Tag Archives: swans island

Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

It may surprise you to learn that all our meals in Maine are vegan and gluten-free. While we don’t all subscribe to that diet year-round, keeping everything this way accommodates everyone (and keeps me from making multiple dinners). While those limitations may stymie some cooks, I do my best to lean all the way in, making sure that our baked goods and desserts fit the same parameters—it’s more fun to bake when everyone can enjoy the final product.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp​

Over the years, our Maine menus have included gluten-free graham crackers, baked oatmeal, blueberry popsicles, pumpkin oatmeal, peanut butter cookies, and a sheet cake. Knowing we’d be up there for the autumnal equinox this time around, this year’s major dessert offering was an easy and seasonal Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp.

Oh, y’all, I love crisps. They’re so easy and so satisfying—they hit all the same buttons as pie, but they’re a tiny fraction of the work. You can make them with pretty much any fruit, changing up the spices and such to suit whatever it is you have on hand, and—oh yeah—you can serve them warm from the oven without any concern for structural integrity. They’re not recipes for instant gratification, but when it comes to baking from scratch, they’re not far off!

This Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp has the same steps as the traditional variety: make the filling, make the topping, layer them, then bake ‘til bubbly and serve with vanilla ice cream. The only differences here are that the butter is vegan, the flour is made of almonds, and the ice cream is dairy-free. The crispy, nutty, oat-laden topping and the perfectly spiced apple filling you love are all still there, and they are spectacular. Especially when eaten with friends you love on an island off the coast of Maine.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
makes one 9-10 inch dish, about 6 servings

Filling:
4-5 large apples, peeled & thinly sliced (5 cups slices)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Crisp Topping:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup vegan butter (or refined coconut oil), melted

For serving:
dairy-free vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch casserole dish or cast iron pan with vegan butter (or refined coconut oil). Set aside.

Make the filling. Place apple slices in a medium mixing bowl and toss with vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Make the crisp topping. In a medium mixing bowl (I just wipe out the one I used for the apples), whisk together oats, almond flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add melted butter and stir until everything is saturated. It may seem sandy; this is okay. Scatter topping onto the apples.

Bake 28-30 minutes, until topping is browned and apples are tender. Let cool 10 minutes before serving in bowls with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 4 days. Reheat before serving.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}A week on Swan’s Island is never enough time. It simply isn’t. Yes, there’s relaxing and hiking and quiet, but just when you start to fully decompress, you have to get back on the ferry, drive ten hours, and return to your real life. It’s the worst.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}We keep saying “two weeks next year” but only getting half of that. I’m putting it out to the universe now: one month next year. That way, when we only get half, it’ll be two weeks. Am I trying to con the universe in to more vacation? Sure, why not. You can’t blame me for wanting to spend time with the friends we’ve made up there (even socially distanced) instead of carrying on entire relationships via Facebook.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I mean, would you believe that I’ve pretty much never baked for anyone on Swan’s Island? It’s true. I’ve been going there regularly for the last six years, made some friends, and know the people who own the general store well enough that they recognized me immediately with my mask on, but I’ve never really baked for any of them. They know, of course, that I bake and blog, and I always say I’m going to make something for them, but then time gets away and suddenly I’m on the ferry back to the mainland.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}All that said, when we booked our trip in July, I decided this year was *the* year. I tested a recipe before I left Brooklyn, brought a box of potato starch and the vegan butter I like, and it took until the second-to-last day, but I baked this Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting for my Maine people. Finally.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I’ve never put a sheet cake on here. It’s not because I think they’re “less than” or something—I just have occasions for other configurations of cake and frosting far more frequently than I do for this super simple slice-and-share situation. But our annual Swan’s Island trip? That’s a slice-and-share situation if I’ve ever seen one. Especially in COVID, when get-togethers with people outside my immediate germ pod aren’t a thing, it was so nice to be able to wrap up and dole out slices of this Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting without having to worry about keeping layers intact.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}As with most of what we eat on Swan’s Island, this cake was made with my trusty co-traveler/fellow Maine enthusiast, VJ, in mind. I’ve mentioned many times that she is a gluten-free vegan, and though I am not either of those things, I greatly enjoy the challenges and rewards of baking (and cooking) that way when we are together. It’s far more fun to bake when people can eat what you make…not that I’d be particularly mad about being saddled with all 15 slices of this cake. I mean, do you see that vegan Maple Frosting???Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The pumpkin cake is a variation on the vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake I posted last year. It relies primarily on almond flour, potato starch and cornstarch for structure, and pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spice for flavor. There are other things in the batter too, of course (granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, leaveners, almond milk), and they all bake up into a moist, tender, nicely-spiced sheet of cake. Vegan and gluten-free or not, this pumpkin cake is legit.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Believe me when I tell you that I understand wanting to eat this cake by its lonesome straight out of the oven, or with a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar…but also? Believe me when I tell you that a swoopy layer of Maple Frosting takes this seasonal dessert from very good to fabulous. For real.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting is very good the day it’s made, but as with many pumpkin spice things, it’s actually more delicious the next day, after the flavors have melded. But with a cake this good around, I can’t blame anyone for not waiting to dig in. I mean, I certainly didn’t.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes a single layer 9×13-inch sheet cake

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
~1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup pure pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
3/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For finishing:
Vegan Maple Frosting (recipe below)
sprinkle of ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Pour apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add almond milk until liquid reaches the 1 1/4 cup mark. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until curdled. Stir in pumpkin purée and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together blanched almond flour, potato starch, cornstarch, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add liquid ingredients in two installments, whisking until combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth to the edges with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out with only a few crumbs.

Let cake cool completely in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a thin knife along the edges of the pan before inverting to release onto a platter (alternatively, you may keep it in the pan and serve from there). Frost as desired with Vegan Maple Frosting (recipe below). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Frosted cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days and refrigerated for up to 4. Unfrosted cake may be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.

Vegan Maple Frosting
makes enough for the top of one sheet cake

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegan butter, room temperature (I like Miyoko’s)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) shortening, room temperature (I like Nutiva)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Mix in confectioners sugar in two installments, mixing until combined and fluffy. Mix in salt, followed by vanilla and maple syrup.

Use to frost the top of the sheet cake.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The last morning on Swan’s Island is usually a bit of a bummer. Sure, we’re still on-island for the day, but the thought of leaving on the following morning’s early ferry is looming. We’ve accepted that this will not be the year that we canoe. The only thing left on our “must” list is to hike around the lighthouse. It’s time to buy the things we’ve been eyeing at the vintage/antiques stores all week. To go say goodbye to the couple that owns the general store—after five summers, we’re on a first name basis. It’s time to take our recycling and garbage to the transfer station.*

*It’s not all fairy princess magic time, even though there is something sort of endearing about the whole process. I wish NYC waste disposal were so adorable.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}But it’s also time for one last good breakfast. Since VJ bought herself a waffle iron a couple of years ago, waffles have been a vacation must for us. She usually takes the helm on that, veganizing a very good gluten-free mix and serving up breakfasts that I am more than happy to eat on the cove-facing patio, but she politely agreed to my request to “mess with the waffle iron” this year.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Initially, she may have regretted this. I had it in my head that my Cornmeal Pancake batter would work just as well in a waffle iron. Truly, I was so sure of this that I was congratulating myself weeks ahead of time for being such a culinary genius and had practically already written the accompanying blog post.

I should probably mention that I had never made a waffle from scratch before.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}You can see where this is going—the first round was akin to cornmeal styrofoam. Turns out, waffle batter generally needs to be thinner than pancake batter, lest the final product be tough, dry and heavy. We ate the waffles anyway (bad waffles are still waffles), but it took two days and neither of us was particularly jazzed about it. Needless to say, I was a little disheartened, and spent a couple of days writing and rewriting the recipe until I was ready to try again on the final morning.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}As I began mixing together dry ingredients and measuring out aquafaba and oil, I started to worry that round two would be disastrous too, but I ladled the batter into the iron anyway. VJ and I had an unspoken agreement that we would eat the results, no matter how awful.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}But we were pleasantly surprised. My adjustments—reducing the cornmeal and doubling the aquafaba (chickpea canning liquid/egg substitute)—had worked, producing lighter, softer waffles with crisp edges and a good corn flavor. We finished them in one sitting. No arduous styrofoam-esque breakfasts here!Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Long story short, in addition to my haul from the vintage stores, this vacation also resulted in my purchase of a waffle maker. I’ve been home for about six days now and have already gotten a good return on my investment: I’ve made this recipe four six more times. You know, just to be sure they’re worthwhile. And also because I like having a freezer full of waffles.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes about 8-10 4-inch waffles

If you do not want/need these waffles to be vegan, two large eggs may be substituted for the aquafaba.

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
~1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of choice)
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea canning/cooking liquid)
6 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the waffle iron:
cooking spray

For serving (optional):
salted butter (traditional or vegan)
warmed maple syrup
seasonal fruit

Preheat oven to 200F. Place a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Heat waffle iron according to package directions.

Pour vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add just enough almond milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Stir and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together aquafaba, oil, almond milk mixture and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk to combine.

Grease waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour 1/3-1/2 cup (depending on the size of your waffle iron) of the waffle batter into each well of the iron and close the top. Let cook until steam dissipates and the waffles are turning golden at the edges and divots, about 6 minutes.

Transfer cooked waffles to the prepared rack-over-pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Re-grease the waffle iron and cook remaining batter.

Serve waffles with butter, warmed maple syrup, and seasonal fruit, if desired. Enjoy immediately.

Leftovers may be layered with parchment, placed in a freezer bag, and frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in the toaster.Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cornmeal Waffles {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Peachy Keen Granola

Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Hello from Swan’s Island, my favorite place in Maine, if not the whole world.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I am only doing things that I want to do this week, which have thus far included thrifting, reading an actual book, re-seasoning our cottage’s abused cast iron, going to another island to see whale bones, and eating waffles twice because my friend/co-traveler/fellow Swan’s Island enthusiast, VJ, thought to bring her waffle iron and has been kind enough to let me mess with it.

I have now made my first batch of scratch waffles, and while they were edible, they still need some work. VJ remains the undisputed Waffle Queen of our cottage.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I, however, am the Granola Queen. In an effort over the last few years to create a breakfast item that we could both enjoy, I’ve created three granola recipes in anticipation of our trips to Maine. They’re all vegan and gluten-free (aka VJ-friendly) and include Tropical Cashew Granola, Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola, and now, Peachy Keen Granola.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I will not apologize for the cutesy name, or this granola for that matter. It’s my first new variation in a year and a half, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth the wait.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Made with dried peaches, almond extract and pie spices in addition to the usual oats, nuts, maple syrup and olive oil, this is the stuff my summer breakfast dreams are made of.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}That goes double when eaten in my own personal paradise. Peachy keen, indeed.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Peachy Keen Granola
makes about six cups

2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
8 ounces (~2 cups) sliced almonds
4 ounces dried peaches (about 5 halves), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together maple syrup, olive oil, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in oats and sliced almonds. Spread mixture to cover the sheet pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent burning. Let granola cool completely on the pan. Stir in dried peaches.

Store granola in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks.Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Peachy Keen Granola {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread WedgesIt’s never fun to come home from vacation, but I think I did it right this time. Returning over the holiday weekend left me ample time to relax, grocery shop, meal prep, put up all the new things I bought in Swan’s Island and Portland, and watch all of The Good Place season 2. I’m calling it a success.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Getting back into the groove yesterday wasn’t too terrible, but a piece of my heart is definitely still in Maine. You know, where it’s not 95 degrees.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Two days before I packed up to go home, my sister and I walked a good stretch of the North Road at a snail’s pace, picking upwards of a quart of tiny wild blackberries in about two hours. It might sound dull, but I can assure you that Eliot and I were anything but bored.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

The vast majority of the berries we found were the blackberries we expected, but we also spotted a blueberry patch and two teeny raspberries. All the apple trees were starting to turn, too. Maybe one day I’ll vacation a little later so I can enjoy them.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve written before about how I consider baking (and cooking) to be a form of active meditation; I feel the same way about foraging for berries. It’s easy to get lost in the simple process of plucking them from bushes and interacting with nature in a very tactile way. Berry-picking is probably the only time in my life where I am able to peacefully, fearlessly coexist with bees and that I’m not mad about a few good scratches from thorns. If anything, they’re little badges of honor.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve made pies with my foraged berries the last three years I’ve been on Swan’s Island, but decided to keep it easy this year, opting instead for these Blackberry Shortbread Wedges.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

They’re a slight adaptation of my Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars (and their apple counterpart), this time baked in an 8-inch round pan. The resulting wedges (or bars or whatever you want to call them) are served up almost like pie, and have a thick, buttery shortbread crust that is difficult to stop eating. You could certainly serve these at room temperature, but my fellow vacationers and I preferred them straight from the fridge. There’s just something about the combination of cold, tangy blackberry filling and rich shortbread.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

You’ll notice in the photos that I didn’t line the pan with foil or parchment—that’s only because I didn’t have any at our house. Instead, I greased and floured the pan and then sliced and served them directly from the pan. You may follow my lead here, or line the pan with foil and lift them onto a cutting board before slicing. I’ve written instructions for both methods in the recipe.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

However you choose to go about making these, I urge you to do so in these last weeks of summer. We saw pumpkins for sale as we drove out of Maine on September 1st, and while I am all for pumpkin after September 20th, I’m going to enjoy these end-of-season berries while I can.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges
makes one 8-inch pan, 8-12 wedges

Filling:
3 cups fresh blackberries
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or line with aluminum foil, leaving overhang, and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make blackberry filling. In a medium mixing bowl, combine blackberries, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Pour blackberry filling over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid. Spread berries into an even layer.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the blackberry layer.

If your pan is on the shallow side, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to collect any light overflow. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until barely golden. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or until cold.

If pan was buttered and floured, slice and serve wedges directly from the pan. If it was lined with foil, use overhang to remove to a cutting board. Peel off foil before slicing and serving.

Leftover Blackberry Shortbread Wedges will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will soften over time.

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges