BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Caught Sticky-Handed

Sticky Fingers Bakery has long been a sweet sensation within the vegan community, serving up pastries and other delights in the Washington, DC area since 2002, accumulating numerous awards over the years. Most remarkable of all was when chef and owner Doron Petersan broke into the mainstream, not only showing up on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, but stealing the whole show; Her vegan cupcakes won by a landslide against the butter- and egg-based competition. Now, while the bakery that has always been held in high esteem, it’s become a runaway hit sensation, and everyone wants a piece of the pie (or, cake, as it may be.) Luckily, Doron has recently released the secrets to her baking success in a cookbook chronicling the bakery’s most popular recipes, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets.

Upon receiving my copy, I wasted no time and flipped straight to the famed Cowvin Cookies (page 110) I had already heard so much about. Deceptively simple oatmeal cookies, every time I heard these gems mentioned it was breathlessly, typically accompanied by the words “incredible,” or “addictive,” so I couldn’t resist the temptation. However, it was clear that something was amiss when the instructions led me to form the cookies into individual rounds, rather than bars, as they’re found in the bakery. Pleasantly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they made for fine oatmeal cookies… But didn’t quite live up to the hype. Particularly sweet when paired with the frosting-like filling, an additional hit of salt may have helped balance the whole assembly, and brought out a bit more flavor. I can’t say I would make them again as written.

Undeterred, I charged straight ahead to a breakfast treat in the form of Orange Cranberry Scones (page 175). Fashioned into a heart shape for Valentine’s Day, they held their shape admirably throughout their time in the oven. Utilizing the creaming method to bring ingredients together, rather than cutting in to make flaky layers, the resulting scones are more like cookies in texture. No matter, as they’re still plenty tender and bursting with bright citrus flavor. Accented by tart pops of dried cranberries, this sweet and tangy combo is an invigorating start to the day. Sweetened with restraint, the optional sugar topping really pulls the whole pastry together, and should not be skipped.

Suddenly finding myself with quickly perishing blueberries on hand, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets rescued the day (and the fruits) with classic Blueberry Muffins (page 155.) A sturdy but soft crumb gives way to polka dots of blueberries, lightly sprinkled with a crunchy oat topping. A perfectly respectable muffin, it certainly fit the bill, but may have been more successful with a double dose of berries, at least.

The real crowning jewels to this particular tome are, unsurprisingly, the cupcakes. Now I’m kicking myself for not starting there in the first place. Sure, vegan cupcakes are a dime a dozen these days, but how many times do you come across a George Caramelin Cupcake (page 90)? One of their winning offerings on cupcake wars, a rich chocolate cinnamon cake carried the weight of vanilla bean bourbon frosting, bourbon caramel sauce, and candied pecans with grace. Rising to impressive, perfect domes, the cakes themselves would have been perfectly tasty unadorned, but how could you say no to the suggestion of bourbon caramel? Boozy in a good way, the sauce came together easily and thickened beautifully after cooling, becoming the ideal consistency for delicate drizzling. The whole is so much greater than the parts, as incredible as they may sound alone, and I found myself compelled to “taste test” these beauties repeatedly before I felt satisfied with my assessment. Yes, all in the name of the cookbook review; I really took a hit for you guys on this one. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.

Rest assured, this book would be worth purchasing just for the cupcake section. Be prepared to use your kitchen scale though, because while there are mercifully weight and volume measurements included when possible, the difficulties of scaling down bakery-sized quantities leaves the standard American baker with a few fiddly measurements to contend with. Ultimately Sticky Fingers’ Sweets is a well thought-out compilation and homage to the DC bakery that started it all, and while all the recipes aren’t runaway hits, the ones that truly are make trying everything else worthwhile.


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Pi by Day, Pie by Night

For once, Pi Day has lined up beautifully with my baking plans, and I’m not ill-prepared for the holiday like most years past. The trusty recipe index makes no secret of my baking habits, and it’s easy to see that pies are not exactly my go-to dessert. Suddenly though, my kitchen is positively teaming with pies of every color in the rainbow, stuffed into the fridge, freezer, and idling on any vacant counter space too. I can’t yet divulge the details about this influx of pies, but I am grateful that Pi Day allows a little sneak peek into this next project I’ve only just embarked on. Rest assured, there will be much, much more pie to come…

New York Cheesecake Pie

Mahalopeño Pie

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Pie


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In [Lemon] Mint Condition

Years ago, back when a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house really was a trek through the woods, and quite a few miles, I would spend the long car ride anticipating all of the goodies to come. Nothing less than the perfect grandparents, they kept their home stocked with the foods that my young, underdeveloped palate adored, and often was denied in most circumstances. It was as if they went grocery shopping with just us kids in mind. Cabinets stacked high with dried pasta, we could have chosen a new shape each visit and still have never run out of new whimsical noodles to try. Candy dishes decorated every spare flat surface, and I recall on more than one occasion slipping away to “play piano” in order to get dibs on the mint chocolates stashed on the glossy wooden lid.

Best of all, though, was the spare fridge in the basement. That’s where the real treasure was hidden: the cookies.

Perhaps they had a penchant for buying in bulk, but it seemed as though there were never fewer than a half-dozen open packages to pick at. Eaten right away, with the refrigerator’s cool breath still clinging to them, chilling each morsel to the core, it was a unique experience that made even mundane, store-bought baked goods seem somehow special. My absolute favorites were the big, crisp cookies covered in so much powdered sugar that you couldn’t help but spray some of the white sweetness all over your clothes, and the surrounding furniture, as you ate. I never learned the name of those cookies and haven’t seen the exact ones since, but they sound a whole lot like the discontinued lemon coolers, a classic Girl Scouts offering.

With the annual Girl Scouts’ harassment in full-swing, these sweets immediately came to mind, and I couldn’t resist a little trip down memory lane. A bit more grown up than those original cookies, my version adds a bright splash of peppermint to the party, replicating that cooling sensation I enjoyed so much. For the full experience, you’ve simply got to store them in the fridge… Although considering how easy they are to eat, I can’t promise that will allow them to last any longer!

Lemon-Mint Cooler Cookies

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 – 4 Drops Peppermint Oil, or 1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoons Peppermint Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, thoroughly cream together the margarine and granulated sugar using the paddle attachment. Pause periodically to scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary. Once the mixture is homogeneous and fluffy, add in the lemon zest, peppermint, and salt, and mix to combine. Introduce the flour and baking soda next, starting the mixer on a slow speed until the flour is mostly incorporated, to prevent the dry goods from flying out and re-decorating the kitchen. Finally, add the lemon juice and vanilla. It may seem as though the mixture is too dry to come together, but be patient and keep mixing; it will eventually form cohesive dough. Resist the urge to add more liquid!

Scoop out walnut-sized balls and roll them between your palms to achieve smooth spheres. Place them at least 1-inch apart on your prepared baking sheets, and flatten them out slightly. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the bottom edges just begin to brown. Carefully pull the cookie-topped silpats or baking sheets off of the hot sheet pans, and let rest for 5 minutes before tossing them in the confectioner’s sugar. Let cool completely before enjoying. Better yet, store them in the fridge for an even more cooling treat!

Makes 2 Dozen Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Who’s Your Baba?

Winter survival depends on preparedness; Plenty of moisturizer for dry skin, an ample supply of dry beans and other long-lasting pantry staples, and as many types of citrus as you can cram in the fruit bin. When the snow is falling in thick white sheets with no end in sight, the bright, cheerful flavors of winter citrus are the only things that can rescue my dampened mood. For days short on sunshine, vibrant yellow lemons are the next best thing. Their energizing zest makes its way into salads and desserts alike, while whole oranges and clementines are a favorite midday snack. Grapefruit juice kicks off the morning on a high note, and let’s not forget about those sour little limes.

For whatever reason, limes find their way into fewer of my recipes and daily eats than any other citrus, so it seemed only fair to reverse that trend. Perfect for our recent bout of snow, which is still sticking to the ground and discouraging me from driving out into the suburban wilderness, a yeasted, lime-enhanced cake was just what the doctor ordered. Warming the kitchen as they baked and lifting the spirits once eaten, the winter blues don’t stand a chance with these zesty pastries on hand.

Lime Baba Au Rhum

Baba Dough:

1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Whole Flax Seeds, Ground
3/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
2 Teaspoons Lime Zest
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
1/2 Cup Toasted and Chopped Walnuts

Rum Syrup:

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Dark Rum
1/2 Cup Water

Apricot Glaze:

1/2 Cup Apricot Preserves
1 Tablespoon Water

Rather than the typical proofing approach for making bread, these babas are assembled more like a cake. First, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and ground flax seeds in the bowl of your stand mixer (if using; otherwise a large bowl will do.) Once the dry goods are thoroughly combined, turn your attention to the liquids. Heat the water and non-dairy milk to about 120 – 130 degrees, but not to a boil, or else you’ll kill the yeast. This should feel hot to the touch but not burn your fingers.

Pour the liquid into the large bowl, and start mixing on low speed. Immediately follow that addition with the lime juice, zest, melted margarine, and walnuts. Continue mixing until the dough begins to come together, and then switch to the dough hook on your stand mixer. The dough will be very soft and sticky, so keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t creep up on top of the hook or get stuck to the sides of the bowl. Use your spatula to guide it back as needed, and continue beating for about 5 minutes to develop the gluten. Once fairly smooth, leave the dough in the bowl and cover the whole thing with a piece of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until nearly doubled in size.

Lightly grease 6 popover tins or 10 – 12 standard muffin cups; set aside.

Gently punch down your risen yeast batter, and divide it equally between your greased tins. Let rise once more for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has expanded to fill the tins. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once risen, bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown all over. Turn out the yeasted cakes onto wire racks and let cool.

Prepare the rum syrup by simply combining the sugar, rum, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, and you’re ready to go.

Prick the babas all around the sides with a fork before dipping each in the syrup, to allow for better absorption. Dip each two or three times, and then return them to the cooling rack to rest, or serve immediately.

To serve, microwave the apricot jam and water together for just 30 – 60 seconds, to loosen up the jam and warm it through. Stir well, and apply liberally to the tops of your babas. Feel free to serve with an additional spoonful of the rum syrup over the top, too.

Makes 6 – 12 Babas

Printable Recipe


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Twenty-Three

In the most minimal fashion, much like the twenty-second year preceding it, my twenty third birthday came and went. There was ice skating with my dad, a shared lunch, a black and white movie at home, and cake; no party, and no candles. Not so much a day of celebration as a day of rest, which sounds just about right to me.

Birthdays of mine have been historically bad days in the past, taking into consideration both apocalyptic winter weather and borderline psychotic meltdowns, so this quieter, uneventful rendition was a merciful change of pace. Less a marker of having arrived at some milestone, I found the date reassuring, a small checkpoint within the greater journey. I’m still here, twenty three years later, and it’s beginning to look like I may just be here in another twenty three as well. Imagine that.

Corresponding with my laid back non-celebration, the cake at hand was simple, unfussy- Homely by some estimations. All I wanted was a dark, moist, spicy gingerbread cake, one that reminded me of The One That Got Away. Ten years ago, scouting out a location for my Bat Mitzvah, I chose the final restaurant based solely on the gingerbread cake served for dessert. Dripping with caramel and finished with a fluffy halo towering over the plate, it’s now all I remember about that meal. In my youth and excitement, it never occurred to me that the event would be catered, and I would never see that beauty of a cake again. In fact, the restaurant has since gone out of business, just to close that book entirely.

So I made it for myself, ten years later. (Ten years. 10. It bears repeating because it seems wildly impossible that so much time could have passed.) Even if there were no candles and no fanfare, it was the perfect ending to my non-celebration.

Gingerbread Blackout Cake

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Black Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
6 – 7 Teaspoons (2 Heaping Tablespoons) Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Cup Brewed and Cooled Coffee
3/4 Cup Molasses
3/4 Cup No Sugar Added Pumpkin Butter or Apple Butter
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Canola Oil

Vegan Butterscotch Sauce (From Vegan À La Mode, coming soon!) or Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Creme

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch square baking pan; Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and spices. Whisk well to distribute all of the dry goods throughout, and double-check that there are no clumps.

Separately, mix the coffee, molasses, pumpkin butter, sugar, and oil until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir with a wide spatula to bring the two together. Being careful not to over-mix, stir just until the batter is smooth and not a second longer. Transfer the batter into your prepared baking pan, smooth out the top, and pop it in the oven. Immediately turn down the heat to 325 degrees, even before you close the oven door.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean- Perhaps with a few moist crumbs sticking to it but certainly not wet. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with butterscotch sauce and whipped creme.

If time allows, this cake does get better with age, so try to make it a day or two in advance for the flavor profile to become more nuanced and balanced.

Makes 16 – 20 Servings

Printable Recipe


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A Cookie in Every Oven

If ever there was an ideal time to bake cookies, it would be now. At this very moment, cookie swaps are happening across the nation, and gifts of cookie platters and cookie baskets are being piled high. Rainbows of doughs are rolling out on kitchen counters, a world of flavored batters are being dropped onto baking sheets, and scores of every shape a cookie cutter can create are cooling on wire racks. Just imagine what it would look like if we could take a peek at the combined efforts of all those holiday bakers, hard at work. The scent of sugar rising into the brisk air and cookbook pages encrusted in flour, it just wouldn’t be Chanukah or Christmas without a full menu of cookies planned for hungry friends and family to devour.

As much as I may crave the classics, the desire to create something new and exciting always take the reins when assembling ingredients, and no two cookie trays ever end up alike. Simple, straight-forward bakery-style chocolate chip cookies are easily my most requested variety, a rare recipe that I do actually follow without variation… Most of the time.

Using the holidays as my license to experiment, I wanted to give the basic idea a bit of a savory, salty twist, to balance out the sweeter items sure to follow. An unexpected hint of herbaceous rosemary adds an unexpected but entirely welcome change of pace, further enhanced by the natural nuttiness of crunchy toasted pecans. Inspired by the addictive party snack of spiced rosemary nuts, I couldn’t help but keep the theme going and tossing in a generous dose of spice here as well. Lending a bright kick just as the taste of chocolate and pecans begin to fade, it’s the element that makes you go back for just one more bite, trying to pinpoint what that enchanting flavor was.

It’s certainly not your grandma’s or your mom’s chocolate chip cookie, but that’s probably a good thing, too. With so many options already available around this time of year, why not take the opportunity to try something a bit different?

Spiced Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary (or 1 Teaspoon Dried), Finely Chopped or Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Toasted and Chopped Pecans
1/2 Cup (3 Ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, blend together the melted margarine, both sugars, maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth and fully combined.

Sift the flour into a separate bowl, and add in all of the spices, rosemary, baking soda, and salt. Lightly toss both the pecan pieces and chocolate chips in, to coat with the flour.

Add the dry goods into the stand mixer in two additions, being careful not to overwork the dough but mix it just enough to bring everything together, without any pockets of flour lurking at the bottom. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions so that everything gets incorporated.

Scoop out dough with a medium-sized cookie scoop, or two large spoons in about 3 – 4 tablespoon portions. Give the cookies plenty of space on your prepared baking sheets, leaving at least and inch between blobs. I usually bake only 9 per sheet, to ensure that none of them spread and collide. Flatten the raw cookie dough out lightly with the palm of your hand, so that they’re nice and round, and about 1/2 inch in thickness.

Bake for 12 – 16 minutes, watching closely to make sure that they are just barely golden brown around the edges when you pull the from the oven. They should still look fairly under-baked in the center, to ensure a soft and chewy texture.

Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then move them off to a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week, if they last that long.

Makes 12 – 18 Large Cookies

Printable Recipe


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A Sour Note

It’s true what they say; All you need is loaf.

Wait, that’s not how the song goes? What a shame, because on yet another glorious World Bread Day, it seemed like the ideal anthem for us flour-encrusted and loaf pan-wielding bakers across the globe. Celebrating all things doughy and yeasted, it’s an event that I wouldn’t miss for anything, if only to take advantage of the excuse to bake another lofty loaf.

Bake Bread for World Bread Day 2011

Let it be known that I am a terrible sourdough keeper. “But it’s so easy!” they cry, “I’ve had my sourdough starter for 50 years!” they insist. Well, that’s well and good if you can manage such a feat, but I have now effortlessly killed off two previously hearty mothers in short order, and am not exactly eager to give it another go. Nope, it’s all faux sourdough for me from here on in.

Utilizing “yogurt” or “sour cream” and citric acid, to impart a pleasingly tangy flavor, but relying on commercial packaged yeast for a fool-proof lift, it strikes me as the best sort of compromise. Rather than developing a hard, crackled crust and tough inner structure, this imposter sourdough has a much softer, more tender crumb. Not quite fluffy but definitely chewy, it makes for a delightfully toothsome base for sandwiches or simply toast.

Faux Sourdough
Inspired by King Arthur Flour

1 1/2 Cups Warm Potato Water*
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
1 1/4-Ounce Package Active Dry Yeast
1 6-Ounce Container Plain Greek-Style Coconut Yogurt or 3/4 Cup Vegan “Sour Cream”
4 1/2 – 5 Cups Bread Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Citric Acid
1/16 Teaspoon (Pinch) Ground Ginger

*By “potato water,” I mean the water that was used to boil potatoes, which is full of tenderizing starches and excellent for bread making. Pasta water can also work, or in a pinch, 1 teaspoon potato starch whisked into the water.

To begin, dissolve the sugar into the water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes, until active and frothy. Mix in the “sour cream” or “yogurt,” and begin to work in the flour, 1 cup at a time. Add in the salt, ginger, and citric acid along with the first measure of flour. Use the dough hook on your stand mixer if you have one, and allow it to knead slowly and create a sticky but workable dough. Err on the side of using less flour for now; You can always work more into it later.

Let the machine continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes on low speed. Cover the bowl, stash it in the fridge, and allow it to sit for 12 – 24 hours. Yes, that long! Your patience will be rewarded.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and set aside. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and have more flour ready if needed. Knead the dough by hand, adding more flour if too sticky, for about 10 minutes. Let it rest for another 10 so that the gluten can relax a bit before shaping. Flatten the dough into a rectangle slightly shorter than 9 inches, and then roll it up tightly. Place the roll seam-side down in your prepared loaf pan.

Allow the loaf to sit for 60 – 90 minutes, until just barely peeking out above the rim of the pan. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Makes 1 Large Loaf

Printable Recipe


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Make Room for Mesquite

Wrapped up in soft long sleeves and knee-high socks, the night air still felt unseasonably harsh. Pumpkins and butternut squash looked like aliens in the produce department, suddenly materializing out of nowhere. Have they always been quite so orange, or so large? A year is a long time to go without seeing a close friend, and any small change (or constant, for that matter) seems magnified to outlandish proportions. Considering that it’s now mid-September, the annual shift in temperatures and available vegetables is right on schedule, but it’s me that is behind the times.

Nightfall comes to earlier, too, and the air is much too dry. Autumn is no doubt a beautiful time of year with many good aspects to look forward to, but I’m just not ready to embrace it yet. There are still cherry tomatoes ripening in the garden, for crying out loud!

But fall waits for no one; an impatient and demanding guest at best. Unwilling to dive into the deep end right away, a gentle dip into the season sounded like a more comfortable approach. One toe at a time, feeling out the waters, trying hard to settle in no matter how swift the current. Passing the squash for now, I moved on to a long-forgotten bag of flour in my pantry that seemed like an easier way to greet autumn. Yes, flour: Mesquite flour, to be precise.

Mesquite flour isn’t seasonal per se, but it has cooler weather written all over it if you ask me. Mesquite reminds me of autumn because it has a warm, toasty flavor, reminiscent of a crackling, smokey wood fire in the fireplace. That rich, earthy scent that fills the air as the smoke rises up through the chimney and is whisked away with the brisk breeze; That’s what I think of every time I open up that bag of flour and inhale deeply. Just like that, I’m feeling warmer and lighter in spirit already.

Turning on the oven never felt more satisfying. After nearly record breaking stretches of silence over the summer, it creaked grumpily back to life before returning to a contented purr. Something simple and comforting was in order, and I knew just the thing. Muffins, inspired by those made by Amanda Chronister (previously of Vegan Core) as part of a swap practically a lifetime ago, sounded like a tender and sweet vehicle for this dark, warm flavor. Continuing to tweak as I went, the muffins became anything but the simple crumb-topped treats I had first envisioned. Coffee took the place of soymilk and cacao nibs made a crunchy companion to the chocolate chips, further enhancing the roasted essence of the mesquite. Ending up with something entirely different from the inspiration, I was happy nonetheless to still have found the original recipe, still as cute and carefully drawn out as ever.


Click to see the original recipe at full size

While mesquite may not be an everyday sort of ingredient, it’s worth the pantry space when it can deliver such a unique and satisfying flavor as this.

Chocolate Chip Mesquite Muffins

1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Mesquite Flour
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Ground Flaxseeds
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1/4 Cup Cacao Nibs
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Brewed Coffee, Chilled

Turbinado Sugar, to Top

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and either lightly grease or line 10 standard muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the both flours, sugar, ground flax, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Toss in the chocolate and cacao nibs, and mix lightly to coat the pieces with flour.

Separately, stir together the oil and coffee before pouring both into the bowl of dry goods. Stir just enough to combine and create a mostly smooth batter. Distribute the batter equally between your prepared muffins tins, and lightly sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean. (Make sure that gooey chocolate chips don’t trick you into over-baking the muffins!) Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before letting them come to room temperature on a wire rack.

Makes 10 Muffins

Printable Recipe


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Last Call for Blueberries

I’m usually not one for either making or hosting guest posts, but when the Beantown Baker invited me over to her blog to share a bit of my work, I could hardly refuse. So, for today’s recipe, go check it out over in the Friday Favorites section.  You don’t want to miss this one- Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake to finish off the berry season! Here’s just a small taste…

Slim pickings. Literally, that’s what we found after embarking on our much-anticipated annual blueberry picking adventure. We’re spoiled with riches of wild raspberries all across our county, but blueberries? Those round, sweet gems are a bit harder to come by, and even the farms were sorely lacking this year. After being turned away due to poor picking conditions once already, we were determined not to go home empty handed yet again.

Arriving near the tail-end of their growing season, it’s reasonable to expect a less than bountiful harvest, but this was downright pitiful. Shriveled, grey berries remained where they once blossomed and were forgotten, while others had over-ripened to the point of bursting, like weak balloons filled with shaving cream. Regardless, with a bit of careful, diligent plucking, there were still enough berries to fill a small bucket, and satisfy the peckish picker, of course.


The effort, though more demanding than usual, was rewarded by modest heap of fresh, juicy blueberries, far more flavorful than anything store bought. After hungrily wolfing down about half of our plunder whole and plain, I was itching to make more of this seasonal treasure. Colorful filling to sandwich cookies started the wheels in motion, but I wanted more; something seriously blueberry-filled, rich and ripe.

Cake, the universal party centerpiece, fit the bill with ease. More of a simple tea cake or even breakfast treat, white whole wheat flour contributes a more hearty texture, without any overbearing wheat flavor. Touches of lemon brighten up the soft and tender bundt, although orange could also be a delightful accent instead. Though it may sound unremarkable on paper, trust me, the cut slices are anything but ordinary.

Marbled in striking blue and golden tones, this easy yet stunning dessert is like summer condensed into cake form. Now that the days have begun to cool off considerably, a warm oven is a welcome thing again, and there’s never been a better time to bake with blueberries. Handpicked berries or not, this is one recipe that’s sure to make repeat appearances in kitchen, many times over.

Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake

3 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
2/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
1 cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Cups Blueberries, Divided
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest

Lemon Syrup:

3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Cup Granulated Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease and flour a 10-cup capacity bundt pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and sugar. Separately, mix the olive oil, “yogurt,” non-dairy milk, vinegar, and vanilla to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and with a wide spatula, fold the two together just until you achieve a fairly smooth batter. A few lumps are just fine; be careful not to over-mix. Divide the batter equally into two parts, pouring half off into a separate bowl.

Turning your attention now to the blueberries, toss 1 cup of them into your blender or food processor, along with the lemon juice. Thoroughly puree, until smooth but still with their naturally rough, slightly seedy texture intact. Add the blended berries into one of the bowls of batter, along with the remaining 1/2 cup of whole blueberries, and stir well to fully incorporate.

With a clean spatula, mix the lemon zest into the other bowl of batter until distributed throughout.

Lay down a thin layer of the blueberry batter in small dollops along the bottom of your prepared bundt pan. Top that with a ribbon of the lemon batter; it’s fine if it doesn’t entirely cover, but do your best to keep them neat and even. Repeat as many times as possible, until you run out of batter. Take a spatula and swirl it through the whole assemblage ONLY ONCE to create a neat but discernible swirl throughout the cake.

Move the whole bundt into the center of your oven, and bake for 60 – 70 minutes, until a wooden dowel inserted into the center of the cake pulls out clean. Let cool completely in the pan, and then turn out on a wire rack.

To finish the cake off, a thin glaze of lemon syrup is a nice touch to keep everything moist. Simply place both the lemon juice and sugar in a small sauce pan, and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved. Brush the syrup evenly over the whole bundt- Chances are you won’t need it all. (Save the extra for sweetening tea!) Slice and serve right away, or store it covered, in the fridge, for 4 – 5 days.

Serves 12 – 14

Printable Recipe


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To Post or Not to Post?

Perfection is an unrealistic goal, and yet so many blogs attempt to achieve just that. Guilty of that precise crime, it’s difficult to decide what should make the cut when it comes time to make the next post. Should an unreliable recipe go live, potentially frustrating curious readers? Never; that would be an unpardonable offense. But what about the blurry line separating good from great? Should a nice recipe be dumped just because it isn’t quite “perfect”?

Life is quite messy itself, so it only seems fitting to allow a few messier creations in as well. Take for example, cookies that baked up like a dream, with a fantastic chewy texture and sophisticated bitter cocoa flavor, sandwiched together with blueberry creme acting as the luminous violet glue. Summery yet not incapable of bridging the seasonal gap, crowd-pleasing, and an all around delight. The problem? They suffer a bit from ugly duckling syndrome.

You see, it’s mostly the filling that I take issue with. It looks grainy, even curdled in photos, despite tasting silky-smooth on the tongue. Should such a blemish be allowed to go live, presented as the desired outcome? Does one small imperfection ruin a whole recipe? At the end of the day, would you blog about it?

I think my response goes without saying.

Black and Blueberry Sandwich Cookies

Black Cocoa Cookies:

10 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoon Flax Seeds, Ground
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Black Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Blueberry Creme Filling:

4 Ounces Vegan White Chocolate Chips
3/4 Cup Blueberries, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or food processor, cream together the margarine and sugar thoroughly, until homogeneous and fluffy. Add the ground flax seeds, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix until mostly incorporated. The dough will be too dry to fully come together, so add in the “milk” and vanilla, and mix once more to combine and create a smooth, cohesive batter.

Scoop out 3 tablespoons or so of dough per cookie, and flatten them just slightly on the baking sheet. Be sure to space them 1 1/2 – 2 inches apart, because they really spread as they bake; arrange no more than 9 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 10 – 13 minutes, until the edges are set and the cookies look barely puffy in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheets for 10 more minutes before sliding the silpat or sheet of parchment onto a cooler surface. Allow them to fully cool before applying the filling.

To make the blueberry creme, first melt the while chocolate, either in a double boiler or in the microwave. If microwaving, heat at 30 second intervals, stirring well in between, to ensure that it doesn’t burn. White chocolate can be very temperamental, so keep a close eye on it.

Toss the berries into your blender or food processor, and completely puree. Strain the juice directly into the melted white chocolate and discard the pulp and seeds remaining. Stir thoroughly, reheating gently as necessary if the chocolate beings to solidify or seize. Once smooth, chill the mixture for at least an hour, until cold to the touch and thickened.

Beat the margarine and confectioner’s sugar together in your stand mixer before adding the chilled blueberry mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is getting incorporated, and whip on high speed for about 5 minutes, until there are no remaining chunks of margarine and the filling only appears to be vaguely grainy. Apply the filling to one cookie, and top it off with a second. Repeat with remaining cookies.

The sandwich cookies keep well at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap, for approximately four days, or in the fridge for seven to eight. Better yet, for this summer heat, stash them in the freezer for up to a month, and you can snack on them while they’re still a bit frosty!

Makes About 14 Large Cookies; 7 Large Sandwich Cookies

Printable Recipe

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