maple cannoli, vegan.

The Daring Bakers challenge deadline snuck up on me, again. It’s been a rough month. My talented friend Lisa was this month’s challenge host and her choice was truly inspired: Cannoli. I had grand ideas for this challenge from the moment it was revealed and, though I didn’t devote the time I wanted to, I didn’t want to let the opportunity to tackle it slip away unaddressed. So I present my challenge 2 days late, with apologies.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Since I would be making a vegan version of this challenge, I would need an alternative recipe – and I knew exactly which one I’d be using. Last February’s issue of The Vegan Culinary Experience was Italian inspired and it included a perfect-looking recipe for cannoli. I followed the recipe for the cannoli shells and was quite pleased with how they turned out. You can download your free (pdf) copy of the very same issue of The Vegan Culinary Experience (including the cannoli recipe and many, many more recipes) here. And while you’re at it, sign up to be notified when new issues of VCE become available – they’re free and they’re awesome.

For the filling, I knew I wanted to use something that was nut-based and creamy. I had made this delicious almond ricotta before, for (unbelievably delicious) stuffed pasta shells. I used the same recipe as my guide for soaking and preparing the almonds (but left out all the additional savoury ingredients). I processed the almonds until they were completely smooth, added a pinch of sea salt, and added organic maple syrup to taste.

I piped the sweet creamy filling into my cannoli shells, drizzled more organic maple syrup over top and finished it all off with confectioner’s sugar.

Be sure to visit The Daring Kitchen and check out what the other Daring Bakers are up to.

sweet potato cake.

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What is it about sweet potato and cake in the same sentence that promises awesome? When I saw this recipe posted at the fabulous VegNews site, I knew I was in trouble.

Five days. That’s how long I lasted between spotting the recipe and making it materialize in front of me.

This cake is delicious – I think it might just make another appearance over the Holidays. Sweet, fragrant and spicy, this dense and super moist delight is like gingerbread in a cake.

I followed the recipe for the cake exactly, except that I used two round 9-inch pans (instead of the recommended 8-inch pans). You could definitely make this cake in a bundt pan or muffin tin – gingerbread cupcakes! I baked for an extra 5 minutes (for a total of 40 minutes), so definitely use a toothpick to determine done-ness. I also made my own sweet potato puree (rather than the called for can), by steaming sweet potato and weighing it to get the required amount. In a pinch, you could probably substitute pumpkin puree – but have you ever noticed how much sweeter sweet potato is? Mmm, sweet potato.

After comparing the icing portion of the recipe to some of my favourites, I decided to reduce the amount of confectioner’s sugar called for, using 3 cups (instead of 4 cups) – which is plenty sweet and has a really nice texture.

I love, love, love the addition of toasted coconut and pecans sandwiched between the two cake layers – so don’t leave that part out!

What to make next? Have you seen the VegNews Holiday Cookie Collection? Yeah, baby.

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cocoa macarons, vegan.

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Happy World Vegan Day! It is also time to reveal the most recent Daring Bakers’ challenge: Macarons. Well, truth be told, it was actually time to reveal the Daring Bakers challenge last Wednesday. Better late than never I say. There was no way I was going to miss out on trying my hand at making vegan macarons, and what better way to celebrate World Vegan Day, the kick off to World Vegan Month.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Macarons were made famous in France, although they may have originally been brought there from Italy. According to Serious Eats, ‘the English word macaroon is derived from the French macaron, which in turn comes from the Italian maccherone, or “fine dough.”‘ These delicate cookies are traditionally made with almond flour (finely ground almonds), confectioners’ sugar, and egg whites. To veganise them, I would have to replace five egg whites. After following the early feedback of my fellow vegan Daring Bakers, I decided to use Ener-G egg replacer to do this. For those unfamiliar with this product, Ener-G is basically a mix of starches and chemical leavening to which water is added – it is particularly well suited to cookies.

I have to say, I was a bit trepidatious upon embarking on this culinary adventure. Whenever the replacement of a mountain of egg whites is in order, things can get dicey fast. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with the results. I achieved a delicate thin crust and a deliciously chewy centre. I had some difficulty piping the dough initially – mine was far too stiff to yield the desired shape. I somewhat rectified this by adding four teaspoons of water to thin the dough a bit. Still, the visual result is not the perfectly smooth dome you might have seen in the pages of Gourmet or the window of a Parisian patisserie – or indeed, the heights of biscuit beauty achieved by many of my fellow Daring Bakers. Nonetheless, I was fairly pleased, considering.

I flavoured the dough with vanilla bean and cocoa and whipped up a batch of the delightful Chocolate Mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, to use as my filling. If you would like vanilla macarons, omit the cocoa. I thought Matcha green tea powder would make a great alternative addition.

This is my veganised version of Fleming’s original recipe.

Vegan Macarons

  • 2 ¼ cups Confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups Almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 6 Tbsp water + 1 tsp
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa powder (omit for vanilla macarons or try Matcha powder instead)
  • 1 Vanilla bean (seeds only)
  • Filling of your choice, prepared.

1. Preheat the oven to 200F. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
2. Beat the Ener-G and water with an electric mixer (or stand mixer) until it holds soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the Ener-G mixture and stir gently to combine. Add vanilla bean seeds, and Cocoa (or Matcha) if using. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Don’t overmix.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off. It’s easy to fill your bag if you stand it up in a glass and fold the tops of the bag down over the edges before filling with batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized mounds of batter onto parchment lined baking sheets.
6. Bake the macaron for 5 minutes at 200F. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375F. Once the oven has reached this temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling. I think any soft filling would work nicely – the cookies are delicate so you don’t want to be pressing them together too roughly. I chose to use the Chocolate Mousse recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for my filling. You could also try your favourite ganache recipe.

Enjoy.

Let there be vegan macarons a plenty.

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