lined baking pan, spreading it out evenly. Drizzle warm tahini over top and swirl it with a toothpick. Place the pan of bark in the fridge until it hardens, 30-45 minutes. Break the bark up into pieces. Store bark in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Until next time, happy nonbaking!

Pistachio Apricot Muffins

pistachio apricot muffins
pistachio apricot muffins

As the United States is in the midst of American Heart Month, I thought a heart-healthy recipe would be fitting. Muffins are usually a healthier option, and when they are loaded with fruit flavor they can be especially tasty. Then, when you accent them with nuts, you boost the nutrition. The combination of apricot and pistachio in these muffins makes them so delicious that you’ll forget they are good for your heart.

Several fruity recipes caught my eye while I was doing research, but I knew a vegan recipe with no oil would be a bonus. I found one and then altered it for altitude by reducing the leavener. I also amped up the apricot flavor by adding apricot jam and the apricot soaking water to the batter. Another change was to include non-dairy yogurt as part of the egg substitute, thereby reducing the sugar content. Yes, these muffins sound way too healthy. But I really enjoyed their flavor and I know you will, too.

Pistachio Apricot Muffins adapted from Healthy Vegan Cherry-Pistachio Muffins

1/3 cup diced dried apricots, packed
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, divided
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
up to 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 TBS apricot jam
2 TBS unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 14 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. Place diced dried apricots in a small bowl and cover with warm water to rehydrate. Meanwhile, place half of the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor. Process to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl. Stir in the pistachio crumbs.

Strain the apricots over a glass measuring cup, saving the liquid in the cup. Set the apricots aside. Fill the measuring cup with almond milk until it reaches 3/4 cup. Put this mixture into a large bowl along with the apricot jam, applesauce, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and maple syrup. Whisk to combine.

Roughly chop the remaining pistachios, reserving a small handful for decorating the tops of the muffins. Whisk the wet ingredients again, then add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Stir until no dry flour remains. Fold in the strained apricots and the larger amount of pistachios. Scoop batter into the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full. Sprinkle reserved handful of pistachios on top of each muffin. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes. Muffins are ready when the tops are firm to the touch. Place muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Store muffins in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Until next time, happy baking!

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting to Celebrate Love

almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting
almond butter brownies with strawberry frosting

Today I was going to make an easy recipe for Valentine’s Day. A no bake treat or a quick cupcake sounded good. But, as I was scanning through my recipe files my sweetie leaned over my shoulder, peered at the computer screen, and said, “Yum, brownies.” So, today I have brownies. Not just any brownies for my favorite sweets tester. As a nod to the holiday I made brownies slathered in strawberry frosting because Cupid’s day often demands strawberries and chocolate.

The vegan brownie recipe my love ogled had peanut butter as an ingredient. He doesn’t do well with peanuts, so I used almond butter instead. You can choose any nut butter, but keep in mind that the amount of salt used in the brownies can change due to the salt content of your nut butter. I also added aquafaba to help give the brownies more rise that can be lost at high altitude. And, I added strawberry extract to ramp up the strawberry-ness. If you don’t have it, you can add more vanilla extract.

A search on Food Network offered me a recipe for the perfect frosting. To veganize it I used vegan margarine and shortening in place of butter, in addition to substituting the milk with a non-dairy variety. I also halved the recipe as it was plenty for one tray of brownies. The marriage of strawberries and chocolate is sublime, and these brownies are sure to be a hit with your Valentine.

Almond Butter Brownies with Strawberry Frosting adapted from My Quiet Kitchen and Food Network

Almond Butter Brownies

1 cup plus 2 TBS old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted almond butter
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS unsweetened almond milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1.75 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp strawberry extract
1 TBS aquafaba (bean water)
1/2 cup mini vegan chocolate chip

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8” baking pan with parchment paper. Process the oats in a food processor until there are only a few little pieces. Add the cacao powder, baking soda, brown sugar, cardamom, and salt. Pulse to combine. Transfer the dry mixture to a bowl. To the now empty food processor add the almond butter, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, strawberry extract, and aquafaba. Process until smooth. Add the dry mixture to the food processor and pulse until all is combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, then spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 29-32 minutes. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center (but not into a chocolate chip) comes out with a few crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using the parchment paper excess, remove the brownies from the pan and place on a wire rack to fully cool. Once completely cooled, spread the brownies with strawberry frosting (recipe below) and cut into squares.

Strawberry Frosting

2 TBS vegan margarine, at room temperature
2 TBS shortening
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 TBS non-dairy milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS strawberry all-fruit spread

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the margarine and shortening until there are no lumps. Add half of the powdered sugar, along with the non-dairy milk and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining powdered sugar and the strawberry fruit spread, and beat until smooth.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Caramel Cream Valentine’s Day Tart

chocolate caramel cream tart
chocolate caramel cream tart

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I thought I would create a special dessert for my sweetie. It had to be more than decadent. I wanted it to be lavish so he would know how much I loved him. That, and I wanted to enjoy an amazing treat with him. Eying my new tart pan, I decided that a layered tart would be perfect. The indulgent delight I made has several steps, one of which requires advanced preparation, so I am sharing with you a week early to give you time.

My final creation is an amalgamation of several recipes. One of the recipes was not vegan, but it only required a butter substitution. And, although the crust is baked, it didn’t have to be adjusted for high altitude due to its lack of leaveners. So, I brought together a chocolate crust filled with a layer of carmel-like goodness and topped with rich ganache. The combined result is similar to a gooey chocolate bar with a crust. Yes, happy Valentine’s Day to me, too!

Chocolate Caramel Cream Valentine’s Day Tart, with a nod to Rodelle Kitchen, Vegan Richa, and Deborah Durrant

Chocolate Crust

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 TBS dutch process cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

6 TBS cold vegan Flora Butter

Caramel Cream

3/4 cup pitted medjool dates (8-9 dates)

1 TBS almond butter

1 TBS agave syrup

1.5 TBS coconut oil

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/8-1/4 tsp fine sea salt, to taste

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

1.75 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

1/4 cup melted cocoa butter, allowed to cool but not harden

Advance prep: Soak 1 cup raw cashews for the ganache in cold water for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Chocolate Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of a 9” diameter removable-bottom tart pan with parchment paper, and lightly spray with oil. (This size is best. I used my new rectangular pan but had leftovers that I put in a small pan). Using a food processor, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, dutch process cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp salt, and vegan butter. Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Firmly press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Pressing down with the flat bottom of a measuring cup makes this easier. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the crust is firm. Cool the pan on a wire rack before filling the tart.

Caramel Cream: Soak the dates in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the dates. Add drained dates to a food processor, along with almond butter, agave syrup, coconut oil, 1/3 cup almond milk, and 1/8 tsp salt. Process into a smooth puree. Taste and adjust for salt, the amount dependent on the salt content of your almond butter. Spread a thin, even layer of this caramel cream on the cooled, baked crust.

Chocolate Ganache: Drain soaked cashews and rinse under cold water. To a food processor, add drained cashews, 1/4 cup almond milk, maple syrup, raw cacao powder, 1.75 tsp vanilla extract, and pinch salt. Process for 1 minute. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the melted cocoa butter. Process until the ganache is smooth and glossy; this may take up to 5 minutes. Pour the ganache on top of the caramel layer in the crust. Smooth out with a spatula. Place in the fridge to set. After 15 minutes, remove the tart pan from the fridge and remove the tart from the pan. Peel the parchment paper off of the bottom and place on a serving plate.

Until next time, happy baking!

Almond Meal Date Muffins

almond meal date muffin
almond meal date muffin

Sometimes I look at an ingredient in my cupboard and wonder what to do with it. It may have been procured for a particular recipe, then got pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. Today I uncovered the almond meal and decided it needed to get used up soon. But, what to make? Since almond meal is heavier than flour, and it soaks up more liquid, I hoped that it would bake similar to bran. Bran muffins are always good for breakfast or a snack, so I scoured my recipe collection for a bran muffin.

Because the initial recipe was a bran muffin, it would need many changes to make it into my almond meal muffin. It was already vegan and adjusted for high altitude, so my adaptations were to give it the familiar texture of a bran muffin without being too heavy. I then added components for the flavor profile I desired. Above I referenced the fact that almond meal can be a sponge, so I added apple sauce and milk because they have more liquid. I also chose date syrup over molasses to ramp up the date flavor. (You can use molasses if that’s what you have.) The muffin then got a hefty dose of cinnamon and some raisins because, well, it was my muffin recipe now and I like cinnamon and raisins.

Almond Meal Date Muffins inspired by Vegan Molasses Bran Muffins

1 cup almond meal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup slightly ground oats (ground in a coffee grinder until no large flakes are visible)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon powder

1 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cup raisins

1 tsp grated orange zest

1 cup + 3 TBS plain dairy-free yogurt

2 TBS unsweetened apple sauce

1 TBS milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup date syrup ( I use the one from Soom Foods)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together almond meal, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dates, raisins, and orange zest. Toss lightly to coat the dates, breaking up large bits of date if needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, apple sauce, milk, oil, and date syrup until combined. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Let the batter sit for 15 minutes to fully absorb the liquid. Spoon batter into muffin cups until the cups are almost full. Bake for 20-23 minutes, rotating the muffin tins halfway through baking. Muffins are ready when they are firm to the touch. Place muffin tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Until next time, happy baking!

Rice Cereal Marshmallow Bark Bars

rice cereal marshmallow bark bars
rice cereal marshmallow bark bars

Many of us start the new year with healthy ideals — eating better, exercising more, taking vitamins. But it’s midway through the month and I held off as long as I could. Now I’m yearning for a decadent treat. If you are as well, then keep reading. The recipe I offer today is loaded with layers of rich and gooey deliciousness. Dig in and enjoy!

This tasty dessert is my mash-up of rice cereal treats, s’mores, and peppermint bark. The components had all vegan ingredients and no baking, so there were no changes needed there. I altered the original recipe to make it more reminiscent of s’mores. There are layers of luxurious chocolate with a hit of cool peppermint wrapped up in a chewy yet crunchy bite. It has everything you deserve after being good for over two whole weeks.

Rice Cereal Marshmallow Bark Bars based on Chocolate Peppermint Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Cereal Layer
5 ounces vegan dark chocolate
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
Marshmallow Layer
20 large vegan marshmallows
1 TBS vegan butter
1.25 tsp peppermint extract
Peppermint Bark Layer
6 ounces vegan chocolate chips
2 full-size 5” vegan candy canes, crushed

Prepare an 8.25 x 4.25” loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper then greasing it with shortening or vegetable oil spray. For the Rice Cereal Layer: Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. When melted, remove from stove and stir in the rice cereal, mixing gently until evenly coated. Use a spatula to gently spread it in the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Set aside to cool.

For the Marshmallow Layer: Place the marshmallows and vegan butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until melted. Remove from stove and quickly stir in the peppermint extract. Gently smooth it over the rice cereal layer. Set aside. For the Peppermint Bark Layer: Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. When melted, remove from stove and spread over the marshmallow layer. Sprinkle the candy cane bits evenly over the warm chocolate. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Cut squares with a hot knife and set aside to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 5 days.

Until next time, happy non-baking!