Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

peachy oatmeal cookies

Peach season is just starting where I live in Colorado. I have waited very patiently for this, so I am now gobbling up peaches in a frenzy. They are too few and too precious to do anything other than eat raw with their juices running down my arm. Using them in baking will have to wait until my tummy’s desire for fruit salad has been quenched. Until then I have a supply of dried peaches.

If properly soaked, dried fruit can often be a replacement in baked goods for their fresh counterparts. Cookie recipes are the perfect place to try dried fruit, so use any dried gems that you have. Just remember to soak them first so they get moist and plump. The amount of water and time this takes will depend on your fruit’s moisture content.

My recipe is loosely taken from one on Organic India’s blog. It was already vegan, with no changes required for altitude, and it allowed me to test their fiber supplement as an egg substitute. I tweaked it to accommodate my dried peaches and their soaking water. (Here’s a tip: never discard soaking water from fruit — it’s delicious). Next I made many other radical changes that suited my eating habits and pantry supplies. Cookies are forgiving that way, and they turned out wonderful.

Just Peachy Oatmeal Cookies loosely adapted from Organic India

3/4 cup soaked and chopped dried peaches
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp Organic India Cinnamon Spice Pre & Probiotic Fiber Supplement
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup soaking water from the peaches
1/3 cup + 1 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 3 TBS maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

soaked and dried peaches

soaked peaches and dried peaches

Several hours prior to making the cookies, soak the dried peaches in plenty of water. Strain and save the soaking water. Chop the peaches into small bits.

Heat oven to 375F and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift in flour, fiber supplement, baking soda, cardamom, and ginger. Add rolled oats. To a medium bowl, add soaking water, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Whisk together, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir to combine until a dough forms. It will be slightly sticky. Fold in chopped peaches.

Set the bowl of cookie batter aside for 15 minutes. This will make the dough easier to handle. Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, making 30 cookies. Bake for 19-20 minutes, or until the undersides are lightly brown. Let cool slightly before removing onto a wire rack to fully cool.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Make Essential Vegan Desserts

pear tarts from my final showcase

pear tarts from my final showcase

Earlier this year I mentioned that I was taking an online pastry class from Rouxbe Culinary School. It was a wonderful course that showed me how to refine and challenge my baking skills. Chef Fran Costigan explained techniques and ingredients that enabled me to build a stronger baking skillset. The course has delicious recipes, including the tarts in this photo that I prepared as part of my final dessert showcase. My final project was so much fun, and I was proud of how professional my vegan desserts looked.

The class, called Essential Vegan Desserts, teaches you how to make an array of scrumptious treats. I have shared a few course recipes on my blog, but if you want to join in the baking fun, the next cohort starts July 28. You can get information here. Or you can keep reading my posts and see where my new-found knowledge is taking me. I’m okay with that.

National Ice Cream Day Cake

national ice cream day cake

national ice cream day cake

Today is National Ice Cream Day, and I almost missed it! I wanted to celebrate by assembling an ice cream cake, and rapidly because the weather was heating up. So, I looked to my favorite chocolate cake, the Easy Chocolate Cake Pan Cake. With the vanilla ice cream in my freezer and a few dessert syrups, I was ready to go.

The Easy Chocolate Cake Pan Cake had previously been adapted to high altitude and veganism on the blog. To ensure that I had a strong structure for this cake to hold up to ice cream, I omitted the chocolate chips when it was baked. Next came the ice cream, and I used So Delicious Creamy Vanilla Soymilk Ice Cream because I enjoy its true vanilla flavor. Rummaging through my fridge produced a caramel sauce I had purchased at the farmer’s market. All that remained to complete the cake was a pourable fudge sauce that I quickly mixed together.

National Ice Cream Day Cake

2 layers of Easy Chocolate Cake Pan Cake
1 cup non-dairy ice cream
several TBS non-dairy caramel sauce, warmed
several TBS Raw Chocolate Syrup (recipe below), warmed

To assemble the National Ice Cream Day Cake, prepare the Easy Chocolate Cake Pan Cake in two 6” cake pans that are greased and parchment-lined. For ease of preparation, whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another, then stir well before pouring into the pans. Once fully baked and then cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps the cake and ice cream to be at similar temperatures when put together.

Place ice cream on a kitchen counter to warm slightly. Remove cake layers from the freezer and level off if the tops are uneven. Place one layer on a serving plate. Scoop slices, not balls, of ice cream and place on top of the cake layer almost to the edge of the cake. Gently place the second cake layer upside-down on top of the ice cream. Drizzle warm caramel sauce and chocolate syrup over the cake. Enjoy immediately, or it will get melty like the one in my picture. (It’s okay; my cake still tasted delicious).

Raw Chocolate Syrup from Rouxbe Online Cooking School
2 cups cocoa powder
1 cup raw agave syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS coconut butter
1/2 cup water
1 TBS vanilla extract

In a high–speed blender, blend all ingredients until fully mixed and smooth.

Until next time, happy baking!

Cheesecake with Strawberries and Chocolate Crust

raw cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate crust

raw cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate crust

It’s Father’s Day and I wanted to show my love by making a dessert. My initial inspiration was the gorgeous fresh strawberries in my fridge. Strawberries … chocolate is fantastic with strawberries … hmmm … chocolate cookie crust … what goes in the crust … cheesecake … Yes, I have it! A raw cheesecake from cocoa butter in a chocolate crust with strawberry on top. The chocolatey cocoa butter ties to the chocolate crust, and strawberry jam swirled into the cheesecake echoes the strawberry jam on top.

My cheesecake recipe search found a filling that was already vegan, and raw. The changes I made were to I bump up its tart flavor so it wouldn’t be too sweet when the jam was added in. This filling went with a simple cookie crust recipe I had. I chose a baked crust, but a raw one would work just as well. Strawberry jam and fresh strawberries were added, with a bit of shaved chocolate as a garnish. It was a dessert worthy of any special man.

Cheesecake with Strawberries and Chocolate Crust with a nod to Deliciously Raw Kitchen

cookie crust
8 chocolate cookies (I used Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookies)
1-2 tsp vegan margarine, melted
cheesecake filling
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for two hours or up to 24 covered in water in the refrigerator
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
5 TBS agave syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS lemon juice
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp liquid lecithin (this is very sticky, so coat measuring spoon with oil first)
2.75 oz melted cocoa butter
5 TBS strawberry jam, divided
garnishes
fresh strawberry slices
chocolate curls

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 6” tart pan with cooking spray; a pan with a removable bottom is easiest for serving. Put the cookies in a food processor with 1 teaspoon melted margarine. Process until the mixture looks like damp sand and just holds together when pinched between your fingers. If needed, add additional margarine and process again. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling: Rinse soaked cashews under cold running water. Place drained cashews in a blender together with the milk, agave syrup, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lecithin. Blend until smooth, then add melted cacao butter and blend again. Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons of jam. Spoon filling into the cooled crust and chill until firm.

raw cheesecake with strawberries

raw cheesecake with strawberries

To garnish: Put remaining 2 tablespoons of jam in a bowl and stir vigorously until spreadable. Spoon gently over the chilled cheesecake. Decorate the cheesecake with fresh strawberry slices and chocolate curls.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Make the Perfect Date Paste

the perfect date paste

the perfect date paste

The first time I made date paste I found the results to be less than desirable. I had followed the directions, as minimal as they were, but it looked more like I was making a smoothie. Paste wouldn’t describe what was in my blender. Later, after poring over many recipes, I discovered that the key was the water. Too much made a runny mess, while too little seemed to tax the blender. It was like the fairy tale in which the middle was “just right.”

The success of the paste starts with the dates. The moisture content in them varies greatly depending on how old they are and how they are stored. My guess was that my dates were very old so I added lots of extra water at the start. But the trick is to add water a little at a time; this helps to create the perfect consistency. Another trick is to use the soaking water as it has a hint of date flavor. These tips will help you create the perfect date paste to add to baked goods, such as Baked Oatmeal with Peaches.

Date Paste adapted from Fruit Paste from Rouxbe Culinary School’s Essential Vegan Desserts

1/2 cup pitted dates
1 cup water (or as needed)

Soak the dates for 1 to 2 hours or until quite soft. Strain in a colander set over a bowl in order to save the soaking water. Transfer the dates to a high-speed blender with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the soaking water. Process until smooth. Add more water as needed to create the desired consistency. If using the paste in baked recipes, use as little water as possible. The paste will keep for over a week in a jar in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for several months.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Baked Oatmeal with Peaches

baked oatmeal with peaches

baked oatmeal with peaches

With my husband working from home now, he has time for more than cereal for breakfast. I concluded that if I made a large dish of baked oatmeal on the weekend, then it could be reheated on many mornings. This meal would be hearty enough to keep his hunger at bay while he toiled at the computer. Another bonus was that I adapted the recipe to use up what I found in the backs of my cupboard and freezer. Feel free to use whatever you find in your pantry — the recipe is very flexible.

This dish is by nature vegan and not one that requires adjustments for high altitude, so I didn’t need to make those modifications. You can choose the fruit and oats you include, and the thickeners and sweeteners. Ultimately, I ended up with a sweet treat that was gluten-free and refined sugar free. Here is my healthy, pantry staple version of baked oatmeal.

Baked Oatmeal with Peaches adapted from Peach Crisp

5 large peaches, peeled and sliced (or 10 cups frozen)
2-3 TBS chia seeds (or tapioca starch)
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if desired)
1/8 cup brown rice flour (or oat flour)
1/8 cup date paste*
1/8 cup smooth almond butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 350F. Put peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with chia seeds, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Depending on how much juice the peaches give off, you may need to vary the amount of chia seeds. Let peaches stand for 15 minutes to thicken up and release some of their juices. Put peaches into a baking dish (mine was 10 x 10” but you can use a similar size).

In the same large bowl, add oats, brown rice flour, date paste, almond butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until it forms a crumbly texture that is neither too wet nor too dry. Sprinkle the mixture over the peaches. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

*If you don’t know how to make date paste, or even what it is, keep an eye out for my post next week.

Until next time, happy baking!

Baked Doughnuts with Sprinkles

baked doughnuts with sprinkles

baked doughnuts with sprinkles

In the past I have made several failed attempts at baked doughnuts. I was certain the fault was with me or the fact that I was at high altitude. The doughnuts had dense textures and were better suited as doorstops. Frustrated, I gave up. But recently I found a new recipe and bravely decided to try again. Am I glad I did. I got perfect, beautiful, and tasty doughnuts.

The recipe I used was already vegan, so all I had to do was make minor high altitude changes. I added almond milk and then baked them a little longer. That was all that was needed for my success. They are delicious plain, but I had leftover ganache in my freezer that I melted to dip my doughnuts in. You can drizzle melted chocolate on these treats, or decorate them with buttercream and a few sprinkles. The beauty of doughnuts is that they can be topped with a multitude of tasty things that you probably already have in your fridge or cupboard.

Baked Doughnuts with Sprinkles adapted from Baked Vegan Donuts

1.5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup lightly ground organic granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup + 1 TBS non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS unsweetened applesauce
5 TBS vegan butter, melted
For the topping: melted vegan ganache, vegan sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two non-stick doughnut trays with cooking spray. Set aside. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add non-dairy milk, vanilla, applesauce, and melted vegan butter. Whisk together, removing any large lumps.

Place batter into a piping bag or ziplock bag with the corner cut off. Pipe evenly into doughnut wells. Bake for 16-17 minutes until lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes on a wire rack. Then tip doughnuts from pan and place on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Place a wire rack over a piece of waxed paper. Dip doughnuts into melted ganache, then put on wire rack. Shower tops of doughnuts with sprinkles, then set aside for the topping to set. While waiting, you can snack on the chocolate and sprinkles that have fallen onto the waxed paper.

Until next time, happy baking!

Easy Naan Bread

easy naan bread

easy naan bread

After going through months of intensive baking in pastry school, I swore off baking for a bit. I needed a breather, yet I still heard the siren call of my all purpose flour. What could I make with flour that didn’t require baking in the oven? And was there something easy enough to create that wouldn’t burden my overtaxed baking skills?

My search first uncovered recipes for bread that could be made in a skillet. (Technically still baking, but not in the oven). But I didn’t want to fuss, so that omitted yeast and repeated kneading. Then I discovered a recipe for naan that is leavened with baking powder so it is easier to make than your average bread.

I should back up here for a minute. Admittedly, before going to school I never would have used “easy” when describing bread making. I’m not the type that considers kneading or rolling dough out to be fun or relaxing. So I was quite surprised with myself when I became interested in making bread. Going through school gave me the confidence to attempt anything baked, and I found that naan can be easy. In the end it was very rewarding to make my own bread, and veganizing it was only a matter of using vegan yogurt instead of traditional. Now I can add “bread making” to my list of accomplishments.

Easy Naan Bread adapted from Masala & Meatballs

1/4 cup plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
1 TBS baking powder
1.75 cups lukewarm water, divided
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
optional: seeds for topping

In a small bowl, place yogurt, baking powder, and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir and set aside for a few minutes. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Add yogurt mixture and remaining water. Knead to make a semi-soft dough. Once everything comes together to form a smooth dough, place it in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Transfer it to the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Place a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and get it really hot. Divide the dough into nine pieces. Using one piece of dough at a time, while the rest remains in the bowl covered with the damp towel, roll it out to 10” on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a few seeds, if desired, and roll again so they stick to the dough. Put naan on hot griddle and let it cook for about 1 minute. When you see a few bubbles on top, turn naan over and cook the other side, 2-3 minutes total. Makes 9 naan.

Until next time, happy baking!

Valentine’s Day Trifle

Valentine Day Trifle

Valentine Day Trifle

You have probably already realized that Valentine’s Day is in a few days. You may want to make a grand dessert for the occasion, but it could require planning ahead. So, today I offer you the idea of making a trifle, with shortcuts for a quicker reward.

If you are new to the world of a dessert trifle, here is the definition from Merriam Webster, “A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits … and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” This English treat, fit for a King, has many components and can take a few days to make. But, if you are okay with straying away from a traditional format, you can still come up with a winning dessert.

The base of this treat is usually a white cake however, any sturdy cake will do. You can easily use my Strawberry Tea Bread, as you will break it up into chunks before placing it on the bottom of your trifle bowl. Also, this layer is often doused with wine, but I prefer to see this as optional. I think that the tasty bread will offer plenty of flavor without adding alcoholic spirits.

After that you will need something custardy. You can choose any custard, but chocolate mousse is what I pick for my chocoholic family. A good option is the mousse from my Chocolate Mousse Pie with Cookie Crust and Raspberry Coulis; you will not need to make the crust from this recipe.

Next up is a layer of fruit. There are many selections that can be chosen from this category. Try jam, roasted fruit, or fresh berries (fresh strawberries would nicely complement the tea bread.) Here again is the option to add alcohol, if you desire. You can also use the Raspberry Coulis from the post mentioned above.

Traditionally the next item would be a creamy sauce, but I like to simplify this. Ice cream is fun to add, as long as it’s spooned in at the end and the dish is served immediately. The great part about using ice cream is that there are so many flavors to choose from. That, and the fact that you can grab a pint out of your freezer without worrying about making something else for this layered goody.

The final piece of the trifle puzzle is a garnish for the top. It can be anything, but if your last layer was ice cream then an apropos choice is something that could be included in an ice cream sundae. For my dessert I chose a sprinkling of my Lavender Granola. After that I spattered melted chocolate on it, à la artist Jackson Pollock. I think it adds a bit of whimsy. It also adds a taste of chocolate to a dessert that some people (like my husband) would consider lacking in chocolate immersion. But, I suppose, you can make every layer a chocolate version and bowl over your chocolate-loving sweetheart.

Until next time, happy baking!

Becoming a Better Baker

cocoa testing

Becoming a Better Baker: cocoa test

If you have searched through my blog archives, you will see that I have been writing posts for quite some time. I began by adapting my favorite baked recipes through trial and error —countless trials leading to many errors. There were tips I tried and suggestions that I followed. Many of the strategies were used multiple times and in varying recipes. All of these experiments led to my becoming wiser and my belly getting fuller.

After time I learned to understand my altitude, my oven, and even the brands of products that I used in baking. Each variation had subtle differences that I would not have experienced had I not gone exploring. Sometimes cracks in the surface of a baked good would appear, other times cracks would go away. With some recipes I created a good item, and with other recipes I created real winners. But, my approach to baking always included a bit of guesswork along with the mathematical conversions. So, I decided to up my game.

For the past few months I have been taking an online vegan dessert class at Rouxbe Culinary School. The students are taught the fundamentals of the how and why of dessert creation. We are given basic instruction in the ways of a pastry cook, although I believe I am currently the only one dealing with high altitude. Fortunately I have baked enough at higher altitudes that I can put my spin on my assignments.

What does this mean for you, my hungry reader? My recipes will be more refined as I will be armed with the knowledge I get from the class. I have learned to be more precise (Is dutch process cocoa or natural cocoa best in the recipe? Should a sugar be ground first?), and this will lead to recipes that are easier for you to replicate. My wish is that I can offer recipes that you can successfully enjoy.

Forgive me, but I must go now. I have a cake to bake for class …