Tag Archives: sweets

Good Morning, Mini Almond Tarts!

My boss loves burnt almond tortes, so for her birthday, I thought I would whip up something similar, but a little different. I was hoping to get the essence of the almond torte without the overwhelming amounts of sugar and cream. Also, because the treat was going to serve as a sort of birthday gift, I was hoping that the recipe would be fairy simple to make. After a busy Tuesday, the last thing I wanted to be doing at ten pm was attempting a second batch of tarts.

I used a regular metal cupcake dish for my tarts, which resulted in some rather substantial “mini” treats. For true bite-sized confections, definitely pick up a dedicated mini tart or mini muffin pan. I know I will be doing so as soon as possible, because I have a weird fondness for small, dainty sweets.

Mini Almond Tarts

Ingredients
For the crust
– 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– 1 tbsp sugar
– Pinch of salt
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Filling
– 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
– 1 cup sliced almonds
– 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 large egg
– 1 tsp almond extract
– 1 tsp Grand Marnier (You can do it without the liquor, but I’d recommend using it)
– Pinch of salt

To assemble the crust: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cupcake tin (or if you have a mini tart pan). You should fill about seven cups in a regular sized cupcake tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate glass bowl, stir together the melted butter, vanilla, and a 1/2 tbsp of water. Pour the wet into the dry and combine until dough is formed. Knead for about 30 seconds.

Section off the dough into seven even-sized balls. Press each ball into the prepared tin, pressing it into the bottom and sides of the tin. You’ll want a little bit of the crust to come up from the top, but make sure the bottom is thick enough to hold. Put the tray of crusts into the oven for 7 minutes.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Make the filling: Whip together all filling ingredients until well combined. Pour filling into each of the tart cups, just beneath the top of the crust.

Bake for 22 – 25 minutes. Let stand and cool before removing from cups.

(Recipe adapted MarthaStewart.com)

Chocolate Chip Cha-Cha-Cha


While seemingly every sell out in Hollywood is busy adapting some 70’s television show or 80’s Atari game for some hack film project, they’re missing a prime opportunity to tell a (possibly) riveting story: The invention of the chocolate chip cookie.

The story is that one night, Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn, desired to make chocolate-butter drop cookies for her visiting guests. Upon finding that she was short of baker’s chocolate, Wakefield substituted fragments of semi-sweet chocolate, believing they would melt in the oven. They didn’t. What was should have been almost a dense chocolate shortbread was instead the rough draft of what would become the signature chocolate chip cookie recipe: The Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Who else would be the leading provider of semi-sweet chocolate but Nestle, of course. After Wakefield’s accidental recipe caught on, the two entities, baker and chocolate entrepreneur, came to a bargain. Nestle would print the Toll House recipe on the back of every package of semi-sweet chocolate. In exchange, Mrs. Wakefield would receive free chocolate for the cookies made at the Inn. Thus, a cookie empire was born.

Woudn’t that make a decent movie? Okay, you’d probably have to add some kind of corporate intrigue. A sinister executive at Nestle trying to screw the Wakefields out of their invention, or something. But you could call this “Chocolate Chip Cookie: The Movie” and people would most likely come to see it. They’re just that popular. (For instance, while the actual number is disputable, it’s estimated that nearly seven billion chocolate chip cookies are eaten annually.)

I try to do my part to contribute to the world popularity of the chocolate chip cookie. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular. It’s a malleable creation that can be manipulated in any number of ways. It can be flavored with extracts, made softer or crunchier or chewier, made giant-sized or bite-sized, super dense or wafer thin. It can be very sweet or a little salty or even a little spicy. It can be crumbly or melty. You can eat it with ice cream. You can eat it with peanut butter. The variations are endless, and short of flat out improper baking, it’s hard to ruin a chocolate chip cookie.

They’re also incredibly easy to veganize. Something that many people worry about when considering veganism is a loss of the familiar foods they’ve eaten all their lives. That’s why you see so many veggie burgers, so many different kinds of vegan macaroni and cheese, and why some of the best-selling vegan cookbook titles are focused on baked goods. People want to know that even if they make a choice to actively and avidly rid their diets of animal products, they will not have to go without their comfort foods.

My favorite vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe to adapt is the one found in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking (which I’ve mentioned before, but is worth mentioning again, because it’s such a fantastic book). I like Colleen’s recipe for several reasons, but mostly because there’s very little fuss to it. Like many of her recipes, she doesn’t play around too much with various ingredients, throwing in random fanciness because she can. Her recipes are designed to produce the best-tasting traditional baked goods a vegan chef can hope for.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
– 1 cup vegan margarine
– 3/4 cup white sugar
– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
– 1/4 cup sugar-in-the-raw (turbinado)
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 to 2 cups of vegan chocolate chips
– 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I like using finely chopped because it gives it an almost toffee like crunch, but it’s a matter of preference.)

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

– Cream together the margarine, sugars, vanilla. Add the applesauce and mix until thoroughly combined.

– Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then gradually beat the dry mixture into the wet. When almost completely mixed, add chocolate chips and nuts.

– Drop by tablespoon onto the sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Move to a cookie rack for cooling.

(Adapted from recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

Vegan A to Z: Double Chocolate Blueberry Brownies

 I admit, it’s been far too long between Vegan A to Z posts, and it seems like every time I do one, I’m kinda, sorta, maybe cheating a little. I mean, the D in this post is for “double,” not exactly a daring choice.

My original intent was to make a vegan version of the junk food classic Ding Dongs, which sounds so appealing, I may do it regardless. But the recipe for “Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies” in Veganomicon caught my eye.  Due to shortage of supplies, I had to make a few alterations to the recipe, which probably is to blame for the good, but not great outcome.

Don’t get me wrong, they tasted great. Actually, they were just my kind of brownie – sweet with a little added sour from the fruit. But the texture was off. What should have been a big, fudgy block of brownie was thin, chewy, and instantly hardened when cooled. Hence the shortened cooking time. If I were to try this again, I’d either do the 40 minutes in the 13×9 pan, or the full 45 minutes in a 9×9, or some smaller variation.

Double Chocolate Blueberry Brownies

Ingredients
– 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
– 10 ounces blueberry preserves
– 1/4 almond milk
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1/4 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 cup fresh blueberries (optional – I did not have the blueberries, but I do recommend using them.)

– Pre-heat over to 325 degrees, then grease a 9×13 baking pan.

– Combine the blueberry preserves, soy milk, sugar, canola oil, and extracts and mix on high speed. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well mixed using a fork.

– Melt the 2/3 cup chocolate chips and add the melted chocolate to the brownie batter.

– Fold in the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and blueberries (if using), then spread the batter in the baking pan.

– Bake for 40 minutes. As noted in the original recipe, a toothpick inserted will just come out kind of fudgy, so it’s hard to test the doneness of the brownies. They say 45 minutes, I say 40 minutes, it just depends on how gooey you like your brownies.

– Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Good Morning, Donut!

You know how hard it is to walk past a bakery every morning and not buy a donut?

Answer: When you’re me, it’s very, very, very hard.

So it isn’t really fair of MSN.com to taunt me on their front page with a video of “How Doughnuts Are Made.” Rub it in, guys. Really.

On the plus side, in the search for this video on YouTube, I found this donut-related clip. Who knew the Swedish Chef was such a gun nut?

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

In which a genuine attempt is made to invoke the holiday spirit via baked goods.

I have made my particular opinion on holiday-themed treats known, but I will reiterate: In general, with a few exceptions, I am not a fan of holiday baked goods, my reasons having been best laid out here. Too much fuss, too much gunk, not enough good, simple flavor to make all the effort seem worth it.

But I’m no Scrooge. I am susceptible to Christmas cheer as much as the next hot-blooded American consumer. And on Monday morning, I was struck with the urge to make merry, watch sappy Christmas movies, share some wine with friends, and bake bake bake holiday treats.

Epicurious has a nice collection of holiday cookie recipes, many of which aren’t super ornate. I had one of the visiting friends pick a recipe from their selections, and she chose the Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies. Now these are more elaborate than I tend to make, as I’m not a huge fan of icing sandwich cookies (it has to be just right in flavor, texture, and ratio of icing to cookie), but they looked fun, Christmas-y, and a once over of the recipe proved that they could easily be veganized. So-ho-ho why not?

Vegan Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

Cookie Ingredients
– 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
– 1/2 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 cup sugar
– 3/4 vegan margarine (I used Smart Balance Light)
– 1/4 cup silken tofu

Filling Ingredients
– 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
– 3/4 cup vegan margarine (for heavier filling, use 1 cup)
– 3/4 tsp peppermint extract
– Red and green food coloring

1/2 cup crushed red-and-white peppermint striped candies.

– Mix flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl. Cream together sugar and margarine in mixer, then beat in tofu. Add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Store the dough in the fridge for at least an hour.

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Once the dough is hardened, scoop out with a tablespoon and roll into little balls, placing them about 2 inches a part on the sheet. This is where I flubbed a bit, leaving the balls to bake as is, instead of following the directions and flattening them. Whether or not you do that, the cookies will bake properly. It’s all about how you like your cookie sandwich.

– Bake cookies for about 11 minutes, until a fingertip pressed on the top leaves an indentation. Remove and let cool on cookie rack.

– For filling: Beat sugar and margarine together. Add peppermint extract. As for food coloring, if you just want one color, add a few drops to the main bowl. Otherwise, portion some into another bowl and add the red to one, green to the other.

– Peppermint candies – We put the candies in a bag and hammered them. Lay a dish towel down, put the candies in a large Ziploc bag, then using a mallet or hammer, gently shatter and crush the candies until they are reduced to merry little peppermint shrapnel.

– Assembling the cookie sandwich – Match cookies to like sizes. Add a teaspoon of filling to the flat side of one cookie. Place second cookie on top, squeezing together so the filling just peeks out from the sides. Then take the cookie and roll the edges in the peppermint candy pieces. If this process proves to be ineffective, add the peppermint candy pieces to the filling on the cookie before sandwiching.

Overall, the recipe was good, but not great. The cookie sandwiches weren’t quite sweet enough (the cookie or the filling), and the filling reminded me too much of less than substantial cupcake topping. They were definitely pretty to look at, but their method of adding the peppermint candy to the sides was better in theory than in practice.

With minor tweaking, however, I’d say this is a recipe worth giving a try, especially if you’re in need of something to go with a big mug of hot chocolate. I ate mine while listening to my favorite Christmas song, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses:

(Recipe adapted from Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies on Epicurious)