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!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Date & Raisin Babka

Finally, an instagrammable dessert/breakfast that is simple and doesn't require a mirror glaze.
Okay, okay - I'll be the first to admit that 50 shades of dark brown doesn't necessarily sound appealing. I personally loathe the entire '50 Shades' franchise - it's a horrible caricature of what BDSM is actually supposed to be all wrapped up in a Twilight fanfiction. No, that's literally how it started. Look it up. Die mad about it.

What was I talking about again? Oh, right.

So, I'm a newcomer to babka. My sister Ashley actually gave me the cutest little book called Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen by Miri Rotkovitz. This was a very sweet reference to the fact that I had recently discovered my Jewish heritage via an ancestry.com test. Of course, I loved the book immediately and thanked her. My dive in to Ashkenazi food has been kind of a blind one, and I'm all about good references from reputable sources.

Babka is, in essence, an enriched yeast dough that's filled with chopped dried fruits and nuts, rolled, artfully sliced, then baked in a loaf. There are about a million different swirls you can try with this as a base, and the Great British Bake-Off has covered a good amount of them. A povitica, in fact, is a version of a babka. We won't be getting into that, though, as it's far too complicated for me. We're sticking to the simple stuff, just to get you started.

Of course, I used the recipe as a guide for many babkas, but this one with dates and raisins was my favorite, and not just because it was my first one! I tried one with pistachios, with chocolate...this one was the best. Here's how I did it!

Date & Raisin Babka
adapted from Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen


  • 1/2 c soy or coconut milk
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 c liquid levain/sourdough starter***
  • 1 c white flour
  • 1 c rye flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil/vegan butter substitute
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c dried, pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 1/4 c toasted pepitas, chopped
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegan butter substitute/coconut oil, melted
Note*** If you're not using a liquid levain/sourdough starter, you'll want to up your liquid to 1 cup of soy/coconut milk instead of the half cup. You may also want to add an extra pinch of yeast, just to get everything started.

Gently heat the 'milk' in the microwave or on the stove until just a little warmer than body temperature, add a heaping tablespoon of your measured sugar, and stir in the yeast. Leave in a warm place to froth, about 5 minutes.

Add your flours and salt together, and mix with the dough hook attachment on your standing mixer just to combine. Add in your liquid levain, if using, and stir for about 10 seconds, just to incorporate it. Add in your activated yeast liquid and turn on. Once your liquid is just combined, add in the egg. Allow to knead for about 5 minutes on medium-low speed. Add in your fat, which should be just a little cool to touch, about a spoonful at a time. I borrowed this idea from mixing in fat to a brioche. This, of course, is not a brioche, but the principle should still be basically the same. 

Once the fat is all incorporated, you should check your dough for the windowpane test. That just means that you take a tiny portion of your dough, roll it in a ball, and stretch it quite thin, that you should be able to see light through it. This tests that the glutens have developed. Once it has, remove your dough from the bowl and place it in another bowl that's been gently lubricated with oil and covered with plastic, and left to set in a warm place to rise, about an hour. This is the fermentation process, and your dough should double in size. This gives you plenty of time to clean up and do the filling!

Your dried fruit should be chopped rather finely. If you own a food processor, feel free to use it now to make a rather chunky paste combining all of the ingredients. I do not own a food processor, so I used a mortar and pestle to combine the fruit and nuts in a sort of homogeneous paste before adding the melted 'butter,' sugar and spices. 
This is a babka I made using raisins and chopped apricots; I chose this photo for you because the colors show up
a little more brightly, so therefore it's easier to see!

Once your dough has doubled in size, generously flour a marble slab (or your countertop if you're not a bougie jackass like me) and roll out your dough until it's about half an inch thick. Spread the filling mixture as evenly as you can over the surface, leaving about an inch for rolling room on opposite sides to get stuff to get started and to stick. Roll your dough up, nice and tight, into a nice long snake, and roll it gently out, just to seal the edges and to make it even. 

Next, break out the pan you intend to use and then use it to measure your dough and the places you want to cut it. Here's a tip, though: it's easier to roll out the log to make it thinner and longer than it is to squish it up to make it shorter and fatter. For example, if the log is a little too long for you to simply cut the roll in half and then twist those halves together, it would be simpler to roll out the dough into a longer log and then cut the dough in thirds or even fourths to get the desired effect. This  particular one was easy to make into halves, so I simply cut the log in half and twisted it together, sort of like one might make a candy cane. You can, of course, find video tutorials on how to make a babka, if you're not quite visualizing it with ease with the way I'm explaining it.

Apologies for the potato quality. I was shaky.

Once it's set up, all nice and snug, in its loaf pan, cover it and leave it to proof for another 45 minutes in a nice warm place. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. After it's baked, let it cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan before turning it out - this will allow it to be set enough to have it fall straight out of the pan without falling apart. 

You can let it cool to room temperature, of course, before serving, but I just love a nice warm babka. You can have it by the slice, smear it with cream cheese and berries, or make it into french toast. Seriously! It makes amazing french toast! And don't be afraid to experiment - dates, pistachios, raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, dried cherries...whatever! The only limit is your imagination!

Happy cooking and happy eating!