Raw caramel apple pie

Raw caramel apple pie
Raw caramel apple pie

I used to be a self proclaimed lover of all seasons, but over the years, my indecisive mind finally settled and I chose fall. Although the crunchy leaves and crisp, foggy mornings had a lot to do with my decision, I’d be lying if I said I don’t look most forward to introducing heavy knit socks, infinity scarves, and oversized dresses (read: maternity dresses) (no, I’m not pregnant) back into my wardrobe.

Thom, however, likes to remind me how much the combination of those things makes me look like a pauper from the 16th century plague epidemic – which I used to think was a downright awful thing to say about the lady who supplies you with superfluous amounts of baked goods, then I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and totally saw it. But damnit, I’m embracing it. Fat days don’t exist when you wear dresses that are strikingly similar to a potato sack, and you don’t ever have to worry about unbuttoning your pants at the dinner table (What, you don’t do that?) – a huge plus for someone who doesn’t know how to say no to food on a plate.

Caramel apple fillingCaramel apple hand pies

Speaking of fall, have you guys seen the fall issue of Chickpea Magazine? If not, you can view it right here. And if you like those adorable, little hand pies pictured above (they’re caramel apple, too) (!!!!!), flip to page 26 to find the recipe. Meanwhile, I don’t like to make demands like this, but you should really make the raw caramel apple pie. It’s incredibly tasty. ‘Nuff said. 
RAW CARAMEL APPLE PIE

16-18 medjool dates, pitted and divided
1 1/2 cups walnuts
3 medium apples, different varieties
1 cup filtered water, plus more for soaking
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Line the bottom of a round 8″ tart pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the walnuts into a fine meal. Add 8-10 dates and process for 20-30 seconds, just until the dates are blended and combined. Press the dough into the prepared pan, then cover with plastic and freeze until ready to use.
Add the remaining 8 dates to a small bowl and cover with water; soak for 10-15 minutes. While the dates are soaking, prepare the apples by peeling and coring them. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices then chop into small chunks. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with a damp towel (and lemon juice, if you’re worried about them browning). When the dates have finished soaking, discard the water. Add the dates, water, cinnamon and salt to a high speed blender and blend until smooth; about 15-20 seconds. Pour over apples and toss until the chunks are evenly coated.
Remove the pie crust from the freezer and pile with apple filling. Freeze for at least 45 minutes before serving. Pie will keep in an air tight container for up to 6 weeks, but I doubt it will last that long.

Yield: 8 large (or 16 small) servings

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Maple oat scones

Maple oat scones

Dear brothers,

I don’t see you enough – as often as I’d like – but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how different my life would be if you weren’t around; to push me, to guide me, and to scare the ever living shit out of every man I’ve ever dated.

I’d never admit it growing up, but your protectiveness is something I’ve always cherished. To have five people who care about you so much that they’d go to any extent to shield you from all-things-bad in the world? Well, that’s a pretty good feeling. Better than shaved legs on clean sheets (not that you’d know anything about that), endless salad bars (you probably couldn’t care less about those, either), or running my fingers along wrought iron fences. (Are you still reading?)

Maple oat scones in the making
Wet mixture
Maple oat scone dough

Brothers,

Many of the things I’ve grown to love about myself have been things I’ve learned from each of you. You taught me how to be strong, both mentally and physically. You taught me how to stand up for myself, to fight for what I believe and to not stop until I get it. You taught me, by example, that true happiness is attainable (as long as I want it bad enough). And most of all, you taught me how to love myself.. when I didn’t even think that loving myself was possible.

Maple oat scones
Maple oat scones
Maple oat scones

Brothers,

I think of you often; where you are, if you’re happy. And not a day goes by that I don’t dream about all six of us being together again. Sometimes I forget that we’re not kids anymore, but one day I picture us sitting around a table on a patio somewhere, laughing over these scones while we watch our little ones roll around in the grass together. Just like we used to.

I don’t tell you enough, but my love for each of you is so massive that it could swallow the world whole. The five of you have enriched my life beyond belief, and being able to grow up alongside you has truly made me a better person.

So much love,
Your “little” sister

PS – Thanks for not scaring away Thom. He likes you guys, and I think you like him, too.

Maple oat scones

Notes: If you want these to be full of gluten, simply replace the gluten free flour blend with unbleached flour (you still need to add the oat flour) and omit the xanthan gum. These guys have a soft crumb and are just barely sweet, which is why I top them with vanilla bean sugar. The maple glaze was the direct result of Thom’s absolute refusal to eat these things unless I made them sweeter (apparently, the vanilla bean sugar just wasn’t cutting it for that guy). So, the maple glaze recipe follows the baking instructions.

MAPLE OAT SCONES
1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp xanthan gum, heaping
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup almond milk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Vanilla bean sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat, or parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, xanthan gum, salt and baking powder; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet mixture; fold bottom mixture over the top mixture and mix with your hands (g-e-n-t-l-y) just until combined. On a flat surface (or the prepared baking sheet) sprinkled with flour, pat the dough into a circle about 1 inch thick. Slice crosswise 4 ways, transfer to baking sheet (if rolling out on countertop) and sprinkle with vanilla bean sugar, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for 16-18 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool, then store in an air tight container for up to three days.
For the maple glaze, combine 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup in a small bowl; whisk until smooth. Spoon over cooled scones.
Yield: 8 scones

Raw cacao truffles

Raw cacao truffles

My love for truffles started in Paris, where they weren’t exactly dairy free (or easy on my stomach), but I enjoyed them so much that I was willing to endure the digestive repercussions in exchange for little pillows of heaven that melted chocolate all over my tongue. I don’t know if you’re aware, but truffles are wildly addictive. And practicing self control around them is damn near impossible. In fact, it’s frowned upon in most parts of the world. (That’s not even remotely true.) So, when the mister picked up a couple of bags from our favorite Chocolatier on Rue Mouffetard, I knew it was going to be Trouble. With a capital T.

One morning, before he could wake to shoot me serious looks of disapproval, I tiptoed across the cold tile floor and dug through Thom’s backpack until my hands landed on the crinkly bag of truffles. I untied the silky ribbon, carefully opened the noisy bag, and popped a truffle into my mouth. I devoured it right there, in the dark. In my underwear. It was so good that I decided to take the bag and go sit on the edge of the bathtub. (Why the bathtub? Well, we were renting a studio and it was the only place I could escape to eat the truffles without being caught.) I sat there, thinking about how I could get used to a life of fresh baguettes and truffles, and before I knew it, I had eaten through half the bag.

Raw cacao truffles
Raw cacao truffles

It was then that I decided it’d probably be best to stop mindlessly shoving truffles into my face, and so I returned the bag to Thom’s backpack. By a coup de pot, he didn’t even notice the half eaten bag of truffles until a few days later. But when he did, he went and bought another and let me shamelessly savor the remains of the bag I ate through that early morning. As any good man would.

Notes: These truffles pale in comparison to the Parisian variety, but they’re a nice substitute when you want a taste of that rich, chocolate flavor without all the fuss. The truffle batter is going to be very, very soft. Maybe sticky, even. But don’t worry, it’s supposed to be like that. You’ll freeze the truffles before you roll them into perfect, little balls, which makes them a lot easier to work with. I also left my almonds a little more coarse than I normally would, but I recommend grinding them into a fine meal if you want the truffles to be super smooth.

RAW CACAO TRUFFLES

2 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup cacao powder
, plus more for coating
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
12 medjool dates, soaked for 15 minutes
4-6 tbsp raw nut milk, or water

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the almonds, cacao powder and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse until combined. Add the water and pulse until a batter starts to form. Using a small cookie scoop, drop the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 25-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and roll into round balls, then coat with cacao powder. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or the freezer for long-term. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: approximately 24 truffles

Speculoos swirl brownies

Celebratory speculoos swirl brownies

This past weekend, I was having one of those days. Three days in a row. I was bombarded with a seemingly unavoidable streak of bad kitchen luck, and the only thing I could do was bake my way out of it. Literally. I baked, and baked, and baked. And went to the store three times in one day. (Ok, Thom went to the store three times in one day. He’s a good, good man.) Sprinkles from Iceland went to waste, along with 8 cans of coconut milk, 4 pounds of sugar and 2 bags of chocolate chips. For lack of better words, I sucked. I sucked so incredibly bad.

Those days, I spent the better part of my mornings attempting to replicate a confetti cake I made last summer. Turns out, writing recipes on the back of junk mail is not conducive to recreating those recipes in the future. Who’da thought? So, by the end of day two, I gave up on the confetti cake and decided to move on to better (read: easier) things – my version of a Twix bar. They were delicious (and tasted like the real deal, according to Thom), but the shape was all sorts of wrong (I made them in tartlet pans, which resulted in something much larger than any candy bar should be). So, I attempted to make fancy Twix bars, with crumbly vanilla bean crust and dark chocolate ganache topping. And just when I thought things were going swimmingly, I cut into one of the tartlets and the ganache decided it wanted to separate from the caramel. Not pretty, you guys. Not pretty at all. Also, I may or may not have had a meltdown on the dining room floor.

Speculoos swirl brownies

Defeated, I threw in the towel (both metaphorically and literally), poured myself an oversized mug of coffee, and went to take a hot bath by candlelight. The bath of shame, I like to call it. Where I attempted to wash myself clean of the negative energy and bad juju that were trapped within the confines of my body. I was sweating it out when Thom decided to come in and sit down, next to the tub. I wanted to be like HELLO! Can’t you tell I’m in the midst of cleansing my body of free radicals, and shit? But instead I looked at him, hung my head, then mumbled something about being a terrible baker.

I expected him to tell me that I’m a wonderful baker and that no other baker could make his belly as happy as I do. But instead, he laughed. HE LAUGHED! (He probably threw an eye roll in there, too.) I looked at him and wanted to cry, as he told me how ridiculous I was being. And that it’s completely normal to have off days every once in a while. I believe he also said something along the lines of it being healthy for one’s ego. So, me and my deflated ego got out of the bath and back in the kitchen. Speculoos swirl brownies needed to be made. And so they were; made and devoured. And now I have the recipe for you. My little victory brownies.

Speculoos spread
Chocolate chips | Homemade vanilla extract
   

Today marks one year of Oh, Ladycakes! And to celebrate, I’m giving away five bottles (yes, 5) of my homemade (and organic! and fair trade!) vanilla extract. But you have to go to my Facebook page to find out the details on how to win. (Hint: look for the most recent photo of the vanilla extract.) (Second hint: it’s probably the first photo on my page.) Ok, if you don’t have a Facebook account (I applaud you), you can leave a comment telling me.. that you’re leaving a comment to be entered to win the vanilla extract because you’ve successfully avoided getting roped into aforementioned social networking site. I’m still applauding you. And thinking that you deserve a bottle of vanilla extract based on that premise alone. Seriously, wow.

UPDATE: Giveaway is closed. Winners have been notified. Thanks for participating!

Notes: You can use any flour you want. I’ve used whole wheat, unbleached and gluten free (not that it matters, as speculoos spread contains gluten) – but I liked the spelt version the best. I know people are going to ask about substituting coconut oil, but here’s the thing – I haven’t tried it. So, proceed with caution. And yes, you can substitute any variety of sugar; coconut, sucanat, maple, whatever your little belly desires.

SPECULOOS SWIRL BROWNIES

1 1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup filtered water
6 tbsp non-hyrdogenated shortening
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond milk
2-4 tbsp speculoos spread, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 9″ round (or square) baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cacao powder, salt and baking soda; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the flax meal and water; put in freezer to set. In a double boiler over medium heat, stir together the shortening, chocolate chips, sugar and vanilla extract. Don’t worry about really stirring it until the shortening and chocolate start to melt. Once they do, stir just until the mixture is combined. Remove from heat and stir in the almond milk.
Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the flax mixture and chocolate mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until combined, then whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and level with the back of a spoon. Drizzle melted speculoos over batter then swirl using the end of a knife (or your finger). Wrap pan on the countertop a few times until the batter is level. Bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. Store in an air tight container for up to five days.

Yield: 8 slices