Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Sometimes I go weeks without any new recipe ideas. Other times, they just come to me out of the blue. One minute, I’m adding cashews to the filling of my Paleo Cheesecake, and the next, I’m totally consumed with the idea of Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles. Sometimes, it just hits me.

Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Y’all, I am all about these cookies. They’ve got everything you love about Snickerdoodles: a crisp edge and loads of cinnamon-sugar flavor. As an added bonus, they just happen to be vegan and gluten-free!

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a three-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around forever. The gist is that if you mix 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and an egg into a dough, you can make some seriously good peanut butter cookies. I’ve used that recipe as my starting place for a few recipes, this one included.

Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Here, creamy cashew butter provides structure and fat–no need for flour or butter. Cornstarch and baking powder are added to keep the cookies tender. You could certainly use a large egg in this dough, but I opted for a flax egg in an effort to keep these treats vegan. The cookies are sweetened with a combination of granulated and brown sugars and flavored with cinnamon and vanilla.

The dough comes together in just a few minutes. It will seem a little crumbly, but should hold together well when pinched. Roll it into balls and then coat them in cinnamon sugar before baking. Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles bake in less than ten minutes. They will be very puffy when they come out of the oven–you may leave them like that or tamp them down with a small spoon, as I have.

Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}These cookies, y’all. They’re tender, loaded with Snickerdoodle flavor, and because they’re vegan and gluten-free, more people can enjoy them! I shared some with my vegan, gluten-free friend, VJ, and she was all about the buttery cashew flavor and huge hit of cinnamon. She said that she might like these more than traditional Snickerdoodles! I don’t know about that–Snickerdoodles are hard to beat–but I do know that you should make these.Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes about 2 dozen small cookies

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed*
2 tablespoons warm tap water
1 cup creamy-style cashew butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Coating:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Make a flax egg. In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseed and water. Stir together and let sit for five minutes, until thickened.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cashew butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar until combined. Mix in flax egg and vanilla. Beat in cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Dough will be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched,

Make the coating. In a small bowl, use a fork to stir together cinnamon and sugar until evenly mixed.

Scoop dough by the tablespoon and form into balls. Roll each ball in the coating and set on the prepared baking sheet. Dough balls should be 2 inches apart. Bake 8-9 minutes, until very puffy. Lightly press the top of each cookie with a small spoon. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat baking process with any remaining dough.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Note:

If you are not vegan, you may use a large egg (at room temperature) in place of the flax and water. Proceed with the recipe as written.

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

It’s no secret that I love Maine. I first went in the summer of 2012 and haven’t missed a year since. If I ever decide to move out of New York, you can bet that’s where I’m headed. I’ll be the one running a pie shop out of an airstream trailer. Until then though, I’m just biding my time between road trips.

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteThis past weekend, I took an early bus up to Boston, met up with my little sister, Eliot, and rented a car. The plan was to drive up to our AirBNB in Portland, see what was happening there, and then take our time driving down the coastal highway back to Boston. When it comes to vacation, we do best without structure, so our only concrete plan was to eat as much great food as we could. I am here to tell you that we succeeded.

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteUnlike my usual trips, which are during the summer and up to an island with no restaurants or grocery stores, this trip was just days after a huge snowfall. Lots of things were shuttered until April, so in terms of finding things to do (and more importantly, things to eat), we just had to go with the flow. Here’s what we did.

Dinner: Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteWe were only going to be on vacation for 24 hours, so we planned for our Friday night dinner to be our “big” meal. After scanning Yelp, we settled on Eventide Oyster Co. We ventured over around 8pm without a reservation. The place was packed, but the hostess was super friendly and gave us a place to stand and order drinks (a cider for her, a root beer for me). She said it would be about 45 minutes, but we got a table in thirty! Eventide specializes in small plates of fresh seafood (all local, of course) and recommends two per person. We ordered the Lobster Ceviche, Scallop Crudo, Fried Pollock, and Clam Chowder. Everything was great, but we both agreed that the Scallop Crudo and Fried Pollock were our favorites. I will say that both of us were too full for dessert after sharing four plates, so you might consider starting with three and adding another as necessary. After tax and tip, we got out of there for $70–not bad! If we’re ever back in Portland (and let’s be real, we will be back), we’ll definitely go to Eventide again.

Breakfast: Coffee by Design in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteWe got up early on Saturday morning, checked out of our AirBNB and went in search of coffee. We landed at Coffee by Design, a chain that started at the L.L. Bean flagship. We were greeted by a friendly barista who took us through the pastries they had to offer and gave us tips on where to find parking (hint: there is none). We got two large coffees, a sausage & goat cheese scone, and a potato-based chocolate cake doughnut from The Holy Donut. The scone was insane, as all things with breakfast sausage and goat cheese ought to be. I’ll be recreating it soon! The doughnut was good, but did have a distinct potato flavor that overshadowed the chocolate. A doughnut is a doughnut though, and neither of us had any issue finishing it.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

Snack: The Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We AteAfter breakfast, we found some parking near the water and decided to do a little looking around. We ended up in K. Collette, a high-end home goods store, where my sister bought the embroidered buffalo pillow of her dreams. While we were checking out, we got to talking with the cashier. It quickly came up that I am a baker, and she said we just had to get to The Standard Baking Co. down the block. It’s set back from the street behind a hotel parking lot, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. That would be a shame. They specialize more in bread than sweets, but we made it out of there with an Apricot Galette and a Raspberry-Almond Galette. They’re made with a shortbread dough and filled with homemade preserves–perfect road snacks. The Standard Baking Co. was our last stop in Portland before we got on the coastal highway and headed south. Our buttery galettes were the perfect treat after our side trip to Cape Elizabeth. You can tell Eliot was into the Apricot version.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

Lunch: The Ramp Bar & Grill in Cape Porpoise, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We AteNo trip to Maine is complete without a lobster roll, and after a couple of side trips to Biddeford and a seasonally-abandoned Old Orchard Beach and a lot of shenanigans, we were starving for one. We got off the highway in Kennebunkport hoping that literally anything was open. Just as we were hitting the end of the line and about to give up, we found the The Ramp Bar & Grill. It’s situated on Cape Porpoise and has an amazing view of the water. The restaurant is tiny and is covered top-to-bottom with New England sports and political memorabilia. We settled in among the year-round locals and ordered our lobster rolls. They came with housemade potato chips and a dill pickle, and were just what we needed to get through the rest of our trip. The lobster was tossed with butter and mayonnaise and served in a toasted bun–no surprises here. Neither of us care for mayonnaise, but we make an exception for lobster rolls.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

After lunch, we destroyed some perfectly beautiful untouched snow across from the public school in Kennebunkport and drove around a Franciscan Monastery between Kennebunk and Wells before getting back on I-95 and heading back to Boston. It was a quick trip, to be sure, but it was just right: uninterrupted sister time and lots of great food. If you ever find yourself in coastal Maine for 24 hours, this is the way to eat your way through it.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Chocolate Biscuit CakeConfession: I know almost nothing about Irish baking. I can make an Irish Chocolate Potato Cake, but beyond that, I’m lost.

Today though, that’s okay. I don’t need to know a single thing about Irish baking to make this Chocolate Biscuit Cake…because it’s no-bake 🎉🎉🎉

Chocolate Biscuit CakeThis cake is not a cake at all, really. It amounts to wheat-based tea cookies (aka biscuits) enrobed in a block of chocolate ganache, basically making it one big truffle. It’s very rich and is just…wow. I don’t know why this isn’t more popular in America. It’s the ultimate icebox cake, and heaven knows we Americans love an icebox cake.

Chocolate Biscuit CakeThe classic cake is just the chocolate and biscuits, but I’ve taken the liberty of making it a little more cake-like (well cheesecake-like) by adding a buttery crust. What can I say? I love a classic, but I also can’t leave well enough alone. This extra step just takes a minute–literally, it happens in the food processor–but I love the textural difference between the big chunks of cookie in the cake and the fine, buttery crumb of the crust.

Press the crust into the pan and freeze it while you make the filling. Chop up a pound of dark chocolate. Yes, a pound. Bring heavy cream, a stick of butter, and a bit of honey to a simmer and then pour it over the top of the chocolate. Leave it to melt for a few minutes before stirring it together to make a sort of souped-up ganache. Fold in a pound of biscuits that have been broken into shards, and then spread it all over the crust. Refrigerate the cake for a few hours before dusting with confectioners sugar and serving in small slices.

Chocolate Biscuit CakeNow you may be wondering, is this big truffle of a cake actually Irish? It was popular a few years ago when Prince William had it for his groom’s cake at the Royal Wedding, so it may be considered more of an English thing. I, however, am deciding it’s appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day because my first-ever Chocolate Biscuit Cake recipe came from the Irish mother of a friend. This is not her recipe, but I now associate this dessert with our emails back and forth about metric vs. empirical measurements 😊 I’ve done a little research to back this up, and it appears Chocolate Biscuit Cake is just as popular in Ireland as it is in England.

Thank goodness for that. It means you can have Chocolate Biscuit Cake tomorrow 🍀Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Chocolate Biscuit Cake
makes one 9- or 10-inch cake

Crust:
6 ounces digestive biscuits* (about 12 biscuits)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
16 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons mild honey (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
16 ounces digestive biscuits (about 32 biscuits), broken into pieces
1-2 tablespoons confectioners sugar, for topping (optional)

Butter the inside of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Make the crust. In a food processor, pulverize digestive biscuits until they are fine crumbs. Pulse in sugar and salt. Add melted butter and process until combined. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Freeze for 1 hour to set.

Make the filling. Place chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, butter, and honey. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. Be careful–cream expands rapidly when it reaches a boil.

Pour cream mixture over chocolate and allow it to sit until chocolate melts, about 8-10 minutes. Whisk together until smooth. Fold in broken digestive biscuits. Pour mixture over the top of the crust. Smooth the top as well as you can. Tap pan on the counter ten times to distribute everything evenly. Smooth again. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 3 hours, or until set.

Remove cake from refrigerator and discard plastic wrap. Run a small, flexible knife around the edge of the pan. Release the springform. Sift confectioners sugar over the top, if desired. Slice into small pieces and serve.

Cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for several days.

Note:

If you cannot find digestive biscuits in the cookie or international aisles of your grocery store, crisp butter cookies or graham crackers will work here.

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream PieHappy Pi(e) Day! Oh yes, it’s that one glorious day where we celebrate math (Pi = 3.14) and everyone’s favorite dessert.

When I started thinking about what pie I would celebrate with, it was 65 degrees and sunny outside. Coconut Cream Pie sounded ideal for those conditions. Today, it’s snowing. Coconut Cream Pie still sounds ideal.

Coconut Cream PieThere are many coconut cream pie recipes on the internet, and while I’m sure they are delicious, I am not necessarily interested in making a pie out of boxed pudding mix and cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for anything that gets you in the kitchen to make a pie, but when I want Coconut Cream Pie, I skip the pudding mix and reach straight for my second-edition copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The book may be held together with tape and prayer, but it is a treasure. Not only does it give the reader a look into how Americans used to eat (so. much. gelatin.), it also contains tons of fantastic old-fashioned desserts that are rarely made from scratch these days.

Coconut Cream PieThis Coconut Cream Pie tastes every bit as good as the pies my grandma used to make. It starts by blitzing a graham cracker crust together in a food processor. Press that into a pie plate and bake it for ten minutes, just to set. Then turn off your oven–that’s all the baking this pie requires.

The filling comes together on the stovetop. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and milk over medium-high until the mixture thickens and boils for one minute. Slowly whisk 1/3 of the mixture into a few egg yolks (so you don’t have scrambled eggs in your pie–gross). Add the mixture back to the pot and let boil for two more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in vanilla and coconut extracts, followed by two tablespoons of butter. Fold in some sweetened shredded coconut and scrape the filling into the crust. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours. This will be agony.Coconut Cream Pie

Once the filling is set, top it with some whipped cream and toasted coconut. Slice up your pie and prepare to fall in love with it. The crumbly, crunchy graham cracker crust. The creamy, coconut-studded filling. The light, sweet layer of whipped cream. What’s not to love?!

Coconut Cream PieLooking for more old-fashioned pies? Check out this Chocolate Cream Pie and this Lemon Meringue Pie!

Coconut Cream Pie
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book
makes one 9-inch standard pie

Crust:
9 sheets graham crackers
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but recommended)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
toasted coconut, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make the crust. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add light brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch standard pie plate and use clean hands to press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool it on a rack while you prepare the filling.

In a medium-large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the dry ingredients. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

Whisk egg yolks with a fork. Remove 1/3 of the warm pudding mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour milk mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and coconut extracts and butter. Fold in coconut. Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

Make the whipped cream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream. Top with toasted coconut, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake DoughnutsThey say that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent baking over the last four years, but I can tell you that it’s a lot. I’m definitely not an expert yet, but at this point, I can look at cookie dough or cake batter and know if it’s going to bake properly or not. If I am out of an ingredient, I can almost always make substitutions with stuff I have on hand and get a good result. I’m not trying to brag–I’m just saying that experience has taught me a few things.

Want to know one field in which I am decidedly not an expert? Doughnut-making. Oh my goodness. Last year, I posted some Glazed Cream Cheese Cake Doughnuts. They were my first foray into fried dough (except for a time in college where I tried to make doughnuts from prepackaged red velvet cake mix–don’t do that). It took me two batches to get them right. I thought I had this doughnut business nailed.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake DoughnutsWhile my oven was down a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking of recipes I could make without it. My stove still worked, so doughnuts seemed like a good option. I looked at my previous doughnuts, researched chocolate cake doughnuts on the internet, wrote a recipe, and got to work.

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake DoughnutsThe first batch, made with Dutch process cocoa powder, had a good chocolate flavor, but was very dry. For the second batch, I replaced some of the flour with cornstarch and added nutmeg for that “doughnut shop” flavor. Also, I had run out of Dutch process cocoa, so used natural unsweetened. The batch was less dry, but tasted mostly like nutmeg and not at all like chocolate. I knew I had to use Dutch process cocoa in all future attempts, but couldn’t figure out why it was all so dry, so I hung up my frying spider for a few days.

Wednesday afternoon, it hit me: I had been using butter as the fat in my doughnuts. Butter is 84% fat and 15% water. Water evaporates. Cocoa powder dries things out by nature. If I wanted an edible doughnut, I’d have to use oil in the dough, just like I use oil in my chocolate cake recipe. I came home from work, put together a soft dough with oil and buttermilk and refrigerated it overnight. Thursday morning, I rolled and cut the dough into doughnuts, heated some shortening (it leaves less of an aftertaste than canola oil), and got to frying. I finished them off with a dip in a coffee glaze.

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake DoughnutsCoffee Glazed Chocolate Cake DoughnutsI may not ever become an expert at making doughnuts, but with this recipe in my back pocket I’m okay with that. The doughnuts themselves have a moderate chocolate flavor that might not be anything special with a plain glaze, but paired with this coffee glaze, they’re really delicious. Chocolate and coffee are a dream team, bringing out the best in each other. Plus, nothing goes with a doughnut quite like coffee.

Making homemade doughnuts may seem like a daunting task (and to some degree, it is), but they’re a fun treat to make every once in a while. It’s like having a breakfast time party trick. Sure, you could make French toast or pancakes or scones this weekend, but maybe you should change it up and make Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts instead. And then invite me over. I’ll bring the coffee.Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
Glaze adapted from Handle the Heat
makes about 2 dozen small doughnuts and doughnut holes

Chocolate Cake Doughnuts:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (not natural unsweetened)
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable shortening (or neutral-flavored oil), for frying

Coffee Glaze:
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons light corn syrup (or brown rice syrup)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 fl oz strong hot coffee (I used decaf)

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, nutmeg, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and sugar until sandy. Add eggs and egg yolk one by one, whisking after each addition. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in the dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour (or overnight).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set two cooling racks over wax paper.

On a heavily floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Use a doughnut cutter or graduated cookie cutters to cut doughnuts. Re-roll as necessary. Lay cut doughnuts and doughnut holes on prepared baking sheet.

Place vegetable shortening in a large heavy pot. Heat shortening until it reaches 350F. Add cut doughnuts in batches of three or four. Let fry about 1.5-2 minutes per side. Remove cooked doughnuts to prepared racks. Continue frying until all doughnuts and doughnut holes have been cooked.

Make the glaze. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add corn syrup, vanilla, and coffee, and continue whisking until smooth. Dip doughnuts and doughnut holes one at a time before placing back on the cooling racks. Let glaze set for twenty minutes before enjoying. Doughnuts are best eaten the day they are made.