Vegan 4-Ingredient Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream
(its base is frozen bananas!)

Yield: 4 servings

Calories: app. 130/serving (however, you can eat the whole recipe for  only 520 calories which is equal to or less than a small meal!)

This recipe was inspired by one making the rounds via video on Facebook.  A while back, lying in bed very early one morning, I watched how it was made with the sound off–Bob was asleep–and then just went for it last night, propelled by this oppressive heat and humidity.  Around here, we call the heat index the “misery index.”

The original recipe called for 4 bananas and what appeared to be 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 2 of cocoa powder.  I’m not a big peanut butter and chocolate fan.  My aversion dates from a childhood incident that resulted from eating way too many peanut butter-and-chocolate eggs out of my Easter basket on the heels of blueberry shortcake.  I nonetheless added one tablespoon thinking it might be necessary for texture.  It wasn’t.  For the chocolate, I used  Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder, but if you prefer a more reddish-brown color, then just use regular cocoa powder.

But whatever you do, peel your bananas before freezing them.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but when I pulled four banana-shaped ice cubes out of my freezer, I realized my mistake.  So, I thawed them, peeled them, cut them into chunks and refroze them.  The texture was still silky and glorious.

My two additions to the recipe are quick, easy, and absolutely necessary in my opinion.  After I tasted the ice cream, I felt it seemed a little flat or one-note.  I tend to like more complex flavors,though not fussy ones.  So, I added a hint of both almond and vanilla extracts and that did the trick.  However, I look forward to experimenting with other extracts like mint, orange, and perhaps rum or brandy.

If your summer promises to be as hot and humid as ours in Eastern, VA, this recipe is likely to become a staple.  A friend said that his daughter used to make a version and eat it for breakfast.  It is certainly more nutritious than most of what I see folks eating for breakfast.

Whenever you decided to enjoy a couple of scoops, I hope you will enjoy it as we do.

4 large bananas, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks and frozen

2 tablespoons regular or Special Dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional garnishes: walnut halves and mint sprigs

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy right away or freeze in an airtight container.  Thaw for two 30-second intervals in the microwave before trying to scoop.  Top, if desired with walnut halves and mint sprigs.

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Vegan Hazelnut-Orange Sandwich Cookies
with Chocolate Ganache Filling
a gorgeous gourmet gift from your kitchen

These stunning cookies are simple to make but will impress the most serious gourmand in both flavor and appearance.

I like to package them two to a cellophane bag, tied with raffia through a hole punched in my cute (if I do say so) business cards.

Vegan Hazelnut-Orange Sandwich Cookies

3/4 cup sugar (I use demerara)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

1 cup plus 6 tablespoons vegan butter, softened

3 tablespoons orange liqueur (like Triple Sec) or 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

6 ounces vegan semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Spread 1/4 cup hazelnuts in a skillet or pie plate and toast for about 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts with 2 tablespoons sugar intil finely ground. Add the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and pulse to combine well. Add 1 cup butter, broken into hunks, and orange liqueur and pulse until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured surface, working with half of dough at a time, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookie cutter, cut cookies out as closely together as possible. Place cookies on baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with remaining half of dough, gently kneading in scraps from first half. Gather scraps from second half, gently knead, and reroll scraps from second half.

Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly colored but the tops are still fairky light, rotating pans after 10 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and allow to cool.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, whisking until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.

Turn half the cookies over and spoon a small dollop of the chocolate in the center of each of those. Dip the remaining cookies halfway into the chocolate and position over the filled bottoms, pressing gently to seal. Sprinkle the remaining chopped toasted hazelnuts onto the chocolate, pressing gently if necessary, and let the sandwich cookies stand for about 30 minutes until the chocolate is set.  Chill if packaging or transporting.

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Vegan Nutella and Puff Pastry Christmas Tree

I can’t see Santa’s Forest for these adorable trees.

Apparently they are all the rage this year, but I was evidently a little late to the pastry tree party.  Make yours with pizza dough or puff pastry and spread with the sweet or savory filling you most crave. Just be sure to include a creamy base to adhere the layers together.

My version is sweet–but not too–uses only three ingredients and, after the pastry thaws, is ready to devour in under 30 minutes.  I left a Middle Eastern dinner and this tree last night for our dog sitters (yes, we are those dog owners) while we joined friends for their Christmas Eve Eve tradition: a salad and sip of wine followed by a Christmas light-lit walk over to the Naro, an independent film house, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The twins left some of the tabouli salad but not a crumb of the pastry. It was a huge hit with these 19 year olds.

My take on this new classic was inspired by its key ingredient: Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata Oraganic Dairy-Free Hazelnut & Cocoa Spread, generously sent to me for product review purposes. With a deeply nutty and chocolatey flavor–its richness undiluted by dairy–and a thick and creamy–but spreadable–texture, this product is tops in my pantry (it needs no refrigeration).  It is also gluten- and palm oil-free.

Recipe

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions

4.5 to 5 ounces vegan Hazelnut-Cocoa spread (1/2 jar Nocciolata)

1 to 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On baking stone or parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, stack the two pastry sheets.  With a sharp knife, cut into a triangular tree shape with a 1-inch or so wide trunk at the bottom. Remove top sheet, spread bottom sheet with hazelnut-cocoa spread, replace top sheet, lining up edges, and press down gently.

Cut 1 star from scraps and whatever other shapes you like fir nibbling or to serve as croutons on salads. Place pastry shapes on a separate stone or lined baking sheet.

Make 3/4-inch wide horizontal cuts from outer edges of triangle toward the center, stopping even with outer edges of trunk leaving a 1-inch or so wide trunk up the center. Twist each long cut strip twice and the shorter ones once, pressing tips firmly against baking stone or sheet.  Brush very lightly with non-dairy milk, press star onto top point, and brush star with a tiny bit more non-dairy milk.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, but remove shapes cut from scraps after 10 or 15 minutes or they will burn. Remove baking sheet with pastry tree from oven, cool slightly, and slide tree onto serving platter. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate-Chocolate Chip,
White Chocolate Chip, & Dried Cranberry Cookies

gluten-free-chocolate-chocolate-chip-white-chocolate-chip-and-dried-cranberry-cookiesYield: approximately 2 dozen cookies

Just in time for the holidays are these handsome and festive cookies appropriate for even the most gluten intolerant on your guest list.

I am not a gluten-free baker but, occasionally, I make treats for my high school art students.  And, in my large Advanced and AP Studio class of 31 students, I learned that I have one girl with a gluten sensitivity.  So, feeling badly about her not being able to indulge in the treats I shared with them, I decided to experiment.

A few years back, I created a recipe for gluten-free cookies made with white bean puree and chickpea flour. They were delicious, but not as handy to make as if they didn’t call for the white beans.  And, I recently learned that my small neighborhood Kroger no longer carries chickpea flour, though they seem to stock every other kind of flour imaginable.  So, I chose one that was less expensive than most and that I thought might have a similar texture to the chickpea flour, namely brown rice flour.  Good decision.

Whie some gluten-free baked goods call for special flour blends, xantham gum, egg substitutes, and the like, I wanted mine to be straightforward and absent of ingredients that most bakers wouldn’t have on hand.  As a result, these absolutely delicious and beautifully-textured cookies were born.

I had found, through previous experiments with gluten-free cookies, that adding almond extract, in addition to vanilla extract, helps mellow any “off” taste that results from using flours that are stronger tasting than all purpose white or white whole wheat.  But, it occurred to me that a teaspoon of espresso powder might further counteract those sharper flavors of some of the alternative flours without lending a pronounced coffee flavor.  And I was right.

As for texture, these are a little crispy and ever-so-slightly sandy–like the commercial “Pecan Sandies” of my youth–which everyone who has tasted has found very appealing.  And I hope you do.

I served these with Prosecco to guests who stopped by after a concert.  It was a lovely pairing and a special way to end the evening.

 

1/4 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup demerera sugar (or 1/2 cup granulated and 1/2 cup brown sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon espresso powder (or coffee/instant coffee ground to a powder in a spice grinder)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown rice flour (I use white whole wheat when not baking gluten-free)

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (or up to 4)

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips (I ordered these online) + 1/4 cup additional (optional)

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (I found a bag of pre-chopped ones) + 2 tablespoons additional (optional)

Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter and shortening until fluffy.  Beat in sugar and continue beating until well creamed.  Add extracts, espresso pwder, salt, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix on medium-low speed just until well-combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Mix in the non-dairy milk, adding an additional tablespoon or two if necessary, as the brown rice flour is very absorbant.  On lowest speed, mix in both typs of chips and dried cranberries.  Using a tablespoon or small scoop, arrange mounds of dough about 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten with your middle three fingers to about 1/2-inch thick.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.  Remove baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before removing to a serving platter.  If desired, drizzle with 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted; I use a pastry bag for this task.  If more color is desired, press a couple of tablespoons of dried cranberries into drizzled white chocolate, distributing among cookies.

 

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The VERY Best Vegan Brownie–Seriously!
“Bob’s Brownies”
The Perfect Hybrid of a Chewy AND Cakey Brownie

best-browniesAfter spending most of my vegan life trying to perfect a recipe for chewy, fudgy vegan brownies, along came Bob.  His preference is for cakey.

My tasty solution was to meet somewhere in the middle.  I have removed my other “best” brownie recipe because this one tops it by alot.  For the easy recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post.  For the backstory, keep reading.

I am so ashamed that I have seemingly ignored The Blooming Platter since August 12.  This is becoming the same-old-asking-for-forgiveness song.

However, you have been on my mind.  My latest excuse is a good one; I hope you’ll agree.  First, there was my art exhibiton, “Losses and Linkages” at the World Trade Center in Norfolk, VA, on which I had worked for a year.  It broke all records, I was told, opening with 250-300 people in attendance. What a beautiful, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing experience.

Second, though, you may recall that I had plunged into Match.com in July, a year after my husband’s passing, and the results were, well, we’ll just say “mixed.”  Indeed I met some very nice, handsome, interesting men–including some I knew or knew of outside of Match, but didn’t know were “available”–yet I experienced none of that magical chemistry.  Eclipsing all else, including what we’ll just call one “bridge” relationship, is the rejection dished out on both sides…wow.  Of course, I only remember what was served up to me, including ghosting which, I’m here to tell you, is a “thing.”

To make a very long story short–which I may decide to share at some point–I “found” Bob the Sunday night after my show opened (September 16) during a window of a few hours when he lost his mind and thought he might be ready for Match.  By Monday morning, he had realized that he wasn’t ready to date and had “hidden” his profile.  But he had responded to me, so we could still email each other through the site.  I had nothing to lose, so I asked if he had removed his profile because I had reached out.  He quickly responded that, no, it was not me, it was him, and–after I shared my frustration with men who verbalized their belief that I wasn’t “ready to date”–offered his real name and his cell phone number in case I wanted his male perspective on online dating.  I did send him a follow-up text which read something like, “Thank you for your kind offer, but I won’t be reaching out to you because you have made your position very clear.”  However, after school, I checked my phone, and there was another message from him.  Several days of intense texting ensued with my thinking all the while that we were just going to be texting “friends,” yet realizing I wanted to meet this man.

Within a week, we had decided that, indeed, we should meet, first schedulinlg a date for the next Sunday and then, because we couldn’t wait, later that Saturday after my evening plans with a girl friend.  After three dates in two days–including to The Chrysler Museum for an artist’s talk and an interview I needed to conduct (Bob busied himself elsewhere)–the rest is, as they say, history. We have been together every day since.  I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that we are in a deeply committed, loving, and fun–if fast forming–relationship.  Learning how better to love this amazing man is one of the great joys of my new life.  But it hasn’t left a lot of time for my beloved blog.

Much of my time has been spent trying to figure out how to feed vegan foods to this carnivore that he will actually like.  He could never be accused of eating the healthiest diet, so I started with daily vitamins.  But I also bake weekly treats.  Here, I offer “Bob’s Brownies.”  Even if they weren’t baked with a huge helping of love, as mine are–and yours too–they would be delicious.  Enjoy!

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat for everytihng)

I cup granulated sugar (I use demerera)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s dark chocolate variety; but use any unsweetened cocoa powder)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola, but any with a neutral flavor is perfect)

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened soy)

1 nteaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut; my favorite “nut” loves walnuts)

1/2 cup vegan semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)

1/2 cup coconut chips or shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  *Grease an 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray and, if desired, line with an approximately 4-inch wide strip of parchment paper, and spray again. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk, and extracts.  Stir or whisk to combine, about 50 strokes.  Fold in nuts and optional chocolate chips and coconut chips or shreds. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan, gently smoothing the top, and bake approximately 37-40 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Note: parchment is optional; you will have no trouble removing thee from the pan whether you use it or not.

These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.
These brownies are pretty and glossy even when still in the pan.

 

 

 

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Vegan Coca-Cola Cake–The Definitive Version (feel free to use natural cola)

Cola Cake

Yield: 1-9 x 13-inch sheet cake

[Special thanks to Go Dairy Free for including this recipe on their website…three times now..read on to see why.]

If you have ever perused a “church cookbook,” as we call them “down South,” then you’ve seen the dairy version of this recipe made with Coca-Cola.  And if you’ve been to a “dinner on the grounds” at said south’ren church, then you’ve surely seen such a cake if not tasted it.

It appears to be a basic chocolate sheet cake, but it is oh-so-much more: dense, moist, and–though it contains a small amount of cocoa–very chocolatey and caramely from the cola.

This is my third and final iteration of trying to veganize this old classic.  Why final?  Because I finally got it.  I posted the previous two versions because I thought I had it each time.  The moistness and flavor of the most recent was spot-on, but it sunk a bit resulting in a layer of frosting as thick as the cake.  Now, this isn’t a huge problem in my book, but, for the sake of keeping up appearances, this latest version is perfection.

And it was an accident.  In hopes of achieving a bit more sophisticated flavor, I wanted to try my recipe with Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, but all I had was self-rising flour.  The original recipe calls for all purpose flour and baking soda.  But self-rising flour includes baking powder, and that proved to be the trick, along with flaxseed meal: combining both baking powder and baking soda for proper lift that won’t sink.  Because most folks don’t keep self-rising flour around, I converted the recipe based on the generally-accepted amount of baking powder in each cup of self-rising flour.

For the authentic flavor of the original, I recommend using regular natural unsweetened cocoa powder. But for darker color and a richer flavor profile, try the Special Dark cocoa, which is a blend of natural and Dutched cocoas.

2 cups all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

2 cups natural sugar (I use demerera)

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup vegan butter

3 tablespoons cocoa, regular “natural unsweetened” or Hershey’s Special Dark

1 cup natural cola (or if you drink Coca-Cola, by all means)

1/2 cup soymilk

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (or flax seed ground finely in a spice or coffee grinder)

Vegan Cola Frosting (recipe follows)

Garnish: pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13″ baking pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.  In a small bowl, whisk together soymilk, vanilla, vinegar (to create a curdled “buttermilk”), and flax seed meal.  In a small saucepan over medium-high, heat butter, cocoa, and cola just to boiling, reduce heat and stir occasionally until butter is melted; remove from heat.  Make a well in the center of the flour and sugar mixture.  Pour soymilk mixture followed by butter mixture into the well.  Whisk just until smooth and well combined.  Transfer into prepared baking pan and gently smooth top.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes, checking for doneness with a wooden pick inserted in the center after about 20.  Place pan on a wire rack and make frosting which must be poured over a warm cake.  Smooth frosting over top of cake, garnish if desired with pecan halves, cool completely, and serve.  Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Vegan Cola Frosting

1/2 cup vegan butter

3 tablespoons cocoa, regular or Hershey’s Special Dark

1/2 cup natural cola

1 box confectioner’s sugar

Optional: 1 cup broken or chopped pecans

In a large saucepan, heat butter, cocoa, and cola over medium-high to boiling.  Reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until butter is melted; remove from heat.  Whisk in confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time, until smooth and completely incorporated.  Stir in optional pecans and frost cake immediately.

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Vegan Buche de Noel–with Chocolate Mousse Filling and Mocha Buttercream Frosting

Finished CakeYield: 12 servings (at least)

Vegans need not forego a rolled cake–for this beautiful buche or any other iteration–if you take advantage of my many experimentations with both ingredients and technique…

I regret that I didn’t have time to experiment with this recipe until after Christmas, but it is so exquisitely beautiful and delicious that I can’t wait a whole year to share.  Plus, a winter log cake should be appropriate at least through February, no?

Important note:  it is far easier and quicker than it may look from these instructions.  And well worth any effort…

After conducting considerable research online, I chose a recipe for Vegan Swiss Roll on the Allergy Mums website (thank you!), filling it with my favorite chocolate mousse and frosting it with my longtime favorite mocha buttercream.  The creator of the “sponge” claims that it doesn’t crack and, indeed, her photo is picture perfect.  However, I found that not to be the case.

Still, my accomplice and good friend, Janie Jacobson, a healthy foods cooking instructor and cookbook author, and I were unperturbed because the luscious frosting hid any cracks completely.

I have now made two of these cakes–one for an impromptu post-New Year’s tea party and the other for a postponed 12th Night Party on Saturday night.  It was a rave both times.  But then I made two more rolled cakes according to another recipe and with considerable experimentation on my part in order to perfect the “sponge” to avoid dreaded cracks.

In terms of decorating, yes, I know about aquafaba, though I confess to not yet trying it, and I was afraid it might not work for the meringue mushrooms typically used to decorate these yule logs. So I devised my own decoration of sliced almonds to suggest shelf-like mushrooms that grow on tree trunks.  Some sprigs of rosemary and cinnamon sticks lend a woodsy note–with rosemary being a surprisingly enticing aroma with chocolate–and a light dusting of powdered sugar suggests a hint of snow.

Someone told me it was the prettiest Buche de Noel she’d ever seen and another that it was my best dessert creation yet. That makes this recipe good enough to share with you.

 

Vegan Buche de Noel

1 cup soy or other non-dairy milk

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

3/4 cup natural granulated sugar (I use demerera)

2 tablespooons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola or other neutral vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Vegan Chocolate Mousse (recipe follows)

Vegan Mocha Buttercream (recipe follows)

Garnishes: sliced almonds, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a rimmed 10 x 15″ pan with non-stick spray.  Line with one sheet of parchment paper and spray lightly again.  Sprinkle a tea towel with a little powdered sugar in a 10 x 15″  rectangle.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together soymilk, vinegar, and flaxseed meal and set aside to curdle, making a thickened vegan buttermilk.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in canola oil, vanilla extract, and soymilk mixture.  Whisk together for 100 strokes until smooth.  (Whisking for a portracted time like this will develop gluten and, hence, structure.)  Transfer batter into prepared pan and gently smooth into the corners.  Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or just until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for 3 minutes and then invert onto prepared tea towel.  Carefully peel off parchment paper.  With a very sharp knife, trim 1/8 inch of cake from all of the edges.  Working from a long side, fold the excess inch or so of towel over the edge of the cake and carefully roll up like a jelly roll.  Tuck edges under and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Carefully unroll, avoiding trying to flatten the cake completely.  Gently spread with Vegan Chocolate Mousse.  Reroll and place seam side down on a serving platter, nestling it onto a flattened side from the previous rolling.  Cut off both ends at a diagonal and position cut pieces to resemble sawed off limbs.  Frost with Vegan Mocha Buttercream Frosting.  Lightly drag a fork lengthwise down the trunk and cut branches to resemble bark.  Garnish as desired with sliced almonds, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, and powdered sugar.

Tent with foil and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving time.  Slice with a sharp or serrated knife.

 

Cake Before Rolling

 

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

1/4 cup chocolate soymilk

6 ounces extra-firm silken tofu

1/4 cup natural sugar (I like demerara)

4.5 to 6 ounces vegan semi-sweet or bittetsweet chocolate (basically half a 9 to12 ounce bag of vegan chocolate chips), melted and cooled until almost room temperature (the chocolate should be very thick but still spoonable)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond or peppermint extract

Pinch sea salt

Place the soymilk, tofu, and sugar into the food processor, and process until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the melted chocolate, extracts, and a pinch of salt. Process for several minutes until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Texture should be very thick and creamy and set-up almost immediately. Refrigerate for a bit before filling buche if necessary.

 

Vegan Mocha Buttercream Frosting

1/3 cup vegan butter, softened

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in about 2 teaspoons of water (I have also used a Starbucks espresso pod, torn open, and sprinkled in undissolved which works beautifully)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons non-dairy creamer (soy, coconut, etc.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with coffee and cocoa powder.  Turn mixer off, add 1/3 of confectioner’s sugar and a tablespoon of creamer, and beat until creamy.  Repeat with remaining confectioner’s sugar and creamer, ending with last third of sugar scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Adjust consistency with additional confectioner’s sugar or creamer as desired.  Beat in vanilla until incorporated.   If a darker color is desired to contrast more with almonds, add more dissolved coffee, cocoa powder, or both.

 

 

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Barbara’s Vegan Chocolate Tart with Pistachios (plus peanut butter version)

Barbara's Chocolate TartYield: 8 to 12 servings (it is decadent and rich, so a thin sliver may do the trick)

 

This recipe began its life as No Bake Chocolate Cake (which is really more of a terrine) at 101 Cookbooks.

But, my enterprising friend, Barbara Gelpi, simply poured the mixture into a crumb crust–homemade or purchased, plain or chocolate–and voila!: the densest, richest, most delectable tart imaginable with not a bit of tofu in sight.

Though I happen to love tofu, the absence of it removes all the soy, to which some folks are averse, while also removing the need for a food processor.  Considering that my new dog Patsy “retrieved” the blade from the counter where it was draining and ruined it by chewing up the plastic part only–thank goodness–that is a good thing.

Barbara and her husband, Juan, joined me in the preparation of a delectable vegan Moroccan meal last night, so Barbara’s addition of a pistachio garnish was perfectly fitting and tasty, and the green was such a pretty contrast with the warm reddish-brown of the chocolate.  But use any nut you like or no nuts at all.

This tart is sure to become a staple and all of your friends will ask you to bring it when they invite you for dinner.  Heck, they may invite you to dinner just so you’ll bring the tart!

8 ounces vegan chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

1 cup almond milk

1/2 teaspoon allspice, cinnamon, chili powder, etc.

2 teaspoons espresso

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 crumb pie crust

Optional topping: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios or your favorite nut

Melt the chocolate on the stovetop or in the microwave.  Heat the milk with the spice of your choice, the espresso, and the salt just bubbling.  Whisk the chocolate into the milk.  Allow to cool and thicken a bit, and then pour into crust.  Sprinkle with nuts,  and chill a couple of hours or until cold throughout and set.  It should be firm enough to slice beautifully.  Note: to make peanut butter version, melt 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter with chocolate and sprinkle top with coarsely chopped peanuts.

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Vegan Layered Fudge and Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

Layered Fudge and Pumpkin Brownies--horizontalYield: 1-8×8″ pan of brownies

These are the perfect fall treat: chocolate always understands and pumpkin is just the perfect personification of everything appealing about autumn.

 

Brownie Layer:

1 box or bag of brownie mix that calls for only 1 egg, and contains no dairy products in the mix (I use Marie Callender’s “Restaurant Style” 10-0unce Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix, sold locally at our Dollar Tree)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee

1/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer:

3/4 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

 

Ganache Layer:

1/2 cup non-dairy creamer (like soy or coconut)

4 to 5 ounces vegan chocolate chips

Spray a metal 8 x 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.  (Optionall: cut a 3-inch wide strip of parchment paper long enough for ends to overhang sides of pan, press into bottom and up and over sides, and spray again with non stick spray.)  Make brownie layer: in a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well-combined and then whisk for 50 strokes.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Make pumpkin layer:  place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Gently smooth pumpkin mixture over the top of the brownie layer, spreading to cover.  Using a skewer or a knive, make narrow zig-zag lines through both layers from side to side, turn pan one-quarter turn, and repeat to make perpendicular lines.  Bake for 25 minutes or until brownies are set and no longer glossy on top.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  In the meantime, make ganache: heat creamer in microwave or a saucepan until very hot or just begining to bubble (about 1 minute or so in microwave).  Whisk in chocolate until melted.  Allow to rest at room temperature while brownies cool; mixture will thicken as it cools (speed process by refrigerating for a few minutes, if desired).  Gently pour and spread ganache over pumpkin layer of brownies.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours or until set before slicing and serving.

 

 

 

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