Coming Up Roses

Time after time, across the years for decades, if not centuries, surveys have shown that recipients always prefer sweets over flowers on Mother’s Day. No contest here; whether we’re talking about a classic box of chocolate or a more elaborate dessert, appetites tend to win over aesthetics.

What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Give your mother and all the maternal figures in your life an edible bouquet this year, even if you’ve been sleeping on the event. These quick treats will have you seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses. Simply wrap up apple slices infused in blushing beet syrup with flaky puff pasty for a beautiful treat that will blossom in the oven.

Versatile enough to present as a breakfast in bed, surprise midday snack, or nightcap to end the day on a high note. Just a little bit of effort goes a long way, in both baking and family relations.

Continue reading “Coming Up Roses”

Unsolved Mysteries

Making something out of nothing is my favorite kind of practical magic. Frugal to a fault, I’m not above trying unlikely combinations for the sake of avoiding another trip to the store. Sometimes this leads to lamentable meals, like the time I tried using breadcrumbs instead of oatmeal. However, more often than not, I’ll find new favorite worth replicating, even when I have a full arsenal of ingredients at my disposal.

This is very well aligned with the spirit of Depression-era cooking. No waste, no regrets. That’s why when I came across the legend of Mystery Pie, I was immediately charmed. It strikes me as a combination of chess pie or vinegar pie plus mock apple pie, being made with little more than sugar and miscellaneous filler that somehow transforms into a rave-worthy dessert. Better yet, this one doesn’t even need a separate pastry crust to hold everything together.

Whipped egg whites traditionally fill the gaps, but aquafaba does the trick for a plant-based fix. Add crushed crackers and crunchy nuts plus a splash of rich vanilla, and that’s it. It doesn’t seem like it will end well, yet it manages to exceed all expectations.

Perfect for unexpected guests when the pantry is running low, or simply trying to keep things uncomplicated when it comes to shopping or prep, this is a good mystery to solve.

Continue reading “Unsolved Mysteries”

Buns in the Oven

As a long haul content creator, you never know exactly what’s going to hit, or when. In fact, it’s usually the pieces that seem the least likely to catch on that strike a chord, haunting you for years. Nothing dies on the internet, after all.

Such is the case for my big batch cinnamon buns, first whipped up in a frenzy of holiday baking back in 2007. Imagine, starry-eyed youth that I was at 18 years old, discovering the joys of yeasted doughs while the mere concept of vegan eggs, meat, and even dairy was still in its infancy. So much has changed since then, and yet that simple recipe not only survived, but continues to thrive.

It’s about time that original recipe gets more than a re-make, but a complete revamp. Now with better ingredients, better photos, better instructions, and more ideas for personalization, my Big Batch Cinnamon Buns can reach their full (and fully risen) potential.

What you’re getting here are the most buttery, pillow-soft, tender rolls twisted around a warm cinnamon sugar filling and then slathered in creamy maple icing, made for a crowd. They’re perfect for holiday gifts, make-ahead breakfasts and brunches, and late night desserts with all your loved ones. It would be hard to share if it was just one pan, but you’ll have enough to sweeten up everyone’s day, with seven full pans of these luscious treats in all. It takes very little work, which will be repaid ten fold in sugary satisfaction.

I’m sure you have questions about how such humble ingredients can be transformed into such lavish gifts. Luckily, I’ve made them quite a few times over the years now, and I have answers for you.

How can you modify these spiraled sweets to fit your tastes?

Easy, my dear! Consider spicing things up with a blend of pumpkin pie or chai spice to replace the simple cinnamon swirl, for starters. From there, amp up the icing with lemon or orange zest, replacing the maple extract with vanilla, almond, or even chocolate exact. Oh, did I mention chocolate? For real chocoholics, go ahead and use 2 cups (12 ounces) mini chocolate chips to sprinkle evenly over the filling for a gooey, gloriously melted center. If you’re feeling colorful, go crazy with rainbow sprinkles over the top.

How can these be prepared in advance?

For an overnight rest, fully assemble the buns in their pans, cover with plastic wrap, and let them chill in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Let come back up to room temperature before baking off, to have warm, fresh buns early in the morning. For long term storage, stash baked but un-iced buns in the freezer, again wrapped in plastic, for 4 – 6 months. Just prepare the icing fresh when you need it, because it will harden over time.

Is it possible to downsize for smaller appetites?

Of course! This recipe is easily halved, but you may end up with one half-filled pan. You can also use fewer pans and bake a half batch in one 11 × 7-inch rectangular baking dish + 1 8 x 8-inch square baking dish, or a full batch in three 11 × 7-inch rectangular baking dishes.

Do I really have to share?

Well, I don’t make the rules here and I won’t tell… But everyone will probably be happier if you do. Trust me.

Continue reading “Buns in the Oven”

Let Freedom Ring

Americans are not shy about letting their opinions be known, particularly when it comes to matters of freedom. From the very inception of this country, our founding fathers were shouting from the rooftops about liberty and justice for all. That ideal was a bit skewed and misleading at the time, silently omitting the vast majority of the population, but after a few hundred years of mucking about, I’m cautiously hopeful that we’re on the right path to actually realizing that dream.

“…if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

On this particularly joyous 4th of July, when many reunite, emerging from quarantine cocoons for the first time in over one and a half years, there’s so much more to celebrate than just the baby steps forward on the journey towards true freedom. Vaccination does feel akin to emancipation; we must never forget the struggle to get here, nor those not fortunate enough to see this day.

It’s truly a bittersweet moment for me, acknowledging both the immense progress we’ve made collectively, and still the terrible, horrendous, and heinous setbacks that continue to plague the country. As a rule, however, I’d like to focus on the positive. Though many still suffer, I want freedom to ring, loud and clear, in every home and especially… Every home freezer.

Yes, it all comes back to food! Finally free to serve friends in-person, I’m thrilled to whip up a batch of frosty ice cream doughnuts from Super Vegan Scoops! to symbolize the endless ring of freedom intended for all inhabitants of these fifty states.

For a more thematically appropriate attire, these cool contenders are all dressed up in a variation of the white chocolate shell icing. For a blue tint, it just takes 1 teaspoon of butterfly pea tea powder (also known as “blue matcha,”) and the red is infused with 1 teaspoon of powdered beets. Add festive sprinkles and voila, you suddenly have some beautiful, festive food to share.

At long last, on this 242nd observance of our independence day, I hope that freedom truly can ring for one and all, and may it taste as sweet as vanilla bean ice cream.

Watch the World Burn

It’s the contrarian in me, but I must admit, I love a recipe that’s meant to go wrong. Flawed by design, it tells you right in the title that it won’t turn out according to standard procedure. Burnt Basque Cheesecake has been high on my list for just that reason. Baking to golden brown perfection is not the goal here: You want to push it further, right over the edge of the cliff into dark, smoldering, ashes.

Okay, the results aren’t that dire, but the top is definitely edging into “blackened” territory, which I usually take as a euphemism for being exceedingly overcooked. It’s a good thing, in this case, to stand back and watch the world burn- Or at least, the contents of your springform pan. That darkly lacquered surface contains volumes of flavor, intense and arresting, like the slightly bitter edge to properly caramelized sugar. It takes the bite out of strong sweetness, creating harmonious balance throughout the dessert.

Inside lies soft, tender custard, gently tangy like any proper cheesecake filling. If anything, the extreme external heat keeps the center even more pillow-like, cooking it to the bare minimum necessary to set and slice. It’s not a classic beauty, but quite possibly the best kind of cheesecake, for those who care more about flavor than shallow aesthetics.

Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat and immolate your hard work in that fiery oven. This particular baptism by fire isn’t a painful lesson to learn.

Continue reading “Watch the World Burn”