Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Speculoos spread is a dangerous, dangerous thing. I think it’s a pretty new to thing to Americans too. We just recently discovered it at Trader Joe’s, and I’ve also seen it as Biscoff spread in other grocery stores. Try explaining what Speculoos spread is to people who don’t know what it is, and you sound a bit crazy. A peanut-butter-like (in consistency only, not taste) spread that tastes like sweet, creamy gingerbread cookies. I think the days are numbered though that Speculoos remains on the down-low. It’s fastly replacing Nutella as the trendy spread of choice (just ask Pinterest). And, unlike Nutella, Speculoos spread is vegan (yay).

So what do you DO with Speculoos spread anyway? Well, the first jar that we had in our house, we basically just ate it as is, on a spoon, or spread it on toast. I kept trying to think what else I could do with it; cupcakes, frosting, cookies… sure all those things would be delicious. Since tasting it, I knew I wanted to make Speculoos-filled chocolate candy cups ala Reese’s peanut butter cups. And now, being so close to Halloween, it seemed to me to be the perfect time to make them.

There are many recipes out there for nut-butter candy cups that call for mixing in humongous amounts of powdered sugar and margarine for the filling. This is to achieve that Reeses-like texture. While this is of course delicious, I didn’t really think it was necessary to add any more sugar  or fat to the Speculoos spread for my filling (which makes my recipe even easier). The Speculoos spread is delicious as is, and leaving it in its natural state for the filling makes it divine when you bite into the chocolate and experience the smooth, creamy texture of the Speculoos.

I used 72% cacao for the chocolate in this recipe. If you like your chocolate a bit sweeter, go for a 50% or 60% cacao dark chocolate. The higher the cacao content, the more intense and bittersweet the chocolate will taste because less sugar has been added to it.

Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
makes 24 mini-cupcake sized candy cups

16 ounces of vegan dark chocolate, broken or chopped
2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted

about 24 teaspoons (1/2 cup) of Speculoos spread

First, line a 24-count mini-cupcake pan with paper liners. In a double-boiler, temper the chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, add the coconut oil to the chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula. Then, carefully pour the chocolate into a clean plastic squeeze bottle. Squirt some of the melted chocolate, about 1 teaspoon or so, into the bottom of the paper liners. Use the end of a spoon to push the melted chocolate up on the sides of the liners. Repeat. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of Speculoos spread into the center of the chocolate cups. Then, top the Speculoos with some more chocolate until the top of the Speculoos spread is covered in chocolate. Repeat for all cups. Chill the tray in the fridge for about an hour before eating or packaging. Store covered in the fridge until ready to consume (the chocolate will become a little bit melty at room temperature).

My Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups are a perfect treat for your vegan Halloween! They’re easy to make, and while not completely healthy, they’re much better for you than traditional candies and chocolates that are passed out to trick or treaters.


(Classic) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve found the best, softest, chewiest and most-reminiscent-of-childhood chocolate chip cookie ever. I just made them and they are so good!  There are so many chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, why make my recipe? Because they are amazing, that’s why, and I don’t know how else to put it. Besides, who doesn’t need another chocolate chip cookie recipe to add to their arsenal of recipes? These are the kind of cookies you make and give to a friend to cheer them up, or to a neighbor to say “thank you,” or to bring to work to show your co-workers how badass of a baker you are. They are perfect milk-n-cookies-kind-of-cookies, too.

It’s a blessing and a curse that these cookies are no longer in my kitchen. Oh well, I can always still look at the pictures.

How about that recipe?

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 3 dozen small-size cookies

3/4 cup vegan butter (I used earth balance buttery sticks), softened
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup granulated natural cane sugar
1 flax “egg” (1 Tablespoon flaxmeal mixed with 3 Tbsp. vanilla soymilk)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegan mini chocolate chips (Ghirardelli semi-sweet mini chocolate chips are vegan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Line 3 baking pans with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream together the vegan butter and sugars. Add the flax “egg” and vanilla extract and whip until fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Gently combine the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, use a rubber spatula to fold together. It will appear that the mixture is too dry, but after a few stirs, it will magically start to come together. At this point, add the chocolate chips. I used my hands to gently knead the chocolate chips into the dough – and it worked well – otherwise, use a rubber spatula.

Use a tablespoon (or a cookie scoop if you have one – I don’t) to scoop out the dough. Roll the tablespoons of dough into little balls. Place them on a baking sheet/parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Repeat until dough is finished. Wet your fingers with a little cool water, and gently pat down the tops of the dough balls just a little (not completely flat). Bake cookies for 10 minutes and not a minute longer! If your oven only fits 2 baking pans, put the 3rd in the fridge -or- in a cool spot until you’re ready for it. After baking, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes or as long as needed to cool before storing or packing for gift-giving.

These really are spectacular cookies. I should say that the making of this recipe was inspired by my sister’s chocolate chip cookies. She’s also a fantastic baker. These cookies would be perfect for tying up into pretty bags and giving as gifts. I know I would love to receive a gift of cookies!


Pear Galette

A galette is a French term used to describe a flat, freeform crusty pie. You can make a traditional pastry crust, roll it out on a flat surface and fill it with almost any type or variety of fruit or savory ingredients too. I chose to make a pear galette, this time, but I’m already thinking of what other varieties to make for Thanksgiving this year. Making a galette is easy, and it looks fancy, rustic and beautiful so your family or friends will think you went all out on dessert – when actually, it was very simple to make.

Pears have about the same shelf life as bananas do – not ripe one day, and overly ripe the next. So, when you make this galette, use your pears when they are firm, ripe but not too soft. But, if they are soft, that’s okay too. As you may be able to tell from my photo, my pears were a little overly pipe. Oh, if time could have just stood-still for me… I planned on slicing the pears thinly and arranging them in a beautiful spiral pattern. Needless to say, life prevented me from making this galette before my pears got a bit soft (and really just a bit). I didn’t let this stop me from making the galette (and my taste buds are glad I didn’t give up). I decided to make a simple, pretty topping for the galette.

Pear Galette
makes 1 round, freeform pie

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold vegan butter (such as earth balance)
3-5 tablespoons ice-cold water

4 pears, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoons Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice – or a combination of cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves (If you can get to a Trader Joe’s grocery store, this pumpkin pie spice is the best blend I’ve found. It’s delicious and I use it for almost everything).
a pinch of salt

First, make the crust. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the vegan butter into chunks, and add it to the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter, or a large wire whisk, to cut in the vegan butter until the mixture looks like coarse little pebbles. Add the ice water in a tablespoon at a time and knead together with clean hands until the dough comes together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes at least. While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the sliced pears, sugar, flour, spices and salt. Use a spoon to gently toss the pears and the other ingredients to coat the pears. Cover and refrigerate until the crust is ready.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When the crust has been chilled for at least 20 minutes, using a floured rolling-pin, roll it out on a clean, floured surface (counter) until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and in the shape of a circle. Transfer the dough onto the baking sheet lined with parchment. *Optional step: To make the pastry stars topping, trim the edges of the rolled out dough, and re-roll the trimmings. Then, using a small star (or other shape) cookie cutter, cut it into a few pieces to place on top of pie.* Arrange the filling on top of the dough circle, starting in the center, and working towards the end. Leave 2 inches of space at the ends. Fold over the ends of the dough to make a gathered crust. Top with pastry stars if using.

Bake the galette in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. Until the edges of the crust are slightly browned. Allow to rest for some time before slicing, 15-20 minutes or so.

Pear galette is best served warm, but can easily be re-warmed slice-by-slice in the toaster oven as needed. Top with vanilla soy ice cream a la mode for a wonderful fall dessert. This would make a great dessert for a fall get-together! Or, serve it with strong coffee with brunch. Who says you can’t have a slice of galette or pie for breakfast? Certainly not I. Just make sure it’s on very special or rare occasion. Eating dessert for breakfast too often is probably not a good idea – but once in a while? Sure!

Canned Spiced Apples

I love to can, and to make jams and preserves. It makes me feel nostalgic of a time I may have lived in a past life, or something. I love the old-fashioned feel of food preserving. I know, I know… I am a mega dorky nerd.

My mom also loves to can; she makes the most amazing pickles, relishes, canned sauces and pie fillings. It’s amazing that she finds the time to do these things. That said, it’s amazing how most of us find the time to do the things we do! Right? This year, after making relishes, pickles, fruit jams, and a list of other things (I’m sure), my mom asked me to make her apple pie filling. I of course accepted. So, for this VeganMoFo post, here is my version of my mom’s canned spiced apples.

Canning is actually very easy, just a little time-consuming. If you have everything ready and in place, it will be greatly beneficial to you during the canning process. The first thing I ever canned was homemade apple butter. Then I made grape jam, fig preserves, plum jam…. the list goes on. Once you start canning, you will become addicted and want to can everything you can think of.

Canned Spiced Apples
12 pounds apples (I used 6 lbs. golden delicious + 6 lbs. jonathan apples. Do not use red delicious apples. You want a sweet, crisp apple. The fresher the apple, the better – soft, overly ripe apples are not good to use for canning)
1/4 cup lemon juice
12 cups water
1 – 12 ounce container of apple juice concentrate
4 cups natural cane sugar
3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoons ground nutmeg

6 – 1 quart (32 ounce) glass canning jars w/ lids
large stock pot for cooking apples
large stock pot, pressure canner or water bath canner – for sealing jars (I use a regular stock pot for canning, so information on using a canner can be found here– and actually the site has a ton of useful information on canning).
a jar lifter or tongs

Wash and sterilize your canning jars and lids in boiling hot water – or in the dishwasher. Set aside on a clean towel to cool and dry.

In a large bowl, pour in the lemon juice. Peel, core and slice your apples, you want slices about 1/4 of an inch (not too thick, not too thin). Place apple slices in the bowl with the lemon juice as you slice them, toss every so often to coat. After all your apple slices are ready, prepare your liquid. In a large stock pot, bring the water to a boil, add the apple juice concentrate and sugar and stir. Dissolve completely. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Add apple slices and stir. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. You just want the apples to be blanched, and not cooked too soft. Turn off heat.

Spoon apples into jars. Fill the apples almost all the way up to the top of the jar, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space. Then, ladle the hot liquid syrup over the apples until about 1 inch to the top of the jar. Eliminate air bubbles by gently pushing down on apples with a spoon. With a clean, damp kitchen towel, clean off any spilled liquid off of the jar, especially the rim. Seat the lid on the jar and tightly twist close the lid. Repeat these steps for all jars. You will have some liquid syrup  left over. (You could use it as a base for apple cider! I mixed half the leftover liquid syrup with water and it made a yummy cider).

Now, to create a vacuum seal for your jars in a hot water bath: Add enough water to the stock pot to cover the jars by 2 inches. Bring water to a boil. Carefully lower the jars into the boiling water using the tongs, leaving 1/2 inch space between jars. Wait for the water to return to a boil and then wait 8 minutes (i.e., process for 8 minutes).Turn off heat, remove jars and place them on a flat surface where they can rest undisturbed for 8 hours. After this time, test the lids by pressing down on them. If they are tight and don’t move, the seals are good. Canned apples will stay good for up to one year if stored in a cool, dry place.

You can use the apples for pies, cobblers, tarts, as a topping for ice cream or pancakes… as a filling for muffins… the possibilities are almost endless.

Broccoli and Potato Soup

Since Vegan MoFo began, I’ve been mostly thinking of pastry recipes, because that is my forte. But these last few days, I’ve been really craving a healthy and comforting post for this cold and damp weather that is now here. Of course I thought of soup, and to me, one of the most comforting soups is a creamy, potato and broccoli soup. To make a really good, creamy, vegan broccoli and potato soup, you don’t need any “cream” at all. Just broccoli, potatoes and a few other things – the broccoli and potatoes do a great job in the creamy department.

One of the greatest things about this soup is that it is 100% fat-free. Just because this soup is low-fat, does not mean it’s low in flavor! I use dried herbs for this recipe, and because this soup is cooked low and slow, the dried herbs are rehydrated and give the soup a great flavor. I used a potato masher to mash the broccoli and potatoes into smaller chunks – leaving the soup hearty and chunky. But, if you wish, you can blend it into puree for an absolutely creamy soup. I really like the texture of the potato and broccoli soup this way though. Plus, I like that I basically only have one dish to clean up afterwards.

Broccoli and Potato Soup

2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable broth
4 pounds (about 8 medium size) Yukon gold potatoes, skinned
2 large bunches of broccoli (approximately 3 1/2 pounds), chopped (stems included)
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions: In a large stock pot, boil the skinned potatoes in salted water until soft (about 35-40 minutes). Carefully drain the water from the potatoes. In the same stock pot, mash the potatoes with a masher into medium to small-size chunks. Add the vegetable broth, chopped broccoli, chopped onion, dried herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Then, turn off heat, remove cover and mash the soup once again with the potato masher to blend it together a bit. You can puree it at this point if you’d like to.

Serve this stew with crusty bread, croutons or focaccia. It is delicious topped with a sprinkle of vegan cheese, and/or crumbled tempeh bacon. This dish is perfect for a rainy fall day, and is a great pick-me-up if you’re feeling under-the-weather. It really warms me right up!

Butternut Squash Doughnuts w/ Apple Cider Glaze

The other day my mom gave me half of a butternut squash that she had roasted in her oven. Of course my mind went to Vegan MoFo and what I could make with the squash. Soup? sure. Mash it up for baby? Yes (I did with some of it). But I immediately wanted to make something sweet with it. And then, doughnuts came to mind. I had never had butternut squash in a pastry before, but I figured if it worked with pumpkin it would work with squash. Sure enough, it did. The end result? Yummy, little doughnuts with a sweet-potato-like flavor.

I made a quick and easy apple cider and brown sugar glaze for these lil’ monsters and sprinkled a bit of cinnamon-sugar on top of it for good measure. I do have a doughnut cutter, somewhere, but I didn’t use it. Instead, I used a regular-size mason jar ring lid and a large frosting tip for the doughnut holes. This made small-sized doughnuts. If you’d rather larger doughnuts, you could cut the dough with a large mug instead (I will do this next time because I think I’d prefer bigger sized d’nuts). Also, I’m pretty sure you could substitute the squash for sweet potato or pumpkin with this recipe – if you’d like to.

Butternut Squash Doughnuts with Apple Cider Glaze
makes 35 small-sized doughnuts

1 cup butternut squash puree (how-to roast a butternut squash)
1/4 c. vegan butter (I used Earth Balance soy-free)
1/2 c. almond milk
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 – 1/4 oz. package rapid-rise active dry yeast
3/4 c. natural brown sugar
2 Tbsp. natural sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 -to- 4 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

For the glaze:
1/2 c. apple cider
3/4 c. brown sugar
pinch of sea salt

*If frying doughnuts, you will need either a dutch oven, a deep stock pot, or a deep fryer; and 3-5 cups of canola oil (depending on the fryer or pot size). Basically you’ll need enough oil for the doughnuts to swim in nicely and fry to perfection. If you are using a dutch oven or a stock pot, you will also need a candy thermometer hooked on the side. If your oil gets too hot, your doughnuts will burn up really fast.

In a small sauce pan on low heat, melt the vegan butter. Add the almond milk and heat till just-warm. Pour into a large bowl and sprinkle in yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes till foamy. Add the sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla and whisk well. Then whisk in the butternut squash puree.

Using a stand mixer with a dough attachment, add the flour a cup at a time until a dough forms. I needed a full 4 1/2 cups of flour for these, but it was humid here and you may only need 3 1/2 cups, so start with that amount first. If dough is very wet and doesn’t come together, add more flour. You want a nice, soft dough that is not sticky. If you don’t have a stand mixer, knead dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes. If you do have a stand mixer, knead dough for 5-7 minutes. Form dough into a ball, place it back in the bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1-2 hour(s).

When you come back, your dough should have expanded. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper (for the doughnuts to rest on). Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Using a doughnut cutter (mason jar lid, mug, or other circular device) cut the dough into circles. Poke holes in the middle of the circles using the bottom of a frosting tip (or your finger, really). Lay the doughnuts on the baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise another hour.

While the doughnuts are rising the second time, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and the apple cider and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add the salt. Turn off heat, cover and set aside until ready to glaze the doughnuts.

You can bake the doughnuts if you wish by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F and baking them for 10 minutes. Or, you can do what I did and fry ’em. Lay out a large sheet of paper (I used a brown paper grocery bag) for the doughnuts to drain on. Also set out 2 baking/cooling racks on top of 2 baking sheets for the after-glaze doughnuts. Heat oil to 340 degrees. Drop in doughnuts one by one, about 4 or 5 at a time will fit in the pot. Fry about 30 seconds per side until golden in color. Strain with a slotted spoon onto the paper to drain. Repeat for all doughnuts and doughnut holes (the holes will fry up a lot faster). While doughnuts are still hot, dip them in the glaze and lay out on cooling racks. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired (optional but makes a pretty looking doughnut).

And that’s that. Whew. It seems like it’s a lot of work, and I can’t lie, it kind of was. If you want less work for yourself, I’d suggest baking these doughnuts instead of frying them. Either way, they are delicious. Honestly, I think they are even better the next day. I was told they are yummy dunked into cold almond milk. You could make them for a breakfast or brunch party;  or to take-along on a family  fall outing to the pumpkin farm. I imagine they would pair perfectly with hot apple cider.

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Baked Pumpkin Custard

Every year around Halloween to Thanksgiving and even Christmas my mom would make pumpkin pie without the crust. She would bake it in a square baking pan. Essentially, it was pumpkin custard. When it cooled, we would scoop it out and eat it with cool whip. Eating pumpkin custard with my mom during the fall is one of my most vivid and repeating childhood memories. It reminds me of warm slippers on a cold floor, baking fall treats in the kitchen, watching Halloween specials on television…

This is my vegan version of my mom’s crustless pumpkin pie. You can definitely use this recipe to make a pumpkin pie with crust; just pour the prepared mixture on top of a crust and bake (I plan on doing this for thanksgiving with this recipe). I topped this with coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s a wonderful and comforting dessert for fall.

Baked Pumpkin Custard

1 3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. organic silken tofu
1/4 c. almond (or soy) milk
2 Tbsp. organic cornstarch
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 c. natural sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. powdered lemon peel (optional)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan with a little coconut oil. In a blender or food processor, blend the pumpkin, silken tofu, almond milk, oil and cornstarch until smooth. Add the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon peel, cream of tartar and salt – blend until smooth. Pour into prepared baking pan, or over a pie crust if you prefer. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the middle of custard is set, and may be slightly cracked. Allow to cool completely before serving. *Tip, when ready to serve, slice into squares, coat a metal serving spatula with a little coconut oil and slide under the custard. This helps remove the custard onto a plate a little easier. Serve with coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

For the coconut whipped cream, allow a can of full-fat coconut milk to become very cold in your refrigerator. I like to buy a few cans and keep them at the back of the fridge for times of need. The longer they sit in the cold, undisturbed, the better. Carefully remove the can from your fridge without shaking it around too much. Open the can and scoop off the top of the coconut cream from the coconut water. (Don’t discard the coconut water. Use it in another recipe, or in a smoothie for breakfast). Place the coconut cream into a mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer, whip the cream at full speed until fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Oh, I know I’ve been posting a lot of pumpkin recipes, but I gotta clean out my fridge of opened cans of pumpkin puree. Ah, who am I kidding? I don’t need to make excuses for my pumpkin obsession! By the way, I’m trying to catch up on my Vegan MoFo posts, which is why I have two posts back-to-back. See my post for homemade corn tortillas right before this post!

Do you and your family have any halloween or fall traditions? We love halloween in our family. My son is only 1 this year, so it won’t be that difficult having a vegan halloween, but next year I will need to be more creative for him!