5/09/2016

vegan rhubarb apple coffee cake

Yum

Rhubarb is kind of a mystery to me. I'd really like to know how it got stuck in the strictly sweet application. Not that I'm complaining, but is that weird to anyone else? I've pretty much never seen it served in anything other than a dessert. Still, I'm sure whoever came up with this system had a pretty good reason. I mean, I have followed my curiosity long enough to try a raw piece of rhubarb and it doesn't exactly taste, well, good.

So whoever came to the realization that with a little time in the oven and some added sugar, rhubarb really turns into something special, into something that makes me look forward to its brief appearance in spring, its bright red stalks unmistakable on the farmers' market tables: thanks. You can have a little credit for how great this coffee cake turned out (but just a little).


Pies, sure, jams and even parfaits (had one last night, in fact), but what about a rhubarb coffee cake, I asked myself. Turns out, I wasn't the only one. But even if every good idea already exists, it doesn't mean it can't improved upon, right? And there's always more room for such improvements in the vegan baking spectrum.

This cake is perfect for a weekend treat. I decided to try it out on a pretty dreary Saturday morning and the bright notes in the green apple and red rhubarb immediately perked me up. That and the coffee, anyway.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cake:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon flaxseed meal + 2 tablespoons water, well mixed
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced**
1/2 cup apple, peeled and diced***

For the crumb topping:

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan butter, cold

**What I found worked best was to slice each rhubarb stem length-wise and then thinly slice from there. But do what you want! If you want bigger chunks, that will be great, too.
***I went with Granny Smith, a classic baking apple. But use what you have! It's all good.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In a measuring cup, combine your almond milk and vinegar. Whisk vigorously and set aside to curdle. In a small pinch bowl, mix together your flaxseed meal and water and allow to set, about 3 minutes.

In a separate smaller bowl, mix together your coconut oil, vanilla and sugar. Gradually add in your almond milk mixture and stir well. Finally, add your flax egg and whisk once more.


Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. Next, fold in your sliced fruit (rhubarb is a fruit, right?**) until evenly dispersed, about 10 solid folds. Transfer to a 8 or 9-inch square pan, lightly greased (you can use coconut oil for this as well, but any nonstick spray will do).

Quickly add all your crumb topping ingredients to a small bowl and break up/mash together with a fork. You may have to get hands on for any bigger vegan butter chunks, but no complaints here. When you've broken everything down into bite-sized crumbs (think no bigger than a dime), evenly sprinkle the crumb topping on your cake.

**Nope.


Transfer to your oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until 1. the top is golden, 2. the crumbs are golden, 3. the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan or 4. a toothpick comes out clean. All the above is your best case scenario and most likely what will turn out to to be the perfect coffee cake.

If you can stand it, allow to cool (in the pan) for about 5-10 minutes when it comes out of the oven. This just makes it a tad easier to cut so you don't miss all those rhubarb and apple pieces when it comes to scooping it out of the pan. If you can't wait, I understand. We all do.


How else can you get more rhubarb in your life?
**Even better, you can also make your own! 




5/02/2016

vegan snickers bars

Yum

There are certain foods that I just stopped eating one day. It was a combination of discovering information about "food" that I couldn't unlearn, ingredients lists that rivaled novels and a general understanding of myself that took some serious, conscious efforts in paying attention to how I felt. Turns out, food doesn't have to make you feel terrible. You don't have to always have indigestion or feel tired or suffer sugar breakouts.**

**More on this some other time, but if you're intrigued, start here.

So despite certain foods automatically falling off my normal rotation because I suddenly realized I was basically eating chemicals and preservatives and dyes and making my life unnecessarily harder and it wasn't even worth it (come on, guys, it's not worth it), it can be difficult to deny when those cravings roll around. My hankering for a Snickers bar usually begins somewhere on October 31st when everything comes in cute (but still bad!) bite sized packaging and ends, oh, never.


So what to do? You want a Snickers (or whatever your candy bar vice happens to be) but you can't eat a Snickers. Or can you? Can you make your own version with about ten million less ingredients (try ten, period, one of them being water) and still be just as satisfied?

I admit, I was skeptical. As much as I try to limit my dairy intake, I thought there was no chance a bunch of puréed dates would pass for caramel. Well, I've reformed. And I'm sorry (there's a first time for everything) I doubted. In just a few simple steps, Snickers cravings, be gone.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the base layer

65 grams pure maple syrup
240 grams almond butter (smooth is probably best here, but who's to say?)
8-10 tablespoons almond flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel

180 grams pitted dates
90 grams almond butter
4-7 tablespoons warm water
4 tablespoons coconut oil

For the rest

1/2 cup peanuts, unsalted
400 grams dairy-free dark chocolate**

**Check your labels! I'm sure you are, but seriously, you'd be surprised how many dark chocolate varieties contain dairy. I've always liked working with this brand. Zero percent chance of dairy (or other common allergens)!



Begin by forming your base. In a medium bowl, mix together your maple syrup and almond butter. Add your salt and vanilla and stir to combine. Add your almond meal one tablespoon at a time until you achieve the correct consistency. What you're looking for is something akin to slightly thicker cake batter. Once you're there, line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer your mixture to the pan and spread in an even-ish layer about one inch thick. Transfer to the freezer to firm up (at least fifteen minutes).


Meanwhile, you can get started on your caramel. Though, if you're anything like me, don't get started on it too early or you may find yourself eating too much of it before it's time to assemble the bars. In the bowl of a food processor (or blender), add your dates, almond butter and coconut oil. Pulse together, about ten to twenty times. Next, add your water one tablespoon at a time until your mixture smooths out but remains thick.

Once your base has set, cut into even bars. How you do this is totally up to you. You can go with the traditional candy bar shape, squares, uneven and oblong blobs like I did. There are no rules, really. Once the base pieces are cut and you can live with the shape they are in, press a good amount (you'll just have to eyeball this one based on the shape of your bars) of peanuts onto the top of each bar. I pushed them down but not fully infused into the base. I figured this would help keep the tops slightly level which would help with the chocolate covering. Again, no rules.

Next, add a nice, thick layer of caramel to each bar. This part is fun. I felt like vegan Willy Wonka, with a lot less purple in my life. Also access to a chocolate river would have made coating these bars a whole lot easier.


Transfer your sheet pan back into the freezer for another fifteen minutes, minimum. The longer you can let them freeze, the easier the final step will be. But I waited fifteen minutes to the dot and I understand if you choose to do the same.

While you're waiting, you can get started on melting down your chocolate. There is, of course, the trusted double boiler method that will never let you down. There is also the 15-20 second increments in the microwave with a quick stir in between. This method has never failed me, either. To each their own (don't tell Martha and/or anyone else who would inevitably frown on this microwave method of mine).


When the chocolate is melted and the bars are frozen, quickly dip/coat each one in a layer of chocolate. After each bar is coated, transfer back to your parchment lined pan (you may need a new piece of paper; if so, flip it over: done!) and then back into the freezer for their final setting.

These will be ready in about 30 minutes and best in about an hour. I feel like if you make it the full hour you should go ahead and have two. Also, in my opinion, they seem to store best in the freezer. In the fridge or on the countertop, you risk that weird condensation on the chocolate that sort of kills my candy-eating vibe. Plus they don't ever fully harden, so what you end up with is a super nice, cold candy bar that won't break your teeth. Isn't that what every girl wants?



More candy? I thought you'd never ask:
This recipe inspired by the geniuses at The Happy Pear: thanks, guys!