With all the sandwich-style sweets that have been popping up everywhere in the past couple of months (whoopie pies predicted to be the "dessert trend of 2010" by Epicurious, chocolate sandwich cookies on Martha Stewart, macarons in Starbucks, in this popular book and all over Tastespotting), "make some type of sandwich cookie" has been an item on my "to bake/cook/eat" list for almost as long. But I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to make, until yesterday. We've been having some unseasonably balmy weather, so Brendan and I went on a long walk to Trader Joe's, and along the way I dragged him into One Girl with me, where we sampled a few of their dainty little cookies.
All the cookies were delicious, but the one that got my wheels turning was their lemon sandwich cookie: It was the Girl Scout Lemon Pastry Cream cookie, which was a favorite of my childhood but a flavor I haven't thought about in a while since that cookie has been discontinued. It was fresh and light and spring-y (and oh, how I am longing for warmer weather!), in contrast to the chocolates and the heavy, over-spiced root-vegetable pies of winter. I wanted to make this cookie for myself, and I could picture it all in my head: which cookie recipe I would use, what I would need to pick up at the grocery store (and we were already on our way there!); I had the whole afternoon free to bake to my heart's content, and a get-together scheduled in the evening where I could win some people's hearts by sharing my treats with everyone. It was a Saturday afternoon planned.
This past weekend I attended my first Kirtan chanting event at Laughing Lotus yoga studio, and to get myself hyped up before I went to it, I flipped through the December 2009 issue of Yoga Journal. I bought it in November at the same time as a couple of other magazines, and I must not have had the time to look through it, or else my baking radar might have detected Rachel Meyer's article about a year of baking cakes, and the included vegan chocolate bundt cake recipe (adapted from Veganomicon). Or, maybe when I read it the first time, my senses just weren't as finely tuned to seek out bundt cake recipes as they have been ever since my boyfriend gave me my first bundt cake pan for Christmas. At any rate, I was inspired: the picture in the magazine just looked delicious, and I already had all of the ingredients handy, so I saw no reason not to give this cake a try.
I don't usually bake vegan things due to a few sub-par baking experiences I had in high school (when I was a vegetarian) and the general lack of personality I feel most of the vegan baked goods I've eaten since then have had, even from some of the most well-reputed bakeries. It also doesn't help that most vegan cookbooks (at least the ones I've owned) aren't published with pictures, and without a preview I'm not always inclined to trust that I'm going to be happy with whatever comes out of the oven. But the picture in this magazine depicted the most modest, no-frills, confident-looking cake, with only that light dusting of powdered sugar to wear; no sign of the overly dense, crumbly, dry consistency I've come to expect from my vegan baked goods. And I can say the same positive things about the the cake I ended up with, too: it was moist, chocolatey, and surprisingly as satisfying as any non-vegan cake.
I made this cake with intention to feed it to my friends on Sunday quesadilla night, but after dinner everyone was too full to eat much so I brought the rest to work the next day, where it was devoured! A lot of my coworkers liked it so much they even asked for the recipe, which I posted after the cut.
Every Christmas, I give my dad a box of cordial cherries. They're a favorite in his family, probably because his mother used to make them from scratch when he was a kid. I wasn't old enough to try my grandmother's cherries before she passed away, but I do remember my grandfather and my great-grandmother always keeping the boxes of Queen Anne's cherries around when we would visit them during the holidays; I'm not sure if we always ate the store-bought ones, or if that was a tradition that started after my grandmother died, but they're a tradition in our family nevertheless, a treat that literally drips with nostalgia for those Christmases past.
When I was a kid, taking my time, painstakingly sipping the sugary liquid out of a small bite in my cordial cherry, I would wonder what magical powers my grandmother must have had to be able to make these. How does one go about making something with a liquid center? Made confident by my previous candy-making endeavor, I decided to do some research and attempt making my own chocolate-covered cherries. Without my grandmother's recipe, I went to Allrecipes for instructions, and found they are really not all that difficult to make, though they do take some patience.
Happy New Year! My friends and I rang in the new year in style, with a potluck-style dinner for which I was happily assigned dessert duty. I don't normally have the opportunity to cook one big thing for a group so I racked my brain for the most extravagant thing I have wanted to make that I could think of; it wasn't hard to decide I wanted to get ambitious and make Baked Alaska.
I'm not going to pretend I was the first to have the idea to make Baked Alaska; it's an old-fashioned dessert I first heard about from a college roommate, and then it reappeared on my radar this year as one of the "festive finales" in the Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets magazine I've been studying this season for inspiration (the online version of her instructions is here). If you don't know what Baked Alaska is (and I had to explain it to my fellow dinner party guests enough times to tell you you're definitely not alone!), it's an ice cream cake molded in the shape of an igloo, covered in meringue.