Walnut and Cinnamon Peach Crisp

The perfect bite of peach crisp

Walnut and Cinnamon Peach Crisp

Walnuts and cinnamon and peaches … oh, my! Looking at half a flat of local peaches, I was devising ways to use up a good portion of them when a crisp came to mind. The dessert turned out so velvety, luscious, and decadent that I wanted to eat the entire dish in one sitting, for dinner. A few bites were saved for breakfast, but it’s best to reheat it to bring out the full peachy flavor.

The recipe I liked had few ingredients and good preparation techniques but made a large baking dish of crisp, so I scaled it down. Then I added walnuts because I love a crunchy topping. To veganize it I used vegan buttery sticks. Fortunately, nothing needed to be changed for altitude. My final fix was to prefer mixing with my hands instead of using a stick blender. It made for easier kitchen cleanup, and it allowed me to create larger clumps of topping goodness.

Walnut and Cinnamon Peach Crisp adapted from Cinnamon-Oat Peach Crisp

3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4” slices
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
2 TBS + 3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup packed organic brown sugar
1/2 cup rough chopped walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan margarine, softened

Toss peaches, granulated sugar, and 2 TBS flour in a bowl to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk oats, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup flour in a large bowl to combine. Add margarine and mix it in with your fingers, removing any lumps.

Place a rack in the center of the oven; preheat oven to 350F. Scrape peaches and any juices into a 2-qt baking dish. Evenly scatter oat topping over peaches and bake until peaches are soft, fruit juices are bubbling, and topping is a deep golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Transfer baking dish to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Until next time, happy baking!

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

large zucchini next to zucchini muffins

chocolate chocolate chip zucchini muffins

The giant zucchini from my local farm showed up right when my favorite food tester requested a snack he could grab for breakfast. Add to that the fact that everything is better with chocolate, and I needed treats for a neighborhood Labor Day party, and the Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffin was born.

I started with a bread recipe that I scaled for muffins. To make the recipe vegan I omitted the eggs, as they aren’t necessary for muffins, and I made buttermilk from non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. For high altitude, I used a bit more liquid and I reduced the baking powder. Combine all that with a huge zucchini, or several smaller ones, and you have a delicious dessert for a crowd.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins inspired by Craftsy’s Easy Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 cup + 2 TBS non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 15 liners in two muffin tins. Put non-dairy milk in a small bowl and whisk in apple cider vinegar. Set aside to curdle.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add oil and vanilla to the curdled milk and whisk together until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until only a few streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips, and stir until batter is uniform.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Let tins cool on a wire rack. Makes 18 muffins.

Until next time, happy baking!

DIY Confectioners’ Sugar

Confectioners' Sugar

Cookie with Confectioners’ Sugar

Recently I made a treat that used confectioners’ sugar in the frosting. Confectioners’ sugar, also called powdered sugar or icing sugar, is granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. It can be sprinkled over a baked good, but it also readily dissolves in liquid making it easy to stir into icings and frostings. Just be sure not to confuse it with superfine sugar or bakers’ sugar; they are ground finer than granulated sugar but not as fine as confectioners’ sugar.

So, I have taught you exactly what confectioners’ sugar is. Now I am here to offer you a method for making your own, in case you are preparing frosting while a cake cools and find that you have run out of powdered sugar. (No, of course, this has never happened to me. Or, at least, not this week.)

The Spruce Eats gives us their advice: “All you will need is a blender, measuring cup, a clean dish towel, (and) sugar. … For each cup of confectioner’s (sic) sugar needed use one cup of regular granulated sugar. … Put the granulated sugar into the blender and secure the lid. Place the dishtowel over the top of the blender to catch any powder “smoke.” Blend using the pulse method until the sugar turns to powder. This method works best in small quantities, 1 to 2 cups at a time.

If you are making even a smaller amount, alternatively you can use a coffee grinder, spice grinder, or mini-food processor. Just be mindful that the sugar crystals can scratch plastic, so consider carefully before making the powdered sugar in a plastic blender or processor.” I have a dry cup for my Vitamix which works beautifully for making powdered sugar.

Store bought confectioners’ sugar will have additives, such as cornstarch. You can opt to make your own confectioners’ sugar just in emergency situations, or you can prepare it yourself to ensure that your sugar has no additives.

Cardamom Peach Morning Muffins

cardamom peach morning muffins

cardamom peach morning muffins

It’s peach season, and I got so excited I got twenty pounds of peaches. Now I am (desperately) trying to find a zillion ways to use them up. After grilled peaches, bellinis, and eaten raw, peach muffins came to mind. I thought that the peach flavor would be the star in a muffin that was not too sweet, so I looked up my Hearty Raspberry Muffins. Also, I consulted a peach recipe in my archives to help get a good balance. A tweak here, an addition there, and I had a tasty muffin. If you like a sweeter treat, then drizzle them with a simple sugar glaze made of one part non-dairy milk to three parts organic powdered sugar. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon and cardamom powders to your glaze to spice things up.

To make the recipe vegan, I merely removed the eggs. Muffins can generally get by with enough baking powder. To help combat the dryness at altitude, I added more liquid to my batter. To bump up the peach flavor, some of that liquid was the juice that ran off when I diced my peaches. If you don’t get enough peach juice, then add more milk. The last adjustment was to use up my cardamom simple syrup I had made for another recipe. You can substitute another liquid sweetener, but be sure to add cardamom to your batter.

Cardamom Peach Morning Muffins adapted loosely from Spiced Peach Muffins

1.75 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole bran
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1.25 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cardamom simple syrup, or other liquid sweetener
2.5 TBS canola oil
1/4 cup peach juice
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup peaches, diced but not peeled

Preheat oven to 375F and grease 10 sections of a muffin tin. Whisk together the flour, bran, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the simple syrup, oil, peach juice, and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the peaches.

Heap the batter into the muffin tin; the cups will be 3/4 full. Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they’re golden and risen high. Cool muffins on a wire rack. Store, well-wrapped, on the counter for 3 days; or freeze for up to 3 months.

Until next time, happy baking!

Spiced Zucchini Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

spiced zucchini layer cake

spiced zucchini layer cake

When zucchini is in abundance, you make cake. Armed with several zucchini, I scoured recipes for breads, muffins, and cakes to make use of my squash. After discovering this spice cake recipe, I decided I needed to go bigger because I had quite a few of the vegetable. This then prodded me to make a layer cake, although I had not made one in a while. Of course, I could have been easier on myself and made two simple cake pan cakes slathered in frosting, but I do like a challenge. My apologies for the messy cake as my layering skills are rusty.

I found a vegan recipe, so the next step was to do the math to make it fit two 8” round pans. Thankfully, I discovered a chart of pan volumes at Joy Of Baking. After that I made some high altitude adjustments, such as reducing baking soda and adding more liquid. I also made a few changes to the instructions by thoroughly squeezing the zucchini (to avoid a soggy cake), sifting the dry ingredients separately (to blend the spices in), and modifying the frosting (for a less sweet vanilla-infused boost). It ended up being a serious baking production, but the resulting cake had a wonderful texture and even better flavor. I’m glad I wasn’t feeling lazy.

Spiced Zucchini Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from the pretty bee and Handle the Heat

for the cake
1.5 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup canola oil
4.5 TBS unsweetened applesauce
1.25 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 TBS unsweetened non-dairy milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
pinch ground nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar

for the frosting
8 ounces vegan cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick vegan margarine, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla paste
3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted

The cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two 8” round pans by greasing the pans, then lining the pans with parchment circles, and then greasing the parchment circles. Flour both greased pans. (The effort is worth it — see picture below.)

Lay zucchini on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture, then wring it out in a clean tea towel. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine oil, applesauce, vinegar, milk, and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Add both sugars and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Fold in zucchini.

gorgeous spiced zucchini cake layer

gorgeous spiced zucchini cake layer

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool completely, then level the layers. Set aside.

The frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, margarine, and vanilla on medium-high speed until creamy, and smooth. On low speed, gradually add in sugar and beat until fluffy. Apply between cake layers and around the outside. Leftover cake can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Until next time, happy baking!

Fruit Pocket Pies

Fruit Pocket Pies

Fruit Pocket Pies

Summer is all about the fruit as far as I’m concerned. And the best way to combine fresh fruit and baking is to make pies. If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m not fond of pies. So, the creation I found isn’t exactly a pie but a fruit pocket pie, a.k.a. a hand pie. It requires fewer steps and less perfection than a standard pie therefore it is a treat I will happily bake.

The recipe I used was already vegan and didn’t need high altitude tweaks, so I didn’t change much. However, I didn’t blend all of the berries together as the original recipe stated. Instead I made each pie its own fruit at my hubby’s request. Also, you may notice that my rolling pin looks like it has big rubber bands on it in the picture below. Those bands are an item that ensures the thickness of your dough without measuring or having to eyeball it. This dough-rolling novice thought they made the work much easier, and easier work in the kitchen is a good thing.

Fruit Pocket Pies based on Berry Hand Pies

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS mild-flavored vegetable oil
3 to 5 TBS water, as needed to bring dough together
3 TBS maple syrup

For the filling:
1/3 cup vegan sugar
1 TBS all purpose flour
1 TBS lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup strawberries, destemmed and cut up
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup red raspberries
1/3 cup cherries, pitted and cut in half
1/8 tsp ground ginger

For the topping:
1 tsp vegan sugar

For the pastry: to a large bowl, add both flours, cinnamon, and salt, and whisk to combine. Drizzle oil over the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, work the oil in so the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water and maple syrup and stir until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

For the filling: in a small bowl, place sugar, flour, lemon juice, and cardamom, and toss gently to combine. Add strawberries to the sugar mixture and roll around to coat. Remove the fruit and place in its own bowl. Repeat with the blueberries and then with the raspberries. For the cherries, add the ginger to the remaining sugar mixture and stir in. Then add the cherries and roll to coat. Set the four bowls of fruit aside.

berries, dough, and rolling pin

berries, dough, and rolling pin

Transfer the chilled dough to a floured work surface. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough out to 1/8” thickness, then cut it into 5” circles. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the circles to the prepared cookie sheet. Add trimmings to the remaining pastry dough and repeat the procedure to yield 7 or 8 circles. Add a fruit filling to the center of each circle. Carefully fold over one side of pastry dough, press down around edges of the dough to seal, then crimp edges with a fork. Sprinkle the pies with the remaining one teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Until next time, happy baking!

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies

Sometimes I need breakfast (or a snack) on the run, but I don’t want it overly sweet. These breakfast cookies are a good way to satisfy your hunger without getting a huge sugar rush. Almond flour is the base so they don’t offer a blood sugar spike while also making the cookie gluten-free. Translating recipes to gluten-free is difficult at high altitudes so I prefer not to. But if I stumble upon a creation that is naturally without gluten, like this one, then it is a bonus.

To make the recipe vegan, I omitted the egg and incorporated baking soda. I also created a version of a flax egg with the flax in the recipe to help replace the egg and to add moisture needed in the dryness at high altitude. Enjoy this healthy snack.

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Cookies based on Blueberry Almond Breakfast Cookies

1 TBS ground flaxseed
3 TBS warm water
1 banana, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk flaxseed into the warm water and set aside for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together banana, vanilla, and flaxseed mixture. Add almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and stir until combined. Gently fold in blueberries.
Spoon 12 rounded mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Move pan to a wire rack to allow cookies to cool.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Yogurt

chocolate chip cookies with yogurt

chocolate chip cookies with yogurt

Last week at the Vegan Dairy Fair, I was asked what egg substitutes I used in my baking. My reply was that I have tried them all, from packaged egg replacer to tofu. That question got me thinking about revisiting egg subs. I hadn’t used yogurt in awhile, and my hubby was craving chocolate chip cookies, so the following recipe was created.

The original recipe was a healthier rendition of a standard chocolate chip cookie. It used yogurt instead of eggs, but I veganized it by making the yogurt non-dairy. I also modified it with vegan versions of the other ingredients. No changes were needed for high altitude because cookies are forgiving that way. I just tweaked a few of the steps and the oven temperature, and came up with a very tasty cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Yogurt adapted from Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Eat Smart New York!

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup non-dairy vanilla yogurt
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine sugar, brown sugar, and margarine. Beat until light and fluffy. Add yogurt and vanilla and blend well. Sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Beat the flour mixture into the margarine mixture a cupful at a time. Stir the chocolate chips in by hand. Drop by rounded spoonfuls 2” apart onto cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets.

Until next time, happy baking!

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day

Are you wondering if you stumbled on a gardening blog? Well, you haven’t, but I couldn’t resist tying my cupcakes in with Earth Day by potting them. I slipped them into little terra cotta pots and stuck carrot greens into the little cakes. It makes a wonderful presentation for both Easter and Earth Day, both of which are happening now. To serve them, just take them out of the pots, remove the greenery, and slather with frosting. Now, on to the recipe so we can get to eating these cute and tasty cakes.

Before I share the cupcake directions, I need to let you in on some of the changes that occurred before they could take shape. The original vegan recipe was for a cake, so I chose to go with regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour. Pastry flour will give the delicate crumb you look for in a cake, but I wanted more hand-held sturdiness for cupcakes. I also scaled back on both the baking soda and baking powder because the smaller size didn’t need that much oomph, especially in high altitude baking.

Normally I add moisture at high altitude, but this cake had loads more moisture than the other carrot cake recipes that I found. I knew that it would be great at high altitude, which is what led me to base my cupcake creations on the original recipe. Also, many recipes used carrot juice, which can be a difficult to obtain, but this one used orange juice which is readily available. And, I’m not one who likes raisins in her carrot cake so instead I used raw walnuts and lightly toasted them to bring out their nutty flavor. The combination was a winner. My taster and I polished off three cupcakes before I even had a chance to make the frosting!

Carrot Cupcakes for Easter or Earth Day inspired by 24 Karrot Cake

1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 TBS orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, shredded carrots, loosely packed (optional: save carrot greens for decoration)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly oil the top of a 12-muffin tin, then line with paper cups. Set aside. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet. When the oven is ready, lightly toast the walnuts until they become fragrant.

Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and vanilla until well blended. Pour wet mixture into the dry and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir grated carrots into the batter with a rubber spatula.

carrots with their decorative greenery

carrots with their decorative greenery

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a thin knife between the cupcake tops and the pan. Remove cupcakes and cool completely. When cooled, drizzle with the frosting below.

Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

8 oz vegan cream cheese, cold
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Keep chilled.

Until next time, happy baking!

What to do when your brown sugar is hard as a rock

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

Occasionally I will replace the type of sugar used in a recipe with something else I have on hand. The choice may be because the alternate sugar is healthier, but sometimes it is because brown sugar is required but I have none that is useable. The sugar I have often turns into a hard clump (thank you, dry climate). If you are plagued by this same problem, then this post is here to save the day.

For the issue of brown sugar resembling a door stop, I looked to The Spruce Eats. First off, they explained that “(t)he moisture in brown sugar evaporates much faster than in other similar products and causes the sugar to harden. To remedy this problem, you … can either restore the moisture content or prevent it from evaporating in the first place.”

One of their tricks confronts the problem when you need soft brown sugar right now. They recommend that you “place the brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave the sugar in 20-second increments until it is soft. You can use your fingers or a fork to soften any clumps that remain.” I cannot do this fix because I do not have a microwave. (I see you nodding as you realize why my recipes never talk about using a microwave to heat things up.)

Another suggestion from The Spruce Eats is for when you have thought ahead and do not need soft brown sugar this second. I have never tried this technique either because thinking ahead is not my strong suit when it comes to food. But, here goes: “place a few apple slices (or a slice of bread) in an air-tight container with the brown sugar. Then remove the apple slices or bread when the sugar has softened. You can also place the brown sugar in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it sit overnight.”

My solution to this circumstance is to include a brown sugar saver with my sugar. I tried various methods of doing this, including sticking one of the damp terra cotta stones in the zipper bag of sugar, but had no success until a helpful Sur La Table salesman told me I was using the saver incorrectly. The new instructions involved thoroughly soaking the stone for a whole 10 minutes in a bowl of water, then lightly patting it off before inserting it into the sugar. I took it a step further and poured the sugar out of the bag into a (recycled) jar before I put the brown sugar saver in.

I approached the situation by bringing moisture back to the sugar while also attempting to stave off moisture loss. Now I always have soft brown sugar.