BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Oh, My Darling Clementines

Like clockwork, I’m right back at my usual tricks again, infusing every morsel that crosses my path with a bit of edible sunshine while the real thing plays hard to get. Grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes are always close at hand, spilling out of the refrigerated fruit bin and lining the kitchen counters, decorating these dark spaces with a cheerful spray of neon colors. Their natural luminescence does wonders to lift spirits through the most gloomy of days, but it’s truly the bold, bright, astringent flavors that sustain me through winter. This year, I’ve added a new comer to that line-up of faithful fruity regulars: The petite yet powerful clementine.

Luck was on my side this season, as the kind folks representing Cuties Clementines were generous enough to ship an entire crate full of these glowing orange orbs straight to my door. Not to be overly dramatic, but what a revelation! Gone are the days of meticulously picking at the stringy pith of oranges before the segments become edible. The skin practically falls off of these juicy half-moons, nary a seed in sight. No muss, no fuss, they’re the ultimate winter pick-me-up. Naturally, they’re a boon to desserts and other treats as well.

Citrus supremes are a beautiful addition to all sorts of desserts, but they’re such a pain to prepare. Thanks to a combination of dull knifes and insufficient handiwork, mine always end up ragged, sad little slivers of their former selves; certainly nothing to crown a grand finale with. Clementines, on the other hand, pop out of their peels ready to use, unblemished and the ideal size to toss into just about any dish. Simply layering them with plain old soy yogurt, sliced almonds, and berries elevated my boring lunchtime routine into something worth remembering.

Bursting with flavor, sweeter and more mellow than an orange but still plenty punchy, clementines sounded like the ideal pairing with matcha. Cutting through the bitter powdered tea and balancing out the whole dessert, segments top chewy tapioca pearls, cradled in the easiest mini tart shell you’ll ever slap together. No need to break out the rolling pin, this crust is merely pressed into the pans and won’t slip or slide under the heat of the oven, standing tall without the need for pie weights.

Winter, you have officially met your match; the bright taste of these Cuties makes a day without sunshine no big deal. In case you’re suffering from the winter blues as well, I have good news! Furnished by Cuties Clementines, I have a coupon for one free 5-pound crate of these tiny fruits that one lucky commenter can redeem at their local grocery store. Recipients must be located in the US as a result. To enter, leave me a comment before January 18th at midnight EST, and tell me about your favorite citrus fix. What would you do with all of those clementines, if you can resist merely eating them out of hand? Trust me, five pounds sounds like a lot, but they won’t last long with any citrus enthusiast!

UPDATE: After consulting with my very favorite random number generator, together, we determined the winner of this sweet prize to be…

Commenter #12, Harvest + Honey! You will be hearing from me shortly, and for everyone else, stay tuned… Not to give away the surprise, but there may just be more clementines to share very soon.

Clementine and Matcha Tapioca Tartlets

Press-In-Pan Olive Oil Pastry Crust:

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 – 2 Tablespoons Water

Matcha Tapioca:

1/2 Cup Small Tapioca Pearls
2 1/2 Cups Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverage or Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
2Teaspoons Matcha Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To Finish:

4 – 5 Clementines, Peeled and Segmented
Fresh Mint Leaves (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease 10 – 12 (3-inch) mini tart molds.

To make the crust, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add in the olive oil and lemon juice, stirring thoroughly to incorporate. Drizzle in the water very slowly, adding just enough to bring the dough together without making it wet or sticky. Break off about 2 – 3 tablespoons of dough for each mini tart mold and press it evenly across the bottoms and up the sides of the forms. Make sure there aren’t especially thick edges left around the base so that it all cooks at the same rate.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the process to ensure even baking, until golden brown all over. Let cool completely before popping the shells out of their metal molds.

For the tapioca, begin by pouring 2 cups of very hot water over the pearls and allowing them to soak for at least 2 – 3 hours. This will soften them and prevent the centers from remaining after cooking. Rinse with cold water and thoroughly drain.

Place the soaked pearls in a medium saucepan along with the non-dairy milk. Whisk together the sugar, matcha, cornstarch, and arrowroot in a separate bowl to break up any and all clumps of the tea powder before adding it into the pot as well. Set over medium heat on the stove and allow the mixture to come up to a boil, whisking periodically and being sure to scrape along the sides and bottom to prevent anything from sticking and burning. Once it comes bubbles vigorously for a full minute, turn off the heat before throwing in the margarine and vanilla extract. Stir until the margarine has completely melted and distribute the hot pudding between the baked mini tart shells, filling them to the top.

Allow the tapioca to fully cool before topping with clementine segments and a few mint leaves, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chill for 2 hours to enjoy them cold.

Makes 10 – 12 Tartlets

Printable Recipe

This recipe is also my entry for the So Delicious 3 Course Recipe Contest. Wish me luck!


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Lost at Sea

Nothing is off limits when it comes to capturing the perfect photo. Fulfilling a vision, watching it come to life, and being able to share it with others, no translation necessary, is the most satisfying aspect of the craft. No one said that reaching that goal was ever easy though, which is why I’m willing to go great lengths in order to see a concept through to completion. Even for your garden-variety food photo, every frame counts. Shooting on location presents its own unique set of challenges, but posing a pie for its closeup on the beach is far from my craziest idea yet.

A week of planning, a day of preparation, and day of meticulous baking later, the photo was everything I had dreamed of. With the recipe completed and fine tuned well in advance, the styling went off without a hitch. My Island Breeze Pie from Easy as Vegan Pie looked radiant, a true beach babe if I ever did see one. Never mind the fact that it was a chilly February morning, the wee hours of the AM affording us a quiet, undisturbed spot on the shoreline; the sun’s gentle golden glow suggested otherwise, and the soft ripples of sea water coming in with the tide seemed to lovingly cradle the dish itself. It was perfect, that one moment that every artist lives for when everything in the world feels right.

And the next moment is what every risk-taker dreads.

Splash! Right before my lens, one cruel wave silently crept up from beyond my viewfinder, sneaking around the edges of my painstakingly styled pie, and maliciously scaled the walls of the ceramic vessel, crashing through the latticework in one fell swoop. I never saw it coming, but with camera poised and a finger on the trigger, the devastating attack was inadvertently captured for all eyes to see, detailing the full destruction in a multitude of frames.

“No, not the macadamia nuts!” I howled in anguish, helplessly watching the waters recede. They were one of the rare edible souvenirs that made the journey with me back from Hawaii, you see, much more sentimental than your average ingredient.

Leaving behind a soggy but fully intact pastry in its wake, my rescue efforts came too late, but the whole dish was nonetheless toweled off and taken home. This poor, brave pie made the ultimate sacrifice- Who could be so cold-hearted as to simply shrug and throw it away? Not I; loathe to waste food, and turn my back on this valiant fighter.

Only out of desperation, and only due to one overly optimistic suggestion did the pie return to the oven in an attempt to dry out. The water was removed, but the sand, grit, and salt remained, tasting of of detritus and sadness. Officially beyond salvage, all I could do was honor its memory, publishing that glorious photo to inspire generations of Island Breeze Pies to come.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Easy as Vegan Pie for yourself! Pretty please, don’t let any of your baked creations anywhere near the water, for your own eating enjoyment.


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Have a Bigger Slice of the Pie

Gingerly slicing through the packing tape and lifting each flap of the cardboard carton, one at a time, unboxing my very first copies of Easy as Vegan Pie was, both predictably and surprisingly, unreal. Entering the lineup as my fourth cookbook, the creative process had become second nature, from dreaming and scheming to writing down the results. It was all the same routine, albeit more challenging subject matter than ever before, producing the luscious glossy pages I had been imagining for well over a year, through all of the flops and resounding successes alike. Exactly as I expected, the content felt as familiar as the back of my hand, having poured over the tiny details for hours on end to reach this point.

But holding the hardcover in my hands, flipping past photos and recipes that had each taken on their own unique personalities with stories to share, the sensation is indescribable. It’s hard to believe that this really came from my own hands, while it feels close enough to be an actual piece of me, out in bookstores everywhere. I couldn’t be more proud to share my heart, and my pies, abroad.

This isn’t about me though- I know you’re here for some sweet and savory satisfaction! Yes, it’s true, there are indeed savory recipes thrown into the mix, for the first time in any of my personal publications. A book for everyone, the range of flavors covers all tastes, and includes many gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options throughout. The “look inside” feature on Amazon.com has yet to go live, so in the meantime, allow me to tempt you with a taste of the recipes within:

Custard, Cream, and Pudding Pies

Adzuki Bean Pie
Banana Tapioca Pudding Pie
Buckeye Pie
Cannoli Pie
Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie
Cookies ‘n Creme Fried Pies
Double Chocolate Truffle Tart
Figgy Pudding Pie
Greek Silk Pie
Kiwi Coconut Pie
Lemon Chia Seed Meringue Pie
Mud Pie
New York Cheesecake Pie
Nutterscotch Pie
Pistachio Pudding Pie
Raspberry Red Velvet Pie
Rock ‘n Roll Elvis Pie
Skinny Mint Tart
Speculoos Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée Tartlettes
Watermelon Chiffon Pie
Yogurt Parfait Tartlettes

Frozen Pies

Acai Bowl Pies
Blood Orange Creamsicle Pie
Hula Pie
Kahlua Pie
Malted Strawberry Milkshake Pie
Mojito Pie
Persimmon Chiffon Pie
Raw Eggnog Pie
Root Beer Float Pie
Spumoni Pie
Winter Wonderland Peppermint Pie
Nut Pies
Baklava Pie
Caramel Macadamia Crumb Tart
Chestnut Crunch Pie
Gingerbread Walnut Pie
Hazelnut Tassies
Marzipan Crostata
Pomegranate Pecan Pie

Fruit Pies

Apple Burgundy Betty Pie
Apricotta Tart
Bella Bellini Tartlettes
Black and Blue Licorice Pie
Black Forest Pie
Concord Frangipane Pie
Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie
Drunken Apricot Pies
Frankenstorm Pie (AKA Banana Ganache Pie)
Grapefruit Shaker Pie
Island Breeze Pie
Killer Apple Pie
Ma’amoul Pie
Mahalapeño Pie
Mango Chutney Pie
Membrillo Pie
Pear Praline Pie
Rhubarb Heart Pies
Roasted Strawberry and Tomato Galette
Rosemary-Peach Tarte Tatin
Strawberry Cereal Streusel Pie
Sugared Plum Tart

Wild Card Pies

Birthday Pie
Black-Bottom Macaroon Pie
Carrot Cake Pie
Chess Pie
Chocolate and Zucchini Pie
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pie Pops
Jack-O-Lantern Pies
Mango Sticky Rice Pie
Maple Shoo-Fly Pie
Margarita Jelly Shot Tartlettes
Matcha Mochi Pie
Old Fashioned Oatmeal Pie
Pup Tarts
Snickerdoodle Pie
Stained Glass Pie
Torta di Verdura

Savory Pies

Caramelized Onion and Apple Tart
Cheesy Mac Pie
Fried Green Tomato Pies
Primavera Pot Pies
Reuben Pie
Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Pie
Taco Pie
Tamale Pies
Tea Tart
Thanksgiving Quiche
Wasabi Pea Pie

…And that’s to say nothing of the wide range of crusts, accompaniments, toppings, and variations included as well. Of course, you’ll also find tons of tips on how to make your best pies ever, going into great detail on equipment, techniques, and ingredients.

Now, if you’ve made it all the way through that cruel temptation of recipe titles, you definitely deserve an actual slice of pie. Although I can’t ship one of these crusted beauties safely through the mail, I would be delighted to send you the blueprint to make scores of your own. To celebrate the official release of Easy as Vegan Pie, I’m giving away one signed and personalized copy, straight from my own reserve. I’m bursting to share this gem, so I can’t wait for it to reach book shelves any longer! If you’d like a big slice of the pie for yourself, enter by leaving me a comment below with your name and email in the appropriate boxes before October 16th, Midnight EST.  The only restriction is that you must have a US mailing address. Tell me about the best pie you’ve ever eaten, or which pie listed above you’re most looking forward to sinking your teeth into!

UPDATE: The entry period is over and a winner has been selected by the trusty random number generator. The participant who’s about to start rolling in dough very shortly is…

Commenter #97; Lizze! Congrats Lizzie, you’ll be hearing from me very shortly about how to collect your prize. Don’t despair if this wasn’t your lucky day. There will be many more exciting giveaways to come…


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Sticky Solutions

Presented with a challenge verging on an outright dare, it’s hard to ignore even the craziest, most curious idea. A recent request for an ice cream base that could be completed with interchangeable flavored syrups, however, took a bit more prodding and begging than usual. Though intrigued, I found myself less than enthused to explore that ambiguous concept. Non-committal to a fault, it’s near impossible for me to pin down a single “correct” method of solving any problem, so to suggest a sole base that could accommodate every flavor that gets thrown at it sounded preposterous. Every recipe is different, as I found especially true while developing Vegan a la Mode, a yet surely there could be some loophole that could allow equal success when the basic composition didn’t change. The one variable in the equation is the actual taste of the liquid sweetener, after all.

First things first, no ordinary simple syrup need apply for this job; only highly concentrated and intense solutions will fit the bill. Since they’re further diluted when mixed with non-dairy milk, it’s a good thing if they verge on too strong when sampled solo. As for the actual flavor, with ready access to culinary extracts and oils, your imagination is limit. Ideal for days far removed from any harvest when quality fruits are hard to come by, such a flexible approach finally turns ice cream into an accessible, all-seasons treat.

Need a bit of color to satisfy your hunger for eye candy? The clear liquid sugar is easily dressed up with any variety of natural food colorings or whole foods-based alternatives. Swap out some of the water for beet or carrot juice; blend the cooked and cooled mixture with a handful of fresh spinach until smooth; add a pinch of turmeric or ground annatto at any point in the process. There’s no excuse for bland treats, either in taste or appearance!

Ultimately, what came out of this sweet challenge is more of a formula- guidelines, if you will- than a hard and fast recipe. Feel free to continue exploring, adapting to taste, and inventing your own unique solutions. For the richest, creamiest texture, opt for full-fat canned coconut milk to complement your syrups, but take into account how that added flavor may (or may not) pair with the other flavors invited to the party.

Syrup-Based Ice Cream

Extra-Strong Syrup:

2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Essential Oil, Candy Flavoring Oil, or 2 – 3 Tablespoons Baking Extract of Choice
Coloring (Optional)

Basic Ice Cream Formula:

2 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4 Cup Super-Saturated Simple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

The procedure here really couldn’t be any easier. First, to make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir briefly to combine. Set over medium heat and cook just until the sugar crystals have all dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove, add your flavor and color of choice, and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight bottle or using in your ice cream

Moving right along to the ice cream, in a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly to break up any lumps of starch. Once smooth, set over medium heat. Stir periodically and allow the mixture to come up to a full boil, at which point the liquid should have thickened significantly. Turn off the heat, let cool, and then stash in the fridge to chill for at least three hours before churning.

When nice and cold all the way through, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream into an airtight container and let rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.

Makes 1 Scant Quart

Printable Recipe


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Cheesecake For a Sweet New Year

Even to the seasoned eater approaching new cuisines with an open mind, it can still be difficult to fully embrace something that falls well outside of established norms. Far beyond unexpected flavor combinations or uncommon ingredients, raw “uncooking” essentially turns the entire concept of hot food preparation on its head. Largely due to a lack of exposure, the concept remains abstract at best for most of the world, which I’m quickly learning is a real shame. Working with the incredibly talented Gena Hamshaw on her upcoming cookbook has open my eyes, radically changing the way I view raw foods in general. Rather than the crazy gourmet raw foods we so often see in fine restaurants, the heart and soul of raw edibles is more about ease and straight-forward ingredients that are manipulated as little as possible. Inspired by her revolutionary recipes, I couldn’t stop thinking in the raw when it came time to craft my annual Rosh Hashanah dessert.

Apples and honey, the symbol of a sweet New Year, are almost painfully common flavors for the occasion, but a fresh approach to the presentation makes it taste new and exciting once more. Building the dessert on a crust made of dried apples and nuts, the apple flavor is intense, concentrated down into a small package, and packing a huge punch in even tiny wedges. For the honey component, it may or may not pass the scrutiny of the raw police, but nothing can even touch the floral sweetness of Bee-Free Honee. I had the pleasure of reviewing it for Laika Magazine a million moons ago, or so it feels, and have been hooked ever since. Dark agave can substitute in a pinch, but nothing else comes close to the incredibly accurate flavor that this honee bears, without the input of a single bee. Besides, what could be better for the holiday than a “honey” that is in fact made out of apples? There’s something quite poetic about that synchronicity.

As for the topping, well, that’s a case of “do as I say, not what I do.” Walking in the door of my Nana’s house with cheesecake in hand, everyone who laid eyes on the original presentation feared that I had topped my treat with slivers of raw red onion. Immediately scrapping that concept and grabbing the first green apple I found, thin half-moons were much more visually pleasing, and the different color helped erase that initial unsavory impression. As I’ve now learned, this is an opportunity to leave the fancy garnishes at home- The rich flavors will speak for themselves.

Raw Apples and Honey Cheesecake

Apple-Pecan Crust:

1 Cup Chopped Raw Pecans or Walnuts
1 Cup Dried Apple Rings, Firmly Packed
2 Large Medjool Dates, Pitted
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Honee-Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Filling:

1 Cup Raw Macadamia Nuts, Soaked for at least 6 Hours
1 Cup Raw Cashew Pieces, Soaked for at least 6 Hours
3 Ounces (6 Tablespoons) 100% Pure, Food-Grade Cocoa Butter, Melted
1/2 Cup Bee-Free Honee
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Whole Vanilla Bean

To Finish (Optional):

1 Large Green Apple
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

For the crust, start by tossing the pecans or walnuts into your food processor with the s-blade installed. Pulse thoroughly until the nuts are mostly broken down into a fairly fine but coarse powder. Add in the dried apples, dates, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse again to incorporate. Continue processing until the fruits are blended in, no large chunks remain, and the mixture sticks together when pressed. Transfer to a 9-inch round springform pan and use your hands to press it firmly and evenly across the bottom. If it proves too sticky to easily handle, lightly moisten your hands before proceeding, or use the bottom of a flat measuring cup to help achieve a smoother surface. Stash the pan in the fridge while you move on to the filling.

Thoroughly drain the macadamias and cashews before placing them in either your blender. A high-speed blender is definitely recommended to achieve the smoothest texture, but with a good bit of patience, a standard blender can suffice. Add in the melted cocoa butter, bee-free honee, and lemon juice. Because I’m lazy, I tend to just chop up my vanilla beans into inch-long pieces and add the whole pods in as well. If you’re using a lower-powered machine, you should go the more traditional route of slicing them down the center, scraping out the seeds with the side of your knife, and adding those to the mixture. Save the spend pod for another use, such as vanilla sugar.

Turn on the blender on low to start chopping up the nuts, and slowly increase the speed until you’ve reached the highest setting. Thoroughly puree, pausing to scrape down the sides of the canister as needed, until completely silky-smooth. This could take as long as 5 – 10 minutes depending on your machine, so be patient. Pour the resulting filling over your prepared crust, tapping it gently on the counter to knock out any air bubbles. Smooth over the top with your spatula before returning the whole assemblage to the fridge. Chill thoroughly, for at least 3 hours before serving, for the cheesecake to fully set to a slicable consistency.

If desired, cut in half, core, and thinly slice a green apple and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Arrange the slices artfully across the top right before serving. Slice into thin wedges with a sharp, and keep chilled for the best texture and flavor.

Makes 12 – 16 Servings

Printable Recipe


23 Comments

Freedom Cookie Press

Hands down, the best part about being a freelance photographer is when exciting new projects practically fall into my lap, and my greatest struggle is figuring out how to say “YES!” without sounding like an overeager puppy. A rare occurrence indeed, that intermittent system of rewards has me hooked, reinforced by the random, incredible opportunities that happen to come my way. After recently being recruited by Carina Comer to shoot the cover of her premier cookbook, Freedom Cookie Press, that addiction has only grown stronger.

Though the work of creating the cookies and capturing their best sides was deeply satisfying, having such delicious treats to enjoy at the end of the day was the greatest payoff. Featuring a cookie inspired by each of the fifty United States, baking your way through this innovative collection is like taking an edible road trip, without ever leaving the comfort of your own kitchen. Pictured here on the cover are the CT Nutmeg Doodles, TX Texmex Wedding Cookies, and OR Flowering Filbert Petit Fours, to provide some insight on the creative combinations that Carina has dreamed up. Though nostalgic and comforting in a way that only heartfelt recipes can be, these aren’t your grandma’s cookies, and you’re not likely to find such daring sweet flavors anywhere else.

I may be completely biased, but take my word for it: Freedom Cookie Press, hot of the digital presses, is truly a must-buy for anyone with a sweet tooth!

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