Perhaps I’ve been looking at the Valentine’s Day ritual from the wrong perspective. Instead of recoiling at the sight of puffy pink hearts and greeting cards of dubious sincerity, focusing on the abundance of new opportunities to indulge my sweet tooth would surely help the occasion pass with less pain.
Chocolate truffles and ornate confections are the “traditional” treats associated with this annual love-fest, but my own cravings have taken a turn for the lighter and fresher this year. Wild Frozen Blueberries never go out of style, especially in Hawaii where discovering fresh berries is about as likely as spying Menehune in Waikiki. Postage stamp-sized freezer space be damned, these tiny blue gems were a necessity to squeeze in. Fully stocked on this taste of home, it was a natural decision to go blue this holiday.
Unimpressive, even homely at first glance, the true beauty of this festive cake is revealed within the very first slice. Concealed beneath an ocean of deep blue batter lies heart of gold- Well, golden vanilla pound cake, at least! Talk about a sweet surprise.
Let the lucky recipient believe that it’s a testament to the power of love, or perhaps some wild baking alchemy, but the truth is grounded in good old-fashioned advanced planning. Little more work than crafting two standard, separate cakes, some clever cookie cutter usage and a heaping cup of patience are the only secret ingredients here.
Proving the power of Frozen Wild Blueberries in every moist, tender forkful, what appears to be a modest measurement goes a very long way, translating into volumes of robust berry flavor throughout. Wrapping around the heart-y core in a gentle embrace, the two components meld harmoniously, while nonetheless remaining distinct. They’re a perfect couple if I ever did see one.
Even if there isn’t a special someone to indulge this Valentine’s Day, don’t hide your heart away! Just cut yourself a thick slice of cake and taste the love that only Wild Blueberries have to share, no strings attached.
Hidden Heart Wild Blueberry Cake
Vibrant Vanilla Pound Cake:
1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Vanilla Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
Wild Blueberry Cake:
1 Cup Frozen Wild Blueberries, Thawed
1/3 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.
Beginning with the vanilla cake, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt in a large bowl. Once the dry goods are well-distributed, turn your attention to the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the non-dairy milk of your choice with the lemon juice, allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes to curdle slightly. Add in the oil and vanilla, stir thoroughly, and introduce this liquid mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients.
Mix gently with a wide spatula, stirring just enough to bring the batter together with few remaining lumps. Transfer into your prepared loaf pan, smooth out the top, and slide it into the center of your oven. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until lightly golden brown all over and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly. Let cool completely and chill for at least 1 hour before proceeding.
Once your cake is nice and cold all the way through, use a very sharp serrated knife to slice it into 1-inch thick slabs. Take a large heart-shaped cookie cutter that fits within the confines of the slices and punch out your heart shapes; cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees once more and lightly grease another 8 x 4-inch loaf pan.
Moving on to the Wild Blueberry batter, toss the berries into your blender or food processor, and thoroughly puree. Slowly drizzle in the water, lemon juice, oil, and vanilla to incorporate. Add in the sugar into the machine last, and continue blending until completely smooth, with just a few visible seeds remaining.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder, soda, and salt. Just as before, pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry goods, stirring to combine with as few strokes as possible.
Pour a thin layer of the batter into the prepared loaf pan, spreading it out smoothly so that it evenly reaches about ½ – ¾ of a centimeter all the way across the bottom. Retrieve your heart-shaped vanilla cake cut-outs, and line them up in a row along the center. Naturally, they’ll fit if you can arrange them in the same order as they were cut, but it will work just as beautifully if they’ve gotten mixed up too. Pour the remainder of the blue batter around the sides and over the tops of the hearts, being careful to fill up any crevices. Tap the pan firmly but gently on the counter to release any air bubbles that may disrupt the pattern. It’s likely that you’ll end up with some extra batter that won’t fit into the pan; bake it off separately as cupcakes or mini-loaves to enjoy later!
Carefully slide the loaf pan into the oven and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one of the blue sides pulls out cleanly. Don’t test for doneness in the center; of course the vanilla cake will be done, since it was already well-baked to begin with.
Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
Makes 10 – 12 Servings
This post was written for and is sponsored by Wild Blueberries, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.
Could it be? Are my numbers correct? Is it even possible that eight full years have passed since BitterSweet first began, all with one hesitating, painfully timid post? Each time this date rolls around, it never fails to knock me off my feet. Reflecting back, I could have never guessed what immense waves such a small endeavor could create, or how strikingly it would come to shape my career. The constant influx of new inspiration tends to bury the painstakingly composed and throwaway posts alike, so I wanted to take this opportunity to really comb through the archives and dust off some treasures lost in time. It would be impossible to single out just eight favorite posts out of over 1,200, and counting, so this list is by no means the best of the best! Just the entries that stood out as worth sharing at least once more… But hopefully for another eight years more, too.
Hold onto your hats and prepare yourself for a trip down memory lane… The road starts out rough, just like the pictures, but it gets better with every passing year. If you can power though the nostalgic love-fest, there’s a little giveaway waiting for you down at the bottom of the post, so let’s get started!
2006: Bake Off!
[See what I mean about those pictures? I swear, I must have once lived in a world of all yellow...]
History in the making, folks. My first big win in any dessert competition, and while the photos themselves are not exactly shining examples of such a landmark victory, this post really marks a turning point in my baking career. The recipe for that award-winning Mocha Devastation Cake went on to join the final lineup in My Sweet Vegan, my first cookbook. Hard to believe it was that long ago when it all began!
2007: Float Away
Though it arrived on the scene so early on in the cupcake craze, hopefully some longtime regulars will recognize this particular frosting-capped treat. Inspiration from the soda shop classic created the foundation for this signature dessert, one that came to define my style as a baker for many years. Experimental, whimsical, and uncomplicated, I believe that this is really the recipe that helped to secure that first book deal. While I must admit I rarely revisit my older recipes after they’ve been thoroughly tested, approved, and published, this is one choice pick that has frequently returned to its place of honor- In my oven.
2008: The White Stuff
Quite possibly my most popular posts to this day, I seem to have struck white gold when I developed my infamous recipe for vegan white chocolate. Nothing makes me happier than to see fresh blog posts still refer back to this formula, especially since it remains a staple in my kitchen, too. Want to knock the socks off of someone special for Valentine’s Day? Just whip up a bar of homemade white chocolate. Trust me: It couldn’t be simpler, but will score you much more than mere brownie points.
2009: Three Tiers of Terror
Oh, dear readers, were you there with me as I struggled with this edible behemoth? I almost forgot about the agony and horror of the ordeal, but now it’s flooding back to me as if it was yesterday. I still haven’t made another wedding cake since, but I couldn’t be more proud to have managed some miracle and pulled this one off. It’s a humbling, character-building experience that every baker should endure at least once.
2010: Of Heartbreak and Hummus
My beloved pizza hummus may have stood me up years ago and still left me hanging, but I’ve recovered from the heartache and moved on to more attractive dips. Homemade is the way to go, naturally! Savory recipes were still largely uncharted territory at this point on the blog, but wild successes like this hummus proved that there was an audience out there, receptive and hungry for more.
The post that launched an obsession. Before this head-to-head battle of the non-dairy nogs, I was just a gal who liked nutmeg in my creamy holiday beverages just a little bit more than the rest, but now, I had a purpose. Every time a new vegan nog arrives on the scene, it’s become my solemn duty to put it to the test! I’ve since had one update just this past December, and plan to continue the tradition for as long as manufacturers keep on producing more eggless, milkless festive beverages.
Where would I be without this carefully composed plated dessert? Probably not in Hawaii, I’ll tell you that much. Prize winnings from this competition afforded me the opportunity to visit the islands in the first place, and it really was love at first sight. While I do adore the layered chocolate confection itself, the implications that it, and my other worldly recipe entries have had on my current trajectory cannot be understated. If there’s anything to blame when I pack up and move out here, it would be this win!
2013: Tuna of the Field
A tuna look-alike made of watermelon! Once the I got the idea into my head, I simply couldn’t resist. The concept may be a bit “out there” for conventional eaters, but as they say: Try it, you’ll like it! Especially when you have a melon that’s sightly less sweet than desired, savory flavors fill the gaps beautifully and transform the fruit into an entirely new entity.
2014: Mochi Madness
The year is still young, but so far, these chewy chocolate bar cookies have taken my heart and run with it. Being surrounded by so many mochi delights here in Hawaii has only served to strengthen that particular craving, and it doesn’t hurt that the recipe is so darned simple. Even the pitiful oven on hand here can manage with good results, and that should say something about the strength of that formula.
So here we are, back in the present. What will the future hold? If past postings are any indication… Then I have no idea, but I trust that it will be delicious. I couldn’t have made it all these years without the love (sometimes necessarily tough,) support, and of course comments from you, my dear reader. This is really your blogoversary in that sense, too.
Now, because it’s just not a party without presents…
I’m thrilled to have a new sponsor on board not only to help fuel new and exciting content here on BitterSweet, but also directly benefit you, the reader! Natalie Quirk, the skilled fiber artist behind Comfort Food Cushions has a real prize-worthy treat in store that will turn this little blogoversary into a genuine celebration.
Up for grabs is your choice of a Hot Dog, Taco, or Macaroni Cheese Noodle pillow, depending on your tastes. It will take 1 – 2 weeks for your winnings to arrive, since these high-fiber creations are always handmade to order. Everyone is welcome to enter, but readers located outside of the US would be asked to contribute a $5 shipping fee. Also, it is important to note that items cannot be sent to Italy or Greece as the materials are considered prohibited items.
Click through to Rafflecopter to enter, and don’t forget to leave a comment!
UPDATE: The entry period has now ended. Click the link above to view the winner.
Chocolate goes with everything, or so the enthusiasts proclaim, and for once I’m not here to argue. Though not a rabid chocoholic myself, a square or two of good dark chocolate is frequently the emergency fuel of choice, staving off everything from common hunger pangs to emotional flights of fancy. No stranger to the great range of flavors that can be coaxed from the humble cacao, my greatest disappointment is that fewer feel the need to explore beyond the most commonly accepted flavor pairings. More adventurous confections are beginning to emerge, giving rise to bars dusted with curry, sprinkled with popped amaranth, or blended with beer, but all of these treats still land firmly on the dessert menu. Enough with the candies and confections, just for once! I would challenge those who see chocolate only as a source of sweet gratification to take a walk on the savory side.
To call them “cookies” may be a bit deceptive, but their construction has much more in common with your standard shortbread than any cracker or chip I’ve ever known. Ultra-dark, dry, and slightly bitter chocolate chunks put to rest any preconceived notions of classic chewy chocolate chip cookies- Switching up cacao percentages alone makes an incredible world of difference! Of course, such a small adjustment didn’t satisfy my craving, which is where the unconventional addition of oil-cured olives comes into play. Yes, you heard right: Olives. Briny, rich with oil, vaguely fruity, and very concentrated in their inherent olive goodness thanks to the slow drying process, this salty addition serves to brighten the chocolate while adding a surprising pop of flavor. Catching eaters off-guard at first bite, it won’t be a taste for everyone, but a delight for adventurous eaters seeking something new.
Best served as an appetizer or snack, these delicate cookies shine their brightest when paired with a glass of dry red wine and an equally salty olive-infused hummus on the side. Don’t be afraid to really drive the theme home with a robust tapenade. Trust me, that intense dark chocolate can stand up to anything you throw at it. The saying really is true; chocolate goes with everything, or perhaps more accurately, everything goes with chocolate.
Savory Chocolate-Olive Cookies
1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Oil-Cured Olives, Pitted and Chopped
2.5 Ounces 90% Cacao Dark Chocolate, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and thoroughly cream together the margarine and sugar, until the mixture is homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, tarragon, pepper, and salt, making sure that all of the dry goods are evenly distributed throughout. Add in the chopped olives and chocolate, tossing gently to coat all of the pieces with flour. Break up any clumps of olives that may remain sticking together so that they’re equally blended throughout each finished cookie. Starting the mixer back up on the lowest setting, slowly incorporate the dry goods in two additions, alternating with the olive oil, until all the remaining ingredients are used.
The dough should be just moist enough to stick together in a coherent ball when pressed; don’t be tempted to incorporate extra liquid! Gather it all up and form it into a log about 6 – 8 inches long. You can choose to either keep your cookies rounded or square off the edges by gently dropping the log on the counter at regular intervals. It’s merely a stylistic choice, so feel free to play around with it. Once shaped as desired, wrap the dough log in plastic and place it in your freezer. Allow at least 2 hours for it to chill, or store for up to 3 months before baking.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or pieces of parchment paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough, handling it as little as possible to prevent it from warming up, and use a very sharp knife to cut it into slices approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. (The cookies pictured above are admittedly a bit too thick- Don’t go too chunky here or they will be very dry and cloying!) Lay the cookies out with about 1/2 inch in between them on your prepared sheets, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until lightly golden brown.
Let cool completely on the sheets before enjoying or storing in an air-tight container.
Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Dozen Cookies
Undefinable yet immediately recognizable, there’s no sense in wasting many words attempting to define it; it’s a sentiment communicated through taste instead of language. Comfort food is a concept that transcends all cultural and temporal boundaries, no matter what final form it may take. Seasonings change and dishes vary, but the ability to instantly transport an eater to a happier place, at least for the duration of a meal, that remains the same, from the first bite to the last crumb. That’s why it’s never a bad time to delve into Allison Rivers Samson‘s lovingly crafted ebook, Comfortably Yum. A short but sweet compilation of her ten most soul-soothing recipes, Allison manages to cover a wealth of common cravings without wasting a single digital page.
Incredibly, for a category traditionally laden with fats, sugars, and often processed foods, Comfortably Yum avoids those dietary pitfalls by making every recipe gluten-free or adaptable, and only employing the use of coconut sugar as a sweetener.
Call me biased, but I already knew I was in for a treat with this ebook, since I had previously made and photographed Allison’s fresh take on Caesar Salad for VegNews Magazine two years ago. Yes, salad can be comfort food too, and it’s a refreshing to find someone else who agrees! This rendition on the classic leafy blend comes the closest to my childhood memories, skipping all the fussy fare and focusing in on crisp, garlicky croutons and a creamy dressing, boasting a gently oceanic flavor thanks to the addition of briny capers and nori. Who needs anchovy paste when you have such excellent plant-based alternatives?
Vegan Egg Salad is a classic recipe that every cruelty-free cook should have in their arsenal, and this tofu-based interpretation makes a strong case for taking that spot of honor. Naturally, preparation couldn’t be simpler; an effortless dump-and-stir affair brings together a rich blend of vegan mayonnaise, kala namak, and basic seasonings to coat crumbled bean curd and crunchy cubes of celery. The powerfully eggy flavor borne of that combination is unreal, rivaling the aroma of freshly cracked hard boiled eggs. Served on crackers or between bread, I daresay that only the most astute omnivores would even detect a difference.
Finally, for dessert, I couldn’t resist the siren song of the Chocolate Salted-Caramel Pudding Parfaits. Regrettably, perhaps out of impatience or a lack of finesse, mine refused to form the neat, even layers as photographed in the ebook, but none of that mattered when it came time to dig in. Swirls of coconut sugar custard interlaced with cocoa pudding, creating a flavor sensation sure to delight anyone with a sweet tooth. For anyone who fears traditional caramel-making, take heart: The coconut sugar does all the work for you here, bearing a naturally toasted flavor similar to that of burnt white sugar.
Whether you’re staring down a string of snowy days in the forecast or simply want a taste of comfort any day of the week, Comfortably Yum has got your cravings covered.
In this winter of particular extremes, Allison has very generously offered to spread the warm, cozy feelings and wants to share a free copy of her ebook with one lucky winner! To enter, leave a comment on this post and tell me about which recipe you’d most like to recreate first. (You can see the full listing if you scroll down here.) Speak up before February 2nd, midnight EST, and I’ll chose a lucky recipient shortly thereafter.
UPDATE: Always ready and willing to help, the random number generator has spoken, and has proclaimed that the winner should be…
The owner of comment #25: greatveganexpectations!
There’s a golden lining to this contest, even if it wasn’t your lucky day. Allison was so delighted by the positive response that she has very kindly extended a $5-off promotion for anyone who purchases her ebook! Don’t wait too long to secure your copy, because this is a limited-time offer. Enter the code “HBCY24″ from now until February 10th to make the most of this delicious opportunity.