Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pomme Frites


Look me in the eye and tell me that fries aren't amazing. America is the only country I've spent considerable time in, and I know that they're a staple here, but they're definitely a staple in many other parts of the world. From Canadian Poutine to American Chili Cheese Fries, we love us some deep-fried starch. I knew that they originated in France, so imagine my excitement when I learned that making them was going to count as a traditional French dish in culinary school. I thought "I get to actually focus on fries for school? I was so excited that I started dreaming about writing an essay on fries, knowing that I was going to tear it up. Tragically, I didn't write a thesis on fries (my thesis was on American Regional Cuisine) but I still remember learning to make them.

Now, there are several different preparations and all yield different results. Everyone has their own opinions on which potatoes are best, whether to blanch or not, whether to soak or not, whether to freeze or not before frying. I'm going to show you the simple method that I learned in culinary school and you can go from there. Cool?

Here's one thing before we start:

While there are over 4000 different varieties of potato, they can be sorted into two categories: waxy and starchy. A waxy potato will be the yellow or red kind you might find at the grocery store, with skin that's quite thin and that peels easily away after boiling. A starchy potato is, well, rather starchy and stick-to-your ribs, your standard Idaho potato, which is often the chosen kind to use for baking and for pasta applications. Gnocchi, for example, are often made with starchy potatoes. A lot of folks like to use the starchy kind for mashed potatoes as well as gratins. They're sturdy, and that's why I personally think that they're the better kind for fries. That being said, I've seen Gordon Ramsay make a Chip Butty using waxy potatoes, called desiree.

Pomme Frites
yields enough for 2 people, or just 1 if you're feeling a tad hangry


  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 quart frying oil
  • Salt & fresh chopped parsley to taste


Fill up a medium saucepot with cool water. Take two starchy potatoes and peel them, making sure to compost the peels, right along with your coffee grounds and your eggshells. Use a knife to slice thin batons of potato, a little bigger than 1/8" of an inch. You can do 1/4", if you like, just know that cooking is going to take much longer. It doesn't matter what size you choose, so long as your batons are the same size. Place them all in the pot and use your hands to swirl them around. See all of that cloudy white stuff? That's the starch. Drain the water and fill it up again, swirling and rinsing until the water is clear, then bring up to a boil. Since they're so thin, they barely need to cook for more than 1 minute before you take them off the heat and drain them. Lay them flat on paper towels to let dry out a bit while you bring up your oil. Do not have wet fries when you put them into hot oil; you will make it splatter up and you will get hurt. Seriously.

Protip: Use a bigger pot than you think you need. Seriously. I use my 4 qt stock pot when I'm barely going to be using a quart of oil. Oh, and let's talk about oil while we're here!

See, no two oils are alike. There's such a thing as smoke point, which is just a fancy way of saying "hey this is really hot, all the water that was ever in here is now 100% gone and the flavor profile of this is now changing because it's cooking a bit too high. It might catch fire if you keep it going. For real. Because like, I'm oil. And I'm hella flammable."

I use the lard that I render from beef, combined with coconut oil. This is because it's just the fat that I have in the jar in my fridge. Yeah, I have a dripping jar. Yeah, I reuse it and filter it when I can. It's flavor. So whatever you choose, be it shortening or grapeseed oil, be careful and heat it to 350
degrees F. Make sure that you have plenty of room for expansion, otherwise you could start a fire.

Once your oil is hot, gently drop your fries in and fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes for me. I drained it by using a slotted pasta spoon (I couldn't find my spider) and tossed with parsley and salt. You can season it with whatever you want, of course, but I wanted to keep it simple.

You can use steak seasoning, truffle oil, whatever you like!

Serve these fries with a steak, with a burger, in a bowl with cheese and gravy and veggies...the possibilities are endless! Use these fries just as you'd use any fries. They always say that you should eat whatever you like so long as you cook it yourself. So? Wanna eat fries? Make them yourself!



Thanks so much for joining me. Happy cooking and happy eating.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vegan Palmiers




So here's the thing about a classic pastry like a palmier: it requires what it known as lamination. No, no, not like the plastic stuff that goes over documents. I'm talking layers. Specifically, layers of dough alternating with layers of butter. You can see all sorts of snippets and examples of this on a lovely show called The Great British Bake-off (or The Great British Baking Show for we Americans) does puff pastry week with each season and it's always great to watch everything they come up with. In culinary school, laminated doughs were a lesson in patience for me. It's a very fiddly and finicky thing to keep everything just the right temperature and just the right texture in order to have it successfully bake. The idea is that you have the dough - which is cold - and the butter be the same consistency and thickness when rolling. This is often a dance between time and temperature. I was convinced that I'd never be able to do it with a vegan butter substitute, that it wouldn't ever be the right temperature or consistency to hold up like dairy butter would.

Image result for earth balanceFolks, meet Earth Balance. This is the single best vegan butter substitute I've come across. It acts just like butter in every single cake and pastry application I've yet to throw at it. It makes great ganache, it does a beautiful pie crust, and emulsifies in an extremely similar fashion to the real thing. It's yet to fail at a task I've put it to - and this includes laminating doughs. Trust me, I'm just as shocked as you are. Your move, America. We're out of excuses. If vegan croissants aren't soon a thing in every vegan bakery across this great nation, SO HELP ME. 

Now then, before anyone gets on their high horse about dairy butter being a superior product and how homaigah there are so many other ingredients in this don't you want just butter it's ONE INGREDIENT and start crying and shitting your pants over it, let me explain something:

Dairy milk is considered a whole food because it contains every single vitamin you need to sustain life. Know why? It's breast milk. This is baby cow food, to grow baby cows up big and strong. Of course it's great for you and great for your children - provided they aren't lactose intolerant, which they probably are. The ability to drink dairy milk without consequence is an anomaly. 

Thanks, Reddit, for the image!

Genetically, I'm half East Asian and half Ashkenazi Jewish (and yes, that's why I have such glorious curly hair). Dairy hurts my tummy. My fiance is a pan-European mutt, however, and dairy still hurts his tummy. In fact, it hurts all of his parts because he's severely lactose intolerant. I frankly can't remember the last time I've had dairy products in my home. This makes me feel only slightly less guilty about eating pork and shellfish because meat and dairy have never touched since B. and I moved in together. And let me shout it from the rooftops: I don't keep kosher by even the most-liberal of estimates. It is definitely my fault that the messiah isn't coming. I'm terrribly sorry. I'm the worst. 

Okay, that's enough disclaimers and tragic backstory. Let's get onto the recipe.

Vegan Palmiers
  • 150 g cold vegan butter substitute, pressed into a flat square, then frozen
  • 5 g salt
  • 105 g cold water
  • 205 g AP flour
  • 45 g vegan butter substitute, quite warm, near-melted

Measure your first 150 g of vegan butter substitute and press between two sheets of either parchment paper or plastic wrap to create a square. I didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure my square was about 6 inches on each side, with about half an inch of thickness to go with. Pop that in the freezer and work on your dough.




Simply combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and begin to knead with your hand. You will have to knead this to create a fair bit of gluten so that the steam from the melted "butter" will catch and make everything puff up and rise. The kneading process shouldn't take longer than five minutes; you just want to do it until the dough is rather smooth and homogenized. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 15 minutes in the freezer.

Once your dough and butter are cool and quite firm, you're ready to work. Roll your dough out to a square that, when the butter pat is placed on it, it will envelop it wholly. Like this!


I think you can actually see the cuts I made in the butter to make it into a pat. Neat! Anyhow, take this cold mass and fold it over onto itself, like an envelope. Check out my visual representation below...






Easy peasy pumpkin sqeezy! Now comes the fun bit... the lamination bit! This is also called folding. There are letter folds, book folds...lots of them! You can google any tutorial on how to do folding techniques - I  personally like the letter fold. That's when you take the long rectangle of your dough and fold it over in thirds, like you'd fold a letter, and roll out! I snapped a photo of the tutorial out of my old culinary textbook from school for you to see. It really is quite simple!

Now, once you've folded your dough into thirds, brush off the excess flour and roll out longways. Then, fold that now long piece into thirds which would be going the opposite way from the initial fold. Basically, you're always rotating something one turn and folding. But never go more than two turns before letting the dough rest in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. I promise you that it's worth the wait! Once you've rested the dough, roll out the dough again and do another letter fold, and yet another. You've now done the letter fold four times, which means you have now made twelve folds, which means you have twenty-four layers of alternating 'butter' and dough. I think that's fair enough, don't you? I think that you're ready to make your palmiers. 

So, the palmier is a special French sort of sugar cookie. Luckily, you only need about a third of your dough to make a dozen or so of these cookies, which means you can let the other two thirds hand out in the freezer until you're ready to use them again. So, cut a third of your dough and brush off your counter because you're not going to be rolling your puff dough in flour - oh, no, you'll  be rolling it in SUGAR.

That's right, SUGAR!

Take your dough and roll it out to about 1/4" thickness and cut that in half. Roll up your first half of dough into a scroll long ways. This means that you have the short end facing you, and two long book-end type situations happening to make a big scroll. You then roll up your scroll on the long sides to have two scrolls meet in the middle. Do the same thing with your other long piece of dough, but only roll up halfway towards the middle. It's almost as if you're going to be reading it.

Place your first, tightly-wound scroll in the middle of the other and then squeeze gently together to get it to stick. Turn over this entire log of scrolls so that the rolled bits are facing down and that the bottoms are facing up. Using a rather sharp knife (serrated is my knife of choice for this particular application) and quite gently slice off scroll sections of the roll. Spread out your cookies, sprinkle even more sugar on top, and then ROLL THEM FLAT! I do mean flat. Roll them quite, quite thin so that they're basically tuiles of sugar. 

Pop onto a silpat mat or a parchment sheet and freeze until your oven reaches 375 degrees F. The trick of puff pastry is this:

*YOUR DOUGH MUST BE COLD. YOUR OVEN MUST BE HOT. YOUR DOUGH MUST BE RATHER COLD GOING INTO A RATHER HOT OVEN.

Write it down. Put it on your fridge. Tattoo it backwards on your forehead so that when you look in the mirror, you can read it legibly. 

Bake for about 12 minutes or until they're golden-brown. Let them cool. You don't want to get burned with hot sugar. Besides, this way they'll become crisp the way they're supposed to! Spectacular!




Happy cooking and happy eating - and if your mom is in town and you don't have a strained relationship with her, you should take some time and make them for her. You can get this ready for mother's day dinner if you start right now. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Pandan Pepita Macarons



I'm a big fan of recipes that can be modified to accommodate dietary restrictions. I'll be the first to admit that I used to make light of it, make fun of it - but I've come to learn that there's a big difference between a food intolerance/allergy that causes hives or for your butt to hate you and some prick that "doesn't eat gluten because Jenny McCarthy says it causes cancer but let me grab a few bites of my boyfriend's pizza." I've learned that my dislike is actually of that person that wreaks havoc on the kitchen staff of the restaurant that they force their dietary restrictions on while simultaneously being a condescending jackass to their poor server versus the person that orders the thing on the menu that's easily-made gluten-free/dairy-free/nut-free and quietly says thank you. Anyway.

Macarons are perfect gluten-free snacks. They're excellent to make ahead (and are actually better if left to cure, especially in the freezer, for a few days) and are practically fat-free.The only fat you'll see in them are in the buttercream filling, but you don't even have to use buttercream - you can use jam or apple butter, just like in my Green Apple Macarons! There's one problem with the traditional macaron, however: they're made with ground nuts. Oh yes. Ground almonds are traditional, but you can also use ground hazelnuts, pistachios...I've even heard of people using walnuts or pecans. My favorite recipe in the world, though, is one I snagged from a blog I love: BraveTart.

BraveTart is a most-wonderful food blogger that's written a spectacular book called Iconic American Desserts. I love them for their scientific approach, their poignant writing style, and great photos. I will gladly say, any day of the week, that it is their recipes I use for the difficult stuff, just like nut-free macarons. In fact, find the original recipe and post right here!

The macaron is a wonderful French cookie that's essentially a whipped-then-deflated meringue cookie bound together with ground nuts(or in this case, pepitas) and baked. They are an admittedly finicky cookie to make with lots of technique and that take a lot of practice to get consistently perfect. I don't get them perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I do them well-enough, though! And I have made enough to know at least a few things... If you want to go through in more detail of an original recipe, find my basic how-tos tutorial here.

I love using East Asian flavors in Western applications. Pandan is a very popular flavor in the Philippines; it's essentially the flavor of these leaves from a plant called - I swear - "screwpine", but tastes quite a bit like young coconut. I especially love the flavor on pandan in angel food cake, and you can't beat Pandan Macarons. Pandan is a mild coconut flavor, and gives a lovely green color. You can find the extract at most Asian grocers, or through Amazon Prime.



Pandan Macarons
Cookies

  • 115 g pepitas(hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 230 g powdered sugar
  • 130 g (4 large) egg whites
  • 72 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pandan gel extract
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
Pandan Buttercream
  • 2/3 vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp pandan gel extract
  • Powdered sugar A/N
  • Kosher salt to taste
Grind the pepitas to a fine powder in batches using either a food processor or a spice grinder/coffee grinder. Make sure to add in a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar, of course, to your grinder to make sure that the fat in the pepitas don't make everything cake. You can run the stuff through a sieve, but you can also use a whisk. The important thing is to get as many lumps out as possible and to get as fine a powder as possible. Meanwhile, let your egg whites come up to room temperature. 

Whip the egg whites, salt, and granulated sugar together in medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, or until quite foamy. Turn off the machine, add in a heaping spoonful of the powdered sugar, and whip on medium-high speed for another 2 minutes, or until they become shiny. Add in your extract and whip up on high for about 30 seconds so it's shiny, pale green, and still stiff without being dry. 

Fold in a heaping spoonful of the meringue mixture into the dry ingredients. I know it seems sort of counterproductive, but do your best to get all the dry ingredients mashed in to this egg white mix to make it into a sort of paste. Add in another spoonful just to lighten it and "wet" it, folding in further and further, then finally dumping all of your meringue in to your mix. You're essentially folding it until everything is well mixed and the consistency of your macaron batter is like flowing molten lava. 

Here's a tip: you're far more-likely to under-mix a macaron batter than to over-mix. If it's a stiff batter that doesn't flow, then just fold a little more, pressing the sides to ensure that you're getting all of the lumps out. Please try not to overmix it, though. It'll be overmixed when it runs thin like icing and won't hold its shaped when piped. Seriously, try not to get this far. 

Fill your piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe them in consistent rounds on your baking sheet. Do this on a silpat mat if you have one, but parchment paper will do as well. Please do not use wax paper - this is for making chocolate dipped strawberries or something of the like, and not for baking. 

Pipe the rounds and please - oh please - don't forget to give the bottom of the pan a very good whap on the counter. I know this sounds weird, but you'll regret it if you don't. A big troubleshoot with macarons is that they're often quite full of air, and it's this good rap from the bottom that knocks out the bigger, more uneven bubbles from your cookie. Let them sit for 20 - 30 minutes on the counter while your oven heats. This allows a skin to form, which will give you that signature shiny top that every successful macaron has. 

Heat your oven to 300 degrees F. I have an oven thermometer that tells me that my own oven runs about 25-30 degrees hot, so I only heat mine to 275. Oven temperature is crucial to successful baking, so I highly recommend that you invest in an oven thermometer of your own. You can find them at just about any grocery store for about $6.

Bake for 11 minutes and evacuate to cool completely. While that's happening, whip up your buttercream. I used vegetable shortening to make what is known as an American buttercream. It's simply your standard buttercream of fat and powdered sugar! This one is just until you feel it is stiff and sweet enough. I used the whisk attachment to first add in the salt and pandan extract and make sure that's entirely incorporated before adding in the sugar. Add it in, just a spoonful or two at a time, just until you reach the consistency you desire. The best part is that you won't even need any artificial coloring, as it'll become this lovely green! 

Fill a piping bag fitted with a tip of your choice (I chose a plain tip but a star tip is pretty, too) and gently peel away the cookies from the sheet. Take a moment to match up same-sized cookies with partners if your piping skills aren't perfect, like mine aren't. Pipe a small ring of buttercream inside and sandwich. You can now freeze these to store them, or just let them hang out on the counter, covered, for a few days to let mature. Or, you know, you could eat them outright. Up to you. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ice Dyed Holiday Eggs

I probably used way more pink than I intended to.

Tis the season for egg-dying and I must say: it's one of my favorite springtime activities. Since we've now designated them as "holiday eggs" instead of Easter Eggs, everyone can enjoy them!

(And can I just say how beautiful it is that Easter/Ostara is on April Fool's Day this year? I mean, come on. The possibilities are endless. Chocolate-covered brussels sprouts for cake pops? Covering grapes in chocolate egg wrappers? Telling your kids that you hid the eggs outside when THERE ARE NO EGGS?!?! Come on. It's too easy.)

The cool thing about decorating eggs is that you can go crazy with things. Thanks to Pinterest and curious crafters all over the world, there are about a million different ways you can do the egg dying thing! I have a pinterest board that's just full of holiday ideas (four or five of which out of the near 100 pins I've actually tried out) that proves just this. And, hey, those are only the ones I've found.

One of the things that I've noticed about the few pins on egg dying that I've tried is that they take too long. I am, admittedly, one of the most-impatient people on the face of this planet; that being said, I wanted to try a technique that was fast-ish, and let me do other stuff while it sat all in one place. Enter the ice dyeing.

Ice dyeing is a really neat technique that you use on clothing to get neat tie-dye effects. The cool thing about ice dyeing is that you don't need to mix a bajillion different buckets worth of dye in all of your different colors; you just dump a bunch of ice all over your fabric, sprinkle the dye where you want it in whichever patterns you want it, and then go do something else. Another cool thing about dyeing with ice is that (I hear) it yields brighter colors. The design aspects get a little better with that as well, as you don't have to worry about something bleeding over. You should definitely try ice dyeing the next time you feel like giving life back into an old pair of sneakers or a tee shirt or white dress that's too stained to do anything with so you just dye it instead.



Since I didn't have any powdered food dyes (or, rather, I only had green) I used liquid food dye. After boiling my eggs for precisely 11 minutes, I evacuated them and set them in a strainer over a pot. Once my eggs were drained, I layered them between ice and dye. All I did was put down a single layer of eggs in the strainer, cover with ice, and drop in dye here and there. I repeated until all of my eggs were covered with ice and dye, and then I went off to clean the kitchen.

Since the eggs were hot, the dyeing process took a mere 10 minutes. Granted, I had a lot of ice - but the point is that it was relatively fast and it was fun to see a transformation happen right before your eyes.

I used a lot of pink and red in the lower layers, so a good portion of the eggs turned out rather pink. The marbling on the bottoms and tops were just glorious, and it's a great way to do a large-ish batch of eggs at one time. Fun! Oh, and here's a tip:

If you boil your eggs with a pinch or two of baking soda, and then shock them with ice, your eggs will peel MUCH easier than they would have otherwise. And if you feel like making it into an egg salad, press the peeled eggs through a cooling rack for a quick-and-easy chop.



Hope you all enjoyed. Happy dyeing and happy eating!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Drunken Strawberry Cobbler

The booze cooks out. Or does it...?

I know, I know - I just did a strawberry pastry recipe blog! But today's National Strawberry Day...you couldn't expect me to let it pass up, could you? I love cobblers because they can cover the same flavor profiles of pie with less-than-half of the struggle. They're the ultimate fast food when it comes to dessert! The best part is that it can be just thrown together with nigh-anything and turned into something delicious.

What makes a drunken strawberry? Soaking it in rum, of course! I have spiced rum in my cabinet (leftover from the holidays) but you can use bourbon, too, if you have it. Just make sure that your liquor of choice has a flavor of its own; otherwise, what's the point?
Yeah. All that. 

Drunken Strawberry Cobblers
yields 3 small cobblers or 1 regular cobbler

  • 1/2 quart strawberries, sliced
  • 1/3 c spiced rum
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vegan gelatin 
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • For struesel topping: 1/2 cup EACH of flour, sugar, and vegan butter substitute

While you can quite easily throw this together in moments, I like to let the strawberries soak in the rum while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Honestly, simply toss everything together and let sit until the oven is hot, and you're fine. For the struesel topping, you can simply stir everything together with a spoon. If you want a touch of extra crunch, crush up some vanilla tea biscuits (I like Kedem's kosher pareve biscuits) quite fine and stir in. 

Simply grease your ramekins, divide evenly, add topping, and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool to gel in the fridge, if you like, or eat warm. Yum!

See how quick that was? You didn't even need to scroll. Enjoy this rapid-fire recipe - and, as always, share around and leave comments below if you try it!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Strawberry Sweetheart Pie

You don't have to use this design, but I personally love it.
I love pie, but here's the thing: it's not easy. Oh, sure, there's the expression "it's as easy as pie," but I assure you that it is the simplest of things that are the easiest to screw up. There are about a billion tricks and 'hacks' to make pies easier, but if you need that many hacks, you need to acknowledge that it's not an easy thing. A pie is something with a decent amount of moving parts, and you need to respect that. That being said, don't let me stop you from making a pie for your sweetheart.

You can also court your loved one by putting the raspberries on your
fingertips and chase them around the house. Because, you know, why
not spice things up?
Here's a quick note about holy basil and rosewater. Roses are a sign of many goddesses of love, such as Venus or Freya. Holy basil is sacred in Hindu medicine, said to relieve anxieties and even cause prophetic dreams. Both of these also taste great, add lovely notes to your pie...but why not add a tiny touch of magic to your love life? 

Strawberry Sweetheart Pie
  • 10.5 oz AP flour (2 cups + 1 Tbsp)
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) vegetable shortening/lard
  • Vodka A/N
  • 1 pt strawberries, cleaned and sliced
  • 2/3 c honey
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vegan gelatin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz raspberries
  • 1 Tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp dried holy basil
First thing's first - combine the berries in a bowl and salt them. Add in the rosewater, holy basil, and sprinkle the gelatin over it, doing your best to not get any clumps. Give the berries a good stir and allow to sit, covered with plastic wrap, and macerate. Meanwhile, make your pie crust.

Here's my favorite way to do it: 

Pop your flour in the bowl of a standing mixer and pop it in the freezer - yes, flour and all - while you measure out your shortening and cut it up into small pieces. You can freeze the pieces, too, of course, but it's not 100% necessary. (You want everything cold, as cold as possible.) When cold, bring everything together using the paddle attachment of your standing mixer. No, really! Just pop in the fat and let the paddle cut it in without warming it - a standing mixer has no body heat. Once the fat is about the size of a pea, add in about a tablespoon of vodka at a time to just bring things together. Bring the dough up together in a ball and cut the ball in half. Press each half into some plastic wrap to form a disc. Pop the discs in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or in the fridge overnight. Up to you.

When you're ready, set your oven to 350 degrees F and place your baking rack on the bottom-most rung. Gently spray a pie dish - glass or ceramic is ideal, but a metal tin will suffice. Take two sheets of parchment paper and spray liberally with pan-spray. Unwrap one of your discs and sandwich it between these sheets, lubed-side on the dough. Simply rolling out your dough like this does two things: keeps it from adding excess flour, and makes it unbelievably easy to clean up. Line your pie tin with your dough, and allow to rest in the pan while you roll out your second disc.

Juicy? Oh yeah. You need that liquid for the gelatin to activate!
Here's another trick: sprinkle about a teaspoon of equal parts cornmeal and cornstarch in the bottom of your crust before you add in your filling. This tiny little extra something contributes to your pie bottom not being soggy, and nobody likes a soggy bottom.

Now that you've gotten your filling macerated, add in your powdered sugar and honey, and stir until well-combined. It might be a little weird and grainy - that's because of the gelatin. Don't fret! Pour your filling into your untrimmed dough-lined pie tin. Fluff up the edges on the pie just to make sure that you've gotten everything completely covered.

With your second half of dough rolled out, you can cut out shapes. I chose a small round cutter, that was about an inch in diameter, and punched out holes at equal intervals. You can choose anything, even small hearts for Valentine's Day! You can now take a bit of milk or water, dip your finger in it, and line the crust to moisten. Carefully lift the dough by the parchment sheet and flip it over so all you have to do is gently peel off the top layer of paper to reveal a nice pie crust layered on top.

Now you can trim the edges! You can also re-roll out those edges to make more circles, so you can decorate your now-assembled pie. You can use an eggwash if you aren't 100% committed to this being vegan, or a simple mixture of dairy-free milk substitute and sugar to wash the top instead. It's your pie, so you do what you like.

Place the pie on a sheet tray lined with foil to catch anything that might leak over the sides, and bake at 350 on the bottom-most run of the oven(this also helps get a crisp bottom) for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until both bottom and top are a crisp brown. (This is another reason a glass pie tin is ideal.)

Evacuate the pie and let cool for at least 2 hours. I like to do half of that cooling at room temperature and then the rest in the fridge. You want two hours because strawberry has pectin that will help it gel naturally, but the gelatin you've added will give it that extra staying power, which will look quite lovely when you've sliced into it. Otherwise, everything will spill out and you'll definitely get a soggy bottom from that juicy liquid gold going out.

This pie is pleasantly tart, so serve with some nice cream or powdered sugar on top, or even some dairy-free whipped topping. If you start now, you can have it ready in plenty of time to serve to your sweetheart tonight. Or, you know, for yourself when you're living your best life, watching horror movies on Netflix. Yes, you should watch horror movies on Valentine's Day if you're celebrating it alone. Why? Because if you watch horror movies in your house, alone, you won't feel alone by the time it ends.



Happy baking and happy eating!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Chocolate Oregano Cookies



I'm all about using what you have. Living cheaply is fairly easy once you have a decent amount of things stocked up, or a decent amount of things that are always growing. I have a slight gardening addiction, and I make that rather clear by the collection of houseplants that I hoard in my living room. I somehow believe that house plants will make me healthier because it's recycling all of the CO2 that I, B, Howl, Hobbes, and Buttons all produce, as well as all of the methane, hydrogen sulfide, and amonia that we produce by our farts, and turning it into oxygen. Whether the plants do that to an amount that is truly beneficial I shall never know. It's still very relaxing, however, to have control over another living thing.

The oregano plants have just started coming back. It's winter here in the northern hemisphere, and that means that it's too cold for anything to be growing outdoors. That being said, we've had a string or two of unseasonably warm days in which I have tilled the ground and planted my winter crops, such as carrots, spinach, peas, kale, etc., and been able to spread mulch where there needs it. I'm glad that I was able to do this, of course, because right after planting we came down with a fair amount of snow, which is the poor man's fertilizer.

Inside, I have all of my starters going in planter trays, all sitting happily in front of my windows. I've got my houseplants, too, of course, but I'm very excited to see the plants that I've had in my planters outdoors (which I've brought indoors) happily bloom and grow again. The first to come back to life has been my oregano.

I love oregano. I think it is a wildly underutilized herb in the culinary world, especially when it comes to sweets. Oregano is an herb of luck and happiness, perfectly suitable as the first herb to sprout its pretty head for the new year. I love putting fruit and herbs together in pies and cakes, but what about cookies? The ultimate versatile cookie has to be chocolate chip. Here's how to make some chocolate chip cookies utilizing oregano!

Chocolate Oregano Cookies
yields 2.5 dozen


  • 2 sprigs oregano, about 10 fresh leaves
  • 6 oz vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance is my favorite)
  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 oz (by weight, if you please) good quality molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp fine coffee grounds
  • 7.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz 100% Cacao chocolate, chopped fine
Layer all of the leaves of oregano atop one another and roll into a cigar. Slice quite finely, and then add to the butter. You can melt it together and let it sit, of course, to steep, but if you're in a rush and you just need cookies right now, go ahead and cream it in until it's light and lemon-colored. Add in the sugar and molasses, and cream until quite fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the egg until absolutely emulsified in, about 1 minute, and then scrape down. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and scrape any butter mixture off the beater with the spatula. 

Dump all of the ingredients in, all at once, and stir with a spatula until well-enough combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while the oven heats to 325 degrees, which should take about 15 minutes. If you can find room in the freezer, even better.

You can also dollop these on to sheet trays and freeze them a few batches at a time. 
Drop dollops of the cookie dough on to a prepared baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silpat mat and bake for 10-12 minutes. If you have a small 1 oz disher, that's ideal. Let the cookies hang out on the sheets for at least 15 minutes before picking them up so they can set. Molasses is an invert sugar, so it's what makes cookies very chewy. In fact, if you're a big fan of chewy cookies, all you have to do to make it super chewy is substitute liquid sugars for granulated/solid ones in some part. I encourage experimentation in all fronts!


If you'd like to make this to be an extra sexy Valentine treat, melt some good quality chocolate gently over a double boiler to about body temperature and dip the bottoms of the cookies in, just to coat. Let them harden on parchment paper. You can do that with just about any cookie that you'd like to dress up. You can even straight-up dip half of the cookie and cover it with sprinkles if you're feeling extra festive. Up to you!

Happy cooking and happy eating!