gingerbread house, vegan.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Since the challenge recipes are not vegan I opted to use a vegan gingerbread recipe that I’d had my eye on for a while, posted here on the Veg News site. Now, while this Sticky Fingers recipe is rather delicious, I think it may be better suited to drop cookies than cut-outs or houses. It is very, very sticky. I increased the flour by 1 and 2/3 cups to be able to handle the dough enough for rolling out and cutting out shapes.

It was my husband’s brilliant idea to use the lid of a sugar canister as a template. I let him go to town with his mathematical thing as he twisted the canister lid this way and that over the dough to get the angles just so. If you look closely, you can see the canister imprint on the large pieces that make up the front and back.

We wanted to keep the house tiny since neither of us had ever made a gingerbread house before and we were also fairly unsure as to how our vegan royal icing might fare versus gravity. Speaking of icing, we used this recipe that Vegan Dad was kind enough to share on his blog – and it worked very well. We used toothpicks to help hold the roof to the walls while it dried overnight and I’m happy to say the house did not collapse come morning when we removed them.

The entire house is edible. The house structure is made entirely of gingerbread, six pieces in total, glued together with royal icing and embellished with an inordinate amount of dairy-free chocolate chips, vegan gum drops, black licorice, sour chews, candy canes, candy pearls, hard candy, sprinkles, more royal icing, vegan buttercream, shredded coconut, and sanding sugar. A nut strudel doormat (my husband’s idea) completes our edible abode.

I dare say it’s going to taste rather delicious when we ultimately tear into it. It smells amazing. And who knew Batsy loved coconut?

Happy Holidays to all those celebrating – and best wishes to all for a wonderful New Year.

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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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