Chocolate Chip Tahini Oatmeal Cookies

I was looking at recipes the other day when I came across a recipe for tahini-oatmeal cookies– it billed itself as being vegan, gluten-free, and whole-grain, which ordinarily wouldn’t be in its favor, but it occurred to me that I probably had some leftover tahini in the fridge, so I decided to give it a shot. Sure enough, I had about an inch of tahini left in my jar– just enough to eke out the 1/3 cup necessary for the recipe– plus a few spoonfuls of almond flour leftover from my aquafaba macarons, so it was clearly fate!

Since there was no additional fat in the recipe the dough went together quickly, though it didn’t spread at all in the oven so the resulting cookies ended up a bit too doughy to qualify as “cookies” in my book. I think next time I’ll flatten them out a bit more and hope they crisp up around the edges. I do appreciate the tahini flavor, though, which (as I’ve said before) goes excellently with dark chocolate, and is helped along by a healthy dose of salt. Oddly enough, the combination of tahini and oats reminds me a bit of walnuts, which would also go excellently in these cookies if you so desired.

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Plum Crumbcake with Almonds

In case you couldn’t tell, I kind of have a sweet tooth. But while I’m willing to put in hours of work and sacrifice the cleanliness of my entire kitchen to make something special and fancy (and often French), when it comes to everyday baking I prefer recipes that are quicker, easier, and don’t require quite as much washing up afterwards.

Enter this plum crumbcake. I cobbled it together when I had a surfeit of plums and wanted something tasty for breakfast one morning, and while it still uses a few different bowls, at least it doesn’t require creaming butter or separating eggs.

The finished cake is dense and moist, with a nice crunch on top from the almonds– they really do make the cake extra-delicious, don’t omit them– and of course, nice jammy pockets of plums. If I were to make it again, I might cut my plums in sixths or even quarters rather than eighths, just to amp up the fruit-to-cake ratio, but it’s perfectly fine (and probably more sliceable) this way as well.

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Aquafaba Macarons

I love macarons. They’re beautiful, delicious, and lend themselves to all kinds of flavor combinations. Unfortunately they also take a bunch of egg whites, which I rarely have available without wasting yolks, and I hate waste. Which is why, after I made a chickpea dish the other night, I saved the chickpea brine to make something out of.

What do macarons have to do with chickpea brine, you ask? Everything. Because apparently (and this is something I only recently discovered, though it’s been a thing for a while) you can treat chickpea brine like egg white and it will whip up into a meringue! Amazing! You do have to reduce the brine by 50% first to get it to fluff up properly, but that part is easy.

I will note right now that to make the macarons with my aquafaba, I used my standard macaron recipe, which you can find here.

Anyway, I reduced my brine, chilled it, and it whipped up beautifully, making a perfect meringue.

It also made a lovely magma-like macaron batter.

That being said, when I followed the directions of several tutorials and baked my macarons at a very low temperature (250 degrees F) to avoid making the tops crack (apparently a danger with aquafaba macarons), the macarons themselves turned out rather flat. No feet!

I tried my last pan at my usual macaron temperature (350 for 2 minutes, then crack the oven door and bake for another 8-10 minutes) and they got feet, but they also rose unevenly and cracked, so I guess the correct temperature is something around 300.

I’ll have to try again at some point, but for now you can at least be assured that these will be smooth on top at the lower temperature.

Once they were baked and cooled, I sandwiched the shells with my latest chocolate fudge frosting and a dollop of Nutella, then let my daughter roll the sides in sprinkles and paint the tops with food coloring.

Okay, I admit that I kept a few to paint myself so they’d be extra-pretty, but I always do that when I have little helpers in the kitchen! The results were delicious– just like normal macarons!– so I will definitely be trying these again the next time I make something with chickpeas in it!

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Fault Line Cake

So, once I’d made my cake layers, my fudge frosting, and a peanut butter cream cheese frosting (no real recipe here, I just beat together 4 oz. each of butter and cream cheese, added about 3/4 cup of peanut butter and a splash of vanilla, and then added powdered sugar until the texture was right), it was finally time to assemble the cake.

First, I removed my frozen cake layers and set them on the counter to thaw. After about 45 minutes they were cold enough to be firm but thawed enough to be workable, so I used a long, serrated knife to level off the tops. I stacked them with peanut butter frosting and ran a thin crumb-coat over the whole thing before setting it in the refrigerator to chill for another 20 minutes or so. At this point I will note that I made a mistake in using crunchy peanut butter (what I had on hand) for the frosting, because peanut chunks do not make for a smooth crumb coat. Oh well…

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Upgraded Easy Chocolate Cake

So my go-to chocolate cake recipe has always been this one, which is quick, easy, and conveniently vegan. However, I will admit that the cake itself is more of a base for decoration/embellishment, as opposed to being an independently delicious chocolate cake. And sometimes you just need a chocolate cake that’s delicious in its own right, you know?

I decided to branch out a little and try out a different cake recipe– one that still forgoes use of the stand mixer and avoids softened butter, but which increases the cocoa and has a few more flavor-enhancing ingredients. It ended up being excellent– more chocolate flavor than my old recipe, with a texture that stays moist even when taken directly from the refrigerator. While I’ll keep the old recipe on hand for pantry emergencies or vegan birthday celebrations, I’ll be switching to this one for my chocolate cake needs going forward!

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Brown Butter Pound Cake with Peaches, Butterscotch Sauce and Whipped Sour Cream

Well, there’s a monster of a title for this dessert… but each component is so important that I just couldn’t leave any of them out!

Now that summer is drawing to a close I’ve been trying to take advantage of summer fruits as much as possible, so when I had occasion to make dessert for a crowd I decided to center it on fresh peaches, which looked great at the market and were just squeezably ripe (but sadly did not live up to their promise flavor-wise). Since one of my favorite uses of fresh fruit is to spoon it over an otherwise basic cake, I found a recipe that was only slightly fancied-up with brown butter, and pulled out my Gothic bundt pan to make it look extra pretty. For once, the cake unmolded perfectly (see tips below) and the brown butter added some nice depth of flavor. I could have stopped there, of course, but once I tasted the peaches I knew I’d need something more.

Enter this tasty butterscotch sauce, which I got from David Lebovitz. If you recall, I’ve had previous experience trying to improve mediocre peaches with butterscotch sauce, so I knew it would help. Add a softly whipped topping made from heavy cream and sour cream, and the extra sweetness and tanginess did a lot to make this dessert a success, despite the disappointing peaches.

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Strawberries and Cream Eclairs

You know, despite having used choux pastry to make cream puffs (a LOT), breakfast pastry, and fancy French praline desserts, I’d never used it to make ├ęclairs before now. I wonder why? Perhaps because I tend to like my desserts either tiny and adorable (like, bite-sized), or big and easy to serve to a crowd. In any event, I was recently invited to a last-minute dinner party and needed something light, summery, and capable of being ready to transport in 90 minutes or less.

A quick scan of the kitchen showed that I had no fruit to bake into a crumble or cake, no thawed butter I could use to make frosting (even if I’d had time to bake and cool a cake enough to be frosted), and no leftover cake scraps or cookies that I’d ordinarily be able to use as the base for something interesting and maybe ice cream-based. And then I thought of choux– made of pantry staples, it would bake up quickly and could be filled with any number of things; plus, it would be best filled on-site, which would give me a little more time to acquire fruit or something else tasty for a filling on the way to the party.

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