Chocolate Peanut Butter Patties

chocolate peanut butter patties I must confess – I have never had the Girl Scout Cookie “Tagalong.” I was a Thin Mint girl. But, when I saw a blog with Homemade Tagalongs (shortbread with a blot of peanut butter and a chocolate coating), I decided it was time to try them. Of course they needed to be vegan and high altitude. No problem.

I have another confession – I never look at how many cookies a recipe is supposed to make. This time I should have. It said to make 3 dozen while I made only 2 dozen of the most rich and decadent things around. Okay, maybe not such a bad thing.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Patties adapted from love and olive oil
cookies
1 cup vegan margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 cups plus 2 TBS all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS soymilk
filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
coating
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 TBS vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 370F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk. The dough should come together into a soft ball. Take a scoop of dough and flatten it into a disc about 1/4-inch thick. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Cookies will not spread much, so you can arrange them fairly closely together.
Bake cookies for 22-24 minutes, until bottoms and the edges are lightly browned and cookies are set. Start with the sheet on a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and move them up to the top rack half-way through baking time. Immediately after removing cookies from the oven, use a small spoon to make a depression in the center of each cookie. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For Filling: mix together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla in a small bowl. Put in a plastic zip bag and work with your hands until it is soft. Cut a corner off the bag and pipe a dome of the filling into each cookie’s “thumbprint.” Chill filled cookies for 20 minutes, or until the peanut butter is firm.
Melt the chocolate and oil in a small, heat-resistant bowl placed over a small saucepan filled with simmering (not boiling) water. Dip chilled cookies into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place on a sheet of parchment paper to set.

Until next time, happy baking!

Egg Substitutions: The What and Why

EggsHow do you swap out eggs to veganize a non-vegan recipe? There are dozens of egg substitutions for a vegan baker, but it wasn’t until I moved to high altitude that I discovered that they each have different results. Baking science at altitude is tricky, so the properties of each substitute should be examined to find the right one for your baking project.

Eggs are used in baking for several functions – binding, leavening, and adding moisture. Adding eggs for proper binding ensures that your treat doesn’t fall apart after it’s baked. A leavening agent makes things rise during baking, and when the proteins in egg whites are heated they explode and make the baked good light and fluffy. The yolk of the egg adds richness and moisture when used in baking.

In a previous post, I discussed how baking at altitude causes problems such as coarse texture or a fallen cake due to excess rising. The decreased air pressure causes a quicker rise and then a subsequent fall from a weakened protein structure. With an already weaker structure, it’s almost inevitable that the removal of the protein-filled egg will wreak even more havoc. Thus, I decided that my egg substitutes should not be starch based, like commercial egg replacers. I needed extra protein in my baked goods.

Armed with that knowledge, I looked to replace eggs in standard recipes with protein-rich substitutes. I searched The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions for these suggestions:

  • If the original recipe is for baked goods like cookies and cakes, then eggs can be used for binding. To replace 1 egg, use:
    1/4 cup blended silken tofu OR
    2 1/2 TBS flaxseed meal whisked with 3 TBS warm water
  • If the original recipe is for baked goods like fluffy cakes or quick breads, then multiple eggs are used for leavening. To replace 1 egg, use:
    1 TBS mild-flavored vinegar combined with nondairy milk to curdle and make 1 cup OR
    1/4 cup non-dairy yogurt
  • If the original recipe is for baked goods like muffins and cookies, then eggs can be used for moisture. To replace 1 egg, use:
    1 tsp nut butter combined with non-dairy milk to make 1/4 cup
  • I also found out that bananas hold air bubbles well, which makes a baked item airy and moist. 1/4 cup mashed bananas can sub for 1 egg when used to leaven or add moisture.

When choosing a substitute don’t forget to take into consideration that some substitutions will alter the flavor of your baked treat. I have dabbled with the idea that higher-protein flours (such as soy or garbanzo) might offer high altitude help but they, too, will affect the flavor profile. Experiment ideas for another day.

Now that you know the whys of high altitude egg substitution, you can figure out the what for your next recipe.

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Cookie Crust and Raspberry Coulis

Chocolate mousse piePosting on Mother’s Day meant I had to do something special, something a bit fancy. Chocolate mousse came to mind but this is a baking blog and mousse isn’t baked. So, I decided to bake a chocolate cookie crust as a vehicle for my tasty chocolate mousse.

Besides a crunchy pie crust, I added a bit of glamour by making a raspberry drizzle (also known as “coulis”). The sauce adds bright color and flavor, is amazingly easy, and the leftovers are great on waffles. It rounds out this simple and fun dessert.

Chocolate Mousse Pie with Cookie Crust and Raspberry Coulis adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
chocolate cookie crust
1 cup crumbled chocolate cookies (crushed in a food processor)
1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted
chocolate mousse
1 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or substitute coffee extract for a deeper chocolate taste)
12 oz silken tofu, drained (soft or firm, the choice will affect the texture)
raspberry sauce
6 oz frozen raspberries, thawed
2 TBS vegan sugar
For Chocolate Cookie Crust: Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 9″ pie plate. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of the pie plate and slightly up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes. When done, cool on a wire rack.
For Chocolate Mousse: Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler by placing the chips in a small saucepan. Set this pan in a larger pot filled with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Heat over medium heat on the stove and stir the chips until they are melted.
Place the milk, extract and tofu into a blender. Process until almost fully smooth. Scrape down the sides and add the melted chocolate. Process until completely smooth.
For Raspberry Sauce: In a blender, thoroughly blend the raspberries and sugar. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove seeds. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
To Assemble the Pie: Pour the mousse into the fully-cooled pie crust. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. To serve, garnish with a drizzle of raspberry sauce. You can also add fresh fruit, chocolate shavings and whipped cream.

Happy Mother’s Day, and happy baking!

How To Make A Pretty Cookie

Chocolate Peppermint CookiesDuring National Vegan Cookie Month, I baked a lot of cookies. I experimented with different ways of preparation and baking, and I discovered something amazing – Cookie Scoops do make a difference.

While making a batch of cookies, I had only enough dough at the end to make a few so I rolled them by hand instead of scooping them. They were baked the same amount of time as the others but they turned out drastically different. They spread more making them crunchier and, frankly, they were uglier.

I should reveal that I have used scoops only occasionally in the past; they just seem too fussy. And I never drop cookies from spoons because of the awkwardness. Generally I roll the cookies into balls with my hands and flatten them slightly once on the cookie sheet. I didn’t realize that there is an art form and a science to using cookie scoops until I did some research.

Upon visiting King Arthur Flour’s website, I discovered an article on using cookie scoops for drop cookies (i.e. chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal). First off, the baker compares using a teaspoon cookie scoop to using a regular spoon and says, “The finished cookies include some that aren’t perfectly round; but they look pretty good. Unlike my spoon-scooped cookies, the cookies are all basically the same size.”

The baker also notes that using a cookie scoop saved time and kept the baker’s hands clean. Plus, scoops come in various sizes so you can choose from bite-sized to huge. This gave me insight into the benefits of using a scoop, but I didn’t get an explanation on why my cookies spread until I delved deeper.

I moved on to an article discussing cookie spread. “(Why) does baking temperature affect cookie spread? Because the fat in cookies is a big part of their structure, prior to baking. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheet, and the fat is at least partially responsible for them holding their shape.” I thought about oven temps and realized that the temperature of my hands became a factor in how they baked. My hand heat must have started to melt the fat and caused them to lose shape before they even hit the oven.

So, what did I learn? That cookies are finicky!! For a perfect looking cookie, baby the dough by using a cookie scoop instead of your hands.

Jelly Spice Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Jelly Spice Cakes This recipe was touted as a vegan cupcake that resembled a jelly donut.  The idea is that a blob of jelly placed on the cupcake top would bake inside and be like a donut. It sounded wild enough to run through my challenge.

Assuming that the cupcake might fall flat under the weight of the jam, I threw all of the high altitude alterations at it. I added soymilk and flour while reducing baking powder and sugar. For health reasons I replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour, and swapped arrowroot for cornstarch. Also, because I felt like it, I used cinnamon instead of some nutmeg.

Other high altitude tricks I used were to put the cupcake tin on a rack in the lower third of the oven, raise the oven temperature, and bake for less time.

With all these changes I was worried the cupcakes would fail so I put the oven light on. Was I glad I did! It was fun to watch the batter rise gracefully until the jelly finally succumbed and was enveloped.

The cupcakes had a light crumb but were too spicy to resemble a jelly donut. They were more like a spice cake combined with a jam dot cookie. On a hunch I decided to enhance the jelly flavor with peanut butter frosting instead of the powdered sugar called for in the recipe. Mmmm…always follow your hunches!

Jelly Spice Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting adapted from VegNews Magazine
cupcakes:
1 cup + 2 TBS soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 TBS arrowroot
1 cup + 3 TBS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup + 1 tsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup raspberry jam
frosting:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegan margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 TBS soy milk
for garnish:
2 TBS powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 370F and line a 12-cupcake tin with paper liners. In a measuring cup, combine soymilk, vinegar, and arrowroot. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Create a well in the center of the flour for the wet ingredients. Mix soymilk mixture with a fork to dissolve the arrowroot and pour into the flour mixture. Add oil, sugar, and vanilla, and mix well.
Fill liners with batter until almost full. Place a heaping spoonful of jam into the center of each cupcake, being careful not to overfill. The jam will sink into the bottom of the cupcake during baking. Bake cupcakes for 16-18 minutes. Prepare frosting by blending the ingredients until smooth and creamy, adding milk to achieve the desired consistency. Cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack. Apply frosting and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Until next time, happy baking!

What is Vegan Sugar?

sugarWhen I started baking vegan, I realized that there were a few new ingredients I would be using – egg substitutes, non-dairy milk, vegan margarine. I thought everything else would be okay until I heard about vegan sugar. My first thought was, “Vegan sugar? Why would sugar NOT be vegan?”

Upon doing research I found out that most sugar in the United States is whitened with charred animal bones. “A bone char filter acts like a crude filter and is most often used first in cane sugar refining… (It is) the most efficient and most economical whitening filter.”

That led me to my search for vegan sugar. I found some at my local natural foods store, but then it disappeared from the shelves. What was I going to use now? Enter organic sugar.

By definition, organic sugar has not been refined with bone char. “To maintain its organic integrity, organic sugar is only minimally processed or not refined at all. Since bone char is not on the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed Substances, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char.” Whew.

There are other choices for sugar that is vegan. “Sugar in bags labeled ‘100% Pure Beet Sugar’ was never passed through a bone char filter. Molasses, turbinado, demerara, and muscovado sugars are never filtered through bone char. Evaporated cane juice is also bone-char free.” These sugars are darker in appearance because they have not been whitened, but they generally have a similar sweetness and can replace white sugar measure for measure in recipes.

So, when you see me list ‘sugar’ in my recipes, know that you can try any of the ones I listed above. I usually use organic sugar, but it’s all a matter of taste.

Amazing Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookiesI was told that my month of cookies was severely lacking – no chocolate chip cookies. To remedy that I found a recipe that may not have been easy, but the scent that wafted out of the kitchen took me back in time.

Vanilla, chocolate, mmm…oh, sorry, I got distracted. I started with an elaborate recipe and then made many changes to it. It called for coconut oil as the fat. I tried it that way the first time and they were almost too rich and very oily. In the second trial I substituted vegan margarine for most of the coconut oil. I kept a little for that wonderful fatty mouthfeel that makes a delectable chocolate chip cookie.

The other ingredient changes were standard: less baking soda and sugar; more flour and applesauce. I also used less vanilla because I realized the amount required was to sweeten the bland taste of the coconut oil. The original recipe was gluten free, so I substituted that flour with all-purpose flour and removed the xanthan gum to make my high-altitude life easier. Finally, I added extra chocolate chips because more chocolate is always good.

In my first attempt the cookies flattened out and ran into each other. So, the second time I put the dough in the fridge for five minutes before scooping onto the cookie sheets, and then rotated them halfway through baking time. Third try was a charm when I baked one sheet at a time.

Imagine a vegan chocolate chip cookie that tastes like the Toll House version from childhood. I tried not to inhale the first four that came out of the oven. I really did. Alas, I failed. They were that yummy.

Amazing Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from Babycakes by Erin McKenna
3/4 cup vegan margarine
1 1/8 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 TBS + 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 TBS all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups vegan chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325F. In a stand mixer bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add oil, applesauce and vanilla, and combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, flax meal, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips just until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Put the dough in the fridge for 5 minutes to harden. Use a 2-inch ice cream scoop to make evenly sized dough pieces and place onto baking sheets. Gently press down on each cookie with the heel of your hand. Bake cookies one sheet at a time, for 18-20 minutes, rotating baking sheet midway through. Cookie should still be soft in the center with crisp edges. Let cookies stand on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 32 cookies

Until next time, happy baking!