Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peanut Chew Cheesecake

I am writing this from my desk on the first rainy morning where I'm calling a new city home. The last month has been wild and busy and emotional. I have repeatedly tried to wrap it all up into a few neat paragraphs, but the words just kept eluding me. For a few years my parter, Greg and I have been telling everyone that we were going to move to Philadelphia. After a year or so, it seemed to folks like maybe we were crying wolf. But we finally felt like it was the right time & mustered up the courage to leave a city that we love and venture to somewhere new. Everything was going smoothly, but then Greg got in a bike accident and broke his collar bone in a few places. He needed some surgery and got a metal plate put in his shoulder. So while it's really cool that I'm dating a bionic man, it wasn't conducive to moving. I was able to pack everything up alone and we convinced some friends and family to help us pack up the moving truck in DC. We left behind a queen size box spring since we couldn't fit ours down the stairs of our old bed room. We got it up the stairs by opening a window. But then we repaired the banister on the stairwell, and the extra two or three inches that we added made it impossible to bring it back down.
I narrowly escaped demolishing a tiny gas station in the city in my first ten minutes in our 14 foot U-haul, and then almost hit a cop car as soon as we got to our new block. But the ride in between wasn't too bad. Just small moments of nervous energy as I had to approach a toll booth or merge across 4 lanes of traffic. We got to Philly and thirteen amazing friends came to help unload the truck. You know you are moving to the right place when you already have as many friends helping you on your first day in town as you did at your going away party in the last city.

leaves and flours vegan
photo by Massimo Catarinella

Our first week has been pretty quiet. We are unpacking slowly, working on a few projects everyday. I'm almost done assembling the kitchen, obviously the most important room in the house to me. Even though it's large for an apartment, it's half the size of what we left. And in the last three years I have acquired a ton of bakeware. I'm hoping that an ingenious storage solution will strike me at any minute.
One of my favorite candies happens to be a Philadelphia creation, so it seemed very appropriate to share this cheesecake with everyone. If you haven't had a peanut chew before, you should see if they are available in your area or let me know and we can swap candy! It's a molasses caramel filled with roasted peanuts and then dipped in chocolate. Heaven. The factory is still in the city but I maybe already checked into it, and they don't give tours. This shows you my list of priorities. Touring the peanut chew factory > finding homes for all my displaced tea cups & saucers > hanging curtains. But eating sweets will always be at the top of that list. We moved two blocks from an ice cream shop, so things are about to get dangerous. If you have any suggestions of places to eat or visit or things you love about the city, please let me know. I am pretty well versed in Philly vegan food, but there are still so many places I haven't tried before.

leaves and flours vegan Peanut Chew Cheesecake

Peanut Chew Cheesecake
one 9" or several mini cheesecakes, varying based on size of pans used

Peanut Graham Crust
9 ounces peanuts
3 ounces graham crackers
10 tbl shortening

Pulse the peanuts and graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor. Melt the shortening. Pour over the cookie and peanut crumbs and mix with hands until fully incorporated. Press firmly into the bottom of your springform pan(s). This is not a sweet crust. If you would prefer it to be a little sweeter, replace two ounces of peanuts for more graham crumbs. I used gluten free graham crumbs, but they should be interchangeable with regular graham crackers.

Cheesecake Filling
24 oz non-dairy cream cheese, I prefer Tofutti
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbl blackstrap molasses
2 tbl Ener-G beaten into 1/3 cup hot water
6-10 peanut chews cut into small pieces, depending on how much candy you want in each slice

Make your cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, molasses, and Ener-G together until smooth. Place some candy around the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the batter into your springform pan. Add rest of candy and top with remaining cheesecake batter. Smooth surface & bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until the cheesecake appears set. Allow to cool for at least 4-6 hours before attempting to slice the cake. I find that overnight is best.

1/3 cup dark chocolate
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1 tablespoon agave nectar

In a double broiler heat all ingredients whisking frequently until the chocolate has totally melted and the ganache is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes before assembling the cheesecake.

Once your cheesecake has cooled for several hours or overnight, top with ganache shortly before serving. I also chose to add additional peanut chew pieces around the top of the cheesecakes to give it a little more height & decoration. If it's already on the sweet side for you, additional sprinklings of peanuts would also be lovely.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Copycat Early Bird Cookies

leaves and flours vegan

I often hear that necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes necessity means having multiple days in a row craving a cookie you had in another city that you won't have again for months. It means driving to the closest grocery store straight from the gym and buying three boxes of cereal solely because you really need these cookies. It means breaking out your reserve stash of clearance mini-marshmallows that you have been hoarding for a few weeks trying to figure out the perfect thing to use them for. It means eating three cookies while in your now flour-speckled gym clothes, still dripping because the transition from elliptical to oven is not pretty.
These are based off cookies I had at Blackbird Pizzeria in Philadelphia. They started making their own sweets in house, and it was a great decision. I remember there being three kinds, and the chocolate coffee one almost swayed me but then I saw the Early Bird cookie next and never looked back. I may have eaten three or four in two days and I didn't regret it one bit. So this copycat is based off that cookie, but looking back at a picture I took, it doesn't seem to be a very close replica. Theirs is more of a classic cookie, and mine is basically an overloaded oatmeal cookies but it was still delicious.

leaves and flours vegan

Copycat Early Bird Cookies
makes 18 large cookies

1/4 cup hot water
1 tbl Ener-G powder
7 oz Earth Balance margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
2 cup oats
3 cup assorted breakfast cereal, partially crushed
1 1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine hot water and Ener-G powder, whisk well, and set aside to thicken. Cream Earth Balance and sugars. Add Ener-G eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined. Scrape sides of bowl and add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until dough forms. Fold in oats, breakfast cereal, and mini marshmallows. Beat until well incorporated. Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, portion dough onto cookie trays. Flatten with your palm and bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges of the cookies are firm & golden. These will firm up a bit as they cool, but the centers of the cookies will stay soft & chewy.
I highly suggest crushing the cereal for this with your hands, a wooden spoon or by pulsing it lightly in a food processor. I have made these cookies three times now, and learned the hard way that this amount of dough with uncrushed cereal will cause your mixer to stall and you will end up with teary eyes thinking you have killed your KitchenAid. For the cereals I used a mixture of Captain Crunch, Apple Jacks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch but you can use whatever cereals you like best. If you use Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles, you might want to omit the cinnamon from the cookie dough because those flavors might clash a little.

leaves and flours vegan

While these cookies are holding me over for now, my to-bake is list is starting to get pretty long. It's Vegan MoFo which means it's my favorite time of the year! This month I don't have time to participate in the insanity but I am following along with everyone's progress very happily. Do you have a new favorite blog? What's your favorite theme?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Funnel Cake

I love amusement parks. I love roller coasters and water parks and giant swings above the park. But most of all I love the drop tower. That moment at the top of the ride where you feel the machine click and you know that you're at the very top, suspended, about the plummet to the ground is one of my favorite feelings in the world. No matter how many times you do it, that instinctual fear hits you right when it clicks and you are waiting those agonizingly long seconds to fall. For the second year in a row Greg and I have gotten season passes to Six Flags, and it's my favorite part of the summer. We had the perfect trip a few weeks ago. We got there right at opening. We rode our favorite roller coaster two times, the drop tower two times, and then we headed to the water park. We rode every ride, hung out in the wave pool, and then rode the best water rides two or three more times. We didn't wait in a single line. We did all of that by 1pm and left before we even got hungry and had to debate whether we were going to eat french fries or soft pretzels or both. But the one thing that amusement parks always leave me missing is funnel cake. I haven't had funnel cake since I went vegan, but when we got home I was determined to make one. It didn't disappoint and was a solid end to a perfect summer day.

leaves and flours vegan funnel cake

Vegan Funnel Cakes
makes eight small servings

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/1 tbl Ener-G
several cups of oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oil the 375 degrees. In a medium size bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Make the Ener-G eggs. Once thickened, combine in a smaller bowl with milk, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk the wet into the dry until the batter is smooth. It should be near the consistency of pancake batter. You can use several things to make the funnel cakes, but I used a plastic squeeze bottle that I found to be really handy. It was easy to fill and didn't create much of a mess like a piping bag could have. Very quickly drizzle the batter into hot oil looping it over repeatedly to create a nest-like structure. Let cook for 30 seconds to one minute before flipping and cooking the other side for about the same time. You want the cake to be lightly browned on both sides. Let cool for a few minutes and sift powdered sugar on top.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

leaves and flours vegan

We're over that hill that is the longest day of the year and moving full force into the heat of summer. I will never get over how magical summertime is. I constantly wake up bleary and sleepy eyed from a lack of sleep because those long days where it's light until almost 9pm make it difficult for a baker. It's hard to force yourself to go to sleep when you can still see the sun taunting you from around the edges of your blinds. Instigating you. Convincing you to stay up for another hour, or two. But summer is also the time where you can go nap by the city pool because you get off work so much earlier than everyone else. You can take your library book and read a chapter and nod off listening to splashing. Wake up just in time for adult swim. That beautiful ten minutes where all the kids line the edge of the pool, dipping their toes into the water. Enough to feel a little bit rebellious but not enough for the guard to blow their whistle. Those serene minutes that you faintly recall scorning as a youth, but now you can barely remember it through the fog of psuedo-adulthood.

leaves and flours vegan

I'm not really sure if I'm an adult yet. I don't really know when that defining time is. I have student loans and a car payment. But I also ate chips for dinner. I balance it out with a green smoothie. Is that adulthood? Realizing that you're being a little impractical and countering it slightly with something responsible. Trying to wash it all out in some giant balance of things? I've killed several houseplants so as badly as I sometimes want a cat to come home to, I'm not quite sure that I am ready to care for another life. I'm currently trying my luck with a succulent. Everyone keeps warning me that I just have to ignore it. People always kill them from overwatering, but we'll see just how quickly I can forgot to water it for six months, not noticing it shriveling away on the table.

leaves and flours vegan

Once or twice a year I have the urge to throw out all my earthly possessions. I am currently in one of those states. I convinced my housemates that it was a brilliant idea to have a yard sale. Forget the fact that we don't really have much of a yard, only so much as a walkway & a porch. Also ignore the fact that we are not on a street that anyone ever walks down. I half heartedly advertised it. We put fliers up the day before. I convinced everyone to lug out all the furniture that we didn't want while we sat on the porch for 4 hours waiting quietly. I sold a few books and maybe a cookie cutter or two. We stared at the furniture not wanting to bring it back in after all that effort and tried to pawn it off on people for free. The unused DVD shelf is currently resting several feet from the front door, as we didn't have the heart to move it a few rooms back again. I threw everything small enough into my car and donated it down the street.

leaves and flours vegan

I eliminated all the kitchenware that I bought to photograph cookies & cakes on several years ago when I started this blog and didn't know the first thing about photographing food. All of these terrible plates in too bright colors and dish towels in distracting patterns. I donated half of my cookie cutter collection. Adorable sailboats and mushrooms and kittens, that never quite come out looking quite recognizable. Endless pans for madeleines and doughnuts and bundt cakes that get used once and then stack up over time. Paring down the tea cups & saucers. They are my weakness. I hoard them and look at them and think about how beautiful they are. Those tiny, dainty china cups in delicate gold patterns but they only hold a sip or two of tea. And I'm the sort of person that makes tea two cups at a time, so they just sit there. Coming out only to photograph some beautiful almond strawberry & vanilla rhubarb macarons. I add a splash of whatever tea I have actually made several cups of already, and then they head back over to the shelf to sit there for a few more months until I find another cookie that will look nice on their saucer.

leaves and flours vegan

Is this what it is to be a grown up? To realize that it's ridiculous to have a shelf of beautiful plates that you only break out a few times a year to take a picture. To actually use everything you own or give it away to someone who will? To open up tupperware bins and marvel at how you somehow unwittingly collected 5 sets of popsicle molds in the two years since you last gave them all away? To determine that you don't need 25 silver plated spoons just because they are all slightly different shapes & patinas? To finally clear out your closet of all the clothes that don't fit you or you hate and haul them to Buffalo Exchange and swap them out for a few things that you actually need in your wardrobe to retain some semblance of togetherness? Because if so I am a total adult these days.

leaves and flours vegan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

French Macarons

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

I went on vacation at the end of last month. For quite a while Greg and I debated over a list of cities that we hadn't been to and wanted to see. Denver ended up at the top of them. As we were getting off our last plane, I could start to feel the stress knots in my shoulder finally start to relax a little. It seemed like there was more space between my shoulders and my ears. Despite all the new pollen making my eyes & throat a little itchy, I tried to take deep breaths. We climbed a lot of mountains, I worked on my fear of heights. I saw tons of elk & even a few marmots. And as vacations tend to go, it felt like it was over before it even started.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

Our time in Denver was a little less than a week, so when I requested my time off & planned the schedule several months ago I gave myself an extra day at home. Sure enough in the chaos pre-leaving & the rush of getting back into town I went into work. A day early. And had to un-request my vacation time.
Even though I came back a little less than refreshed, and am still almost unbearably stressed out, I am trying to make the best of it. It's summer time and this season never lasts quite long enough. I'm enjoying the honeysuckle around the bakery. I'm taking a cake decorating class this weekend. I'm planning trips to the city pool, more amusement park visits, and berry picking at Larriland Farms.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

This summer I am also pushing myself to work on my skill set. I'm going to get better at decorating and hopefully find time to play with sugar. I'm going to work on perfecting lemon meringue pie and macarons. I've made a really decent lemon meringue pie, but there's just a few more wee changes I want to make to the meringue. The photographs here are of my second and third batches of French macarons. I need to get a larger tip to pipe them, so the tops aren't so swirly. I want to make a hundred more batches, tweaking all the ratios and playing with baking times & temperatures. I want to get a notebook and scribble down all my notes in between batches while I drink a million cups of tea and sing along to pop punk while I was all the dishes just like I did a few years ago when we were first opening the bakery. I want to feel that excitement and newness again.

leaves and flours vegan French Macarons

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I'm not really the gushy type. I mean I am emotional and occasionally I get a little sentimental, but I am definitely not the kind of person who kisses in public or says sappy things where other people could possibly overhear them. Until today. Five years ago, my friend Yuri was playing a show in my little college town. I made a big batch of banana chocolate chip muffins and headed over to meet him early. Yuri had another friend with him, Greg. After the show, we made chili and I made the worst batch of cornbread of my life because I was a little nervous. Greg and I stayed up until 2am talking on the hood of my car. I had to go to work the next morning but I went and got bagels at 7am so we could eat breakfast together first. And then a few hours later I took a long lunch break to eat falafel & say goodbye. He flew back to visit me a few weeks later. A month later I flew out to see him. A few months later I flew out to see him again. A year later I got accepted to graduate school. We went from 11 hours to 1 hour apart. Two years later I left graduate school, and moved to the District. We went from 40 miles to 2 blocks apart. Four years later we started sharing a house. And now it's been five years?! We still laugh and joke and are silly all the time. He can't take a picture of me that isn't ridiculous. He has supported me through really rough times, when I didn't have much hope. He challenges me, and pushes me to be a better person all the time. He's also gonna be so embarrassed when he reads this.

leaves and flours vegan cheese raspberry jam danish

When I saw that Sticky Fingers had made their first batch of danishes, I raced home from work to get them. If there is one thing that Greg and I love equally & have shared a lot of in the last five years, it's dessert. I was able to get a cheese & a raspberry danish. The pastry was the closest I have had to the butter laden version, and they were definitely some of the best sweets I have had from there. Danishes were a great surprise for a really adorable day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

I am one year older. Maybe it's just because I have literally been elbow deep in frosting so many times in the past two years or maybe it's because I am feeling sturdier more stable, but I didn't want a traditional birthday cake this year. Normally I commit to some sort of two or three layer cake, but the sweetness and the fillings and all the piping just wasn't appealing to me for 26. I was considering foregoing birthday sweets altogether, but decided that was quite sacrilegious for a sugar sorceress like myself. I remembered bookmarking a pistachio citrus pound cake many seasons ago, promising myself to veganize it eventually. I decided that this was quite the proper occasion to splurge on a pound or two of pistachios and a lime since those have taken quite the price hike this spring. I zested all my fruits. Organic only, because we are getting older and wiser and we don't want to put too many things in our bodies that may contain pesticides. I baked the cake really hastily because I decided to spend some time with friends earlier in the evening and it was getting quite late and I still needed to go to work in the morning. Of course, in the haste or the adaptation of my previous pound cake recipe something didn't quite work out and the cake was very browned on the edges but still a little under baked in the center and of course fell in the middle. I was frustrated and went to sleep cursing at it.

leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

The cake tasted good, but it wasn't something I would ever share. So I came home from work on my birthday and decided to start over. I am a perfectionist at my heart of hearts and no cake was going to defeat me. Especially not on the day when I am the queen of the world. I set away to zesting and juicing and chopping more pistachios. I folded it all together and filled my pans and scraped all the bowls. The batter tasted perfect. I put my little baby pound cakes into the oven, five minutes before my partner Greg came home from work. He walked in and mentioned how nice the kitchen smelled, then looked at the timer, saw 25 minutes ticking away, and his face dropped. I realized I had messed up some dinner plans, but he assured me it would be ok & we would only be ten minutes late. When I told him there was probably another 20 minutes of baking after that, I saw in his face that I was spoilin' some serious surprise dinner plans. After a few minutes of scrambling and panicking and not wanting to take cakes full of expensive ingredients out of the oven or waste several of my friends' time, I realized I could ask someone else I live with to take the cakes out of the oven. I asked a housemate and he so nicely agreed, so this year I got to have my cake & eat it too. Note to self for twenty six: Utilize your resources, but don't squander them. It helps if you can offer cake in return for favors. Also, buy yourself flowers more than once a year. It feels great.

leaves and flours vegan Citrus Pistachio Pound Cake

Mini Citrus Pistachio Pound Cakes
altered from Mini Almond Poundcakes by Isa Chandra, queen of vegan baking

1 lemon, zested & juiced
1 lime, zested & juiced
1 orange, zested & juiced
7 oz almond paste
6 oz extra firm silken tofu
2/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup citrus juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease & flour three 4x2" loaf pans.
Zest each of the citrus fruits and set the zest aside. Juice all the fruits and stir mixture well. You'll need a third cup of juice for the recipe; I stirred the remainder into the water I was drinking for prosperity. Combine almond paste, tofu, almond milk, citrus juice, and sugar in a blender or food processor bowl. Blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and melted margarine and blend again. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and zest until well combined. Whisk in wet until just combined. Add 1/4 cup pistachios and fold with a spatula. Portion into loaf pans until 3/4 full. Smooth tops and sprinkle with remaining pistachios. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tops are firm & golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.