Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vegan Double Chocolate Cookies

I always prefer a recipe that makes a single sheet of cookies; instead of an extended kitchen production, you can be completely done and out of the kitchen in less than 20 minutes. It helps with portion control too, just having ten or twelve cookies in the house instead of the 4 or 5 dozen you get with some recipes. Even if I intend to make a large total number of cookies for a particular occasion, I usually find it more fun to do several different kinds of cookies than to spend ages spooning and baking the same huge batch of dough.

If you like your cookies in larger batches, feel free to double or triple the recipe. You can spoon out a second sheet of cookies while the first is in the oven.  And if you’re using parchment paper, you can switch out the cookie sheets even more efficiently.

Vegan chocolate cookies

Vegan Double Chocolate Cookies

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup cocoa or carob powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp instant coffee or caffeine free coffee substitute

¼ cup oil
3 Tbsp warm water
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract

½ cup turbinado sugar
approx. 2/3 cup (or more) vegan chocolate or carob chips, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Mix together cocoa powder, cinnamon and instant coffee, and dissolve in warm water and oil. Add extracts and sugar.
Melt ¼ cup of the chocolate chips and mix into the cocoa-oil mixture. Add dry ingredients (flour mixture) and stir in until homogenous.  Stir in remaining (unmelted) chips.

Scooped and ready to bake

Scoop cookies onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Shape and flatten the cookies slightly.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating once halfway through. They should still look a little soft.  Let cool at least 2-3 minutes on baking sheet.

Makes about 12 cookies (one sheet full)

Extra soft double chocolate cookies

Melt-in-your-mouth Double Chocolate Cookies: For very soft cookies, omit the ¼ cup of melted chocolate chips from the batter and proceed as usual. This variation is less chewy when eaten immediately but stays soft and fresh longer, so it’s a better choice if the cookies are going to be spending several days in the mail, etc.

Other Mix-ins: Nuts (raw, toasted, spiced, or candied), coconut, raisins and other dried fruit (cherries would be particularly good), various types of candy, including caramels, mints, and marshmallows, and even unusual ingredients such as pretzels, potato chips or crystallized ginger.

Spicy Double Chocolate: Double the cinnamon and add a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. Ginger, allspice, or nutmeg would be good choices too.

With a glass of soymilk for dipping

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mashed Tofu Cutlets

I was quite pleased with how this technique turned out: thoroughly well seasoned tofu with a very firm crispy texture. I’m looking forward to trying the same basic idea with different flavorings and sauces (perhaps a curry version next). I think it would work well as a substitute in many recipes that originally called for pounded or butterflied meat.

This technique is a really effective alternative to pressing and marinating slabs of tofu. You can squeeze out a lot more liquid with a lot less effort from mashed tofu than from whole slabs (which have to be handled with some care to avoid breakage), and therefore achieve a really good firm texture without much time or fuss.  Also, mashing allows you to mix your seasoning throughout the tofu, instead of the millimeter or so at the surface that you get with marinating. And since the flavorings don’t need to soak in via a liquid marinade but are mixed in directly, you’re not sogging up the tofu by adding back the liquid you took such pains to extract.

Which is not to say that I never marinate tofu—it’s a useful technique in some contexts. Bite size pieces of tofu marinated in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and dried herbs can be quite good on pizza as a protein source/cheese substitute, for example.  I like having this technique as an alternative, though. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it.

Crispy mashed tofu cutlet

Mashed Tofu Cutlets

2 15 oz pkgs extra firm tofu
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ salt (more if you want)
½ tsp dill weed
1 ½ tsp Italian herb seasoning
½ tsp lemon pepper seasoning
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two cookie sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray.

pressing tofu in colander

Mash tofu thoroughly. Place mashed tofu in a colander over a bowl, and press firmly with a smaller bowl to extrude more liquid. Let set 3-4 minutes then press with bowl again. Transfer tofu to a mixing bowl; discard extruded liquid.

Before baking
Stir in seasonings and garlic. Form cutlets: Make 8 piles of the tofu mixture on cookie sheets. Press tops and sides of each pile with the back of a spoon until you have flat 4-inch ovals of about ¾ inch thickness (will shrink in oven). Spritz tops of cutlets with a little more cooking spray.

Fresh out of the oven
Bake for about 25 minutes. Pull them out of the oven. Loosen the edges with a spatula and carefully flip each cutlet. Put them back in the oven for 15-20 minutes more, until golden and crispy on both sides. You might want to rotate your cookie sheets partway through baking for even cooking.


Serve warm with sauce of your choice. I had it with mushroom gravy and some dressing on the side, but a creamy or tomato-y sauce would have been good too.

Cutlet with mushroom gravy

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Variation

Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Pie
The other day I made a nice variation on my Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. I turned it into a Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. It was quite good.

A layer of bananas
Here's how I did it: Take two medium bananas and slice them thinly. Mix 2 tsp maple syrup with 4 tsp lemon or orange juice (to prevent browning) and toss the banana slices to coat. Arrange the slices in a single layer along the bottom and sides of a pie crust (crumb is fine). Don't pour any remaining maple-lemon sauce on top; just discard. Prepare the peanut butter tofu filling and pour over top. Sprinkle with carob chips as usual.

It tasted quite good. The bananas were soft and sweet in an almost marshmallow-y way.

A slice of peanut butter-banana pie

This technique could be used with any tofu cream pie, by the way.

Thin & Crunchy Tofu Strips

This is a fun recipe that I’ve made a number of times. It goes well in sandwiches (kind of like veggie BLTs). The tofu does shrink down quite a bit, by the way, so don’t be surprised when two whole packages of tofu become a somewhat small pile of strips.

FYI, the seasoning combination of onion salt and smoked paprika makes things taste somewhat like bacon (especially when combined with a crunchy texture). Other seasoning mixes, such as curry, can also be used  in this recipe instead if you prefer.

Thin Strips of Tofu

Thin & Crunchy Tofu Strips

2  12 oz  containers silken tofu
cooking spray or oil
¼ tsp onion salt
1/8 to ¼ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Carefully slice tofu into strips that are roughly ¼ inch thick, about 1 inch wide, and as long as the block of tofu is wide. They’ll be floppy and delicate; don’t worry too much if they break up a little.

Line two cookie sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray. Arrange slices evenly on the sheets, placing any small or broken pieces toward the middle. Give the tops another spritz of cooking spray and put them in the oven for 25 minutes.

The first flip

Pull them out and carefully flip them.  They will still be fairly pale and floppy but should be a little browned and bubbly around the bottom edges. Put them back in for 10-15 minutes more.

Second Flip

Take them out and check them for doneness. Pull any that look brown and crispy enough off and set aside. Flip the rest again and put them back in, checking and flipping at intervals of 3-5 minutes. Continue to pull off individual pieces as they become ready.

Tossed with seasonings

 When all of the strips are done, transfer them to a bowl and toss with the seasonings.

Serve 3-4.

Best served warm, these can be eaten straight, served with a dip or made into a sandwich.

Making a sandwich