Monday, June 22, 2009

Cowboy Cookies Revised

After discovering that she had an allergy to dairy, my sister Julie created perhaps the most delicious, albeit addicting, cookie I have ever encountered. Though the original recipe can be found on the Martha Stewart website, the recipe below calls for coconut oil in lieu of butter. Coconut oil is an ideal substitution for butter because it can be traded for the exact same quantities. Because coconut oil is, like butter, a solid at room temperature, it must be slightly melted in a microwave before being mixed. In effect, the cookie emits a slightly tropical, ethereal smell in the kitchen while baking, conjuring images of a Hawaiian bakery. In my much idealized cookie fantasy, I can almost hear waves crashing in the distance and after a day playing in the surf, what could be better than a coconut-infused confection? Well, nothing of course.

Cowboy Cookies, With Coconut Oil

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

8 oz coconut oil, slightly melted

3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

6 oz semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks (1 cup)

3/4 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet with parchment and spray parchment with cooking spray.
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder into a medium bowl.
Beat the coconut oil and sugars with a mixer on medium-high until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Reduce speed to low, and slowly add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut until combined.
Using a 1.5 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
Bake until edges of cookies begin to brown, 11-13 minutes. Let cool.
Serve on a beach, preferably on a palm leaf.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My First Catering Job!

Okay, I do not know if this technically qualifies as a catering job because I will be employed by my father for his book party, I will not be paid and I just about begged him for the opportunity. However, I am excited nevertheless because I will be making dessert for around 30ish people!

Dad, who is a publicist in the outdoor industry, recently completed a book entitled, You Want to Go Where? which both outlines how to gain funding for expeditions through experiences he has encountered in his line of work. To celebrate the release of the book, there will be a cocktail party at the house!

Upon brainstorming how to feed a large amount of people as easily as possible, I concluded to make cupcakes. Not only because they are currently my favorite baked good, but they also eliminate the complication of plates and forks. To top it off, I recently inherited a full set of professional cake decorating supplies, and I would love to break them in.

So, like a real caterer, I took orders from my Dad. Vanilla on vanilla was the choice for the batter and the frosting, while the decorations were left up to me! I'm thinking something to go along with the "exploring" theme. Maybe tiny marzipan figures of cameras, or perhaps I could convince my Dad to let me make blue icing, and pipe on continents so the cupcakes form mini globes. If all else fails, I will buy a bunch of "around-the-world" toothpicks with flags, and stick them onto the tops- just like an explorer at the top of a snow-peaked mountain!

Stay tuned for pictures and recipes!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rhubarb Pie- Straight From the Garden!

While taking a stroll through my Grandmother's garden, I came across a spectacular undergrowth of rhubarb plants, growing wild and abundant. Their gleaming red, sturdy stalks were not obscured by their wide, fan-like leaves, and the sheer size of the plant inspired me to bake what I used to hate: Rhubarb Pie!

Notorious for its sour, bitter taste, as a child I shied away from the odd-looking, tough vegetable. But when sweetened with sugar and enclosed in a flaky crust, something magical happens.

I obtained the recipe from a 1970's version of the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and added my own adjustments to veganize it. The recipe I used calls for 3 cups of chopped rhubarb, so thankfully it grows like a weed.

P.S. When this was finished, I may or may not have gone at it with a fork.

Fresh Rhubarb Pie

Oil Crust for a 8 Inch Pie
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil

2-3 tablespoons cold water

Measure the flour and salt into a bowl. Add oil, mix until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until the flour is moistened and the dough almost cleans the sides of the bowl. (If dough seems dry, 1-2 tablespoons of oil can be added in addition). Gather the dough together and press firmly into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flattened round. Place between 2 strips of parchment paper.
Roll the pastry 2 inches larger than the inverted pie pan. Peel off top paper and invert the crust into the pan, easing it in slowly. Peel off top paper and finish the edge with your fingers. Set aside.

Pie Filling
1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel

3 cups cut-up fresh rhubarb

1 tablespoon Earth Balance Spread

Oven to 425 degrees. Stir together flour, sugar and orange peel. Pour half of the rhubarb into the pastry-lined pan. Sprinkle with half of the flour mixture. Repeat with the remaining rhubarb and sugar. Dot with Earth Balance. Cover the edge with a 2-3 inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes.
Bake 40-50 minutes or until the crust is brown and juice begins to bubble.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chocolate Almond Cookies

Tucked deep within the East Village in New York City, there lies a fantastic little vegan restaurant called The Candle Cafe. Coveted by carnivores and plant-lovers alike, the menu specializes in creative and high caliber cuisine that is rarely found in vegan dining. So imagine my excitement when, browsing through my local bookstore, I found The Candle Cafe Cookbook, on sale for 25% no less!

The book's recipe for Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies seemed intriguing to me because of its simplicity and decidedly rich ingredients. I thought they would be perfect with a glass of vanilla soymilk for a little midnight snack!

The recipe calls for egg replacer, so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to attempt to create my own "egg" with ground flaxseeds and water. I had read that when whisked vigorously, the flaxseeds adopt a gelatinous texture that mimics egg properties. In addition, though the recipe contains macadamia nuts, I decided to use chopped almonds instead- any Almond Joy fanatic will tell you that nothing can beat the chocolate-almond combination! So although the recipe is slightly altered from what you would find in the Candle Cafe, the cookies are pretty darn delicious!

Chocolate Almond Cookies
makes around 18 cookies

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup chopped raw almonds

1/2 cup soy margarine

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1/2 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons soy milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the ground flaxseeds and water in a cup, whisk furiously for 5 minutes, until slightly syrupy and thick. Whisk together the margarine, soymilk and vanilla extract to the seeds. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the salt, flour, sugar, nuts, chocolate chips, baking soda and cocoa powder. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients to this mixture.
Using a small ice cream soup or tablespoons, drop mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 15-18 minutes.