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!

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!

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!

Easy Spanakopita Appetizers

easy spanakopita appetizers
easy spanakopita appetizers

Today’s post is not about my usual tempting desserts, but it is still decadent. The dish is a savory appetizer, but one so creamy and tasty that you’ll find it disappears quickly. It is perfect for a holiday platter, especially for New Year’s Eve festivities.

This recipe was shared by a friend at a cooking get together. I made minor alterations for my taste preferences, but essentially it’s the recipe provided to the class. It was already vegan, and can be made at any altitude. And, with pre-baked vegan fillo shells, you can make these in no time.

Easy Spanakopita Appetizers

2 TBS olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 TBS minced garlic
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
8.1 oz Violife Just Like Feta
8 oz Kite Hill Ricotta Alternative
2 TBS finely minced dill leaves (no stems)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt, or to taste
2 (1.6 oz) packages The Fillo Factory Mini Fillo Shells

Preheat oven to 350F. Add 1 TBS olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until almost translucent. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to brown. Transfer the onion-garlic mixture to a bowl. Wipe out the warm pan and add the additional 1 TBS olive oil. Add the spinach and cook until warmed through. Stir the onion-garlic mixture into the warm spinach in the pan. Crumble the feta into the pan and stir in the ricotta and dill. Cook just until the cheese softens. Add the lemon juice and salt and stir to combine.

Transfer the filling to a food processor and process until just blended. Taste and adjust for dill, lemon juice, and salt. Transfer the filling to a piping bag. Arrange the fillo shells on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pipe the filling into the shells. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the shells are just browned on the edges. Eat while still hot.

Until next time, Happy New Year, and happy baking!

Healthier Chocolate Cookies

healthier chocolate cookies
healthier chocolate cookies

When I mention that the desserts I bake are vegan, the usual response is, “That’s healthy, right?” Well, I hate to burst a person’s bubble, but I can’t say that food made with sugar and flour promotes physical health. I would admit that it boosts my mental health but, generally speaking, desserts aren’t overly healthy. So, I dug into my recipe collection and found a cookie that was healthier and wasn’t just a blast of carbs. Now, wait a minute; don’t be alarmed. That’s not a bad thing. You see, I added chocolate to it.

The recipe I worked with was already vegan, and high altitude doesn’t have a big affect on cookies. I did sub in gluten-free flour to lighten the texture a bit, and added non-dairy milk to account for dryness at altitude. The other changes I made were for flavor. I used chocolate tahini (made by Soom Foods – it is as amazing as it sounds) and added chipotle powder to give the chocolate a kick. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the dense dough balls were going to be more than hockey pucks. But the cookies came out light and chewy at the same time. It was the winning combination of a healthier cookie with a tempting flavor and satisfying texture. Maybe vegan desserts can be healthy.

Healthier Chocolate Cookies adapted from Maple Tahini Cookies

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup gluten free flour
1/2 cup fine almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 cup Soom Foods Chocolate Sweet Tahini
1/3 cup + 1 TBS maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and chipotle powder. In a large bowl, whisk together the chocolate tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and milk. Add the flour mixture into the tahini mixture and stir with a spatula until a dough forms. It should be moist and rollable, but not sticky. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough in the palm of your hand then place them 2-inches apart on a baking sheet. Lightly press down on the cookies to flatten.

Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies may seem soft but they will firm up upon cooling. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack for the cookies to cool and get firm enough to remove. Makes 20 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread

cardamom pistachio shortbread
cardamom pistachio shortbread

During this time of year you will find people decorating their yards, going for walks along frosty lakes, or making the house smell divine with their baked treats. I, of course, fall into the last category. There is something magical about baking up a storm in a warmed kitchen while snow falls gently outside. Also, the holiday season screams — bake cookies! A typical holiday cookie is one that is rolled out, cut, and decorated. This recipe is similar but a bit easier because the dough is formed into balls that are then stamped. If you want to make a pretty cookie that requires less effort, then these fit the bill.

The original recipe was not vegan, but I modified that by using vegan butter in place of regular butter. Next I added vanilla extract because I needed a little extra moisture for high altitude, and vanilla would add flavor as well. I also added pistachios because I thought they would complement the cardamom.

Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread adapted from Brown Sugar & Cardamom Stamped Shortbread Cookies

1 cup unsalted Flora Butter, room temperature
1/4 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
for the dipping mixture:
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

In a stand mixer, cream together vegan butter, brown sugar, and coconut sugar for 1 minute. Add vanilla and beat to combine. In a bowl, sift together flour, cardamom, and salt. Add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, to the butter mixture and beat after each addition. Stir the pistachios in by hand. Scoop up the dough and form it into a ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, make the dipping mixture by combining the vegan sugar with the cardamom. Preheat oven to 350°F.

When the dough is ready, roll it into 1” balls in your hand. Roll each ball in the cardamom sugar and place on baking sheets with 2” between each ball. Press down on the dough balls with cookie stamps or the bottom of a clean glass. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Until next time, happy baking!