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Entries in vegan (18)

Sunday
Jan312010

Sweet Freedom: Wheat, Egg, and Dairy-Free Figaro Bar Cookie Recipe

If pressed to name the basic building blocks of a delicious baked good, most people would probably include flour, eggs, butter, and sugar.

But not Ricki Heller, author of Sweet Freedom, a book comprised of "dessert recipes you'll love without wheat, eggs, dairy or refined sugar".

Dude. Really?

I was willing to take that challenge.

I decided to start out with familiar territory. One of the best vegan baked goods I can think of is the Vegan Oat Bar from Seattle's Caffe Ladro--a gooey, fruit-filled bar cookie which isn't just "good...for a vegan baked good" ('cos we all know there are some of those), it's just good, period. I saw echoes of the oat bar in the recipe for "Figaros", a fig bar with a dense cookie crust and crumb topping, and so I decided to try that one first.

I took some small liberties with the recipe: lacking figs I tried it out using frozen organic raspberries instead; right before baking, on whim, I melted about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and drizzled it on top of the cookie base before putting the crumbs on top. I also played around with the flour ratios--where the initial recipe called for spelt and barley flour, I subsituted the barley flour with part oat and part coconut flour (you know, for fun).

The result? Goodness, were they good. Dense, chewy and decadent, these bars didn't taste like dull suffering for health's sake at all. The natural sweetness of the berries really shone, and the bars were excellent for breakfast the following morning.

Of course, sweet freedom isn't without its cost--for my pantry, which was not equipped with the various flours, agave nectar and sunflower seeds, the recipe did throw me back about $20 (of course, I did have leftovers which could be used in the future). However, if you're looking for a slightly more virtuous baked good that won't leave you feeling at a loss, these are a great bet. And I already know what I will be trying next from the book--the "Dark and Decadent Chocolate Pate"--which features--of all things--avocado along with dark chocolate, which judging by the book's pictures yield a rich, thick slab of yum.

The book can be purchased here, and for more of Ricki's writing and adventure, check out her site, Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Figaros

Makes 12-16 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 10 ounces frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

(Note: the original recipe does not call for the frozen raspberries or peanut butter--if you want to use the original, use 10 1/4 ounces soft dried figs, cut in half with hard stems removed instead)

Cookie Base and Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour (I used light spelt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Make the filling: in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, comine the juice, agave nectar, zest and figs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cookie base and topping. IN a small bowl, whisk together oil, 1/3 cup agave nectar, and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flax and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir until you have a soft dough. Pat about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be fairly thin). Spread the fig mixture over the base, then crumble the rest of the cookie mixture over the top of the filling.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until edges are golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 12-16 squares. These freeze well.
Tuesday
Oct272009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Angela of Your Veganesse, Charlotte NC

Fruit Tart Pic, image c/o Your Veganesse
CakeSpy: First off, an important question: what was the last baked good you ate?
Your Veganesse: A carrot cake. I am in the process of experimenting with different ingredients and carrot/flour ratios to get a cake that is very carrot-y. I also am trying to use more healthy sweeteners like raisins, dates, fruit juices, and molasses to replace the sugar altogether.

CS: You've been veganizing desserts since the age of nine! Please, tell us more about how that got going.
YV: I always thought I'd be a chemist growing up. I was always experimenting with baking soda, vinegar, agar and other food reactants, that when I wanted to cut out non vegan ingredients because of animal cruelty issues, things just fit.
Fruit Tart, Fruit Tart Pic, image c/o Your Veganesse

CS: Is there anything you haven't been able to veganize? Or, is there any dessert in particular which is really difficult to veganize?
YV: Tiramisu. Marscarpone cheese is so hard to replicate.

CS: Your dessert roster is rather eclectic, with recipes taking inspiration from different world cuisines and flavors. So where do you get your recipes?
YV: A lot of recipes are healthier veganized versions of the American comforts I remembered growing up. Some, like the Chinese sponge cake and fruit tarts, are influences from my mother's Asian culture.
Chinese Sponge Cake, Fruit Tart Pic, image c/o Your Veganesse
CS: You're based in Charlotte, NC. What is the food scene like for vegans there?
YV: There's a lot of options if you're willing to eat in a place that cooks meat and veggies side by side. You just have to hope when your plate comes out, that there was no touching between the two. There are currently 3 eateries in Charlotte I know of that are completely vegetarian. A lot of the people here are interested in healthy food, so finding vegan options or substitutions is becoming very easy.

CS: A lot of vegan desserts are actually not much of a step up healthwise from their nonvegan counterparts, but you are committed to using quality natural ingredients. How does this affect the final result?
YV: The worst part of a lot of the commercial vegan desserts is the trans fats and hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. margarine) that they contain. This is easily replaced with canola oil or safflower oil and gives a cleaner, less waxy taste. The other worst part is the refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup content. Even when replacing it with healthier sweeteners, I still keep away from over-sweetening (like in many store-bought desserts) so that it does not dominate over the pineapple, or berry, or carrot or chocolate, or whatever natural flavor that I want to shine most in the dessert. Overall, the ultimate effect is that you get to have a delicious and decadent-seeming dessert without having any repercussions.

CS: Have you ever "fooled" any nonvegans with your desserts?
YV: The cakes are definitely most like the nonvegan versions. The eggs are the main ingredient to replace, which is more of a binder and leavener and not for taste purposes. When I tell the person while they're eating, that it's actually vegan and thus, cholesterol-free and naturally low in fat, they usually eat the whole thing and grab another slice.
Raspberry-Lemon Swirl Cake / cream cheeze icing and raspberry preserves, Fruit Tart Pic, image c/o Your Veganesse
CS: What is your personal favorite item on your menu?
YV: I really love the Raspberry-Lemon Swirl cake. It's a cake that turns into an art form (which I hate covering up with frosting) and is the lightest and most moist of all my cakes.

CS: What is your biggest veganized dessert success?
YV: Making vegan frosting is definitely my biggest success-- particularly the chocolate frosting. It's tofu-based! Absolutely no one can tell what it's made of; all they can taste is the whipped chocolate texture.

CS: Finish this sentence. When I'm baking, I couldn't survive without my...
YV: Whisk.

CS: What's next for your business?
YV: I want to hold a grand-tasting party soon to test out some new dessert ideas and also some old favorites.

Curious? If you're in the Charlotte area, hire Angela to make your next special-occasion dessert; even if you're not in the area, you can enjoy the menu and pictures at  yourveganesse.com.

Friday
Dec122008

Cakespy Undercover: A CakeKraft Cupcake Tasting in Philadelphia

CakeKraft Tasting

Recently, we were contacted by CakeKraft, a Philadelphia-based special order bakery, about taste-testing some of their products. Now, you know we're not ones to turn away free sweets, so we bravely accepted this offer. While they offer treats with dairy, what intrigued our Philadelphia-based Gumshoes JoAnna and Brett were the vegan offerings. Here's JoAnna's account of tasting the goods:

CakeKraft TastingCakeKraft Tasting
Philadelphia is a land of vegans with limited dessert choices*. Michelle Poole has been working hard at CakeKraft to bring non-vegan, vegan and gluten free options to the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Cakespy asked me and my boyfriend Brett to taste test two varieties of vegan cupcakes -- Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Pumpkin-Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting.

The Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with the Chocolate Ganache each came with a decorative, white candy heart atop the cupcake. The chocolate cupcake had a good texture striking the right balance between cakey and fluffy with a deep, rich taste. The Chocolate Ganache frosting makes this cupcake sing; it's everything the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World ganache promised you but where that failed CakeKraft delivers. I am not a frosting gal but I could eat a whole vat-full.

Not to be outdone, the Pumpkin-Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting had the more enjoyable texture of the two we tried. The cake was moist and had just the right size of carrot chunks. As an added bonus, my omni sister gave the thumbs up to this vegan treat. I look forward to finding CakeKraft cupcakes around the city. Thanks, CakeKraft!

*To this sweet tooth, all lands are short on dessert.

------------------------------------------------------------

 

Are you in the Philadelphia-metro area? Visit CakeKraft.com to find out more about their cakes and services. If you own a restaurant or cafe, wholesale orders are available too; visit the site for more details.

Of course, even if you're not in the Philadelphia area, you can still enjoy their gallery of cakes here.

 

Tuesday
Sep232008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Melisser of Sugar Beat Sweets

Batter Chatter with Sugar Beat Sweets
At Cakespy, we're constantly impressed with the leaps and bounds being made in the world of vegan baking. What was once a category of brick-dense, vaguely healthy-tasting fare has really come a long way, what with groundbreaking cookbooks and recipes by the likes of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Hannah Kaminsky, and inspiring sites like Have Cake Will Travel, Veggie Girl and Walking the Vegan Line. Whether going dairy-free for ethical or health reasons (or both), there's a stunning array of baked goods out there which will satisfy nonvegan appetites as well. And for residents of San Francisco, there's a huge reason to get excited about vegan baked goods: Melissa Elliott, who many of you know as Melisser from her blog, The Urban Housewife, has started a wholesale (check out retail locations here) and special order baking business called Sugar Beat Sweets, which focuses on providing locally sourced, organic, vegan baked goods. Swoon. Here's what she has to say about the new business:

Cakespy: First off, we hear that some refer to you as "San Francisco's Sexiest Vegan". (OK, by "some" we mean ourselves, though we, like, know everyone else is thinking it too). What is your response to this?
Sugar Beat Sweets: Ooh geez, well.. thank you? I can think of some damn sexy vegans out there (Morrissey, Joaquin Phoenix, Chrissie Hynde, my husband!), so I'm honored to even be considered in the ranks.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: You've been active in the food community through your blog, The Urban Housewife for a while now--what made you want to take the step toward opening your own retail/wholesale business?
SBS: It's no secret, I love to bake. I've always taken pleasure in baking for others & I found myself disillusioned with my career, daydreaming about being in a kitchen instead. I started making custom cakes for people & a local cafe while I weighed my options, then decided to go for it. Additionally, I wasn't happy with the lack of vegan dessert options in San Francisco. I wanted to give local vegans more choices & show people in general that vegan baked goods can be high quality, artisan treats that anyone can enjoy.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview 

CS: How did you decide on the name Sugar Beat Sweets?
SBS: It's so tough to name a bakery, I think I annoyed everyone I know with names! I like sugar, of course & I'm also inspired by music, so I came up with "beat", which can represent music & something you do in cake making, somehow it all came together & "Sugar Beat Sweets" was born.

 

CS: How has running a commercial bakery as opposed to baking from your own kitchen changed your attitude toward baking?
SBS: I'm not sure my attitude towards baking has changed. I still want to produce desserts that you'd never know were vegan with a focus on high quality, organic, & local ingredients. I just have to approach things a bit differently, as I'm now working in large scale with the recipes I've developed & I don't get to eat the results!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: It looks like you're primarily offering cupcakes and cakes for the moment. Do you or will you be offering any other choices?
SBS: I'm considering expanding my offerings in the future. For festivals & events, I'll have whoopie pies & other goodies, but the main focus is cupcakes & cakes right now.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: In our experience, a lot of non-vegans approach vegan baked goods warily, or with the attitude that they won't like them because they're "different". Do you have any response to this?
SBS: There's definitely a stigma attached to vegan baked goods. People seem to think it's going to taste "healthy", be dry & flavorless, or have tofu & sprouts hidden in it. While the vegan baked goods of 10+ years ago may have left a bit to be desired, now there's plenty of sweets & treats that taste just like their dairy counterparts, but without the use of animal products! We've come a long way, baby! Just look at "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, I know a lot of non- vegans who own & love the book. I see a lot of cupcake blogs singing its praises.

CS: On your site, your cakes are listed as being frosted with "buttercream". But it's all vegan--what is vegan buttercream?
SBS: Well, "butter-substitute-cream" doesn't sound so hot! I use a soybean oil based butter substitute that functions just like butter, so you have the same fluffy frosting that everyone else is making, without the cholesterol!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: Are there any developments or products you'd love to see in the world of vegan baking?
SBS: Easy to make marshmallows, meringue, & angel food cake would be nice. That being said, the vegan world has made leaps & bounds, especially in recent years, so I don't feel deprived in any way, shape, or form. There's amazing, motivated vegan chefs & foodies who are working to develop vegan versions of just about any treat you can think of, so I have faith that we'll have all those things shortly. In fact, I know of a few people on the verge of all three of those things!

CS: What sites, books, restaurants/cafes or people keep you inspired?
SBS: I read a lot of vegan blogs, there's so many great ones out there, people are really working to get veganism to the masses & they're making mouthwatering food, so it's always inspiring. I browse Flickr a bit & the typical cupcake compilation sites to see what's new & hot in the baking world. Cakespy is on my blog feed & is always teaching me about new pastries! (Cakespy Note: We did not bribe Melisser in any way to say that. Like, seriously.) I love Bake & Destroy, of course! Natalie is a dreamboat & her hoodie is in my daily wardrobe. Restaurants using local produce, organic ingredients, & vegan fine dining spots inspire me, like Millennium in San Francisco & Candle 79 in New York City. Basically, people who are passionate about what they are doing, especially those who are doing what's best for the animals & the world!

CS: You're based in San Francisco, and you know how we're interested in regional specialties. What are some of the best in your area--i.e, the things you can only find there, or that you miss when you're away?
SBS: Sourdough bread! I love a good loaf of freshly baked bread with a crusty exterior & tender center. In all my travels, I buy the local bread & I'm always wishing I was eating San Francisco Sourdough instead!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: What's next?
SBS: Well, one never knows, but my current plan is to keep blogging at theUrbanHousewife.com, churning out Sugar Beat Sweets artisan cupcakes & cakes for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area, & maybe doing some more video segments, like the one I did for Everyday Dish! I feel very blessed to have a fun & ever changing life, so I'm willing to see where it takes me!

Are you in the San Francisco area? Place your order today (do it!) at sugarbeatsweets.com.

 

Or, find them at these retail locations:

Rainbow Grocery- 1745 Folsom @ 14th Street / Other Avenues- 3930 Judah Street @ 44th Avenue / Real Food Co.- 2140 Polk @ Broadway / Urban Bread- 3901 18th St @ Sanchez / Mojo Bicycle Cafe- 639-A Divisadero St @ Hayes / Harvest Urban Market- 191 8th St @ Howard

Even if you're not in the area, enjoy the photos here and keep up with Melisser's adventures via theurbanhousewife.com!

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan302008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Lindsey Walsworth of La Dolce Lulu

In recent years, there has been something of a great awakening in the world of "restricted" baking. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World gave us vegan cupcakes that are not only hip but delicious; books like Veganomicon and My Sweet Vegan have offered recipes that are completely inspiring to the vegan and non-vegan alike. At the same time, authors like Shauna James Ahern are raising awareness about celiac disease and living the gluten-free life in style. It seems natural that as awareness rises, the niche will widen, and more and more excellent vegan baking businesses are having a chance at success these days, and we can all enjoy the benefits! We recently got a chance to catch up with one such business, La Dolce Lulu, an Atlanta, GA environs-based custom order bakery specializing in vegan and wheat-free goods. Here's what we learned from proprietress Lindsey Walsworth about life, cake and the pursuit of the perfect "veganized" recipe:

Cakespy: Do you have a retail location, or do you just work by special order?
Lindsey Walsworth: Currently I am special order only. I am being licensed to sell wholesale, and have had a lot of interest from the West coast--so you may be seeing La Dolce Lulu goodies in coffee shops and organic grocery stores all over! I do plan to have a retail location in the near future, but am having difficulty finding that perfect place.

CS: You specialize in vegan baking. Are you vegan yourself?
LW: I aspire to pure veganism, and have been flirting with the idea for a couple of years now. I am vegetarian, and dairy products gross me out so I guess I'm cheater vegan. My grandfather is a beekeeper, and honey has always been a staple of my diet. I'm trying to kick the habit. For now, I'm vegan in my own house and more flexible when I eat out or when friends and family cook for me.

CS: What is the difference between vegan and gluten-free?
LW: Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism where no animal products of any kind are consumed. That means no eggs, no dairy, no honey, and of course no meat or fish. Gluten-free diets are those that avoid a grain protein called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, u.s. grown oats, kamut, spelt, and a few other grains. Gluten free diets are critical to those with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. Gluten is what gives conventional flour the elasticity to rise and and stay together when baked, so substituting it can be difficult. Gluten free recipes generally consist of combinations of rice, soy, corn, tapioca, potato, and quinoa flours that produce a more delicate, but still tasty pastry.

CS: Have there ever been baked goods that you have found impossible to "veganize" ?
LW: So I didn't coin the term "veganize"--darn, I thought I was so creative. Anyway....I have one recipe that for the life of me I cannot veganize. It's killing me because it is the simplest recipe in the world when it's non-vegan. I have veganized some pretty tricky recipes in the past, but this simple 4 ingredient confection is stumping me. For now the impossible recipe is a secret (sorry), but when I crack it I'll be sure to let you know!

CS: Do vegan pastries taste as good as dairy ones?
LW: Better! In addition to baking, I am a nanny. I test all my recipes on unsuspecting football-watching dads whom I do not tell the goodies are vegan. Every single test has passed with flying colors, and I've even been asked to make two of their birthday cakes! Ha! Plus, each pastry comes with the peace of mind that no animals were hurt to make it--by avoiding commonly used animal products, my yummies are cholesterol free! Trans fat free! Contain no refined sugars! And are kinder to your body and the earth (it takes 10 times as much water to keep a pasture of dairy cows as it does to keep a field of beans to make my soy milk).

CS: What is the most popular item on your menu?
LW: Mayan chocolate spice cake--OMG, it's delicious. Although recently, the blueberry crumble has been giving the cake a run for its money. I could eat my body weight in both.
CS: You live in the Atlanta area. What type of desserts are popular there?
LW: Decadent southern desserts like bread pudding (which i am trying to veganize), pecan pie (which i detest and have not tried yet), and any fruit pie that a sweet grandmother might make for a holiday or family reunion--apple, cherry, blueberry.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a good cake?
LW: Making it taste so good people don't think about anything else. If it tastes good enough, people forget to think about calories, forget that they have to send exactly 412 emails before they can go to bed, forget to worry about anything--even if for just a moment. My grandmother, who taught me to bake and was by far the best cook I have ever met, made the ugliest cakes in the world. They fell apart if you looked at them too hard, the icing was patchy and took most of the cake with it as you spread it, in fact most of the cakes looked a little like the dog had gotten to them before you did. But every single one of them was the most delicious cake in the world. The second you ate them it no longer mattered that they looked so bad, in fact nothing really mattered except getting more of that cake on your fork and in your mouth. Now, my cakes look a little better than hers, maybe a lot better... but that's not what I take pride in. I am proud that I can make a cake that tastes as good as hers did, because I think that is most important.

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake in your opinion?
LW: Oh, anytime really....I never wait until after a meal because tastebuds get wasted on all that savory food. I say the best time to eat cake is whenever the mood strikes and cake is attainable--the stars wouldn't align for you like that if it weren't meant to be.

CS: What are some of the challenges of vegan and gluten-free baking?
LW: How much time you have? The challenges are many. For vegan baking: I was first stumped by how to substitute eggs. They can be used as leaveners, binders, or both--so I had to learn to read non-vegan recipes and figure out what role the egg was playing. Once I figured that out, I had to learn which egg substitutes worked best in which recipes. For instance, ground flaxseed in soy, almond, or coconut milk may work in a brownie recipe and fail miserably in a very similar blondie recipe. Yikes! After the egg problem, came quality problems. A lot of vegan alternatives, particularly for dairy products, contain hydrogenated oils which I am strictly opposed to using. I would rather leave an item off my menu than use a fat so dangerous for the human body. It's taken some sleuthing and some serious online shopping, but I now have all the vegan alternatives I need--and none of them contain hydrogenated oils! For now, my vegan hurdles are pretty much jumped (aside from that secret, un-veganizeable recipe). For gluten-free baking: first, a note: "gluten-free" is a government awarded term for a food item that has been tested by a government agency and qualifies with 2 parts per billion or less gluten per serving. My food has not yet been tested (it's really expensive), so my options are currently termed "no gluten ingredients" for legal reasons. When I have a spare few thousand dollars, my food will be tested. Gluten-free baking is tougher than conventional baking because the flour options-- rice, soy, corn, tapioca, potato, and quinoa--do not have the elasticity of their glutenous cousins. This makes for pastries that don't rise quite as much and can be a little heavy. Mostly, it takes tinkering with flour ratios. I have a super secret ratio that works like magic for pancakes and waffles, but is not so hot for cakes and vice versa. Vegan gluten-free baking is even more ridiculously difficult because non vegan gluten-free recipes can rely on eggs as a binder, so the toughest part has been concocting not only flours that will work, but egg substitutes that work as well.

CS: Are there any bakers, bakeries or cookbooks in particular that inspire you?
LW: Oh yeah. Isa Chandra Moskowitz of "Vegan with a Vengeance" and "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" introduced me to vegan cooking. I was throwing a little dinner party at my house and a friend was bringing her new girlfriend to meet us all. And oh no! She was a vegan! What ever will I cook?, I wondered. So I bought Isa's book (VWAV) and got started. The recipes were a great launching point to learn the basics and add my own style. Also, Jennifer McCann who writes the Vegan Lunchbox blog and wrote a book by the same name--her ideas are wonderful, and crazy popular with the kids. Now that i think about it....pretty much every woman in the culinary industry inspires me. It's not a place that women have always been welcome, so I'm glad to see women chefs out there making their marks and being successful.

CS: What is next for La Dolce Lulu?
LW: You tell me and we'll both know! But seriously... I have a lot of dreams in my head and only a small amount of money in my bank account. I've been pretty punk about it all until now--buying equipment when i had some spare cash, designing my logo 5 minutes before it was due at the printer, photographing all my food myself with my Canon SD1000 (thanks, Mom!), and kind of rejecting the typical business model. It worked for a while, and would continue to work if I weren't interested in expansion, but I am. I want everyone, no matter their dietary restrictions, to have good food. Whether you are allergic to eggs, have celiac disease, choose to be vegan, or just want the occasional healthier pastry, I think you should have delicious, high quality options. So, I guess what's next for Lulu is full commitment to the dream. I'm going to do what I need to to make it happen.

Want to find out more? Visit ladolcelulu.com. Want more drool-worthy pictures? Check out her Flickr Page. Or perhaps you're ready to make an order? Take that plunge by emailing Lindsey at

ladolcelulu@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Jan172008

Holy Cowvin: A Good Cookie (Which Happens to be Vegan)

Photo credit goes to Greg Schaler Photography; thank you to Sticky Fingers Bakery for permission to use the image!

The subject of vegan pastries really brings out some passionate feelings. There are those (usually non-vegans) who swear that they don’t taste as good as dairy desserts; there are those (usually vegans) who insist that they taste a whole lot better. As for the Cakespy crew? While few of us eat a strictly vegan diet, perhaps our vegan vs. non-vegan cupcake tasting best sums up our feelings: while they can sometimes taste different than their dairy counterparts, vegan pastries are often good--really good--once you get past certain preconceived notions.

However, sometimes a baked good comes along that is just so good that it defies labels: vegan, non-vegan, who cares—it’s just good.

And the Cowvin Cookie from the Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington DC, is definitely one of these exceptional baked goods: a cookie bar comprised of a rich oatmeal cookie crust cradling a generous dollop of rich, creamy, delicious, dairy-be-damned frosting in the middle. In fact, it was an experience so pleasurable that East Coast Cake Gumshoe Jenny described it as so good that she saved the second half til later so that she could continue to savor the experience all day (got to love that restraint!).

 

And certainly, the Cowvin can be loved for its story as well as its taste: the name is inspired by a real-life veal calf by the same name who was rescued from becoming a special of the day by do-gooders in the DC metro area. The little guy was placed in the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland, where he lived out his days in bucolic bliss. Cowvin loved oats, so it seemed appropriate to name an oatmeal cookie-cream bar in his honor--especially since it is dairy-free!

Now that’s what we’d call a sweet treat—one you’ll enjoy whether you’re vegan or not!

Want to make ‘em? Well, you’re on your own there—the recipe’s top secret! However, the kind folks at Sticky Fingers wouldn't leave you hanging; they'll ship them nationwide for $18.50 per half dozen (so worth it) plus shipping and handling; order them (and other pastries too!) by phone: (202) 299-9700, or order online at stickyfingersbakery.com .

Or, if you're in the DC area, just go visit! They're located at 1370 Park Rd. NW, one block north of the Columbia Heights metro stop.


Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington

 

 

 

Sunday
Dec092007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Elizabeth Gordon of Betsy & Claude


Sure, you've heard of cookies that are gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free...but all of the above, and all at once? When we heard that the new, NYC-based company Betsy & Claude was making just such confections, we simply had to find out more. Turns out, like so many great things, these cookies were borne out of need--owner Elizabeth Gordon was diagnosed with a wheat and egg allergy in 2003--and further developed to suit the dietary needs and restrictions of friends and family, while always striving to make products that actually taste good. We were recently able to chat with Elizabeth in what turned out to be a very informative interview; here's what we learned about living and baking on a restricted diet, just who this mysterious "Claude" is, and whether or not gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free cookies truly are delicious:

Cakespy Note: Of course, if you're like us, the first and foremost in your mind is "well, what IS in them?". Per the Betsy & Claude website, here's the ingredient list: our signature blend of organic, unhydrogenated palm fruit oil, organic, raw sugar, molasses, agar agar, flaxseed meal, vanilla, our signature flour blend (garbanzo, fava, sorghum, arrowroot and potato starch), leavening, xanthan gum, pear puree, apple puree, uniodized salt. Specific cookie flavors may contain gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free chocolate chips, peppermint extract, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and/ or raisins.

Cakespy: Your company is called Betsy & Claude. We know that you're the "Betsy"--so who is Claude?
Elizabeth Gordon: As you said, despite the fact that I go by Elizabeth now, I grew up as "Betsy". I know that it is corny, but Claude was my imaginary friend when I was a little girl. We spent a lot of time together in my play kitchen cooking up all kinds of concoctions, so I thought that he deserved to be included in the name of my new, online bakery.

CS: Can you tell us a bit about how you got started making gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy free cookies?
EG: After the birth of my first child in 2003, I was diagnosed with a wheat and egg allergy, and I felt like my life was over. I couldn't imagine not being able to eat another cookie or piece of cake, and it felt like everything contained wheat or eggs. When I dropped out of a PhD program in 2005 to pursue a life-long dream of working in the culinary arts, I started to play around with alternative flours to see what they could do. Faced with a lot of time and no formal research to conduct since I was no longer in school, I launched my own "research" project. I dabbled at first and then became nearly obsessed with making the "perfect cookie". The research culminated last year in hours and hours in the kitchen and a huge variety of wasted flours. My husband thought I'd lost my mind, but I wasn't willing to stop until I developed something that I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve to other people.

CS: Egg-free, nut-free, soy-free and dairy-free are pretty self explanatory. However, can you tell us what it means for something to be gluten-free?
EG: Gluten-free denotes an item being made completely free of any grains containing gluten (ie: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, kamut, triticale, rye, most commercial blends of buckwheat, malt and modified food starch (because it is usually made from wheat unless it specifically states "modified corn starch") ). There is controversy where oats are concerned. Some people feel that they are tolerable, but since the jury is still out, I do not use them in my baking. Actually, nut-free is not as straightforward as I used to think. Recently, the FDA reclassified coconuts as tree nuts. I just want to assure people that I do not use it in my recipes.

CS: Are you formally trained in baking? If not, how did you learn how to bake?
EG: Yes and no. I studied cake design under Toba Garrett at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC and did an internship for Elisa Strauss at Confetti Cakes. I also trained with Scott Clark Woolley and learned how to make a mean sugar flower. However, I do not have a formal pastry degree. Most of my ability was cultivated in my mother's kitchen as I was growing up. She is a fabulous and prolific baker, especially at this time of the year.

CS: Do you ever miss the taste of cookies made with butter and eggs?
EG: Not really, but I do miss omelets. A lot.

CS: Do dairy, gluten, soy, egg and nut-free cookies really taste good?
EG: Well, as I discovered when I first found out about my allergies, not all of them do. However, Betsy & Claude cookies are just like the homemade cookies that I ate as a little girl, which is why they took so long to develop. They are baked in small batches and sent fresh, and that goes a long way in terms of taste. While I am biased, one of the moms at my daughter's school exclaimed today: "Those Gingersnaps are [and this was her own word] YUMMILICIOUS! You'd never know they aren't the real thing".

CS: How often do you eat your own cookies?
EG: I'm too embarrassed to admit that. You'd be shocked. :)

CS: What is your most popular flavor?
EG: A pattern has not yet emerged. My vote would be for gingersnap, though. They are nice and spicy and a great substitute for a gingerbread man at this time of the year.

CS: These cookies are your initial product offering. Do you think you'll add any other baked goods to the mix?
EG: I would love to add more as I grow. Right now I'm a one-woman-show, and I'd like to keep it simple so that my level of quality doesn't dip. I want to do this and do it well before I branch out in other directions. However, I'd love to develop a few more flavor offerings sometime in the next few months.

CS: Your cookies cost $21 per pound. About how many cookies is that?
EG: Approximately 16. However, the weight of the cookies seems to be affected by the weather. At this time of the year, the air is very dry, so the cookies are a little lighter. On a humid day, they might be a little heavier. Weird, I know.

CS: Your site says that you'll do custom flavors. Have you ever done any strange or exotic custom orders?
EG: Yes, I will do custom flavors if I think that I can create something that works, and if I'm not too busy. Right now, I've gotten some amazing press coverage, so I won't be able to do custom orders until after the holidays. The craziest one I've gotten so far was for S'mores, which isn't so much exotic as it is a good idea.

CS: What is the hardest part about doing your type of baking (ie, restricted and free of all of those ingredients)?
EG: I would have to say that the hardest thing about this kind of baking is not being able to accommodate every single allergy or dietary concern. Many people have asked about sugar-free cookies, and I would love to be able to make them. However, as I've repeatedly said, producing something that looks and tastes like a real cookie is of the utmost importance to me. That means that I haven't been able to eliminate sugar from the cookies, because when I have, they taste terrible and look like puddles of unappetizing yuckiness. I hate hanging up the phone or having to email someone back and say that I simply cannot provide their sugar-free flavor request. I really wish that I could come up with an alternative solution to that one, but I haven't yet.

CS: If a dairy eater were to try one of your cookies, can you tell us what they might expect in terms of taste difference between your cookies and the typical made-with-dairy cookie?
EG: I can honestly say that he or she probably wouldn't notice a difference in terms of flavor or texture. My chocolate chip cookies are intentionally crunchy, but that really has nothing to do with the alternative ingredients.

CS: Are there any bakers, cookbooks or websites that inspire you in particular?
EG: Well, at the risk of sounding trite, of course, my mother is an inspiration. Martha Stewart's cooking and baking talent as well as her branding genius are something to strive for. Elisa Strauss at Confetti Cakes has played an enormous role in my decision to do this professionally, and I was recently at Pure Food and Wine, and I have to say that what they can do without heating their ingredients is absolute magic. That meal definitely challenged me and made me want to start playing around in my kitchen laboratory again. Have you tasted that ice cream?! It's amazing.

CS: We heard that you give a portion of your profits to Autism research foundations. Is that true?
EG: Yes, it is. I was a social worker before all of this, and I feel like it's very important to give to others whenever we can. The cookies lend themselves to the Autistic population, since a common method of treatment is a gluten and dairy (casein)-free diet, so I thought that an Autism charity would be the appropriate venue for my charitable donations. I wish that I could give a lot more, but as I start making a little more money, I will.

CS: What is next for Betsy & Claude?
EG: That's a great question! I really want to take things one step at a time. Right now, I just want to focus on building a solid base of new and returning customers who are really satisfied with our products and customer service. Of course, ultimately, I'd love to combine my research background with my baking and do a cookbook.

Betsy & Claude is located in New York City, but can ship anywhere in the US. To order cookies online or for more information, please visit betsyandclaude.com.

Thank you to Betsy & Claude for letting us use their imagery.

Wednesday
Sep122007

Honey Pie: the Desserts of Vegan Honey


For some reason, the phrase "Whoopie Pie" really, truly bothers us. Not the dessert, mind you; just the name. Cakespy notes that a different name might make them less mortifying to order, out loud, in a bakery. Just to throw out a few ideas: frosting sandwiches, happycakes, sweetburgers, cakewiches, cream cuties, twin quasars of pleasure.

Nonetheless, the photo and description were so alluring on Vegan Honey's Peter Pumpkin Whoopie Pies that we had to give them a try. Now, there were risks involved--even name aside, these were also vegan (and with our non-vegan tasting crew, we weren't sure how they'd go over). After arriving yesterday via express mail from Brooklyn, the pies were a bit soft from their long trip to Seattle, but were revived by a brief stint in the freezer. And the verdict? We were converts after the first bite. Creamy, sweet (but not cloying) and expertly spiced, these confections are nearly perfect, and the word "vegan" never even entered our mind--in fact, one of our unknowing testers never even noticed! Ideal with warm soy milk or tea, these are a wonderful, cakey autumn treat. Although we haven't sampled anything else, we're feeling very good about Vegan Honey; we're especially intrigued by the brand-new "Faux-stess" Hostess inspired vegan treats.

Cakespy note: One more reason to feel good: a percentage of Vegan Honey's sales go toward animal advocacy, environmental and social justice organizations!

Available online at veganhoney.etsy.com or by calling 718-928-8495.

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