Vegan pumpkin cookies (~2 dozen)

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It's the first weekend of October and also the second day of Vegan MoFo. What better way to celebrate than with cookies? Earlier this week, I made a batch of moist, dense pumpkin cookies from the Post-Punk Kitchen (best blog name ever). Bryan and I enjoyed them, and they impressed my new vegan friend Lisa, which seems like a good sign to me.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped candied ginger (opt.)
  • coarse sugar for topping (opt.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, using a spoonula or wooden spoon. Chill the dough in the fridge for one hour.
  3. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if using.
  4. Bake cookies 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Is that the longest list of ingredients I've published thus far? I'm thinking it must be. It's a lot of ingredients, but it's really not a lot of work at all.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, but I didn't have any and I'm also not thrilled by the idea of it. Instead, I replaced that ingredient with a combination of applesauce and canola oil. If you've ever baked with applesauce, you know it has a tendency to make your baked goods come out really dense. It also makes them moist, which is great! This cookie was already dense because of the pumpkin, but the applesauce made it even more so. Don't make this recipe expecting the fluffy or crispy texture of a traditional cookie; what you end up with feels more like a muffin than a cookie. They also don't spread out the way traditional cookies do.

The flavor, however, is unbelievable. I highly recommend throwing in the candied ginger if you have it. All the spices in this recipe work so well together to capture the essence of autumn. With flavors this enticing, who the hell needs eggs?

One quick note: Some vegans avoid regular sugar because of the way it's processed. If you're one of those vegans, make sure you substitute an appropriate sweetener. And if you do, please let me know! I'd love to know what you used instead.

(Do you like how I classify cookies as both dessert and snacks with my tags?) 

Chewy ginger cookies with cardamom and black pepper (about 36 cookies)

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Serious Eats is always a fun read, and their recipe section is stuffed with intriguing and bizarre recipes (some involving "animal innards"). When I first saw their recipe for spiced ginger cookies a few months ago, I knew I had to try them. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a chai fanatic, and this recipe included many of the same ingredients. This recipe makes a soft, palm-of-your-hand-sized, not-too-sweet cookie that's a perfect partner for an afternoon cup of tea.

You will need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (skipped because I didn't have any)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (I used a little less)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses (I used maple syrup instead)
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
  2. Whisk together the first eight ingredients (flour through pepper) in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and oil using a hand mixer on low. Then beat in the egg, molasses, and grated ginger until smooth.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to gradually fold the flour mixture into the liquid mixture. Gently fold in the crystallized ginger.
  5. Shape the dough into one-inch balls (the dough will be very soft) and place them a few inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on the sheet for 3 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

With three different types of ginger, these cookies are quite flavorful! Unfortunately, the most recent time I made them, I accidentally left out the cinnamon, and I was sorry I did. I also added a pinch of cloves, but I wouldn't do that again because it was too overpowering. Lesson learned: stick to the recipe!

Strawberry Buckle (6 servings)

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Strawberry season is almost over here in Pennsylvania, which is a sad, sad fact.  I made a strawberry-laden version of Martha Stewart's Raspberry Buckle a few weeks ago and was so impressed that I may squeeze in another batch before the berries are gone.  Say what you will about Martha, but the lady knows her way around desserts.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved (make sure you pat them dry after you rinse them)
  • Whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Use the butter wrapper or non-stick spray to prep the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer on low until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to combine.  Stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Gradually add this mixture to the butter mixture with the mixer on low speed. 
  4. Spread batter into baking dish.  Scatter strawberries on top.  Bake for 45-50 minutes (I think I baked it for more like 55 min) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the dish comes out clean.  The top should be golden brown.  Let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

I like this recipe because the fluffy "cake" part isn't overly sweet, so it allows the berries to really show their stuff.  It's easy to make (I was able to avoid my "use every bowl, utensil, and measuring cup in the kitchen" tendency) and looks beautifully old-fashioned.  The first time I made it, I used only strawberries, but this past time, I threw in a handful of dark, sweet cherries, too.  I think it would also be lovely with cranberries and some orange zest.  Blueberries and lemon zest would be terrific too!  Ooh, now I'm all excited for summertime!

Grapefruit-mint granita

It's been muggy and hot here in PA lately.  For me, that's never a good combination.  In fact, it's a combination that inspires little apart from long naps, TV watching, and extra deodorant application.  Between the weather and my IBS, I haven't cooked too much lately.  Tonight I made my goat cheese pasta since it requires minimal stove heat.

I've been looking for ways to use up the mint leaves that are quickly outgrowing their planter out back.  After some research, I cobbled together the recipe that follows:

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 large grapefruits

Steps:

  1. Combine the first three ingredients in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until it boils.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes to thicken.
  3. Meanwhile, stick a glass pan into the freezer to chill.  (I used a loaf pan.)
  4. Grate about a teaspoon of grapefruit zest from one grapefruit.  Cut the grapefruits in half and use a reamer to extract as much juice as possible.  Strain the juice into a liquid measuring cup and add a little water, if necessary, to equal 2 cups of juice.
  5. Add the zest to the juice.  Strain the sugar mixture into the juice and stir well.  Remove the glass pan from the freezer and pour the mixture into it.
  6. Put the pan back in the freezer.  Use a fork to stir up the grapefruit mixture every half hour.  When it's ready, it will be flaky and crumbly.

This is a good recipe for a lazy weekend day because you don't have to put a lot of effort into it, but you do need to be present to stir it up every 30 minutes.  Actually, it's a good way to give yourself a break every so often if you're cleaning out a closet, catching up on emails, or doing laundry!  When you stir the mixture, make sure you get the iciest (is that a word?) bits from the sides pushed into the middle and the juicy parts pushed towards the outside.  The end results are similar to a sno-cone, only airier and not drowning in syrup or red dye!  Once it reaches that flaky consistency, you can scoop it into a container with a lid to keep in the freezer.  I think it took about an hour and a half total for me today.  It's a refreshing after-dinner treat!

Strawberry bread

One of my pet peeves is vegetarian cook books that bulk up their content with tons of recipes for desserts.  Honestly, have you ever seen ground beef sorbet or pork loin cupcakes?  Do we really need non-meat alternatives for dessert?  Anyway, in that spirit, I don't want to overload this blog with dessert recipes, but sometimes I come across a recipe that I just need to share.  I was looking for a way to use up the glut of strawberries I foolishly bought, and this turned out to be a great solution.  The recipe comes from JoyOfBaking.com, and I changed very little about it.  All I really did was leave out the walnuts because I wasn't in the mood for them.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and make sure the oven rack is in the middle.  Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.  (Mine is an odd size -- 8.5 by 4.5 by 3 or something like that.  Better than greasing and flouring the pan, use Baker's Joy spray.   I love this stuff.)

  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the butter in a large bowl until it's fluffy (about a minute).  Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each is added.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

  4. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in thirds and the yogurt in two parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix only until combined; otherwise, your batter will get tough.

  5. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula/rubber scraper.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a cake tester stuck in the middle comes out clean.  Place the pan on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread to serve.

I like this recipe because the bread isn't overly sweet, and I think it would work well with other types of fruit, too.  I'd like to try it with peaches before the summer's over, and I might try it with apples in the fall.  I think if your fruit is particularly sweet or ripe, you could probably even cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup.  Just make sure you mix the fruit into the batter evenly, or you'll end up with most of it on the bottom like I did.  I kept half the loaf in the fridge for Bryan and me to enjoy this week and froze the other half for later.  It's great warmed up with butter on top, but it's wonderful by itself too.  I like it for breakfast!