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For several years now, I have spent New Year’s Eve with friends from college. We have a feast of a dinner, play lots of games, drink champagne, and generally have a silly time together!
One of our favorite games is a German children’s board game called “Waldschattenspiel”, which one of my friends discovered while studying in Germany. It’s a perfect game for playing late on New Year’s Eve because it has to be played in the dark. One person is the candle (an actual lighted candle) and the rest are gnomes on a three-dimensional board representing a forest. The game is a race to see whether the candle can find all the gnomes before the gnomes all find each other. Playing in the dark adds a lot of excitement to the experience … particularly when someone tries to refill their wine glass or find the plate of cookies mid-game 😉
This Thursday, I’ll be bringing these celebratory champagne pear cupcakes to our gathering and looking forward to playing Waldschattenspiel once again! What are your favorite New Year’s Eve traditions?
Pear Ginger Cupcakes
Makes 10 cupcakes.
1 moderately ripe pear
2 c all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp minced candied ginger
1 c unsweetened almond milk
⅓ c canola oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ c granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or substitute vanilla extract)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or lightly grease the wells with oil.
Grate the pear using the medium-sized holes on a box grater.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the candied ginger, making sure it is well-distributed throughout the mixture and not clumped together.
In a medium bowl, combine milk, oil, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and ½ c grated pear. Make sure the ingredients are well mixed.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine the two mixtures quickly and gently. Immediately scoop the mixture into the muffin cups. Bake for 21-26 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are light golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Champagne Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough to frost 10 cupcakes.
¼ c champagne
⅓ c vegan margarine
⅓ c vegan cream cheese
2 ⅓ c powdered sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Pour the champagne into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove. Continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to 1 Tbsp.
Once the reduced champagne has cooled to room temperature, add the margarine and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Beat in 1 c powdered sugar. Next, beat in the reduced champagne. Finally, beat in the remaining powdered sugar in two parts, and the cinnamon and ginger.
Put the frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up, then frost each cupcake in a thin layer and serve.
Chocolate oranges always make me think of my dad. You know, the big balls of orange-flavored chocolate wrapped in orange foil that appear in stores before Christmas every year. Orange-flavored chocolate may be just about the only kind of chocolate my mom doesn’t absolutely adore, but my much-less-chocoholic dad loves chocolate oranges and he usually got one in his stocking on Christmas morning when we were growing up. These cookies were inspired by chocolate oranges, but unlike the candy, they are vegan and, in my opinion, even more scrumptious!
Chocolate-wrapped Orange Cookies
Makes 1 ½ – 2 dozen.
½ c vegan margarine
⅔ c (140 g) granulated sugar
orange zest from 1 large orange
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp orange juice
1 ⅔ c (235 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 c (175 g) vegan chocolate chips
½ Tbsp vegetable shortening
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the margarine, sugar, and orange zest. Using the stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until fluffy, then mix in the vanilla and orange juice.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl and mix on low speed or by hand until the ingredients are well combined.
Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet and partially flatten them with the heel of your hand to a thickness of about ½ to ¾ of an inch.
Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes or until the edges are firm to the touch and lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cookies are cool, cover a baking sheet or a couple of plates with wax paper. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening together in a double boiler or (carefully) in the microwave in a shallow bowl. Mix well so that the shortening is evenly distributed throughout the molten chocolate. If using a double boiler, remove the chocolate mixture from the heat once melted and pour into a shallow bowl.
Taking one cookie at a time, drop it right-side-up into the chocolate so that the bottom is covered in chocolate. Remove the cookie from the chocolate and place it on the wax paper. Repeat for each cookie. You can use a spoon to drizzle any leftover chocolate over the tops of the cookies.
Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite kitchen tools for baking. Whether you’re looking to improve your own baking or you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift for a baker you know, I hope this list will be helpful!
Oven Thermometer. All ovens are different, and in my experience, most ovens run at least a little hot or cold relative to the temperature on the display. An oven thermometer is indispensable for making sure you are baking at the correct temperature, so that you end up with a product that is neither burnt nor underdone! Oven thermometers are relatively inexpensive, and you may even be able to find one in the kitchen tools section of your local grocery store.
Cookie Scoops. You may be able to get by with a couple of spoons, but cookie scoops make life so much easier if you bake a lot of cookies or (with larger sizes) muffins! Scooping out cookies or muffin batter is fast and all the cookies or muffins come out in a uniform size, making for more consistent baking.
Yeast Spoon. A lot of bread recipes call for yeast measured in packets of 2 ¼ teaspoons. That’s an awkward amount to measure. If you bake a lot of bread, you may appreciate having a way to measure a packet’s worth of yeast all in one go.
Cake Tester. Toothpicks have their limits. If you want to be able to test doneness all the way into a thick loaf of quick bread or cake, a longer tool is crucial. Cake testers can be found for only a dollar or so at your local kitchen supply store.
Baking Thermometer. Continuing on the theme of doneness, a baking thermometer can be a useful objective measure for testing bread loaves. You can stick it into the bottom of the loaf to avoid holes in the top crust. This is one of my favorite baking tools because it takes a lot of angst out of figuring out whether a loaf of bread is done! Refer to the recipe or a reliable baking reference to find the correct internal temperature for your particular loaf.
Dough Scraper. I don’t use my dough scraper as much as the other tools on this list, but it is still a really useful tool for bread baking. When you need to divide bread dough into pieces (like for my cardamom braid), a metal scraper like this one provides a clean, even cut. It is also useful for scraping bits of flour and dough off your work surface when you’re done.
Today, I am very excited to bring you my veganized version of a recipe that has been a part of my family’s Christmas for as long as I can remember. Beginning in mid-December, my mom bakes five or six batches of braided cardamom bread to give to nearby family and close friends as a Christmas gift. The bread is soft and sweet, with just the perfect amount of cardamom. It’s so good when it’s warm out of the oven that my mom has to budget a loaf for the family every time she bakes, and we all come running as soon as the bread has cooled enough to slice! Most of a loaf can easily disappear within 20 minutes. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
(Adapted from a recipe in Yankee Magazine.)
Makes 2 loaves.
1 c unsweetened almond milk
¼ c + 1 Tbsp vegan margarine, divided
1.5 Tbsp (2 packages; 14g) active dry yeast
½ c (100g) granulated sugar
½ c (120g) applesauce
~4 ½ c (~630g) all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
½ c raisins (optional)
Combine the milk and ¼ c margarine in a microwaveable container or small saucepan, and heat until the margarine is melted and the mixture feels warm but not hot to the touch on the inside of your wrist (110-115 degrees F).
Pour the warm milk mixture into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Let sit until the yeast has formed puffy bubbles on the surface of the liquid, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and applesauce. Next, add about 1 ½ c flour, salt, and cardamom. Mix the dough well, then start adding additional flour until the dough is kneadable. Knead the dough, continuing to add small amounts of flour as needed until the dough is smooth and pliable but no longer sticky. If you would like to add raisins to the bread, knead them into the dough at this point.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled.
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold a couple of times to deflate. Divide the dough in half, and then divide each half into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each of the six balls out into a rope about 1-1 ½” thick and about 12” long. Take three of the ropes and braid them together, tucking the loose ends underneath the braid. Repeat with the remaining three ropes.
Place the two braided loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently cover the loaves with a sheet of greased plastic wrap so the plastic doesn’t stick to the dough. Let rise 30-45 minutes, until puffy and approximately doubled in size. Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of vegan margarine in the microwave or on the stovetop. Brush melted margarine over the braids and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the loaves for about 22-25 minutes, or until the bottom is firm and sounds hollow when tapped and/or the bread has reached an internal temperature of 185-190 degrees F. Let cool a few minutes before slicing, if you can bear to wait!
I think of my college years as the period when I became a baker and a cook in my own right. Some of my favorite college memories were made in the little dorm kitchens shared by all the residents on a floor. One of my closest friends taught me how to make pretzels from a recipe she had learned as a foreign exchange student in Germany. Other times, we made pizza from scratch for a special dinner or scones to fuel a weekend afternoon study session. I always kept a bag of flour and a few other basic baking ingredients in my dorm room, because who knew when the baking urge would strike!
Dorm living isn’t conducive to complex recipes with many ingredients, so when I found a simple recipe I loved, I made it again and again. Today’s recipe is inspired by a recipe for chocolate fudge that I found on the back of a can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. The recipe’s short ingredient list and limited number of steps made it perfect for producing in a dorm kitchen. Here is my new spin on the recipe, a delightfully soft and deeply flavorful vegan fudge made with rosemary-infused sweetened condensed coconut milk.
Rosemary Chocolate Fudge
Makes about 22 oz fudge.
1 can (11.25 oz) sweetened condensed coconut milk (there are recipes here, here, and here to make your own if you have difficulty finding it in a store)
2 tsp dried rosemary
12 oz vegan semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp coffee extract
Line the bottom and sides of a 9” by 5” loaf pan with wax paper. Add 2 tsp of dried rosemary to a spice bag or a tea ball.
Empty the can of coconut milk into a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until it is smooth and even. Once the milk is simmering, add the spice bag containing the rosemary to the pot. Let the milk simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring the contents of the pot occasionally.
After 10 minutes have passed, remove the pot from the heat and discard the spice bag. Add the chocolate chips to the pot and stir until the chips are completely melted and smooth. Stir in the coffee extract.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared loaf pan, and smooth out the top of the fudge with the back of a spoon.
Place the loaf pan in the fridge and chill for at least 1 ½ hrs before serving.
I love sour fruits, and cranberries may be my favorite. Growing up, our Thanksgiving table included two or three cranberry dishes as part of the main course, and often cranberries in a pie, too! This Thanksgiving, I’m excited to introduce my girlfriend’s family to my dad’s family recipe for cranberry-orange relish, a mix of shredded cranberries, oranges, and sugar that explodes with sweet-tartness after the flavors have blended for a day.
If you’re not a huge fan of the tartness of cranberries but still want to include them in your Thanksgiving dinner, these muffins are coming to your rescue! They showcase both corn and cranberries, two foods native to North America. The muffins are savory and would be lovely with a pat of vegan margarine on top.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Cranberry Cornbread Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
1 c (175 g) cornmeal
½ c almond milk
1 c (140 g) white whole wheat flour
½ tsp (3 g) baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground allspice
1 c orange juice
¼ c vegan margarine, melted
½ c sweetened dried cranberries (Craisins), chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
Mix cornmeal and almond milk in a medium bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice.
After the cornmeal has soaked, combine the cornmeal mixture with the orange juice and melted margarine. Stir well so there are no lumps of cornmeal remaining.
Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix gently, just until all ingredients are combined. Add the cranberries and mix gently to distribute them through the batter.
Scoop the batter into the wells of the muffin tin. Bake the muffins for about 18 minutes or until the tops are firm and slightly golden.
Whether you’re going out to eat or just sitting at home browsing the web, it’s all about the pumpkin and the butternut squash recipes this time of year. I love pumpkin and butternut squash of course, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on the many other delicious varieties of winter squash! Spaghetti squash is a fun alternative to pasta, delicata squash is beautiful when roasted in little rings with its edible skin left on, and kabocha squash makes a great stew.
Today, I’m bringing you a recipe that uses a common variety of winter squash rarely used in baking: acorn squash. If you’re looking for a recipe that makes acorn squash shine, this is sadly not it: the roasted squash disappears quietly into the background of this bread loaf, adding sweetness and moisture but little squash-y flavor. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get more vegetables into some picky eaters, they will never guess your game when you serve them this bread! 😉
Acorn Squash Bread
Makes one 8 ½ x 4” loaf.
Note: If you are new to baking yeast bread, King Arthur Flour has many great resources for learning the techniques!
1 acorn squash
olive oil for brushing on squash
¾ c almond milk, divided
1 Tbsp vegan margarine, melted
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp; 7 g) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 ½ – 3 c (350 – 450g) white whole wheat flour
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil onto the flesh of the squash and place cut side-down on a baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
In a blender, puree ½ c (~120 g) squash flesh with ¼ c almond milk and the melted margarine. Set aside the remaining squash for another use.
Warm the remaining ½ c almond milk to 100-115 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, liquid at this temperature should feel warm but not hot if applied to the inside of your wrist (don’t test with your fingers because they are less sensitive to heat). Pour the warm almond milk into a large bowl and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let the yeast and milk sit for about five minutes, until you see brown bubbles from the yeast blooming on the surface of the milk.
Add the maple syrup and squash puree to the bowl, and mix well. Next, add about 2 cups of flour along with the nutmeg and salt. Stir the ingredients together into a dough. Add additional flour in small increments until the dough is firm enough to knead. Knead the dough for several minutes, incorporating more flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and springy but not sticky.
Oil a large bowl, place the kneaded dough inside, and cover with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside in a draft-free location to rise for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. The actual rise time will depend on ambient temperature: setting the dough to rise in a warm oven will make it rise more quickly, but the flavor of the dough will be better developed at slightly cooler temperatures.
Grease an 8 ½ x 4” loaf pan. With greased or lightly floured hands, remove the dough from the bowl and fold it over on itself a couple of times, reshaping it into a log that will fit into the loaf pan.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. The rise is finished when the top of the dough is level with the top of the loaf pan.
When the dough is nearing the end of its rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. When the dough has finished rising, bake for about 35 minutes. The loaf is done when the top is browned, knocking on the bottom of the loaf produces a hollow sound, and (if you have an instant-read thermometer available) the internal temperature of the loaf is 190-195 degrees F.
Do you have traditional family recipes that you would like to veganize? Have you seen a delicious-looking recipe online or in a cookbook that you would like to make, but think you can’t because it’s not vegan? Here are my tips on vegan substitutions for eggs, dairy, and chocolate in your baking recipes. Many recipes will veganize well, so do some experimenting and have fun!
Follow Your Heart may have just hatched a vegan egg, but you don’t have to order online or go to a specialty foods store to find good vegan substitutes for eggs in baking! The functions of eggs in baking include binding ingredients together, adding structure, and leavening. The binding function of eggs is easiest to replicate with vegan ingredients. The trick with vegan egg replacements is to know which substitutes to use in which kinds of baked goods.
Substitution: 1/4 cup applesauce = 1 egg
Best in: Muffins, Quickbreads, Yeast Breads
Not recommended for: Cookies with high fat content (they may come out too soft)
Notes: You can also use other types of pureed fruit, such as banana or pear, as long as you’re aware of how these fruits’ flavors might influence the flavor of your final product. Mashed banana can be an awesome addition to a batch of chocolate chip muffins!
Notes: Ground flaxseed is easy to find in the baking aisle of mainstream grocery stores and keeps well in the freezer. Most recipes say to let this mixture sit for a few minutes before combining with other ingredients in the recipe, but I usually skip this step and haven’t noticed any ill effects. 🙂
Notes: I don’t use chia seed often, but I think it works great for those situations when flaxseed may not be a strong enough binder. If you let the chia-water mixture sit for a couple of minutes, you will see it form a thick, sticky gel.
Substitution: 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu = 1 egg
Best in: Dense items like puddings or fudgy brownies
Not recommended for: Muffins, Quickbreads, Breads, Cakes
Notes: Silken tofu has a relatively narrow range of uses for egg replacement, but for those uses, it is indispensable. Pureed silken tofu can imitate the creamy texture of a custard or a cream pie that would normally come partly from eggs. However, it will weigh down lighter baked goods, so stick to using it for products that are intended to be dense.
Other substitutes: I have never used commercial egg replacers, so I can’t comment on how they work in comparison to the egg substitutes listed above. One other new egg substitute that intrigues me is chickpea liquid. If you’ve tried using it, let me know what you thought in the comments!
There are a number of widely-available vegan alternatives to dairy, and you can generally substitute them for dairy products in a 1:1 ratio.
Substitutes for Dairy Milk: My go-to vegan milk is almond milk because it has a similar consistency to dairy milk and can be purchased unsweetened so that it doesn’t alter the sweetness of your final product. The other most common non-dairy milks are soy, rice, and coconut (in a carton, not a can). Soymilk is usually sweetened, so I tend to avoid it. However, soymilk has more protein than other non-dairy milks, so for recipes that rely on milk protein to enhance structure, it would be worthwhile to hunt down some unsweetened soymilk. Rice milk has a thinner consistency than dairy milk. Coconut milk may add some coconut flavor to your baked goods, which is a fabulous choice for some items and a much less fabulous choice for others. 😉
Substitutes for Buttermilk: To make 1 cup of buttermilk, I simply pour 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (cider or white) into a 1-cup measure and add enough non-dairy milk to make a full cup of liquid (this ratio can also be used to make buttermilk from dairy milk). You want to let this mixture sit until it curdles or splits. For almond milk, this seems to happen almost instantly. Again, if the protein in the buttermilk is important to the recipe (e.g., to give structure to buttermilk biscuits), unsweetened soymilk will be the best choice for the non-dairy milk component of the buttermilk mixture.
Substitutes for Cream: I like canned coconut milk as a substitute for cream. It is thick and rich, but it may impart some coconut flavor to your baked goods if there aren’t other strong flavors to mask it. Commercial alternatives also exist.
Substitutes for Butter: My go-to substitute for butter is Earth Balance buttery spread, which is typically available in mainstream grocery stores. Earth Balance also makes buttery sticks which add convenience for measurement, but the spread works quite well for baking. I also use canola oil as a substitute for butter in some baked goods. Because of the differences in chemistry between oil and butter, I don’t recommend using oil if a product is supposed to have a flaky texture or if the recipe calls for working with the dough or fat when it is cold (e.g., biscuits, scones, pie crusts, and some cookies). However, I find oil to be a perfectly adequate substitute for butter in muffins, quick breads, and lower-fat drop cookies.
Substitutes for Sour Cream/Yogurt: Pureed silken tofu can be quickly transformed into a good substitute for sour cream (puree a couple tablespoons of lemon juice with a carton of tofu) or yogurt (just add non-dairy milk as needed to achieve a yogurt-like consistency). I have had trouble finding unsweetened non-dairy yogurt even at specialty grocery stores, so I prefer making a tofu substitute over having to mess around with the other sweeteners in a recipe to compensate for using sweetened yogurt.
Now for what I consider the best baking ingredient of all: chocolate! We all could guess that milk chocolate is not vegan; unfortunately, many brands of dark and semi-sweet chocolate also contain some milk products, so make sure to check the label! My favorite brands of vegan chocolate chips are Costco’s Kirkland brand and Trader Joe’s brand. Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips are also commonly available in supermarkets and are free of many common allergens. I haven’t tried them, as the first two brands mentioned tend to be considerably less expensive.
If you’re baking with cocoa powder or 100% baking chocolate, then no worries! These products are always vegan.
Thanks for sticking with me through all that! I hope these tips have been useful. Happy baking! 🙂
I grew up doing a lot of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, mostly with my brother and my dad. If you’re not familiar with this part of the U.S., the White Mountains are relatively small–only seven peaks are over 5000 feet–but they are rocky, rugged, and a challenge to climb! Long ago, we figured out that lots of good snacks, a silly attitude (bring on the fart jokes!), and loud, off-key singing are excellent ways to fuel a grueling hike. GORP is a must-pack snack, but if you’re climbing hard, sometimes those raisins and peanuts sit in your stomach like a rock. I find that muffins are a great alternative in those situations, as well as for fueling more mundane exercise like going for a run around town. The first iteration of today’s muffin recipe fueled my brother and me as we hiked 6288-foot Mount Washington with my dad a couple summers ago. The banana and peanut butter flavor is a classic energy-rich combination, supplying carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and these muffins save you from the gooey mess you’d get in your backpack if you tried to pack a fresh banana and peanut butter! 😛
PB & B Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
1 c mashed banana (2 – 3 ripe bananas, depending on their size)
½ c honey (not for strict vegans) or maple syrup
½ c crunchy salted peanut butter
¾ c (105g) all-purpose flour
¾ c (105g) traditional whole wheat flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
optional add-ins: chocolate chips, chopped peanuts, etc.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line the cups with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana, honey or maple syrup, and peanut butter. Stir well.
Combine the flours, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. If you want to add in chocolate chips or chopped peanuts, stir those into the flour mixture as well. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden-brown and springy. You can also test for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of a muffin; when you take the toothpick out, it should not have batter on it.