27 March 2010

Happy Passover

Hello friends! This entry originally ran on April 20, 2008. Hope you enjoy your festive holidays!

Yes, once again, it's time to remake Martha's macaroons. Since it's such a simple recipe, I started off with a plain version (well, not so plain, as I'll explain below) for 1/3 of the recipe, then I added chopped, unsweetened carob chips after I'd scooped out a pan and one half, and finally, I added 1/4 cup of carob powder to the remaining mixture. The resulting macaroons were moist, with a very special flavor, thanks to Fiore di Sicilia.

I tripled the recipe, but my substitutions below apply directly to the original measurements for your ease of use:

1. 2/3 cup of agave for the 3/4 cup of sugar
2. Organic lite unsweetened shredded coconut for the regular kind (it's much more finely shredded, too!)
3. Chopped, unsweetened carob chips for the chocolate
4. 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia for the vanilla
5. I used a teaspoon-sized cookie scoop instead of 1 1/2 teaspoons of the mixture to make my macaroons. This way, they're truly bite sized.

The Fiori di Sicilia did magic things to the macaroons. It made the carob ones taste just like dark chocolate! It also gave the non-carob chip/powder variety a lovely orange flavor that you just can't get from orange zest.

These moist little clumps of coconut went over well at Passover last night. And, I'm bringing more to a party this afternoon. Tripling the recipe allows you about three days' worth of desserts to bring with you to seders. Best of all, this recipe is really a no-brainer and takes only the time to mix, bake, and cool. It's definitely one of my go-to Altered Plates.

Special tip: What the recipe doesn't tell you is that you should let the macaroons cool a bit on the baking sheet parchment paper prior to moving them to cooling racks. This way, you'll have less of a chance of crumpling the little guys.

For those celebrating, I wish you a meaningful and happy Passover!

20 March 2010

Spring Break and My Birthday

This past Monday marked another birthday for me as well as the beginning of spring break at school. Some friends on Facebook asked who was making my cake, and I had to say "no one" because 1. it was true, and 2. I hadn't planned on baking anything that day. However, I did enjoy a breakfast of pancakes (topped with agave nectar) with John. So, I had a little cake, as it were.

Since then, I've been splitting my semester break between homework and projects for school and enjoying the fabulous weather. Yesterday, Tanya and I ventured into NYC for a day on the town. We couldn't have asked for a sunnier spring-like day. We started at the Museum of Art and Design, where there was a truly remarkable cut paper exhibit (you must go see it, if you're in town).

One of the highlights of the trip was dining at Angelica Kitchen on fantastic vegan fare and sharing the best dessert I've had in ages. I confess that it was probably sweetened with maple syrup, but once in a while, I can splurge. It was an apple blueberry crumble pie that was perfect in every way. I'm going to try to duplicate their artistry at home using agave nectar carefully, because the best thing about this pie was that we could taste all of the flavors. It was sweetened very lightly, and spiced even more judiciously. It will take great restraint to recreate this delectable delight. But I'm up for the task.

In the meantime, you might note that my blogging will be a bit uneven. I begin volunteer work in the Plainfield Public Library's archives on Monday as well as work on a pretty intensive project in the Rutgers University archives later in the week -- in addition to my regular schedule of stuff. Oh, and then there's Passover, so no leaven-y baking for me from the end of March through the beginning of April.

All that to say, you may see some seasonally appropriate previously-posted items during the next 7 weeks (in addition to original material) while I endeavor to end the semester and graduate on a high note. Until then, enjoy spring!

10 March 2010

Best Vegan Carrot Cake Ever!

This recipe started out as a highly eggy one with buttermilk, but I did my magic with food chemistry and turned it into a truly tasty vegan delight. I topped it with a tweaked version of the BabyCakes Bakery cookbook vanilla frosting that was much more like coconut frosting because I used coconut milk instead of soymilk.

I'd made the cake to test it for future birthday cakes (especially mine, next week!), and brought it to a big party to try it out on my friends. They loved it, rushing the table for it as soon as I unveiled the thing. Prior to bringing the cake to the party, my friend Rosie and I tried two small pieces. We nearly kept the cake to ourselves, it was that good.

The cake is super-moist and spiced delightfully. The house smelled like a combination of cardamom and gingerbread for two days! I prefer currants over raisins because they don't interfere with the flavor of the cake (like raisins sometimes can). It's definitely not low calorie, but high in good fats and fiber. This will definitely be the one I bake for Mom's birthday in August. She's going to LOVE it.

Caveat about the frosting -- because it gets a bit melty at room temperature, prior to serving the cake, chill it for about 10 minutes to keep it firm without drying out the cake. The coconut frosting is an ideal match for this carrot cake because it's creamy and light, while the cake is spiced up about 3 notches.

Overall, the cake doesn't take long to make, but the frosting needs time to firm up. I actually had to run it through the food processor again before frosting the cake, so it had a whipped texture rather than a smooth one. It really reminded me of the coconut milk ice cream I've been having lately, without being overly sweet.

Because I hadn't made one in a while, I made a short movie of the making of the frosting and the cake (below). Go easy on me, I'm a bit out of practice. ;D Following the movie is the recipe. The recipe for the frosting is here, but watch the movie first for my alterations.

Best Carrot Cake Ever!
Yields two 8-in. rounds of cakey goodness.

4 teaspoons flaxmeal
4 tablespoons water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coconut flour (sifted)
2 teaspoons baking powder (sifted)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup currants
1 cup walnuts (chopped, or as I do it, beaten with a mallet)
6 cups coarsely grated carrots

1. Mix the flaxmeal with the water in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients until well incorporated.
3. Combine all the wet ingredients and mix well.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 passes, until just moistened.
5. Fold in the currants and walnuts.
6. Fold in the carrots until they are well distributed in the batter.
7. Generously oil (Smart Balance buttery spread does really well here) and flour the pans and preheat the oven to 335 degrees F.
8. Split the batter between the two pans and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a bamboo tester comes out clean.
9. Let cool for 1 hour in the pans, then turn out the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.
10. Frost the cakes and show 'em off before enjoying!