Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (courtesy of Instagram!)

I'm an avid Instagram user.  I can't lie.  I use it solely to share vegan food photos.  It's so much fun connecting with like-minded food-obsessed people. How else would I be able to see the delicious meal that someone in Singapore had for breakfast?  :)  The other wonderful aspects of Instagram are the instantaneous recipe sharing and continuous encouragement to create artfully delicious meals.  One of the recipes that I had to try was for these gluten-free chocolate chip cookies from Instagram user @yvonne_deliciously_vegan. They're made with garbanzo bean flour, coconut palm sugar, and coconut oil (I added walnuts). The recipe is simple and quick, but the outcome is amazing.

(I have to add mint leaves to everything for aesthetics)

Although I don't avoid gluten, I've tried my hand at gluten-free baking with mixed results.  What's great about this recipe is that there's no need to combine multiple flours together and no need to add xanthan gum, which are common in many gluten-free baking recipes.  I guess you could use a store-bought gluten-free all-purpose flour mix and call it a day, but the garbanzo bean flour works wonderfully here.  The cookies are moist, and unlike some of my previous gluten-free baking fiascoes, they aren't crumbly or gummy!  

The recipe is posted on Yvonne's lovely blog My Eclectic Kitchen, along with many other fabulous gluten-free and vegan recipes.  She also has a chai chocolate chip cookie recipe that I'll be trying soon.  Insta-yum!  :)


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tofu Cheesecake Bars with Coconut Jam and Caramelized Plantains

I wasn't really sure where I was going with this dessert.  It all started as I was skimming through this month's issue of Vegetarian Times, which has a lovely article showcasing vegan dessert recipes from vegan cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  One of the recipes featured is for pina colada bars. Somehow, that recipe morphed into this.  I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, but decided to forgo the coconut flavored filling and pineapple topping.  Instead, I used the same pre-made Filipino coconut jam that I described in my previous post.  There was a ripe plantain staring at me from my kitchen counter and the rest is history!

Makes 12 bars

2 cups vegan vanilla or chocolate cookies (I used Newman's Own chocolate alphabet cookies)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk

Cream Layer
1 12 oz. package of extra-firm silken tofu, drained
1 ripe medium banana
1/2 cup coconut milk (low or full fat)
2/3 cup sugar (I used Madhava coconut palm sugar)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil (solid)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coconut jam (store-bought or homemade)
1 ripe large plantain, peeled and sliced (or 2 medium bananas)
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (or Earth Balance vegan butter)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Toasted coconut flakes, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Crust: Pulse cookies into crumbs in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in canola oil and almond milk. Press mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
  3. Cream Layer: Blend tofu, banana, coconut milk, sugar, lemon juice, coconut oil, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt in blender or food processor until smooth.  Pour over crust. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is lightly puffed and the edges pull away from pan. 
  4. Cool on a wire rack until the top is no longer steaming and the baking pan is cool to touch. Cover with foil and chill for 3 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Topping: Right before serving, melt the coconut oil (or Earth Balance butter) over medium-high heat in nonstick pan.  Add the brown sugar and lay the banana slices on top. Cook undisturbed for 20 seconds, then turn bananas carefully and cook for 20 seconds more. Set aside.
  6. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut jam with 1 tablespoon water for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until smooth.
  7. Slice the cheesecake into 12 bars and drizzle each piece with coconut jam, top with plantains, and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Holy smokes.  This was decadent.  Coconut jam makes everything better, but the cheesecake part itself was also pretty delicious.  When you first take it out of the oven and notice that the cream layer is somewhat jiggly, don't fret. It firms up nicely in the refrigerator.   The next time I make this, I'll probably use evaporated cane juice instead of coconut palm sugar.  I've had a lot of good results using coconut palm sugar in muffins and cookies, but it didn't jive so well with the banana cream layer here.  I guess it wasn't as sweet as I wanted it to be (don't judge).  But it still tasted wonderful. Plus, the coconut palm sugar gave the cream layer a nice caramel color.  

There are several components here that you can omit, depending on your tolerance for doing dishes.  :)  You can probably leave out one or all of the the toppings.  But since you have to wait three hours for the cheesecake to set, you might as well conjure up some delightful accompaniments.  Peanut butter drizzle?  Chocolate hazelnut sauce?  Whipped coconut cream?  So many toppings, so little time...


Monday, August 12, 2013

Filipino Coconut Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I wholeheartedly love thumbprint cookies.  I remember making peanut butter and jelly versions in kindergarten and my job along the munchkin assembly line was to make the thumbprint indentation. :)  They're a lot of fun to make and look so darn cute too.  I also love how you can basically fill them with anything you desire. My personal favorite filling has always been guava jam, but I've just discovered that Filipino coconut jam (or 'matamis na bao' in Tagalog) brings thumbprint cookies to a whole new level.  Wow. Creamy, rich, sweet, decadent, and smooth like caramel.  It'll be hard to just eat one.

Filipino coconut jam differs from the versions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in that it contains no eggs and is naturally vegan.  Similar to dulce de leche, it's made by simmering together coconut milk and brown sugar until the mixture thickens.  To make coconut jam from scratch, there's a recipe posted on the beautiful Jun-blog.  There are only two ingredients, but coconut jam is by no means a low fat food!

I've tasted several varieties such as Lily's or Philippine Brand that can be found in Asian grocery stores, but Quezon's Coconut Jam is the best that I've had so far.  I was lucky enough to find some at the Filipino Pistahan Festival in San Francisco this past weekend.  (Yes, I stockpiled!) And naturally, my first thought was to use it in some sort of baked good. :)

For the cookie part, I used the 'Life-Changing Vegan Thumbprints' recipe posted on The Kitchn, but added some vanilla extract and also divided the recipe in half. I love how this recipe doesn't use any butter substitute or refined sugar. :)

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup whole almonds (I used Trader Joe's almond meal)
2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut jam (store-bought or homemade)

Optional:  Toppings such as chopped nuts, sesame seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, or dehydrated sprouted quinoa (as pictured)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. If you don't have almond meal, grind whole almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Next grind the oats in the food processor until finely ground. 
  4. Add the ground oats, flour, and salt to the ground almonds and whisk together well.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  7. Using your hands, roll pieces of dough into teaspoon sized balls and place them on the baking sheet. 
  8. Make an indentation in the center of each ball (the end of a wooden spoon is great for this) and fill each indentation with coconut jam.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
  10. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.  After the cookies have cooled, sprinkle with toppings if using.

Coconut jam is so delicious on toast, biscuits, rolls, or just by itself.  And now I can enjoy it in cookies.  Homemade coconut jam doesn't seem that difficult to make (famous last words!), but I'm all for kitchen shortcuts. So, if you come across coconut jam, snatch up a jar or two.  Just like The Kitchn's cookie recipe used here, coconut jam is absolutely life-changing. :)