Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies

gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies
gluten-free marshmallow studded cookies

Marshmallows and chocolate — what a yummy combination. Just thinking of them reminds me of summer parties with marshmallows made oooey gooey from time spent over a fire’s flame. Add a graham cracker or two with a chocolate square and you have s’mores. Or you can bake these cookies in the oven for a similar tasting but easier to make treat.

I discovered a vegan cookie recipe with these flavors that I could make gluten-free and adapt to my circumstances. Aquafaba was used to make a super flax egg for extra moisture and structure that is lacking at high altitude and in many gluten-free desserts. Also, I made sure to use baking powder to help activate the dutch-processed cocoa powder. The last change made to add extra rise was to use vegan butter that was not melted. The result was a chewy cookie with a crisp exterior.

My gluten-free testers raved about the cookie. One said that each bite was a different combination of tastes and flavors, while another said it was the best cookie she ever had. Not too shabby for a gluten-free and vegan treat baked at high altitude.

Gluten-Free Marshmallow-Studded Cookies adapted from Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons aquafaba
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup vegan sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup vegan marshmallows, chopped large or unchopped minis

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flaxseed and aquafaba and set aside to thicken.

In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place vegan butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and combine on medium-high speed. Add flax mixture, vanilla, and non-dairy milk, and combine on medium speed until the batter is soft and smooth. Add dry ingredients and beat to combine. Add chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir with a spoon to combine.

Scoop up 2 tablespoons of batter at a time and roll into a ball. Place each ball on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand. Bake for 12-13 minutes, one tray at a time, rotating halfway through bake time. Let cool on the baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. They may seem too soft, but will become firm and crisp as they cool. Do not store airtight or they will get soggy. Yield: 24-26 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking and happy 4th of July!

Chewy Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

chewy chocolate crinkle cookies
chewy chocolate crinkle cookies

Several readers have been asking for this recipe, and here it is (drumroll, please). Let me present … Chewy Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. My post The Magic of Crinkle Cookies chronicled my experiments with different crinkle ideas, and now I offer you the delicious cookie that arose from those tests. This chocolatey cookie is moist and chewy with notes that are sweet with a hint of salty. The fissures in the cookie’s crust are brought out by a slight dusting of sugars. This cookie took me back to my childhood and made me smile. I hope it makes you smile, too.

Although I borrowed parts of many recipes, the base of my creation was from a cookbook called A Good Bake. To make their cookie vegan, I swapped the dairy butter for Flora plant butter, and I used aquafaba in place of an egg. I kept the brown sugar because it has more moisture (for chewiness) and is more acidic (for its reaction with baking soda to help the cookies rise), but I used light brown sugar for a more subtle flavor. Before baking, I rolled the dough balls in granulated then powdered sugar to ensure I would get that snowy look that crinkles have. I am glad that I took the time to sort these tasty treats out because now they are a part of my regular cookie repertoire.

Chewy Chocolate Crinkle Cookies adapted from A Good Bake

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (not dutch-process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
16 TBS unsalted vegan butter, softened (like Flora)
1.5 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 TBS aquafaba
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan sugar, for rolling
1/4 cup vegan powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

Put the butter and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the aquafaba and vanilla, and beat until well combined, 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until no visible flour remains, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour the vegan sugar in one shallow bowl and the powdered sugar in another. Use a 2 TBS cookie scoop to get a lump of dough, then roll it in your hands to form a ball. Roll the dough ball first in the bowl of vegan sugar then in the powdered sugar, and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until all dough is used, leaving 2” between each cookie.

chocolate crinkle cookie defies gravity
chocolate crinkle cookie defies gravity

Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for 13-15 minutes, rotating each baking sheet from front to back midway through the baking time. Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Yield: 24 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling

dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry filling
dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry filling

It’s a long holiday weekend in the U.S., and that calls for a special dessert. Special doesn’t mean complicated, but maybe more than a plate of cookies. That got me thinking … hmmm, cupcakes are still easy … but, FILLED cupcakes are easy and noteworthy. Now, to decide on the flavors … raspberry and chocolate are always a hit. Armed with my choices, I came up with a delicious dark chocolate cupcake and then an easy-but-tasty raspberry frosting.

Admittedly, I had a lot of changes to make. To veganize the cupcakes, I made buttermilk from soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Then I replaced the butter with canola oil, and the eggs with aquafaba. For high altitude, I reduced the total amount of leaveners and increased the flour. The frosting was easier, as I swapped out dairy items with their non-dairy counterparts. Although I may not have needed to make the frosting. As fantastic as these were filled, my hubby loved them without frosting. That’s okay; more raspberry frosting for me!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling adapted from Food & Wine and Food Network

for the cupcakes
1/2 cup soy milk
1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/8 cup natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup canola oil
3 TBS aquafaba
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 TBS all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup vegan granulated sugar
for the filling / frosting
6 TBS cold vegan butter
2 TBS vegan shortening
3 cups vegan powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 heaping TBS raspberry fruit spread

Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a standard muffin tin with paper cups and set aside. Place soy milk in a jar and add the apple cider vinegar. Place the lid on the jar and shake gently to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes to curdle.

Put cocoa powder in a large heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and whisk until a smooth paste forms. Whisk in curdled milk, oil, aquafaba, and 3/4 tsp vanilla until combined. In a medium bowl, sift flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until they are half full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few crumbs. Let cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the vegan butter and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with the non-dairy milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla, until it is smooth and creamy. Add the raspberry fruit spread and beat until creamy.

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Holding a cupcake in your hand, plunge the tip into the top of the cake, pushing it halfway in. Gently squeeze the pastry bag to fill the cupcake, withdrawing it slowly as you squeeze. Repeat until all cupcakes are filled. Use the remaining filling to pipe tiny rosettes on the tops of the cupcakes. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Until next time, happy baking!

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes for Mother’s Day

mini chocolate mousse cakes
mini chocolate mousse cakes

Mother’s Day requires a special dessert. The idea is that if you slave away all day at the oven, then you prove that you care. But all you really need is a treat that is decadent and delicious. These Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes are all that, and more. They are fairly easy to make, too. The hardest part for me was cutting the parchment circles to fit the mini pans. (I am not very adept with scissors).

My search for a decadent Mother’s Day treat provided a recipe that made a 7-inch cake. Not having a pan that size, I decided to change it up to make mini cakes. I liked that idea because they can be served individually so Mom can get a fancy one made just for her. The recipe was vegan and no-bake, so I didn’t have to make those changes. I did make alterations to ensure the mini cakes would be firm. The result was the cutest mousse cakes that were deemed so delicious that they should be made on more than just special occasions.

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes adapted from Vegan Chocolate Mousse Cake

Cookie Crust
14 vanilla cream filled chocolate wafer cookies (such as Oreos)
4 TBS vegan margarine or butter
Mousse Filling
11 ounces dark chocolate, 65% or higher
12.3 ounces silken tofu, drained but not pressed
10.6 ounces vegan greek style yogurt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 TBS powdered sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 TBS maple syrup
Garnishes
fresh raspberries
powdered sugar

For the crust: Cut parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of 8 mini cheesecake tins with removable bases. Set aside. Add cookies and vegan margarine or butter to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is like moist sand, up to 1 minute. Remove 1/2 cup of the cookie mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the bottoms of the 8 mini tins. Tamp the mixture down with the bottom of a small glass to compact it. Place the tins in the fridge.

For the filling: Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside briefly to cool slightly. Place the tofu, yogurt, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and maple syrup in a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, creamy, and slightly warm. (The heat will help the melted chocolate to blend in smoothly). Add the melted chocolate and blend again until the mixture is very smooth. Remove the tins from the fridge and pour the filling into them. Bang the tins on the counter to flatten out the tops of the mousse. Return the tins to the fridge for 4-5 hours, or overnight, to firm up. Once set, remove the cakes from the tins and remove the parchment paper.

To plate: Place each cake on an individual plate and place a raspberry on top. Sprinkle some of the remaining crust crumbs over the top and dust the cake with powdered sugar. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Until next time, happy non-baking and Happy Mother’s Day!

The Magic of Crinkle Cookies

chocolate crinkle cookies
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

When I think back to childhood, one of my favorite cookies was the chocolate crinkle. The dense chocolate flavor and sugary coating was a hit, but I was also mesmerized by the cracks and ridges in the cookies. Where did they come from? And what magic made it possible? As a self-proclaimed baking researcher, I now had to dig into the subject and solve the mystery of the crinkle cookie.

There are many recipes for crinkles out there, but they differ in strategic ways. Some bakers put the dough in the refrigerator prior to baking, while others stand resolute in the idea that they should not be cooled first. Certain recipes use only one leavener but others use both baking soda and baking powder. I wondered why there was such a disparity of ideas, so I dove deeper to reveal the science behind the different recipe twists.

In the cookbook A Good Bake, we are told that crinkles are considered a rise-and-fall cookie. This moniker “refers to one that rises in the oven and then falls when you take it out. The rise-and-fall process is a result of the baking soda reacting with the cocoa powder and brown sugar before the cookie is set. When the cookies are removed from the oven, they fall, giving them that crackle top. How quickly the cookie rises before it sets up is the key to achieving that finish.” The authors recommend against putting the dough in the fridge, as this helps the cookie rise quicker. They also say to bake in batches, one tray at a time. This makes sense as it maximizes the oven heat that each tray receives.

Additional crinkle cookie information was found on the WonderHowTo website. “Crinkle cookies are meant to have gaps between wrinkles of powdered sugar. … Achieving this perfect appearance relies solely on the amount of spreading and expanding they do in the oven.” So, again, the recommendation is to keep the dough out of the fridge. The article also mentions how oven temperature affects cookie expansion. “If crinkle cookies are baked at 350°F, the outside bakes and hardens more quickly, which doesn’t give the dough enough time to spread. … Therefore, crinkle cookies are best baked at 325°F; this temperature allows the ingredients to spread and melt onto the sheet for a longer amount of time before they start to bake and harden.”

As oven temperature can play a role in high altitude baking, I tested both 325F and 350F. While the cookies baked, I peeked through the oven window to watch them rise and fall. It was interesting that the 350F cookies took longer to fall, so I kept them in the oven for the same amount of time as the 325F batch. You can see in the photos that the higher temp made cookies with cracks that were slightly wider. I ended up preferring the texture of those baked at 350F.

crinkle cookies at 325 F
crinkle cookies at 325 F
crinkle cookies at 350 F
crinkle cookies at 350 F

From Cook’s Illustrated I learned “a simple tweak (that) turned out to be key to producing a maximum number of fissures: rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar. Coating the cookies with either type of sugar draws out moisture from their surface, promoting cracks by drying out their tops before the interiors set. But granulated sugar does so more efficiently because of its coarse, crystalline structure.” I also noticed that if you swirled the cookies in powdered sugar only, then the white coating seemed to disappear as they cooked. When I rolled the dough in both I achieved the snowy look that is part of the signature the cookie.

A test baker at Cook’s Illustrated also did a thorough testing of leaveners. “Baking powder, as I already knew, did a decent job by itself, but a combination of baking powder and baking soda proved to be the winner. These cookies spread nicely, without any hump, and they had a more crackly surface (than baking soda alone).”

What did all of this prove? That I love chocolate crinkle cookies. Okay, I already knew that. However, I did discover that I was searching for the cookie from my childhood — a crinkle that was not overly sweet and had a dense but chewy texture. The crinkle cookie can achieve an ever-so-slight hump and have a thick layer of powdered sugar and be a success. But, for me, chocolate crinkle perfection is found in a cookie that is flat and has just a light dusting of sugar.

Until next time, happy testing!

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!

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!

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!

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!