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!

Star-Spangled Berry Parfait

star spangled berry parfait

star spangled berry parfait

Happy 4th of July! Okay, it’s actually the 5th. But 4th of July, known in the United States as Independence Day, is a weekend long celebration. So, if you have not yet made a red, white, and blue dessert to go with tonight’s dinner, then try out this patriotic parfait.

For the conclusion of my holiday feast, I wanted a treat that echoed red, white, and blue in berries and cream. Parfaits are a wonderful way to achieve this look. I started with a box of vegan jello mix that I had on hand, and got fancy with a vegan cream recipe I rustled up. I added fresh berries then, admittedly the toughest part, a vegan meringue to complete my layered dessert. Altitude had no effect on any component, and each part was vegan, so no changes needed to be made. I’ve merely gathered the pieces together for you to enjoy.

Star-Spangled Berry Parfait with thanks to Rouxbe Online Culinary School

for the gelled layer
1 packet Simply Delish Jel Dessert in strawberry or raspberry
for the cream layer
3/4 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked for 3-4 hours to soften
1/2 cup water
5-6 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1 cup rough chopped fresh strawberries with stems removed
for the meringue layer
1/2 cup unsalted chickpea liquid, previously reduced and chilled *
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
4 ounces caster sugar
1 tsp non-alcoholic vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
for the fruit layer
1-2 cups fresh blueberries, or a combination of blueberries and sliced strawberries
for the garnish
several fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries

For the gelled layer: Prepare Jel dessert per instructions on the box. Pour into a heat-resistant glass bowl. Let cool on the counter for a few minutes to allow condensation to evaporate. Place the bowl in the fridge to cool completely and set up.

For the cream layer: Place cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a high speed blender. Process on high until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Add strawberries and blend well.

aquafaba meringue on whisk

aquafaba meringue on whisk

For the meringue layer: Place the bean liquid and cream of tartar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on low speed until the cream of tartar is incorporated and the liquid is semi-opaque. You may need to stop the mixer and stir the contents at the bottom a few times to get it fully mixed. Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional minute, or until opaque. Reduce the speed to low and begin adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. After the first addition, raise the speed to high, beating for 1 minute after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added, continue to beat for 10 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula once or twice. The meringue should be stiff, white, and glossy. If not, keep beating until it is.

Reduce the speed to medium and slowly add vanilla and lemon juice. Immediately raise the speed to high and beat for another 3 minutes, or until the meringue is stiff, white, and glossy and resembles marshmallow fluff. The total time needed depends on your mixer and the brine used. You cannot over beat aquafaba, so don’t worry. * Success Tips: Heat the bean water on the stove to reduce it by 1/3, then chill it before making the meringue. It should be thick and resemble egg whites. Also, vegan meringue keeps its loft best when prepared with a non-alcoholic extract.

To assemble: Take the bowl of set up gelled dessert out of the fridge. Add an even layer of blueberries for the fruit layer, extending to the edge of the bowl so the berries can be seen from the side. Pour the cream over the berries, leaving space at the edge of the bowl to allow berries to be seen through the glass. Either add dollops of meringue over the top, or put the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe a decoration over the top. Garnish with fresh berries.

Until next time, happy non-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!

Mocha Mousse for Mom

mocha mousse for mom

mocha mousse for mom

Some days I want a treat that doesn’t require turning on the oven. And some days I’m simply out of flour. Today was both of those. But still I yearned for a decadent dessert that was easy and fast and chocolatey, and good for a special occasion. When I make chocolate mousse it’s always a big hit, so I started there.

My tofu mousse is vegan and doesn’t require baking, so none of those changes had to be made. I decided to amp up the decadence and flavor of the basic recipe by adding more coffee flavor. Bring on the coffee liqueur and coffee granules, and say hello to a more adult mousse. A perfect dish for a refined mother.

Mocha Mousse for Mom adapted from my Chocolate Mousse Pie

3 TBS coffee liqueur
1 TBS instant coffee granules
1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
2 12-oz packages silken tofu, drained (firm or extra firm; your choice will affect the texture)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder

Heat the coffee liqueur in a small saucepan. Add the coffee granules and stir until dissolved. Set aside. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler by placing the chips in a small saucepan. Set this pan in a larger pot filled with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Heat over medium heat on the stove and stir the chips until they are melted.

Combine the tofu, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, liqueur mixture, and melted chocolate in a food processor. Process for 5 minutes, or until thick and smooth. Pipe into individual bowls and chill for 15-30 minutes. Garnish as desired.

Happy Mother’s Day, and happy nonbaking!

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 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 …