Addicted to Baking, Part 1.
I just can’t stop. For real, though, I can’t get over how this:
It’s a little dumbfounding. I’m no scientist, and baking is definitely more about science than anything else. I’ve always said that cooking is an art, baking is a science. I’m an artist to the core, but science fascinates me, regardless of my inability to fully understand it all. And really, I’ve loved baking since I was a little girl. My grandmother was a fabulous baker before she had her stroke, and she baked almost every day. Anytime I went to her house (which was several times a week), there was always a fresh batch of sugar cookies or a peanut butter cake or, on special occasions, chocolate pie. My mother is also a wonderful baker, whipping up loaves of bread on weekend afternoons or cinnamon rolls for the holidays. And oh! The holidays! The cookies my mother bakes! She really outdoes herself. It’s worth pointing out that my dad has gotten the baking bug in recent years as well, making sure that their dinner table is always stocked with loaves of artisan bread. So you see, I get it honest. And when I started working in a bakery, I was a little nervous that I would start hating it. And that sort of happened at first. Except recently, my love has been rekindled! I don’t know if it’s the cooler weather (having that oven on really helps heat the kitchen) or a renewal of the sweet tooth that I kind of lost when I went vegan, but whatever it is, bellies are happy around my house lately.
This beauty is a pumpkin bread whose recipe I just stumbled across in a random Pinterest search. It was so good that I made it two weeks in a row! Here’s the recipe, and here is how I changed it: I used half AP, half white whole wheat flour; substituted half the oil with unsweetened applesauce; reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup; made my own pumpkin purée. My favorite part about this bread is that it incorporated every single one of my warm, spicy spices in the cupboard. You know, the ones that make you think baked treat: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cardamom. So it was a little like pumpkin pie spice, but with an extra oomph. I still have over a cup of pumpkin purée left in my fridge…what should I bake next?
And then there’s this thing:
I had an opportunity to go to the posh grocery store that’s kind of a hike from my house (we call it Gucci Kroger). I used to make the 30 or so minute trek out there once a week, but then gas got really expensive, so it’s a ‘when I’m in the neighborhood anyway’ only type of excursion these days. Anyhow, they always have some random produce there that I’ve never seen before, and this time it was key limes. I scooped up the bag, not really knowing what one does with key limes except make key lime pie, and promptly forgot about it for a week. But then I had this great (ugh) idea to teach how to make pie in the class I’m teaching next week, so I figured I should probably try to remember how to make pie crust. I don’t even really like pie that much. I mean, I like it enough that I’m not going to refuse a slice if you offer me one, but having an entire pie in my fridge is not nearly as enticing to me as having a jar full of cookies. At any rate, I had to use up those key limes somehow, so I made key lime pie. I had never before eaten key lime pie, but other people seem to like it, so I figured what the heck. Here’s the thing: normally, key lime pie has a blue million eggs in it, to give it that custard-like texture. So how was I going to achieve this:
without the eggs? Thankfully, Isa exists. I should have figured that my Google searches would bring me to her. Her recipe calls for agar and tapioca starch to thicken the almond and coconut milk based custard filling. Brilliant, no? She does not call for actual key limes, but since I had them, I used them. Key limes have a quite interesting flavor. It reminded me of a cross between a lime and an orange. Also, key limes have seeds, whereas the regular limes I usually buy don’t. Also, key limes are tiny and zesting them is a pain, but oh well. I liked this pie, and have eaten exactly two slices of it. I think I would probably like it better if it were summer instead of verging on winter. Still, the filling was mighty tasty, and had the texture of what I remember the lemon part of lemon meringue pie having, maybe a little more firm. That’s good, right? Key lime pie lovers?
As for my crust, I used the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and when I read the ingredients to my mom over the phone (who was also making pie that day, weird), she said that it was pretty much identical to my grandmother’s crust recipe. Which means it is tried and true! Anyhow, pie crust takes a lot of time what with all the chilling you have to do to make sure the fat stays solid (which brings about the flakiness), so I’m going to be bringing my crust pre-made to that class. Otherwise, we’d be there all night. It baked up beautifully though, and the boyfriend, who loves pie, said the crust was perfect. See, since I’m no pie expert (in fact, the crust was my least favorite part as a kid), I had no idea if it was any good. I just knew it was edible and didn’t suck. So it was nice to know that it did better than not suck, it was actually great! Hooray!
And, since I’m a madwoman, I did this with the extra crust bits:
I have all these tiny little tartlet pans that I’ve never used because I cannot usually be bothered to make crust, so I busted them out in order to create these teensy apple pie tartlets. Aren’t they just too adorable? I actually liked them better than the key lime pie. One reason is probably that it’s, like, apple pie season, and the other is that they were the perfect little two-bite treat. Here’s what I did.
Apple Pie Tartlets, makes about 6
Pie crust scraps (or, if you want to make more, use an entire recipe for crust and double/triple/whatever the rest of the ingredients)
1 apple, peeled and diced small
1/4 tsp sugar
pinch of flour
spinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
little dots of vegan butter
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Press the dough into the tartlet pans (my pans are about 3 inches by 2 inches) and mix the rest of the ingredients together. When I say ‘sprinkle’, I really just mean a little sprinkle. Less than 1/4 tsp. Taste an apple cube and if it needs more of any spice, add it. Spoon the apple mixture into the prepared pans and top with 2 tiny dots each of vegan butter. Place the tartlet pans on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned. Let them cool for a few minutes, then carefully extract them from the pans (takes a little finesse). If you had extra crust (I didn’t, but I wish I had), you could cover these and make a two-crust apple pie tartlet, which would be even more adorable. Or, if you’re even crazier than me, you could veganize this recipe for apple pie cookies.
Just wait. I have even more baking madness coming your way soon. Sorry to everybody who comes here for the savory stuff. All the food I’ve been making has either been really ugly (think creamy soups) or repeats. I’ll try harder!