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Showing posts with label vegan baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegan baking. Show all posts

Monday, October 25, 2021

Spiced Rhubarb Pie


Yes, I said spiced. Rhubarb has got to be one of my absolute favorite perennial plants. It's incredibly hardy and can grow just about anywhere, even in Alaska. It's bright and sour and adds depth of flavor to just about anything. Yes, it's quite fibrous and can be a little difficult to prepare in the wrong hands - but it's so worth it to keep at least a couple of these beautiful mounding plants alive in your garden. Not only are they a wonderfully flavorful addition to countless dishes, but they look quite nice in the garden bed. I suggest planting them in a sunny spot where you don't mind an eventual big mound of beautiful rhubarb and where it will be for a long time. Perennials mean a permanent commitment!


For this recipe, I'll also be using spicebush berries, which are made from these gorgeous foraged berries native to the Americas. Don't fret, though, if you don't have these! I've got an excellent substitute down the line... You dry the berries for use, of course, and store them in jars or bags. When ready to use, simply grind them in a spice grinder to release the incredible oils and bright orange spice inside. The taste, to me, is like a pink peppercorn made love to a cinnamon stick, and then the spice that came from that union eloped with a big peel of juicy orange. It's truly a spectacular spice that I love to use in many of my baked goods.

This is a foraged spice which means it is not bought and sold commercially. As far as I can tell, the kind of spicebush that grows the berries hasn't been cultivated as of yet, so I couldn't simply tell you to go out and buy the plants. This is a shame since it's such a lovely and unique spice that I think everyone in the world should get to have. I can't tell you where to buy it, so I'll just refer you to Prairie Birthday Farm, which is how I get mine. I'm sure that they could ship to wherever you may be staying if you ask nicely. They're nice, warm-hearted people over there, and they've been kind enough to include me in the possibility of propagating and cultivating the bush in hopes that more and more Midwestern folk will fall in love with native plants and start planting them in their own yards. The transplants won't be ready until spring of 2022, of course, but you can bet that this gal will be awaiting their arrival to her garden with bated breath.

Spiced Rhubarb Pie 
yields one 

Flaky all-butter pie crust

  • 8 oz vegan butter, cold, chopped 
    • We all know I love Earth Balance and Miyoko's butter!
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Ice water, as needed
Rhubarb filling
  • 7 cups chopped rhubarb
    • Fresh is ideal, but frozen is just fine
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp spicebush berries, ground in the spice grinder**
    • If you cannot get spicebush berries, simply use:
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 3/4 tsp pink peppercorns, ground
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • A pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder
      • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 3/4 c orange juice
For the filling, mix - in a large bowl - the chopped rhubarb with the sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt so that everything is coated. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and set aside while you make the pie crust. Ideally, you're going to want to let this soak for an hour or more. 

For the crust, simply cut the butter into the flour and sugar with either a pastry cutter or two knives. If you have a food processor, feel free to use that instead. The idea is to get pea-sized chunks going on throughout the flour mixture before adding ice water. How much? Oh, just enough to barely get the dough to come together when mixed with a fork! It's quite dry where I am right now, so I think I used about 1/4 cup of water. Simply ball together and set in the fridge for an hour.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350. While we're waiting for the oven to heat and the dough to cool, let's talk a bit about rhubarb!

Please don't be put off by the color!


As you can see, the rhubarb is green. As you may have noticed from the date on this blog, it's the middle of October. This may confuse you because many people are mostly familiar with rhubarb in the context of strawberry rhubarb pie, which is a late springtime and early summertime delight. The truth of the matter is that rhubarb doesn't just grow in the spring, but in the fall as well. This lovely plant grows in what I like to call the 'in-betweener seasons,' which means the transitional seasons between extreme heat and extreme cold, summer and winter. The stalks start green but turn red as they ripen with the warmth. You won't always see red rhubarb in the cooler months, but that shouldn't turn you off.

If you aren't familiar with rhubarb's flavor profile, I've asked my husband - who up until recently had never had a straight rhubarb pie - to describe it. His exact words were:

"Oh. Uh. I don't know... Kind of tart?"

I would describe it as sour and vegetal, which is oddly good. Maybe a super-sour celery with a hint of citrus fragrance? It's a truly unique flavor that's got a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium so you can feel good about having more than one slice of this ultra-thick pie. It's got a very nice depth of flavor that is so unique...and also a vegetable! Would you ever think that you could make a sweet pie out of vegetables? It's so good, you can make any pie, cake filling, or jam from it and it'll go down a treat for anyone who tastes it. 

As I mentioned previously, rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it comes back every year. Strawberries, which go excellent with rhubarb, is also a perennial. They are also a good cold weather plant which means that they can survive underground in the snow. This means they can grow in the same patch together and be just fine! To ensure their survival, a healthy amount of straw and mulch over the beds will do you a world of good. I have some large maple trees on my property that - of course -  shed their leaves when autumn comes. This is a natural mulch, but is so much more than that.

I finished this bed two days before I gave birth!

In nature, autumn leaves aren't meant to be raked up. The leaves that fall are a natural blanket for the underlying vegetation an a cozy home for pollinating insects to lay their eggs until they can hatch in the next year's spring. This protects any plant life from hard frosts and blankets of snow in the winter months.  Nonmigratory birds also benefit from these leaves because worms feast on them and fat worms mean healthy birds. Fat worms also mean healthy soil and healthy soil means healthy biome. Do you see how it's all connected, and how you - in your own small way - can help your own tiny microcosm of plant and animal life? Just something to think about while you finish your pie...  

I don't even know what this is supposed to be. Maybe like a triceratops doing a cosplay of Jack Skellington?


Divide the dough in half and give your dough a good smack or two with a floured rolling pin to soften everything up while keeping the fat still cold. This is great therapy, especially if you have a newborn like me, and you are so sleep deprived and you just need some kind of safe release... It's ideal if you can roll all of this out on a marble surface, but whatever you're using is probably just fine. You can either roll out two discs on floured surfaces or you can sandwich your dough between two sheets of parchment paper that have been lubricated liberally with aerosol pan spray of some matter. I prefer this method, simply because it helps with cleanup and minimizes the chance of overworking the dough. If you're going to use a more intricate design on your pie crust top, however, it may benefit you to use flour and a bit of kneading, just to ensure the pie crust is strong enough to do fun things with. My design was fairly simple, so I kept my rolling method simple. 

Important note: No matter which method of rolling out you use, be sure to lay your pie crust in your pie dish of choice with plenty of overhang and allow it to rest in the dish for at least five minutes while you work on your top. It's imperative that you do this to minimize any shrinkage that would otherwise occur. You can let it rest on the counter, but I personally think it's better to let it rest in the fridge so the dough can get cold again before anything else. When the bottom is ready, give it a quick dust of semolina or equal parts sugar and flour. 

When you're ready, give the filling a good stir. You should have quite a bit of liquid that's come from your rhubarb! Drain that into a small saucepot and whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly bring to a boil over a medium flame and allow to thicken. It'll get quite thick so don't worry! When boiling, immediately remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Give it a good whisk to ensure there are absolutely no lumps and add it back to the rhubarb. Mix everything until it's all well incorporated and pour into your prepared bottom crust.  There will be quite a high rounded top on this, so please keep that in mind when designing your top crust. Make sure you have at least a few vent holes in your design.

Bake your pie at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crust is golden-brown and there's slight bubbling of the filling that's showing. Remove and allow to cool for about an hour before cutting into it. This pie is sour, sweet, herbacious, and incredibly satisfying in the fall. The cornstarch helps it set so you can get clean slices, and the orange juice brings out the naturally citrus-like flavor of the rhubarb. The spices compliment the sour-bitter notes with aromatic fragrances that remind us of fall. 

I love this pie because it uses one of my favorite 'surprise fall' ingredients and gives me a break from pumpkin. Don't get me wrong - pumpkin and apple are life! But you do need a break from these two juggernauts of autumn flavors and I think that this pie is just the ticket. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. 


As always, I want to send out a special thank you to my good friends at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for their tireless efforts in agricultural education and advocacy for the community, and for their help and generosity during my pregnancy and birth journey. The friends I have made during my time working with this farm and the community I have found during the pandemic because of this organization has meant more to me than I could ever write. Thank you.

I'd also like to take a moment to say thank you to the nursing students at Research Medical Center, who happened to be at the farmer's market at KC Farm School on Wednesday, October 13th, of 2021, that checked my blood pressure and alerted me to the fact that I had suddenly developed gestational hypertension. This is a condition that isn't serious in and of itself but it does have a 50/50 chance of developing into preeclampsia, which can be a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Because of them, I went immediately to the hospital after the market and was able to get induced and safely deliver my baby. Thank you. 

Actually, my entire birth story was awesome and it was all thanks to the incredible nurses and nursing students of Research Medical Center. If you're at all curious, you can find my birth story here on IGTV Live! It's a long one, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I'd like to thank you for joining me for a portion of your day. I know that reading food blogs aren't always the most exciting thing to do with your time, but the fact that even a tiny portion of your day was spent with me makes me feel special. I hope that I can provide education and insight to food and growing it for yourself. I also hope that I made you laugh. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Chocolate Sugar Cream Pie

Best of all, this pie is vegan!


Mirror glaze? Jelly Cakes? Of course, they're all gorgeous, but what has caught my eye as of late is the new trend of "Desperation Pies." I must not be the only one who's attention has been grabbed, as Bon Appetit has written about them, as well! This pie is a twist on an American classic desperation pie, known as a Sugar Cream pie...also known as a Hoosier pie! What is so amazing about this pie is that there are no eggs in it. This is great if you have a dietary restriction, a food allergy, or even just plain don't feel like driving to the store when you're out of eggs. Either way, it's an impossibly silky texture with only a few simple ingredients. Here's how to make it!

Vegan Sugar Cream Pie
*marshmallows optional
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c almond or hemp milk
  • 1/2 c or 3.5 oz white sugar
  • 1/2 c or 3.5 oz brown sugar
  • 1/3 c dark cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
    • The freeze-dried kind, if you please!
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • ** 1 tsp cardamom
    • I just really like cardamom and chocolate, but you can omit this if you like
  • 1 pie shell, unbaked
    • If you need a recipe, follow this one!
      • 14 oz all-purpose flour
      • 4 oz vegan butter such as Earth balance or Flora
      • 4 oz vegetable shortening
      • Enough vodka to bring it all together, usually 1/2 c
    • Simply blend this by hand or in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, wrap, and chill for an hour before rolling out to use. So easy!

Roll your pie dough out into your chosen pie dish and chill while you let your oven preheat to 325 degrees F. I suggest also lining a sheet pan with aluminum foil so you may set your pie on later. Even better, set the baking rack of your oven to the lowest point, so that the crust will be closer to the bottom. It's imperative that your dough be quite cold when it goes in the oven, so you'll get a flaky crust! Please note that you may parbake this crust if you like, but in all honesty I've never noticed much of a difference so you may as well save yourself the extra step and just bake it straight.

To make your sugar cream pie, simply combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. This is the most-important step to getting a lump-free custard, so make sure that all of the dry ingredients - cocoa powder, sugars, flours, etc. - are all in there and all well-mixed. Slowly add your 1/2 cup of almond milk and stir in with a whisk. Add in half the coconut milk and stir until completely combined and utterly smooth, being sure to scrape the sides well. The last thing you want in this pie is patches of dry stuff! 

Add the last of the coconut milk, scrape all sides with a spatula, and stir well. You may even put this mixture in the blender, if you like, to ensure that it is as smooth as it could be! Cover this mixture with plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes to hydrate. 

When you're ready to bake, place your chilled pie dish on the foil-lined sheet tray and open your oven door. Uncover your chocolate mixture and give it a good, slow stir with a spatula first, and then a whisk. You do not want any sedimentary action in your bowl! Everything should be floating when you put your pie custard into the oven, and that's how you get such a silky texture. Get ready!

Pull the bottom rack of the oven halfway and place your sheet tray and pie pan upon it. Grab your custard, give it a final stir with a spatula, and pour it straight into the pie shell. It should fill it all the way up to the top! If you have any bubbles, you may pop them with a quick blast of a torch, but it is not necessary. Finally, gently push the pie on the rack back into the oven, being slow and steady so you won't spill this extra-liquidy filling everywhere. Close up the oven and bake at 325 for 45 - 60 minutes, depending on the weather. This pie will take quite a while to set up, but you won't have to worry too much about over-baking it because there are no eggs to scramble!

In the meantime, while we wait, may I speak for a moment about the history of Desperation Pies? If you'd like to skip this part, just click here to your next step...

You might know a desperation pie not by type, but by name: Vinegar pie, Sugar Cream Pie, Shoofly Pie, even Water Pie... These pies came out of the kitchens of American cooks during times of economic hardship, such as the American Civil War or the Great Depression. I even recall hearing Caroline Ingalls mention "Vinegar pie" during an old rerun of Little House on the Prairie as a child. It sounded old-timey and disgusting, but this funny treat has gained quite a bit of notoriety recently! I suppose it's no surprise with the pandemic. I personally am glad that these forgotten treats are making their way back onto the table. I just love eating history!

A desperation pie is a pie that's simply made with few ingredients that may be found in a pantry. I know that "water pie" doesn't sound great, but you must admit that it does intrigue, by only name alone. How could something called 'water pie' be tasty? Or Vinegar pie? Quite simply!

Humanity has always been resourceful. Sugar cream pie, or Hoosier pie, itself is said to be an Indiana staple brought over from the Quaker settlers. We love a sweet treat, but resources are likely scarce on the prairie when you're trying to build a barn and keep wolves away at the same time. It's traditionally made simply with milk, flour, and sugar. We can't have dairy, of course, so I made one for us with coconut and almond milks instead. It is only a happy coincidence that this pie is made vegan, and is just about the tastiest, creamiest pie I've made in quite a long time! Why is that?

Eggs are wonderful when it comes to baking. They lend an unctuous fattiness to anything and help achieve creaminess in any recipe. The risk when baking with eggs, however, is that they may overcook and then scramble in your custard, leaving you with a less-than-desireable texture. What's lovely about this particular pie is that there's no risk of scrambling eggs, so you can leave it in the oven for as long as it needs to be, which is to say "until it's set."

Is your pie set? Has it bubbled or is it no longer jiggling? Great! Let's take it out and let it cool on the counter for about 30 minutes, before popping it into the fridge and letting it chill until cold. This could take 2 hours, but it is ideal that you do this overnight. Then, cut and serve! It's cool, refreshing, and oddly light for such a dark-colored pie!

To top it, you can leave it plain with some powdered sugar, whip up some coconut cream, or toast some vegan marshmallows for a s'mores-like treat! This pie is chocolatey without being too fudgy and heavy, and it is such an impressive thing to have in your fridge when you feel like giving yourself a little treat after a hard day. 

Thanks so much for joining me today! I hope you learned some cool stuff. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Favorite Apple Pie

 



My Absolute Favorite Spiced Apple Pie

Favorite Pie Crust

  • 10.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz solid fat
    • Chilled butter, vegan butter substitute, cold lard, or cold coconut oil do just fine!
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • Vodka, as needed

Apple filling

  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp grand marnier
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground Chinese Long Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ancho chili powder
  • 9 small apples or 5 medium ones, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
To make the pie crust, simply combine your dry ingredients with a fork and rub the fat into the flour with your fingers. Add in some vodka until it's just moist...and mix together! How should you mix this all together, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I've discovered the joys of IGTV:




Isn't that great? I can do tutorials without having to get a youtube channel. 

Simply wrap and chill this dough for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your filling. All you really have to do is combine all the ingredients, except for the flour, toss well, and cover. Let this sit for the same amount of time you're letting your dough rest so the flavors can meld and mesh together. I like to let it all rest on the counter instead of the fridge because you tend to get a lot more juice out! A proper pie has a good dance of moisture and juicy filling, but we don't want to make our crust too soggy. When we can control the amount of moisture in our pie, we're going to have a good time.

When it comes to rolling out your dough, I prefer not to dirty up my counter with tons of excess flour, but to roll it out between two well-greased sheets of parchment paper. I do this for many reasons, but the main reason is that I don't want to mess with my perfectly-crafted ratio of fat-to-flour. After all, if we're going to be exact with our measurements, why screw it all up with more flour when rolling out? The other reason to do it this way is for easy clean-up. Simply give your counter a quick wipe and throw the parchment paper away! All you need is a good rolling pin, a good arm, and plenty of pan-spray to make this perfect. Even better, you can use the parchment paper to help you flip your flat dough into your pie dish. 

I love this glass pie dish because I can see the bottom, and therefore see when things are cooked or not. Glass is excellent at conducting heat, so for me, it is the ideal baking dish. All that must happen now is you gently line your pie dish with your dough and let it chill before adding the filling. I also like to let it chill before I trim it so that the dough has plenty of time to relax. This way, you can let any glutens that may have accidentally developed relax away. 

Your pie filling should have become quite juicy at this point, so now's the time to add your flour! You may need more than 1 oz, depending on how much juice has come out, but definitely don't use less than this amount. So long as the mixture has thickened slightly with the amount of flour but is still liquid, you should be safe. Add your flour, mix well, and fill your pie! 

Use your rolling pin to roll out a top crust and very gently let it fall over the top of the apples. You should have a nice high pile, which is exactly what you want! Don't stretch your pie dough too much, but be sure to let it sit atop your fruit for about 5 minutes before you crimp all the edges. Once the edges are crimped, with either your fingers or your fork, let it chill in the fridge until your oven comes up to 350 degrees F. Be sure to also cut some vent slits in the top. Get decorative at this point, if you like!

Line a sheet pan with tin foil and set your baking rack to the lowest possible setting so that the bottom of the pie tin is close to the bottom of the oven. Bake your pie on the lowest rack for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and your pie filling is bubbling slightly out of the vent slits. 

This next bit is the tricky bit, but it's absolutely essential. You have to - and I'm not making this up - wait to cut open that pie for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. 

I know, I know! It's apple pie! What is better than apple pie fresh from the oven??? Well, how about an apple pie that stays together and won't flood out into a big juicy, sticky mess, that sogs up your bottom like no other? It's imperative that you let the apples do their thing and let the pectin rest. You must do this, so when you warm up the pie again, by the slice, it'll actually stay gelled together. Apple pie really is quite easy, but the real secret ingredient is time, and time well spent. 

While we're waiting, would you like to learn a thing or two about apples? 

We've all heard that phrase "as American as apple pie", but what if I were to tell you that apples themselves were not native to America? They are, in fact, native to central Asia, and have come to Europe by way of the Silk Road, which is the same trade route that gave Italy noodles, which would eventually evolve into the modern pasta we know today.  Apples were then planted in Europe, and then were brough to the American colonies by - you guessed it - colonizers. So, really...nothing is more American than apple pie, because apples - like most of us - are immigrants that have taken hold of the land and changed it forever!

People loved apples because they're delicious, but more importantly they are incredibly prolific. They do not self-pollinate like peach or plum trees (also from central Asia), but need a partner tree to be next to in order to produce. Once they do, however, they'll give more fruit than you could likely know what to do with! I'm specifically and explicitly forbidden to have a pair of apple trees in my own garden because my husband's childhood was "ruined every late summer" because he, his brother, his sister, and his mother all had to stop everything and process every single apple into apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple dumplings, and more. Now, if you ask, "why not just let the animals have it?" Well, dear friend...

Apples are naturally high in sugar. When sugar meets water, it's going to begin to chemically change, especially with time and the right bacteria. Long story short, they ferment. When you get a squirrel or a deer biting into a fermented apple and drunkenly stagger around your yard, it's likely going to be quite comical. When you get a bunch of butterflies, bees, and hornets flying around drunk, it immediately becomes less fun. Apparently, hornets are like yours truly when they've had one too many - they'll fight anything. 


Apples on the ground are not bad or rotten. In fact, apple trees are exceedingly clever in that they will tell you when an apple is perfectly ripe and ready for eating by letting them fall to the ground with only the slightest breeze to invite you to eat them. So long as they don't have a big bite out of them from a squirrel or bug, it's best to just gather them from the ground. You can store them in the cellar, if you have one, just as they are, in crates. Please keep paper between the layers, however, as they do better this way. I hear that they hold the best when not touching directly, and each apple is individually wrapped with tissue paper. This is the reason we have wax on our apples, you see. When apples touch, skin-to-skin, they'll begin to ripen and ferment. They say you should wash off the wax before you eat them, but I've eaten apples with wax on the skin for years and nothing's happened to me yet. 

You can, of course, make this all into apple butter, or freeze the processed slices in bags. You can make candy apples. You can make it into applesauce, which - by the way - magically replaces eggs in a cake if you are in a pinch and can't go to the grocery store right that moment. You can do all sorts of things! The point is that you must absolutely know that you love apples, that you'll never get sick of apples, and that you have neighbors that love apples before you get yourself a pair of trees. That, and you have an excellent apple pie recipe in your back pocket. 

Serve this pie with ice cream, if you like, but I like it on its own with some good coffee. 

I hope you've enjoyed learning about apples, the history thereof, and the silk road. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mini Apple Poptarts



I have a secret. Do you promise not to tell my friends? I hope it won't ruin me!

I love Poptarts. I really do! I know that I'm supposed to be this serious and sophisticated Chef at this point in my career. I know I'm meant to have a sophisticated palette. But what can be done when the heart wants what the heart wants? There's just something so amazing about a sugar-packed pastry filled with fruit and topped with frosting! Am I wrong for loving them? I don't know about that...but I do know that recently experienced a tiny tragedy a few weeks ago.

I bought a Poptart from a gas station. (I was in a rush and experiencing a sugar crash, so don't judge me.) I took a big bite of it while I was driving and felt like I was being kicked in the teeth by a tiny sugar monster. I was utterly heartbroken. Am I just too old for Poptarts? Have I outgrown them? But how can one 'outgrow' the perfect parcel of pastry and fruity filling, crisp and crumbly and delicious? It was just too horrible to be true. I set this experience in the back of my mind until I received my farm box from Prairie Birthday Farm and happily opened a bag of Windfall apples. 

Yes! I thought. These apples weren't the pretty things you see in the grocery store, but the real apples that you get off the farm. I could make apple pie, of course, but what if I could take the opportunity to right the wrong of that Poptart experience I'd had some weeks prior? These apples were perfect for baking, and I was about to do just that. Here's another thing you need to know: Not every single produce item you have has to be absolutely gorgeous, especially if it's going to be put in something, versus presented to guests as is. The truth of the matter is that apples will simply jump their way off a tree when it's ready to be eaten and if it's found on the ground that doesn't mean that it is any less edible. We can talk more about that later!

Mini Apple Poptarts
yields 12 mini pop tarts

Perfect Pie Dough
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter/any solid fat
  • Vodka, as needed
Apple Filling
  • 6 small apples or 2 big ones, peeled and chopped
  • 3.5 oz raw or brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese long peppercorn
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Special equipment
  • A proper rolling pin
  • A fluted square cutter
  • A Silpat mat
Start with your pie dough. I know I've talked about it plenty of times, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to start with cold ingredients. Chop your cold fat, and put it into your cold dry ingredients. Rub your fat in with your fingers - not your palms - to keep it cool. Add cold vodka. Are you curious about what the actual mixing method is? Check it out - I've actually done a video about it!




Now that that's all settled, wrap your pie dough and chill it well! I like to let it chill overnight, but an hour will do the trick just fine if you don't want to wait. Are we ready to move on to the filling? I sure am!

Protip: The trick to doing good pop tarts is to chop the apples large enough to still have a sort of bite when eaten, but small enough to fit into your tart of size. I cut my pieces into thin slices and then had those slices cut to 2 cm in length. This, of course, all depends on the size you want, so please feel free to decide what size you feel appropriate! No matter what, make sure that your slices are all the same size, so they cook evenly.

Combine your apples with the sugar, lemon juice or vinegar, salt, vanilla, and spices, and stir well. Cover with a clean tea towel and let sit for about half an hour to extract all of those delicious juices and that wonderful pectin. This is called maceration, and it's used to soften fruits for sauces or fillings, while also making the flavors more intense. Keep in mind: the longer you let the apples sit, the more juices will escape and the more your flavors will meld...so feel free to start this the day before you want these treats! While we're waiting, let's talk a little bit about apples and the perfectly imperfect fruit that they are.

Apples originated in Central Asia. The apple as we know it was brought over by the European colonizers. Although technically an invasive species, we have plenty of delicious varieties that grow better in certain climates. Apples enjoy a temperate climate and require other apple trees nearby to cross-pollinate, which makes it difficult to grow and manage if you don't have a decent amount of space. The good news: you can dwarf an apple tree! This means that they'll grow out, not up, which is much easier to manage when harvesting! Shall we talk about harvesting apples, now?





The apple tree is an exceedingly clever plant, as it'll simply boot off any apples it deems ripe enough to eat instead of waiting for someone to pick it. This results in bruising, and bruised apples never get picked to go to the grocery store. This is not so great, since bruised apples are entirely edible. Apples do ripen quickly, however, so if you don't get them off the ground as soon as you can, they risk fermenting and trust me when I tell you this: drunk squirrels are funny, drunk hornets are not. 

I could go on and on and on about food waste and the problematic practices of how we harvest produce in this country. I'm guessing, however, that you are ready to cook your apple filling...so let's get to it!


Now that your apples have macerated, you're ready to add your tapioca starch! I love tapioca starch for this because it cooks quickly, is crystal clear when set, and mimics the jelly-like texture of pectin most naturally. Cook your apple filling over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has been reduced and thickened, about ten minutes, and set aside to cool. You'll want your apple filling to be at least room temperature for this next step!

Roll out your pie dough between two greased parchment sheets or between two long sheets of plastic wrap. This prevents you from making a mess! Roll it as thin as you can, about 1/8th of an inch, and use a cutter of your choice to cut shapes of equal sizes to make your tarts. Remember, each tart is going to use two pieces of cut dough. I had this gorgeous little fluted ravioli cutter that I found at a garage sale, so I decided to use that! You can use egg wash to help 'glue' your two pieces together, but water works just fine if you want to keep it vegan. 


Use a scoop or large spoon to portion equal parts of your cooled apple filling onto the bottoms of each tart and loosely sandwich the top piece to it. Allow the top dough to relax around the filling and press gently around the edges to get rid of any air bubbles. I used a fork to crimp the edges of my tarts, but you can use your fingers and pinch them together if you like. Make sure you poke some vent holes in the top!

At this point, you can freeze them for later. Why would you do that? So you can have them to either stick in the toaster oven in the morning for a quick breakfast! Even better, if you wanted to get a little crazy, you could deep fry these beauties at 375 degrees until golden-brown for an insanely indulgent take on the apple Poptart! If you're a traditionalist like yours truly, though, and you simply cannot wait to dig in, feel free to bake these beauties at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious. Let them cool completely before you handle them. You can frost these with a simple powdered sugar glaze or buttercream, but I like them plain. They're a perfect little snack to beat the mid-afternoon slump!

I adore this recipe because it's easy to make ahead, and they're just oh so cute to look at and eat. It's got all the beauty of an apple pie combined with mobility. You can wrap these in paper and take them on a picnic, or pop them in your purse for an on-the-go sugar boost. You can grab one on the way out the door. Heck, put one in your pocket while you wander the wild and windy moors, lamenting over that handsome stranger that shot partridge on your land just Sunday last. The possibilities are endless!

Thank you so much, as always, for joining me today. I hope this has inspired you to try this recipe on for size. Now please excuse me while I help myself to some apple pie a la mode with my husband. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Strawberry Rose Tartlets

Do you like my tartlet pans? I got them at Sur la Table!
I think I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: "Strawberry and roses. Is that going to be okay?" Yes, and here's why:

Strawberries are sour, sweet, and can be incredibly fragrant. Roses are astringent in flavor but incredibly fragrant as well. Both are perennials. Both are edible. Both are growing in my garden. When you balance astringency with sweet and sour flavors the right way, it creates something magical and whole in your mouth. The idea of a tartlet is to have full and complete flavors all in a small package. If you've already gotten a good crop of goodies happening in your own garden, or perhaps have a neighbor with a good garden that is willing to share their harvest of berries with you, I think you should do these berries the proper respect by treating them with love and elevating them to be the best things they can be. Be forewarned, this recipe takes time, but it is absolutely worth it.


Strawberry Rose Tartlets
yields 6

Strawberry Filling

  • Garden fresh strawberries, about a pint and a half
  • 3 large leaves of lemon balm, chiffonade
    • Why grow this stuff? Not only is it delicious, but it keeps mosquitos away!
    • Don't have lemon balm growing? Use basil, oregano, or tarragon instead. Any soft and fragrant herb will do nicely!
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp dried lemon zest or 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • Petals of 2 roses
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour

Olive Oil Tart Dough

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2.3 oz good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Enough vodka to make it all come together, about 4 Tbsp


Start by gathering strawberries and washing them in a large bowl with a solution of water and a little apple cider vinegar. Then hull and cut the strawberries in half before tossing them with the sugar, salt, roses, lemon balm, and lemon peel. Stir very well and cover with either a clean tea towel or plastic clingfilm. Let sit overnight. Yes, overnight. This is crucial because you're going to want to draw out all of that delicious pectin. While you're waiting, you can make the dough, as well.

Not all of the strawberries absolutely have to be perfectly red when a baked product is involved. Pick white ones, too!

Simply combine all of the dough ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or a pair of chopsticks until it becomes one ball of dough. Wrap all that with clingfilm and let it sit overnight as well. The dough will be incredibly crumbly, and that's okay. While we wait, let's talk about the history of strawberries!

Strawberries are native to the Americas. Yes, that's right, these babies are All-American Beauties. They used to be called 'strewn berries' by ye olde English because they grow low to the ground and seem to be 'strewn about'. They're incredible perennial evergreen plants, but I even hesitate to call them evergreen as I've seen their leaves turn a brilliant purplish-red in the winter with my own eyes. So long as you keep them mulched heavily, they'll grow and stay verdant in the depths of winter, but don't think that they're indestructible. They do need some care and fertilizing to make deliciously plump berries each year. Colonists were so fond of them that there are records of them shipping the plants and berries back to Europe as early as the 1600s.

I spoke about strawberries recently in my "Real Girl Guide to Victory Gardens" blog, so I'm sure you all must know that I love the plants a great deal. When growing strawberries, please plan for a sunny patch of garden, and plan for plenty of space over the coming years. Strawberries make their own babies in the summer and fall, so be sure to have lots of room for them unless you plan on putting them in planters and giving them away to friends. Like asparagus, they get bigger each year with the deeper the root system, so do be patient with them. The strawberries you likely get in the grocery store are likely going to be strawberries coming from plants that are not only juiced up with fertilizer but at least a few years old.

Have I lulled you to sleep yet? Are you awake? Is it the next morning? Have you had your coffee? Oh, good.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and use a rolling pin to roll out your tart dough between two sheets of parchment or plastic wrap. Line six small tart pans with your dough and make sure to press into the grooves as much as you can to get that signature tart shape. Pop these puppies back in the fridge until you're ready to fill and bake.

Drain the juice from the strawberries into a small saucepot and bring to a simmer. Let cook for about 3 minutes until slightly syrupy in texture. In the meantime, toss the macerated strawberries with the tapioca flour, and then pour the simmering syrup onto the strawberries, stirring gently. Drain that new mixture into the saucepot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer until thick and delicious, a little less than five minutes. Stir and let cool to room temperature before adding the strawberries back in.

It might get messy, so do yourself a favor and make the cleanup easy for Future You. 

Once the strawberries are folded into your thick and jelly-like syrup, you can line a sheet tray with foil or a Silpat mat to catch any spillage that may occur. Spoon your fruit filling into your chilled tartlet pans and bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 25 minutes, or until the filling has swollen up from the heat and the tart dough is lightly colored. The filling will recess into its tart shells with time as it cools.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for at least 20 minutes. You may pop them out of the pans afterward, but do not eat them for at least 2 hours so the pectin may set. If you cut into a berry pie or tartlet like this before the pectin sets, it'll never go back to being gel-like and forever be runny.

It's worth the wait. 
This recipe is something I threw together from what was growing in my garden. The best part about that sort of thing is that it was basically free to make, which I'm sure that we can all use. It is my true and sincere hope that after the pandemic is buried in the ground then we'll be able to come out of this traumatic experience with a good garden and a good amount of knowledge on what to do with all the things growing in there. Chefs like me are all struggling to find our purpose nowadays with restaurants being closed and operating at limited capacities. Some chefs are closing their restaurants permanently. Some are switching gears and turning their restaurants into community kitchens because they, too, got bit by the non-profit bug like I did once upon a time. One thing we can all say with certainty is that the world will never be the same, and I for one am not mad about that.

I think that this pandemic has exposed a lot about the curious animal we call American citizens. A lot of us are viewing common courtesies as 'infringements on rights' and today we saw a large amount of police brutality in Minnesota on those protesting the death of George Floyd. Police are tear-gassing the protestors, and just a couple of weeks ago they let a slew of white protestors with AR-15s holding up signs demanding that their restaurants and salons open back up. Can you guess why the former was treated differently than the latter?

I hope I can look back on this moment in history in 10 years' time and know that I live in a better 'today' than I did 'yesterday.' I hope that we can all look back on 2020 and feel a little wiser and a little more self-sufficient. I also hope that you all write things down. Yes, you! You should write down what's going on today in the world and how you feel about it. Someday, a child may read about it in a textbook and have a real person's account of what's gone on in the days during the great COVID 19 pandemic.

I hope you're all doing well and staying safe. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Vegan Graham Crackers

Wow. A portrait orientation. Crazy. 

I know it's barely April, but I can't stop thinking of summer! My favorite thing about summer is campfires, snapping and crackling, dancing up to the sky as if to praise. And what's the best thing about a campfire? A s'more, of course! Now I've spoken before about homemade marshmallows in a few posts previously, but this post is about my favorite childhood snack. No, really! I would have a stack of graham crackers with a glass of ice cold milk and it would be the best thing ever.

If you want to make your own marshmallows, I've got a few recipes. If you want to make your own chocolate, please sponsor a cacao tree and save it from loggers! Now, let's get cooking with this incredibly easy graham cracker recipe, that you won't even need a mixer for!

My Favorite Graham Crackers

  • 312 g AP Flour
  • 85 g coconut sugar
  • 85 g vegan butter
  • 2.5 fl oz (a little less than a third of a cup) honey 
    • Seriously. It's an animal product but I swear it doesn't harm a single animal. Please. Buy honey and support apiaries who are trying to keep bees alive. But if it seriously still bothers you then just use molasses or maple syrup. But please buy honey.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp almond or oat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped(you can also use 2 tsp good vanilla extract or 1 tsp of vanilla paste)
Preheat your oven to 350 F and prepare a sheet pan with a silpat mat or with parchment paper. Seriously, don't skimp on this part. I don't care if you have a nonstick cookie sheet. Please just do this because it makes it so much easier in the long run.

Combine the flour, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and, with your fingers, rub the fat into the flour. This is very much like you're making a pie! You're looking for crumbs that are just a little bit smaller than the size of a pea. Make a well in the middle and pour in the honey. Using your fingertips, flick the flour mixture over the honey and stir by hand. Pour the milk over and knead gently for a few turns, just to get it to come together. Turn out onto an oiled surface, ideally a marble slab. You're going to end up with a spectacular dough that's going to smell incredible.

And since there are no eggs in this dough, you can eat this raw. You probably will, too.


Oil your hands quite well and pop your dough onto your prepared sheet tray. The trick with this one is to roll out your dough on/inside the tray, so you're manipulating it as little as possible. You can oil your rolling pin as well, but you won't need to if you have a marble one. Just make sure that it's even in thickness! You can tear and fill where you need, and then not worry about it!


Use a wheel cutter (better known as a pizza cutter) to score the sides of the sizes of crackers you want. I wasn't exactly sure if it was going to be perfect, so I kind of just went with a size I thought was comfortable with. These will puff up in an unattractive way if you don't prick these with a fork, so I make sure to prick it mercilessly. 

This is a 'half sheet pan.' It's available at most restaurant supply stores! They're larger than residential cookie sheets.

Bake in a hot oven for 11 to 13 minutes. Once done, evacuate, turn off your oven, and set the pan on a cooling rack. Don't try and move the crackers themselves, as they'll still be quite soft. I know it'll be hard to tell when they're done because they're already gorgeous and golden-brown. You'll know for sure that they're done because they've completely set, gone slightly darker around the edges, and your house smells awesome.

You'll need to cool for at least 15 minutes before snapping. Because you're using an invert sugar (or a liquid sugar) it's going to soften up with heat. As it cools, it will become nice and brittle! This is also why gingerbread is so malleable when warm but strong and snappy when cooled. 

Store in an airtight container, lest they go stale, but honestly they probably won't last 24 hours. So do yourself a favor and make a double recipe.

Thanks so much for sticking with me with this new schedule! Blogs will now be posted every Monday, by 7 pm CST. Then, please join me for #Foodiechats on Twitter! You can ask me anything food-related, ask me for gardening advice, or just ask me how my day is going. I'll ask you how your day is going and we'll have a nice connection where we relate to each other. Doesn't that sound great? Sure it does. Now get out there and make some s'mores with my graham crackers!

Happy cooking and happy eating!