Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Scones

Isn't it funny how the longer you go without writing, the harder it is to start writing again?  That's how it is with me, anyhow.   I've been kind of wracked with guilt over what I refer to (at least to myself) as the great blogbandonment of the holiday season.  I mean, of all the seasons of the year, for a baking blogger to completely go MIA during the holidays?  In a word- sacrilege.

I won't bore you with the reasons for my absence, but we'll just say it was a busy holiday season.  I did lots of baking, but photographed and blogged none of it-- just the chaos of it all.  In fact, I did do some baking projects that I photographed but never got up on the blog. They've been sitting on my computer, looming over me, creating this weird sense of obligation-- like I can't bake, photograph, and blog new recipes until I finish the ones I already started.  It's weird how we are sometimes our own worst enemy, isn't it?

But alas, it's a new year, and thus I've decided, a new start!  Maybe I'll go back and post the old baking projects someday, but for now, it's on to the new!

A couple items of note:
1. Over the holidays we acquired our very own DSLR camera (Canon Rebel T2i) and I'm learning how to use it.  I'm having a blast and I'm excited to see how my photography will evolve.  I've even signed up for a photography class next month!
2. We're eating vegan for the month of January-- thus today's recipe's overall lack of some of my favorite ingredients such as butter, cream, and eggs.  Not a permanent thing, just hitting the "reset" button for one month.

So enough small talk-- onto the important stuff.  These scones have peanut butter AND chocolate.  I'm totally going to eat them for breakfast because they're scones, which I believe are a breakfast food-- it's like dessert masquerading as breakfast food.  Oh delicious deception!

Let me just say, these things are good. And not just "vegan good". I'd happily devour these outside the confines of vegan month!

All you need is love.  And ingredients.

Better than breadcrumbs.

Adding almond milk makes dough.

Add in the chocolate chips-you don't have to use a separate bowl, I won't tell!
Press into scone pan if you have one.
Breakfast is ready!

Source: A Little Bit of Everything


  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chilled vegan butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup creamy unsalted peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/4 to 1/3 vegan chocolate chips

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 and grease scone pan or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, vegan butter and peanut butter.  Pulse several times until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Through the top chute of the food processor, slowly add the almond milk while continuing to pulse the mixture.  The dough should have the consistency of modeling clay so if it's too dry, add a bit more almond milk and if it's too wet, add a bit more flour.
  4. Take out of food processor and place into bowl.  Fold in chocolate chips. (I actually just removed the blade from my food processor and mixed the chocolate chips into the mixture in the food processor-- I *hate* dishes and will avoid creating more of them than necessary if it won't negatively impact the recipe)
  5. Either press the dough into the scone pan, or shape dough into a disk and cut into 8 triangles.
  6. Bake for about 18 minutes until golden.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

I'm not a pumpkin pie kind of girl (gasp!).  I think it's a texture thing-- I love the pumpkin flavor but don't care for the strange wobbly, yet dense, yet gooey consistency.  I know-- sacrilege.  But that's just me.  Fortunately I think I've found a good compromise in this cake.

This recipe had me at "brown butter icing".  Pumpkin shmumkin. Bring on the icing, baby!

Truthfully though, both the cake and the icing are phenomenally good and embody quintessential taste of the season.  See, I promised you there'd be pumpkin-something soon, didn't I?  I first found this recipe on Shutterbean and then saw that it was featured again more recently on RisingShining.  This cake lived up to the high praise it received on both of these blogs... and then some!

Here we go!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cranberry Orange Scones

It's fall, or so they say.  As desert dwellers we have few of the telltale signs of fall that other regions see... no cooler weather (it was 90 degrees yesterday... true story), no changing leaves (as far as I can tell, the palm trees are still green and the cacti are still pointy).

I did have a short jaunt to Chicago last week for work and was positively beside myself with excitement as the plane descended into O'Hare and I saw the bursts of bright yellow, red, and orange.  I'm pretty sure the guy sitting next to me thought I was a complete lunatic as I pressed my forehead against the window in an attempt somehow to be closer this breathtaking marker of the changing seasons.  I travel quite a bit for work, and generally pull off the whole nonchalant/blase 'too cool for school' business traveler attitude pretty well, however any semblance of cool composure was quickly abandoned at this awe-inspiring menagerie of colors.  Cool is overrated anyway.

With fall comes all things pumpkin and the food blogs are abuzz this week with pumpkin delectables.  And I'm pretty sure I'll do pumpkin-something at some point this season, but being hardwired for deviance I bucked the trend this week and decided to work with a couple other distinctly fall flavors: oranges and cranberries.  I know I did scones a few weeks ago, so maybe this is cheating (there goes that deviance again...), but orange cranberry scones are my favorite.  This had to happen.  It just did. Don't judge. Next week I promise you something brand spanking new.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Prepare Yourself for Some Serious Deliciousness
Tomorrow is my 31st birthday.  Yikes.  Truthfully, though, my 30th year on this planet has been pretty fantastic, so if 31 is just 30 plus one, I think I can handle that.  It's just one more candle on the cake and 365 days to live, love, and learn as much about life as possible.  Totally doable. Totally awesome. Bring it on!

With the impending anniversary of my birth on my mind, I thought today might be a fitting day to try a recipe I've had on my "to bake" list for years: soft pretzels.  Soft pretzels are easily on the list of my top 15  favorite foods, maybe even top 10.  There's just something completely irresistible about their chewy, yeast center and their crispy, salty exterior.  I found the recipe on Shutterbean and learned that making soft pretzels was on the list of the author, Tracy's, "31 comes before 32" list (31 things to do before turning 32).  How awesome is that?!

Soft pretzels remained unchecked on my "to bake" list for so many years because I was intimidated by their perceived complexity (boiling dough... whaaaaaat?!).  Truthfully though, these are silly stupid easy. And the results are a-ma-zing!  There are so many awesome options for toppings-- I made three plain with sea salt, three with cinnamon sugar, and two with (get ready for this) sharp cheddar cheese, roasted garlic salt, and crushed red pepper. YUM.  My only challenge now will be to not consume all eight of them today.  
Baked Pretzels Just Removed from Oven

Soft Pretzels and Birthday Flowers!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ginormous Soft Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are weird.  I mean, they themselves aren't weird, but their appeal is somewhat mysterious.  No chocolate, nothing gooey, no marshmallows, no fluffy egg whites... no good?  Opposite!  Super good! I think it's their simplicity that makes them so appealing-- sweet, but not too sweet, soft and somewhat dense, they're a cookie's cookie (like a man's man, but not... you know what I mean).

My favorite kind of sugar cookies are the soft kind,  but alas  I've always been in somewhat of a conundrum because I don't like to use shortening in my baking (hydrogenated oils.. yuck).  I'm definitely a butter girl, but you already knew that, didn't you?  But you can't get that soft delicious texture with butter, so pretty much you're stuck with crunchy cookies or cookies filled with junk.   Until now.  While perusing the baking aisle in Whole Foods last night, I discovered Spectrum Organic Shortening which contains only 100% unhydrogenated palm oil.  Jackpot!

With my newfound (and hopefully somewhat more virtuous) ingredient, I mixed up the sugar cookies and they came out deliciously.  This recipe makes a huge amount of ginormous sugar cookies, and being that it's just me and my sweetheart in the house, I thought it wise to bake up only 8 cookies and freeze the rest of the dough for later (lest we consume all of them in one night and find ourselves relegated strictly to elastic waistband pants).  I don't even know if that's a legit baking thing to do-- freezing the cookie dough.    It's times like these, well really anytime I bake, that I wish I had some more (any) formal training, or a baking 'mentor', or something.  Anyhow, I broke the dough out into 4 equal chunks, wrapped three of them individually in parchment paper first, then in plastic wrap, tossed them in the freezer and hoped for the best. I figure next time we're wanting sugar cookies, I'll just pull one of the packages out and let it thaw for an hour or so before baking.  We'll see how that goes.

The ones I baked today turned out great-- Sweetheart says they taste "like professional bakery cookies but better".  I think it's the love... oh, and the lack of yucky hydrogenated oils.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies- Ooops!

Tonight in search of a gluten-free cookie recipe to make for my sweetheart, I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (yes, that same blog, again... but it's just wonderful, so I can't argue with that).  I think I should really start by telling you that these didn't turn out as I hoped... so if you're hoping for a smashing success story, you'll probably want to stop reading this now and direct your attention elsewhere-- say, to Martha Stewart, Queen of Domestic Perfection.  If, on the other hand, you enjoy tales of human fallibility, read on.

I'm sure in theory, I'm sure they are great cookies when made by someone else under different circumstances, but I found them to be quite vexing, from start to finish.  So why even post this?  Why not opt out of giving this regrettable incident internet immortality and just let this traumatic kitchen episode fade into a distant memory instead?  Because I'm human.  Because we're all human-- and I'm pretty sure this kind of nonsense happens to everyone, even the most talented and experienced bakers out there, at least every once in a while.  If we only highlight our successes, first of all, we're not being honest with ourselves or with the world, and secondly, we perpetuate an unrelenting (and impossible) standard of perfection for others.  I don't think the world needs more of that, do you? <stepping off soapbox>

Onward to the gory details...

Perhaps I should have taken it as a sign when the first step in this recipe went horribly wrong.  In an attempt to lightly toast the walnuts, precisely following the instructions to toast them at 350 degrees for 9 minutes (actually, they only made it to about 7 minutes before I was alerted by the smoke spilling out of the back of the oven), I nearly set them ablaze. The smoke was so bad our dogs, who are normally constantly underfoot while I bake, packed up their chew toys and departed for greener, less smokey pastures (read: our bedroom). True story.  After that, the measuring and mixing part was uneventful-- thank goodness!  However, when I dropped spoonfuls of the batter onto the parchment paper, the batter was so runny the cookies kind of merged into each other and the runny batter dripped everywhere from the spoon while en route from the bowl to the parchment paper.  But, being the perpetually optimistic girl that I am, I held out hope as I watched them bake in the oven.  Just as the recipe said, after 14 minutes in the oven, they did have a nice glossy finish and a crackly top, so I removed them to let them cool.  Tragically, even after letting them cool completely, they refused to let go of the parchment paper-- they. were. STUCK.   And not just kinda stuck, really really stuck.  I attempted all manner of prying them from the parchment without completely destroying them (spatula, various other flat utensils, my hands, etc), all to no avail.  I was able to save about half of them from completely crumbling (but still left their bottoms stubbornly stuck to the parchment paper), while the other half simply went into the trash.

I tried one of the survivors and it wasn't bad, in fact, the chocolate cookie part was quite delectable-- but the burned walnuts definitely tasted, well, burned.  I enjoyed the gooey fudgy texture somewhat, but realize it was that texture that probably lead to them being impossible to remove from the parchment paper in once piece.  

So what did I learn from the exercise in frustration? That's a tough one, since I can honestly say that I followed the recipe precisely.  I know for the walnuts, that I need to watch them like a hawk in the oven-- and not try to multitask while relying on the kitchen timer to tell me when they're done.  And what of the sticking issue?  I'm honestly not sure what went wrong-- I've never, ever had anything stick to parchment paper like this-- that's the great thing about parchment paper-- things are far less likely to stick to it than to a cookie sheet.  I'm not ready to give up on this recipe yet, but before I attempt it again, I'm going to do a bit more research into what may have caused the issue.  I'll get back on this horse one day, but for now, I think I'll move on to a different recipe... I need a little space from this one.

Misbehaven Cookies
See the cookie merging?  And the sticking?  Boooo


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sally Lunn Bread with Honeyed Brown Butter Spread

So I have to admit, when I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I was primarily drawn to it for it's tempting accoutrement-- the honeyed brown butter spread.  I love honey butter to begin with, but browning it to add a nice nutty flavor and then adding a couple of pinches of sea salt?  I was sold.  And I figured I should make the bread too... you know, since you can't just eat butter by itself (or can you?!)

I really enjoy making bread, but having been in the throes of a sweltering Phoenix summer forever, or so it seems, the prospect of heating up the oven for over an hour at a time has been less than appealing.  This same sentiment also explains my general lack of posts in the summertime, as I eschew baking on days when walking outside feels akin to sticking my face in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees.  Call me crazy.

Now that it's October, we've been granted a little reprieve from the heat and I'm back in the kitchen again and loving every minute of it.  I've made no less than three batches of chocolate chip meringue cookies in the last week for a multitude of reasons but mostly because a certain lovely someone in our household is eating gluten free these days and this is pretty much the only thing I make that doesn't contain copious amounts of flour.  However, last night, with the windows open in the house and the outdoor temperature in the mid seventies, I decided it was time to get my bread on (actually my honey butter, but here I am trying to pretend I'm a grownup who wouldn't just eat honey butter by the spoonful).

So the bread!  Pretty easy to make, especially using the Kitchen Aid mixer since it pretty much does all the hard work (read: mixing for minutes on end) for you.  It only rises for a total of an hour and thirty minutes, which makes this a bread doable on a weeknight, as opposed to sourdough which takes all dang day (the way I make it at least). In reading about this type of bread, some people said that it tasted like a lighter version of brioche which was appealing to me because I loooove brioche.  However, I felt like it (well, my loaf at least) really didn't resemble brioche in the slightest.  It was still a delicious bread, completely worthy of the to-die-for honey butter, but just didn't seem reminiscent of brioche to me.  It was very slightly sweet and relatively light in texture.  When I sliced a piece this morning, it seemed a bit crumbly but still toasted up nicely and tasted wonderful, particularly when adorned with the honey butter. 

Bottom line, a pretty tasty breakfast bread made even better with the accompanying honeyed brown butter spread.  I wish it were chewier, but that's just me (maybe bread flour next time for a higher protein content?).  One of these days I'll give this one another shot with some tweaking, but even as-is, it's a great recipe.