Thursday, December 1, 2011

Only Forgive An Ugly Pie If It Is Followed By a Beautiful One

It may be passe to be talking about Thanksgiving in December, but I feel obligated to share my Thanksgiving pies.  We don't have to discuss the pumpkin pie (non-vegan).  It was sugar and spice and everything nice; but in the end, it was still just a pumpkin pie.  But the apple pie.  Oh, the apple pie!  It was beautiful!  I couldn't take my eyes off of it from the time it first emerged from the oven.  We served it with my boyfriend's homemade warm vanilla custard.  It was the perfect end to a perfect feast!

I followed the same recipe I used in the Forgive a Pie post, but cooked the apples a little bit before putting them in the crust so they would cook all the way through.  (They were a little crisp last time).
I have several things to report on crust.
1.  When making dough for pie crust, make sure the earth balance and shortening are COLD.  Put them in the freezer way in advance and let them freeze solid (if you are using a food processor to cut the dough).  TIP:  If you can't find earth balance in sticks, measure it out in tablespoons and drop onto a parchment-lined sheet and but them in the freezer.   They will freeze into perfect chunks for dropping into the food processor.
2.  Be sure to flatten the ball of dough into a disk shape before you refrigerate it.  It will be easier to roll out later.
3.  When rolling out dough, heavily flour the surface and lightly flour the top of the dough.  Always roll out away from you and turn the dough a quarter turn after each roll.  Turning the dough will keep it dusted with flour on the bottom and prevent sticking.
4.  Here is a youtube video that shows how to do lattice for pie.  It's really easy, but it's helpful to watch.
5.  Don't get overly excited when you are transferring your pie from a hot baking sheet to a wire cooling rack, or this might happen:

That is all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sometimes You Have To Forgive a Pie

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I decided I'd better test some pie recipes.  I agreed to make one apple and one pumpkin this year.  Pumpkin is my personal favorite and I already have a non-vegan recipe that is to die for.  Since I'm not cooking for any vegans this year, I thought I'd go ahead and use the tried and true.  But, I had never made an apple pie until last night.
I stole the recipe from someone's Grandma Ople.  With the massive amount of positive reviews, it seemed to be a no-fail crowd pleaser.  As many before me, I edited the recipe by adding cinnamon and vanilla to the sugar mixture and omitting the water.  I also used earth balance in place of butter.  I used the crust recipe from my previous post, Lessons on Pie.


  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced


  1. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

My problem:  The crust!  After that marvelous day I spent baking pies with Jenn,  I was convinced I would always achieve a perfect crust on command.  I have no idea why it simply would not work for me last night.  It cracked as I rolled it out and kept sticking to the counter and breaking as I tried to roll it onto the pin.  It was an absolute nightmare.  All I could think was, thank god this is not thanksgiving morning.
I finally ended up piecing the whole thing together in the bottom of the pie pan by squishing it in with my fingers.  I heaped the apples (all 8 of 'em) into a big pile in the center of the pie.  The lattice on top would not, could not happen.  I tried using my fancy new ripple-edged dough cutter.  It just dragged along, tearing the dough and made more of a straight line than a ripple edge.  Then, the strips would just stick to the counter and break into pieces as I tried to lift them.  I finally got them all on top of the pie, but they wouldn't weave together.
Here is the result:

As you can see, the lattice isn't woven.  The crust is also kind of puffy looking.  Like something a three year old did with play-dough.  I also think the sugar mixture drizzled over top gives it a sloppy appearance.
The first thing my boyfriend said when he saw it was, "Isn't lattice supposed to be woven?"  Yes, thank you.
Here's what I think:
1.  Even had the crust been agreeable, it isn't attractive to pour stuff over it.  Next time, I would cook the apples with the butter/sugar mixture for a few minutes before placing them into the pie pan.  I would also add some cornstarch to the mix because the flour did not stop the liquid from taking over inside the pie.   Then, I would brush the upper crust with coconut oil and sprinkle with a dry sugar/cinnamon mixture.
2.  I need to practice making pie crust.
3.  Sometimes you have to forgive a pie.
Although we all want our pies to come out looking like these:

It just doesn't always turn out that way.  I remember going to my friend's farm when I was a little girl.  Her mother, Joan was always baking pies from fruit that grew on their land.  She would have us help her.  We were five little girls aged 2 to 9 covered in flour with rolling pins and cookie cutters in hand.  We made huge messes.  We had bellies full of raw dough.  We would pat the crust onto the pies with intense concentration and inexperienced little hands.  The pies would come out lumpy and bumpy; but, Joan always smiled approvingly and told us the pies were beautiful.  I'm beginning to realize that just as each apple grows with unique bumps and bruises, so does the pie that we make from it.
I have to admit, once I forgave my pie for being ugly, it tasted much better.

Don't record your pie, it has nothing to say.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapter 2: In which a red door is opened and a flour-sack baby is loved

Over the next several months, Emily and Kate continued their baking experiments, trying to create better recipes.  As they worked in the kitchen, they began to get big ideas.  "We could sell this at the farmer's market," mused Kate.  "Yeah," agreed Emily, "and we could probably get some stores or restaurants to sell it, too.  Then, maybe one day we could open a cafe!"

One night after staying late at Kate's, drinking coffee and eating chocolate lava cake, Emily went home to her Guilford Ave apartment and fell asleep.  While sleeping, she had the following dream:

It was dark outside and Emily was walking up to a street corner with a key in hand.  She walked up to a red shop door and unlocked it.  Inside was an empty cafe.  Emily walked through the cafe and up a set of stairs in the back.  When she reached the landing, she opened another door and pulled a string to turn on the light.  She was standing in an empty apartment.  Emily looked around with a satisfied smile.  She was in her new home!  The cafe downstairs was hers, too!  She looked down at her arms and saw that she was carrying a flour-sack baby.  She carried the flour-sack baby to the window and looked out to the dark street below.   She saw a young woman coming up the sidewalk carrying a red suitcase.  It was Kate!  Excited, Emily tapped on the window with her free hand and waved as Kate's face tilted up.  Kate cracked into a grin and held the suitcase up, waving wildly.  Emily laughed.  She knew Kate was moving in and they were going to be running a cafe downstairs.  She stepped back to the center of the room and happily held the flour-sack baby up in the air.  As she held it up to the light, she realized it was a real baby.  A very tiny, undeveloped baby.  It was so undeveloped, in fact, that it was see-through.  Emily held it up to the light and looked at all of the veins and the beating heart of the baby.  "It's beautiful,"  she said aloud.  "I will take care of you,"  she promised.

The next morning, Emily couldn't wait to tell Kate about her dream.  She ran around the block to Kate's apartment and shared the story over coffee.  They smiled at each other.  This is really going to happen, they agreed.  We will do this.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vegan Sweet Potato Cinnamon Buns with Maple Glaze

Having made my first pie crust last week, I was feeling rather bold today and decided to experiment with a new dough.  I wasn't going to make cinnamon buns because there is already a place that solely makes (delicious) vegan cinnamon buns in Berkeley.   I wrote my dear friend Kate about it; and, she suggested I do it anyway as it certainly doesn't hurt to have a good cinnamon bun recipe up your sleeve.  It's a comfort food and it brings in business.  There is absolutely nothing more enticing than the scent of cooking cinnamon.
Someone asked me recently if vegans eat yeast since it's alive.  Caught off gaurd,  I had to think about why vegans can eat yeast.  I finally, decided yeast is ok because it's a fungus and not an animal.  Even so, I should be sure the yeast has a nice life. So, after much deliberation on pandora, I finally settled on a Tammy Wynette station.  After a few knee-jerk thumbs down reactions to Garth Brooks, Pandora seemed to get it and began playing old country songs for my yeast dough to grow up listening to.  It seemed appropriate to be baking comfort food and listening to country music.  I probably won't do it again, though.
The recipe I chose was actually a vegan recipe I found in the November 2011 issue of Vegetarian times found here:
I didn't make any alterations (other than omitting the pecans- which I don't recommend doing unless you think they are the devil, as I do).  *Holy crap.  just as finished typing that last line, I felt my first earthquake.  Hello, San Francisco!  I think this may mean I should never refer to pecans as the devil again.  He doesn't like that.*
Tips for this recipe:
1.  Use a food processor to mash the sweet potato- you don't want any lumps.
2.  Mixing the pecans into the glaze will make them more ascetically pleasing.
3.  I used my kitchen aid with a dough hook for this.  It worked really well!  It's basically fool proof.
4.  Making these on a warm day is actually a good idea.  The yeast likes to be cozy.
5.  I baked mine spaced out on a buttered baking sheet.  I think next time I will bake them closer together in a buttered pan with sides.  They turned out really good, but I personally prefer the softer buns.  The edges of mine came out a little bit dry.  I think eliminating the potential for edges is a good solution.
6.  I ended up doubling the maple glaze recipe.  It just wasn't enough to liberally slather.
7.  These are obviously best served warm from the oven.  I recommend making them when you have company to help you, so you don't eat three of them by yourself, like I just did.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons on Pie

vegan pie crust
Yesterday, my friend Jenn came over to teach me how she makes pie crust.  We were skeptical at first about the making of a vegan pie crust, but as you can see, it turned out beautifully.  I am now a little bit obsessed with pie.  The possibilities are endless!  I have visions of savory and sweet pies.  Pies made from fresh fruit, dried fruit, cheeses, herbs, pies with leaves, and pies with hats, pies with birds, and pies with UNICORNS!!!
The great thing about pie is that it can be filled with just about anything your heart desires.  The not so great thing about pie is that it makes just about everything infinitely more unhealthy.  I'm going to have to walk a lot of dogs to work off this hobby.
Jenn made a balsamic strawberry pie with a basil crust:
balsamic strawberries

The final outcome:

I made a blueberry-peach pie with cinnamon and ginger:

Jenn forgot her pie birds when she came over, so we made our own out of foil.  I think next time, I will make slits instead.  I didn't like having a hole in the middle of my pie.  I will probably also invest in some pie birds of my own.
blueberry peach pie
So, let's begin the lesson.
It's a good idea to make the dough first, as it needs to chill out in the fridge for a bit.
6 oz (12 Tbs) VERY COLD margarine (I used earth balance)
2 oz (4 Tbs) VERY COLD shortening
12 oz (2 cups) flour
1 tsp salt (can be cut in half or even eliminated if using a salted margarine)
1/2 cup ice water
1.  Combine flour and salt in food processor  (pulse once)
2.  Add butter (cut into tablespoon size chunks).  Pulse until mealy (about 5-8 times).  Do NOT over processes.
3.  Add shortening (also in small chunks)  Again, pulse just until mealy.
4.  Add ice water about one tablespoon at a time.  You do not necessarily need all of it.  You want it to be just barely enough.  Pulse after each tablespoon is added.  You can alternatively use a  spray bottle to add the water.  Stop adding water as soon as the dough forms and clings in one big lump on the side of the processor.  DON'T add too much water or you will have to start over.
5.  Form dough into a ball.  Divide in half.  Wrap the two discs in plastic wrap or put into ziplock bags.  Refrigerate for 30 mins-2 hours before rolling out.
6.  Make your filling
7.  On a floured surface, roll out dough into two large circles.  Starting at the far edge, roll the dough onto your rolling pin.  Unroll it over your pie plate.  Trim edges.  Brush with coconut oil.  Place in 400 degree oven for about 5 mins.  Remove from oven.  Add filling.  Cover with top dough circle.  Be sure to cut some slices into it or use a pie bird so it doesn't explode.  Decorate as desired. Brush with coconut oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 mins until crust is starting to brown or until middle begins to bubble over the edge.
8.  If the crust isn't brown yet, you can always brush it with more oil and place under the broiler for 30 seconds or so.  WATCH IT.  It will burn really fast and the coconut oil will smoke quickly.  Keep the door open and rotate it until desired color is reached.
9.  Cool completely on wire baking rack.  It will be a mess if you cut into it before it is completely cooled.  Be patient.  Leave the house if you have to.  Do whatever it takes.
10.  Enjoy your pie!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

pumpkin poppets (vegan pumpkin sandwich cookies with "cream cheese" filling)

pumpkin cookies
Today I was very excited to break out the pumpkin!  In my enthusiasm, I also gave my dog, Poppy a heaping spoonful of the festively orange stuff.  I was a little disappointed that the cookies weren't powerful enough to transport me back to the crisp autumnal days of my childhood in western Maryland.  It was hot in San Francisco today.  October is more of a summery month for us here in the bay area.  We don't really get much of a fall season.  It's very disappointing.
Speaking of disappointing- my first 2 batches of cookies turned out kind of smushy:
cookie fail
But this was a minor disaster because the third batch turned out beautifully: perfect pillowy pumpkin poppets!  I'm thinking that maybe the batter needed to sit a little bit before it was scooped onto the baking trays.  I will definitely be trying again to find out.  In the meantime, here is the recipe I used.  This recipe is one that I converted from a non-vegan version.  I've never tried the non-vegan version, but as these turned out really well in the end, I don't see any need to.  The best part about this recipe is that I stumbled upon a delightful vanilla cream cheese frosting.  I intend to use it again on future desserts, including the cinnamon buns I got the ingredients for today.  I would say the true test of this recipe will be my boyfriend's opinion; but, since he admitted last night that he isn't as absolutely insanely in love with pumpkin as I am, he will not be allowed to judge these.  That is, I'll let him pass judgement, but won't be very worried about what he has to say.  All of those true pumpkin lovers (you know who you are) will need to give me your feedback, instead.
For the cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cloves)
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree (chilled)
Ener-g egg replacer for 2 eggs (3 teaspoons Ener-g whisked into 4 tablespoons hot water)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the "cream cheese" filling:
3 cups vegan powdered sugar
1/2 cup room temperature vegan margarine (I used earth balance)
8 oz container of vegan cream cheese, softened (I used tofutti)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the poppets:
Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and set aside.
In seperate large bowl, whisk brown sugar into oil until combined.  Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroghly.  Add the Ener-g eggs and vanilla and wisk intil combined.
Wisk the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture.
Let sit for 5 minutes.  Drop heaping tablespoons one inch apart onto the baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are starting to crack on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan.
Make the filling:
Use an electric mixer to combine the margarine and cream cheese.  Sift in the podwered sugar and mix until there are no lumps.  Don't over process.  Can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated.  Allow to warm to room temperature before assembling.
Assemble the poppets:
Turn half of the cookies upside down.  Put a dollop of filling in the middle of each one and gentlley place a cookie on top.  Push down so filling goes to the edges.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.  They keep up to 3 days in the fridge covered in plastic wrap and stored on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Anthropologie Aprons

Anthropologie Aprons
If you are in the market for an apron that ensures your cuteness while you bake cake, I highly recommend perusing this collection of adorable frilly aprons.  They may not be entirely practical if you are a serious or seriously messy baker, however; I just think baking is so much more fun when you look good doing it.  Anthropologie designers have also contributed to an adorable line of aprons now being sold at Sur la Table, if you are interested in slightly less expensive ones.  Ideally, I'd want to sew my own aprons; but, who has the time?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chapter 1: In which an oven got its settings and cassiopeia chocolate cake was born

Emily and Kate were friends in Baltimore.  They lived right around the corner from one another and were very best friends.  One day, while pouring soy milk over her cereal in Kate's kitchen, Emily exclaimed, "I think I'll be a vegan."  Kate, knowing Emily was prone to such random morning outbursts, replied with a yawn followed by, "Okay.  When should we start?"  Emily, encouraged by her friend's willingness to join her on her latest fad, decided they should start right away.
And so they did.  Mornings turned into evenings and then back into mornings.  Emily was enjoying being a vegan, but was also feeling discouraged.  She wanted to have cake.  She tried some at the local vegetarian restaurant.  Full of nuts, seeds, and berries, It was nearly inedible.  "This is cake?"  No way.  "Kate, what will we do?  We can't live like this."
The girls quickly gathered some recipes and tools and began baking in Kate's kitchen.  Kate's kitchen was narrow, but well equiped.  The sink was an old ceramic type and the rickety old oven had a temperature dial...without numbers.  When they turned on the oven, they had no idea what temperature they had turned it to.  This would surely lead to some interesting cake disasters.
They started with chocolate cake.  The first recipe they tried was terrible.  Assuming it was the fault of the oven, they tried again.  And again.  Finally, they decided it was not a good recipe.  So they changed it.  When it came out too dry, they changed it again.  In a very slow and painful way, they were teaching themselves the science behind baking.  Without having the internet to look up answers, they plodded on with their experiments, taking notes along the way.  Distracted only by Anthroplogie apron designs, the girls mixed and poured and baked every evening after work.  After many coffee soaked nights, they finally had something good.  Really good.  Emily and Kate invited the neighbors and celebrated the birth of this brand new baby cake till late in the evening.  They named it Cassiopeia.
Then, very carefully, they drew a line next to the numberless oven dial.  Next to the line they wrote the word "cake."  From then on, when they wanted to bake cassiopeia cake, they would turn the oven to this setting.  In the months to come, they would make many more cassiopeia chocolate cakes in that rickety old oven.  Hundreds, even.
Cassiopeia Chocolate Cake with chocolate creamcheese frosting
cassiopeia chocolate cake with chocolate "creamcheese" frosting

Intro: In which a girl starts a blog

Emily once dabbled in blogging.  It didn't fair well.  She's going to try again; but, this time she has a purpose.  She's going to share her adventures (and presumably misadventures) in starting a vegan bakery.  To begin with, I should say Emily has a sweet tooth.   I should also explain that she doesn't care for vegan baked goods in general.  That is why she is on a mission to create and/or locate some recipes that are as good as the "real thing."  But, this isn't about veganism.  This tale is about a girl, an apron, and an oven.