28 October 2009

Ah, the Miracle of Coconut Oil -- Veganized Anzac Biscuits

From October 2009 Photos

I'm very fond of many of my cookbooks, but few are written with such care as The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. It's really a great book for beginners because it explains so much of the food chemistry that goes into baking. It's even better for those of us a bit more practiced who like to tinker with recipes.

One of the recipes in the Cookie Companion that I've had tagged for a few years without trying is "Anzac Biscuits." Traditional Australian cookies, crisp and buttery, these yummy bits are usually made with golden syrup and sugar. I knew they would be a challenge, and not quite authentic made with agave nectar, but I pushed forward. The big issue is that agave nectar just doesn't crystalize. Add in coconut oil instead of butter, and you get a cookie that's moist, not crispy.

From October 2009 Photos

All that aside, these are really great, habit-forming cookies. Even though the recipe calls for no spices or flavorings, these still have plenty of flavor from the caramelized agave nectar, the oats, and all that coconut.

From October 2009 Photos

The interesting step of mixing a slurry of baking soda and boiling water with the agave nectar and coconut oil does something fizzy and magical to the cookies. It makes them light and indescribably snackable. I couldn't keep my mitts off them. Luckily, I brought the majority of the batch to Mom and Dave as well as some friends on Monday night. They were quite the success. No one thought they weren't made with butter. And, that my friends, is the miracle of coconut oil. Solid at room temperature, the stuff frightens me with all its saturated fat. However, it's supposed to be good fat, so I'm not going to worry (OK, I worry a little and only eat two cookies -- please send me links to research that will set my mind at ease!) too much.

All that to say, I'm happy to be able to veganize classic recipes and make them agave nectar friendly. One last thing -- when I make these again, I'm adding vanilla and ginger. Mom thought they would be excellent as well (and we know that she knows what she's talking about). Here's the recipe as I made it.

Anzac Biscuits (greatly inspired by the recipe of the same name on page 83 of The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)

Yields 3 dozen cookies.


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour (sifted)
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut oil (measured solid)
2/3 cup agave nectar (you'll want amber for this)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water


1. Mix together the oats, flours, coconut, and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil in the agave nectar over low heat. This will take about 10 minutes of stirring often. If you need to turn up the heat a little, you'll need to keep a close eye on it. Just make sure it doesn't boil.
3. While the oil is melting, boil the water and make the baking soda slurry. Add the boiling water to the baking soda and stir well.
4. Take the oil/agave nectar mixture off the heat and stir in the baking soda slurry. This will foam up in a lovely caramel color. It won't foam over, so don't worry about that.
5. Gently mix the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients until everything is well combined. Let rest.
6. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and prepare three baking sheets with parchment paper liners.
7. Using a medium cookie scoop (or two spoons), scoop the dough in even measures with lots of spreading room (because these guys spread a LOT) onto the cookie sheets.
8. Bake for a total of 12 minutes, turning and switching the positions of the sheets at 6 minutes.
9. Let the cookies sit on their sheets for 10 minutes before delicately moving them to racks to cool completely. They crisp up a bit, but will always have a nice moistness to them.
10. Enjoy!

18 October 2009

Heavenly Banana Apple Walnut Muffins

From October 2009 Photos

I'm a big fan of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. You might remember the very buttery and delicious Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints I made the last time I wrote about the book.

This recipe is greatly inspired the book's recipe "Mom's Banana Apple Bread," especially when it comes to the wonderful apple element. I noticed that I've been having trouble making successful recipes that require the use of a loaf pan (the original bread recipe was to be a loaf), so I noodled around with the recipe a bit and made muffins from it. The resulting muffins were fantastic. And, for my vegan friends, I have included ingredient swaps and directions.

From October 2009 Photos

The neat thing about this recipe is that the directions call for sauteing the apples in butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar prior to adding them to the batter. Of course, I used agave nectar in my saute and substituted the most gorgeous Gala apples I've ever seen for the Granny Smiths. By the way, if you wanted a very simple dessert or topping, you could easily just make the apple portion of this recipe. I'd also recommend making this with pears. If you use apples instead of pears, increase the amount of nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon. It just tastes better that way.

From October 2009 Photos

This is a close-up shot of the muffin's interior. As you can see, these are moist muffins with plenty of walnuts and apples. The original recipe does not call for walnuts, but if you're going to make banana bread, in my book you need walnuts.

From October 2009 Photos

The original recipe calls for a baking time of around an hour. So, if you're successful with loaf pans, that's your wait time. These little fellas took only 35 minutes in my oven.

I know the yield is weird (16 muffins) because I wound up putting muffin cups into ramekins and putting those in a pan filled about 1/2 in. with water next to the pan with the other muffins. That worked to keep them very moist, I'm sure. It also made them take a bit longer to bake than the others. In the future, I'd probably just fill a pan of mini muffins instead.

I also know that this is the second apple recipe in a row, but it's such a good season for apples. And, the Galas at the co-op have been especially tasty and crisp this year. Must be because we've finally had a real fall for a change.

OK, here's the recipe as I made it.

Heavenly Banana Apple Walnut Muffins (greatly inspired by The Sweet Melissa Baking Book recipe Mom's Banana Apple Bread)

Yields 16 standard muffins.


2 tablespoons butter (vegans: walnut or non-flavored oil)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
3 Gala apples, cored and cut into 1/2 in. pieces (I peeled mine and ate the peels, but you can leave the peels on.)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rough chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, softened (vegans: equivalent amount of non-dairy spread)
2/3 cup agave nectar (you'll want amber for this recipe)
2 eggs (vegans: add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the wet ingredients)
1/4 cup pineapple juice (the original calls for orange, but pineapple works fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 very ripe bananas, mushed


1. In a cast-iron pan, melt the butter until just pooling, then stir in the agave nectar until combined. Be careful here because you don't want to burn the agave nectar.
2. Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, stirring until the apples are completely coated with the mixture. Saute for about 3-5 minutes until the apples just begin to soften their edges.
3. Remove the apple mixture from the pan and set it aside while you make the batter.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, spices, salt, and walnuts until the dry ingredients are well mixed. This should take about 2 minutes.
5. Beat the butter and agave nectar until well combined. Add the eggs, juice, vanilla, and bananas.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until just combined.
7. Fold in the apples, making sure they are evenly distributed.
8. Let the mixture rest while you line your muffin tins with paper cups and heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
9. Load up your muffin cups to the tops with the batter. They won't overflow much at all.
10. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, then check with a bamboo skewer. They are done when the tester comes out with only 1 or two moist crumbs attached.
11. Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes in the pan before tilting the muffins in the pan (so that the underside cools) for another 30 minutes before eating.

These are best served warm and will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container. They freeze very well if individually wrapped and bagged.

11 October 2009

Off Topic

Hello Friends!

Here in New Jersey the weather couldn't be finer for a crisp fall day. But, I wish I were in Washington, D.C. standing with my friends who marched for equality today. I'm not going to get up on my soap box here because that's what my other blog, Here and There is for. So, if you want to know more about why I'm wishing I was in D.C. today, please read about it here.

Back on topic, I'll be posting a very tasty (albeit non-vegan -- sorry friends) recipe for apple banana bread at some point this week.

Enjoy the weather!

04 October 2009

Book Review: Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds -- Veganized Apple Spice Cake

From October 2009 Photos

I'm quite enjoying the quest to veganize as many Altered Plates dishes as possible. This delicious apple spice cake inspired by the one in Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds was a lesson in food chemistry for me. As a result, I'm a full convert to the use of apple cider vinegar with baking powder to create an awesome egg substitute. Additionally, the original recipe calls for dark brown and granulated sugars, and molasses, all of which I don't use, so I called on my creative muse to help me on my journey with this cake.

From October 2009 Photos

I wasn't too worried once I tasted the batter, but I did become concerned when as it cooled, the cake part started separating from the apples a bit.

From October 2009 Photos

But, I carved out a small chunk and was so happily surprised that it took a lot of strength not to eat more of it before I took it to Mom's for her annual family party yesterday. Even though I made my cake with whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour, as well as a nice amount of flax meal just to be on the safe side in the veganing, no one complained about it being "too healthy" at all.

From October 2009 Photos

I received rave reviews on the cake, especially it's flavor and texture. I'd say it's about half apples and half cake. That makes for interesting serving, but I eventually was able to cut nice squares while my cousin Alan handed out the plates and forks. It's a very most cake with a wonderful spiced flavor and fluffy texture. I would definitely make this one again. Maybe for Thanksgiving.

About the book, while it's really not for vegetarians and vegans (or, very importantly, for folks who do not drink or cook with wine), there are plenty of worthwhile dishes to try and lively stories to read. If rough language also turns you off, you probably will have to exercise tolerance at turns, but generally it's written in a very informal way that is immediately approachable. I prefer more photos, especially of the finished dishes, but the book is targeted at those who want to throw fun dinner parties like the authors, so I supposed they are appropriate. All that aside, making a vegan version of the authors' apple spice cake was a fun thing to do for a dinner party of sorts at Mom's.

Here's the recipe for my version so you can try it for yourself.

Apple Spice Cake (inspired by the one of the same name on page 118 of Forking Fantastic by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds

Easily serves 20.


1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour + a little extra for the baking dish
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 teaspoon Cake Spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup oil (I used a mix of olive and canola oils) + a little extra for the baking dish
1 1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 Gala apples, cut into 1/2 in. chunks (keep the peels on the fruit)
1 cup walnuts chopped roughly


1. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the walnuts until very well combined.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except the apples until very well combined.
3. Oil and flour a 9 x 13 in. baking dish (I used a glass one)
4. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Fold in the apples and walnuts and mix until just combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and let it rest for 15 minute before baking.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
8. Bake the cake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then tent lightly with foil and bake at 325 for another 30 minutes (or until a tester emerges with moist crumbs attached, but you don't want it to be gooey).
9. Cool for an hour before serving. It's wonderful warm, but will be just as wonderful for the next two days. It won't last longer than that.

Just some procedural notes: once you mix the wet with the dry, the vinegar immediately starts reacting. You'll have to act quickly to get it into the pan and spread it evenly before it becomes challenging to do. Don't worry if you see air bubbles, it all works out fine.

I'm also sure that you could make a chocolate or carob version of this by substituting cocoa or carob for some of the flour. If you try it that way, please let me know how it goes!