How to make coconut whipped cream

Coconut whipped cream

I’ve heard from a lot of people that making coconut whipped cream has proven to be a serious challenge – often times they can’t get the coconut milk fat to separate from the water, even after the can’s spent a good 24 hours in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this has little to do with your cooling chamber and a lot to do with the stabilizers used to keep the coconut milk fat suspended in the liquid; the ingredients in some cans just won’t allow the two to separate.
Stabilizers aside, the other culprit is too much air – which you can avoid by picking up the can of coconut milk and giving it a gentle shake. If you can hear the liquid sloshing around, you need to put it back on the shelf – chances are this can is a dud as far as making coconut whipped cream is concerned. What you need to listen for is a small pocket of air that moves around, making a soft gurgley sound. This method has proven to be effective in finding cans of coconut milk that encourage milk fat separation. In other words, it’s never let me down. Not once.
If you don’t feel confident in your ability to differentiate between sloshing and gurgling, Thai Kitchen will be your best (and safest) bet. In my experience, it’s the only brand of coconut milk that has consistently produced good quality whipped cream. If you’re rolling your eyes because their cans are lined with BPA – I knooow. It pains me, but I suck it up and buy it because I’m not a fan of buying $2 cans of coconut milk that yield separation only 50% of the time. Which is what usually happens when I bring home Native Forest coconut milk with high hopes of turning it into whipped cream. When in doubt, buy a few different cans and experiment to see which brand works best for you. But for the love of Buddha, do not try to speed up the process by freezing the can. You’ll be left with a solid block of coconut milk and a half-exploded can. Not that I know from experience, or anything.

Refrigerated coconut milk
The good stuff
We be whippin'
Iced coffee with coconut whipped cream
Strawberries and coconut whipped cream
DUDE

Notes: My favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s super customizable and can take on whatever flavor your little taste buds desire. Strawberry? Muddle some strawberries and mix them in. Lemon? Squeeze in a bit of juice and add some zest for an extra kick. Chocolate? I think you know what to do. You could also go crazy and add some whiskey and a bit of caramel sauce. And then use the boozy whipped cream to smother your favorite chocolate bundt cake. Or you can enjoy the creamy white stuff, in its simplest form, atop your favorite caffeinated beverage, with fresh fruit, or with strawberry-coconut shortcakes (which are coming soon).

COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM

1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 tbsp powdered cane sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the top layer of white, fatty goodness into a decent sized mixing bowl (discard the coconut water or save it for smoothies). Blend the chunks of coconut milk with a hand mixer on high speed for 15-20 seconds, just until the mixture turns to liquid. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and blend on high speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and creamy. Whipped cream is best served immideately, but can be stored in an air tight container for up to three days. It will harden in the fridge, so when ready to serve, simply blend with a hand mixer on high speed until creamy again.

Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

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Single serving deep dish apple pie | for Thom, with love

Single serving deep dish apple pie | for Thom, with love

Introducing for Thom, with love – a new series documenting the small batch recipes I create for my favorite man, chock full of love. Over the course of the past half decade, I’ve witnessed Thom eat his fair share of baked goods – and in the process I discovered that sometimes all he needs is a single serving of chocolate chip cookies because the man has no self control when cookies are involved. And if you leave an entire batch at his disposal, he’ll eat them all and ask you to make more. Then he’ll eat those, too, and complain about his stomach aching and you’ll decide it’s time to start developing small batch recipes. So if your favorite person is like Thom, surely they’ll appreciate these recipes. And so will you because they can be thrown together without having to dirty heavy mixing machines or three baking sheets or every single measuring device you own.

The recipes, they’re good. Straight forward and equally as delicious as a full batch, but without all of the elbow grease required to scoop 36 cookies or roll out a 10″ pie crust. The selling point, for me, is that small batch recipes don’t produce any waste. Not that anything really goes to waste around here because I’m the lady who shows up at my neighbor’s door at 10 o’clock at night, begging her to take a container of brownies away because Bad things will happen if you don’t. The other selling point is the expression on Thom’s face when he realizes I’ve made something special just for him.

Friends, I’ve been saying it for years: the best way to a man’s heart is, without a doubt, through his stomach.


Pie crust ingredients
We be (pastry) cuttin'
Apple
Apple filling
Heart cutouts
Ready for the oven
Single serving deep dish apple pie | for Thom, with love
Single serving deep dish apple pie | for Thom, with love

Notes: If you prefer a sweeter pie crust, feel free to increase the sugar to one full teaspoon. But I promise you won’t require it if you fill the pie with the full 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) of sugar. This recipe requires the use of one deep dish 4″ tartlet pan (although I suppose a ramekin would work, as well). I got my tartlet pans in a set at Williams-Sonoma, but if you like getting ripped off, you can get them individually at Sur la Table (my least favorite kitchen store in the history of kitchen stores) (look at the price difference per tart pan – $5.66). Greedy asswads.
SINGLE SERVING DEEP DISH APPLE PIE

Crust
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp cane sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
3 tbsp vegan butter, cold
2-3 tbsp water, ice cold

Filling
4-6 tsp cane sugar
1 tsp potato starch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
One medium apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp lemon juice, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil a 4″ deep dish tart pan; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter, using a pastry cutter or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger chunks. Add two tablespoons of the water and mix with fingers until a smooth dough forms. If the dough feels a little dry, add a bit more water. Knead the dough for 1-2 minutes then wrap with plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
To make the filling, stir together the sugar (I used 5 teaspoons), starch, and cinnamon. Add the apples and lemon juice; toss to coat and set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough into a circle about 1/4″ thick. Fit to prepared tart pan, making sure it’s pressed into the bottom into the scalloped edges. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove the excess dough. Fill with apples. Roll the remaining dough scraps, cut with a mini heart shaped cookie cutter (dip in flour if sticking to dough), and arrange on top of pie. Brush with a bit of soy milk and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake at 350˚F for 35-40 minutes (if you notice the hearts starting to brown, put a piece of tin foil over top of them after about 25 minutes). Let cool for 10 minutes then serve. Can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to two days. 

If you’d prefer to assemble the pie and save it for later, remove the pie from the freezer when ready to bake and let it thaw for about 20 minutes. Follow baking instructions above. Unbaked pie will keep frozen for up to 6 weeks in an air tight, freezer proof container.

Yield: 1 4″ pie

Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

You are King Midas.
You have the power to turn everything around you to gold. 
You are a wonderfully gifted and eternally beautiful person, 
And I thank the winds every time I think of you.
•     •     •

Thom‘s words of wisdom during a time when I felt as though my entire world was crumbling beneath my feet. If your world is crumbling (or even if it’s not), just remember – you are King Midas.

Let’s turn everything to gold.

Pretzel sticks
Pretzel flour
Creamy peanut butta
Mini chocolate chips
Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookie dough
Salted chocolate-pretzel peanut butter cookies

Notes: Cookies can be made gluten free by replacing the flour with a gluten free flour blend + 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum and the pretzels with gluten free pretzels. If you prefer your cookies light and fluffy (opposed to thin and chewy), don’t smash the cookies with a fork – lightly flatten them with the palm of your hand. I use Jif natural peanut butter in this recipe because it’s really fucking delicious – but if you’re opposed to the company, use a different natural peanut butter. Just make sure it’s smooth and creamy. SERIOUSLY. If you want to replace the shortening with vegan butter, that will work – but the cookies will be a bit more oily. Also, someone try this recipe with salty potato chip crumbs and let me know how it turns out. Or graham crackers. Oh, and to make finely ground pretzel crumbs, simply blend pretzels in a food processor for 1-2 minutes – tada!
SALTED CHOCOLATE-PRETZEL PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup sucanat
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 flax egg
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup finely ground pretzel crumbs
1/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt
, for topping

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla extract using a hand mixer on high speed for one minute. Add the flax egg and milk; beat until incorporated. Stir in the salt, baking soda, flour, and pretzel crumbs with a wooden spoon; mix until combined then stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Chill baking sheets in freezer for at least 15 minutes – this helps the cookies retain their shape, so don’t skip it. Bake at 350˚F for 10-12 minutes (one sheet at a time). Transfer to wire rack to cool then store in an air tight container. Will keep for up to three days.

*Frozen cookies can be stored in the freezer and baked as needed.

Yield: about 30 cookies

Yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting | a birthday cake

Birthday cake

Two weekends ago we celebrated a birthday. My birthday. A quarter of a century birthday. There was an intimate dinner with my favorite man at my favorite restaurant, a party with all of my favorite people, and one of my favorite bands – Sigur Rós – in the flesh. It was a soul soothing three day stretch that I will carry deep in my heart for the next 12 months. And then I’m sure there will be another celebration of epic proportions because, as it turns out, my people know how to have a good time.

Despite the streak of awesomeness that accompanied my special day, it wouldn’t have been a birthday celebration without cake (or pie, if you’re Thom). So I’m here to share the recipe for the best (seriously) (no, really) vegan yellow cake with chocolate frosting – and if you’re skeptical, I’ve got about 20 people who can back me up on that claim. I’m also here to tell you about HOW AWESOME IT IS when you finally work up the courage to get all of your random groups of friends together in 400 square feet of living space; the entrepreneurs, the ones who just moved from Ohio, the feminists, the ones who don’t drink, the bacon eaters, the ones with big people jobs, the ones who don’t have jobs – you get the picture. For a long time I hesitated amalgamating all of these people because, well, it seemed like a recipe for disaster. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of disasters.

Icelandic sprinkles
Perfect round top
Frosting in the making
We be icin'
Birthday cake
Birthday cake
Birthday cake

Except on my birthday, apparently. Because when it came time to send the invites (and by invites I mean create an event on that one social networking site on which we all spend too much of our precious time) I said fuck it – it’s my party and although it’s likely the only thing a lot of them will have in common is the fact that they’re friends with me (I’m happy to report this was disproven the night of my party), I couldn’t imagine celebrating my birthday without the feminists and the bacon eaters and all of my other favorite people. So we crammed about 20 of them into our living room and devoured cake and ice cream, and drank too much whiskey – and some of them hung around until 3 in the morning before the birthday girl decided it was time for bed because OH MY GOD I HAVE TO WAKE UP IN THREE HOURS. And I did. Without a hangover, even.

I trucked through the final day of celebration just fine until about 8PM when we settled into our seats at the show. After 30 minutes of waiting patiently, Sigur Rós came on and the voice of one thousand angels sang me into a 15 minute slumber. Which leads me to believe that maybe the secret to getting tiny humans to sleep is to play them ambient post rock instead of lullabies. Because if that shit can knock out a grown woman – upright in an uncomfortable plastic chair, at a concert – I’m pretty sure it’ll soothe a milk drunk babe into evening hibernation.

Parents, play your little ones Sigur Rós at bedtime and let me know if my hypothesis is correct.

And since I have you here – with cake – I figured now is the appropriate time to do a little shameless self promotion because HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW BADGE IN MY SIDEBAR? SAVEUR nominated this little site as one of the Best Special Diets Blogs of 2013, and if you have the time to register (it literally takes one minute) and vote before Friday 19 April, I’d kinda sorta love you. I’m up against some pretty big names so, even if Oh, Ladycakes doesn’t reign victorious, I’m just stoked to be nominated among some of my favorites. I mean, what a super awesome kickass honor.

Notes: Recipe can be double to make two 8-9″ cake layers. The recipe below makes one 8-9″ layer or two 6″ layers. If doubling the recipe to make 8-9″ layers, you’ll need to bake the cake for upwards of 30 minutes. Maybe a few minutes longer. If you don’t have cake flour, sift together 1 1/4 cups and 1 tablespoon unbleached flour + 3 tablespoons potato starch. You’ll need to sift the mixture several times before using it. If baking cupcakes, add 1/4 cup of batter to each liner and bake for 16-20 minutes. If you want a bit more rise out of your cupcakes, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (I stick on the lower end for cakes because I don’t like leveling). Using turmeric as coloring is kind of tricky – if your turmeric isn’t superfine, it’s not going to be a good route to take for food coloring, so just skip it. 

YELLOW BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH CREAMY CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Cake
1 cup minus 1 tbsp non-GMO soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Small pinch ground turmeric, for color
3/4 cup cane sugar
6 tbsp non-GMO canola oil
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract

Frosting
1 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered cane sugar
3/4 cup cacao powder

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 6″ spring form pans with parchment paper; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar; set aside for 10 minutes. In another small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, starch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and turmeric; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and extracts. When the buttermilk has formed, alternate between mixing the flour and buttermilk into the sugar mixture in halves. Add the flour first, then the buttermilk. Once all of the flour has been added (but you’re still left with 1/2 of the buttermilk) whisk the crap out of the mixture until most of the clumps have disappeared. (Don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten.) Whisk in the remaining buttermilk.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Once the layers have cooled, cover with plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to frost (cold cakes are easier to frost).
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla extract on high speed until fluffy. Sift in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until fluffy. If you’re going to pipe the frosting on the cake, you’re going to want something a bit thicker. If you’re just going to spread it on, add a tablespoon or two of non-dairy milk and beat until fluffy. Cover the frosting until ready to use.
To ice the cake, line a cake stand (or plate) with four pieces of parchment paper that overlap at the ends; set aside. Remove the cake layers from the freezer (level if needed) and place one of the layers in the middle of the prepared cake stand. Spread 1/2 cup of frosting onto the top of the cake, then sandwich with the second layer. Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on the top of the cake and smooth it out to cover the cake with a light crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes, until the frosting is solid. Once solid, spread the remaining frosting onto the cake. I like to do a second coat, covering the cake completely, then I refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Once the icing is hard, I use the remaining frosting to cover the cake and use the back of a spoon to create the appearance of a messy cake. Cover cake with plastic until ready to consume. Cake will keep for 3-4 days.

Yield: 6-8 slices

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

I drank my first Guinness atop the Storehouse in Dublin exactly two years ago this Sunday. It was then that I decided I didn’t particularly care for Guinness, but I did like the view from the Storehouse. Despite the gray clouds and fog that lingered over the city, it was stunning. Almost like Dublin was built for the gray. I also liked watching the men in kilts, and how they swayed ever so perfectly with their every step or turn. It was hypnotizing, almost. A nice respite from the pint of bitter syrup that set in front of my face, begging to be drank. But I just couldn’t do it. So I pushed my beer over to Thom’s side of the table and declared that I was not my father’s daughter. Because she would love and bathe in Guinness. And so that night we stumbled home drunk and I emailed my dad to tell him the unfortunate news surrounding my Guinness experience; how I hoped he wouldn’t disown me But seriously how does anyone drink that stuff?

He didn’t disown me (thank goodness) but he did write back saying how much he wished he could have been there with us, and that it was his dream to drink a Guinness at the top of the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember the words like it was yesterday: You’re living my dream.

That struck me in the gut. And not in a good way. Why am I living his dream? That’s not fair. I want him to live his dream. And so Thom and I spent an entire year devising a plan to surprise my dad with a trip to Ireland so that he could finally live his dream of drinking a Guinness at the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. And in May of last year, we purchased the tickets and made it final; there was no turning back. Except there was because I bought travel insurance like any level headed person does when they do something as bold as buy their dad and step mom plane tickets for a surprise trip to Ireland.

Is Sharebear even going to like Ireland? I asked. Who cares, we’ll get her drunk, said Thom. 
Dutch processed cocoa powder
Irish whiskey ganache
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

When it came time to surprise them with the trip, I started getting cold feet – wondering if it was too over the top and how we were going to break the news without stepping on toes on Christmas Eve morning. So we pulled them into the kitchen – my dad and step mom – and handed them a card. On the front it simply said THANKS, and the inside was filled with run on sentences about how much we’ve appreciated their unconditional love and massive support over the past half decade. And how we’d like to repay them with plane tickets to Ireland.

Their faces? Priceless. So here we are heading back to Ireland for our 2nd biennial St. Patrick’s Day trip, but this time with my other favorite man in tow. And for you? Well, I have a delicious post lined up next week – but for now I’ve got boozy cupcakes.

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Notes: Do not (DOOOOO NOOOOOOT) substitute natural cocoa for the Dutch processed cocoa. I mean it. You also cannot use Hershey’s special dark cocoa in this recipe, as it’s a blend of both natural cocoa and Dutch processed cocoa. You can, however, use special dark cocoa in this recipe – just replace the punkin ale with extra stout Guinness. Because it’s vegan (unlike regular Guinness). If you’re not into the tofu, you can substitute two flax eggs for it. But the cupcakes aren’t going to be nearly as tender as the tofu version. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: Apparently North American bottled Guinness extra stout is no longer considered vegan due to suspicion that bottlers practice a filtration process that uses the bladders of some fish.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CUPCAKES WITH IRISH WHISKEY GANACHE + IRISH CREAM FROSTING

Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup non-GMO canola oil
1/2 cup Guinness extra stout
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
6 tbsp soft silken tofu, blended

Ganache
4 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp non-dairy milk
2 tbsp Irish whiskey

Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup non-hygrogenated shortening
2 1/4 cups powdered cane sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses
2-3 tbsp Irish whiskey

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt; whisk and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the oil, stout, milk, and tofu. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk just until combined. Do not over mix. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350˚F for 16-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the ganache by adding the chocolate to a small mixing bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the whiskey and set aside.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a grapefruit spoon (or cupcake plunger if you’re fancy) (I’m not) to remove a small circle from the middle of each cupcake. I made mine big enough so they held about 2 teaspoons of ganache. Fill the centers with ganache then transfer cupcakes to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the cupcakes are chilling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and shortening on high speed for about 15-20 seconds. Sift in the powdered sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder then continue mixing, on high speed, for 30-45 seconds. Mix in the molasses and whiskey; blend on high speed until light and fluffy. If the frosting is still a bit soft, sift in 1-2 tablespoons of tapioca starch. Or more sugar, but I’m not a fan of overly sweet frostings.
Once the cupcakes are ready to be frosted, spoon about 3 tablespoons of frosting onto each cupcake and smooth with the back of a spoon. Store in an air tight container for up to three days. Cupcakes made with flax eggs will only keep for two days.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

Caramel apple crumb pie

Caramel apple crumb pie

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and The National pandora station is playing much louder than it should at this hour. I’m hunched over the dining room table, crying because I can’t sleep again. Crying because I wish I had a better relationship with my mother. Crying because my hormones are so out of whack that I can’t do anything but cry. Hands in my hair, tears on the table; I wipe the snot from my nose with the sleeve of my robe, and make a mental note to throw it into the wash because it’s been used as a hankey far too many times this week.

Ha, I just said hankey. My Oma would be proud.

In typical hormonal lady fashion, I got up from the table and started frantically looking through the kitchen for something to consume. Chocolate? Too early for chocolate. Gin? It’s definitely too early for gin. Vanilla almond butter? There isn’t any. So after five minutes of going back and forth between the pantry and refrigerator, I came out with a bag of trail mix, a can of coconut milk, and my mind set on making caramel sauce. Which probably wasn’t the best idea because I stood over the pot of caramel feeling sorry for myself, picking salty raisins from the trail mix and cursing the person who decided to add milk chocolate morsels to a perfectly good bag of nuts and raisins. So to make up for not being able to eat the milk chocolate morsels, I licked the whisk each time I gave the caramel a good stir. I thought I deserved it. Maybe I did.

Making spelt dough
Caramel apples
Caramel apple crumb pie in the making

When the caramel finished cooking I transferred it to one of those pretty weck jars and let it cool on the counter while I continued picking through the trail mix. Every once in a while I’d scoop a fingerful into my mouth, but enough was enough so I topped it and put it in the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind – until I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my coffee creamer and noticed droplets of condensation forming along the bottom of the lid. And so I removed it; quickly and carefully to ensure none of the droplets contaminated my perfectly golden sauce. Except you and I both know a little bit of water isn’t going to do a bit of harm to a jar of caramel sauce. But try telling that to an overly emotional basket case at 6AM. Then again, don’t. She’ll probably bite your head off.

The caramel sat on the counter for a good 45 minutes while I went back and forth, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. And since eating it from the jar with my finger wasn’t an acceptable option, I dove head first into making apple pie. Without hesitation I started cutting butter into flour, apples into slices, and more butter into equal amounts of flour and brown sugar. I had everything jamming at once and, although I was completely out of my element, it kind of felt good to get everything a little bit messier than usual. That, and now my unkempt kitchen resembled the way I felt on the inside; we were one in the same, me and the little kitchen.

I continued laboring over the pie; channelling all of my sadness into the crust, frustration into the filling, and shame into the topping. And wouldn’t you know? One hour later my oven gave birth to the most beautiful apple pie I had ever seen in my almost 25 years on this planet. The kind of pie you want to put on display at a county fair. But also the kind of pie you want to take into the closet and stuff into your face.

Caramel apple crumb pie
Quickest caramel sauce

The pie never made it to the county fair. And thankfully, our closets are so full that even if I wanted to take it into one of them, I couldn’t have. I can’t decide if I should curse the full closets or be thankful for them. Probably the latter, as orderly closets may have resulted in some seriously terrible things. Like a stomach ache and not being able to go number two for a week. I mean, that’s never happened to me but I imagine if I ate an entire pie it probably would. I also imagine not being able to go number two for a week would be one of the most miserable weeks of my life.

Anyway. We swept the pie away to the mountains where it was served warm, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. One scoop because someone got a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of a quart. For six people. Scratch that, five – I don’t eat their kind of ice cream. I also didn’t eat pie because I had two too many servings of lemon butter pasta for dinner, which inconveniently hung out in my belly for a good four hours before deciding to make room for pie. And so just before midnight, I found myself standing in the immaculate kitchen of the rental house, eating a piece of pie straight from the pan. Which, from that point forward, was referred to as the Best Apple Pie Ever. Ever. I mean it when I say this is the kind of pie you write home about; the kind of pie you’ll regret not having on your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is the kind of pie that gets devoured by six people in less than 18 hours because this pie is comprised of all things good in the world.

Caramel apple crumb pie

Notes: If you’re looking at this pie, thinking it seems rather pretentious with its spelt crust and caramel innards and crunchy crumb topping – I assure you, it’s not. In fact, I’d venture to say caramel is the best thing to happen to an apple pie. And crumb topping? Second best thing. The spelt flour was my effort to balance out the sugar content, but feel free to substitute unbleached flour or whole wheat flour. I know the long ingredient list and novel of instructions probably makes you think this recipe is a lot of work, but it’s not. And even if you feel like it is, the reward is more than worth it. This pie is out of this world good, and the only downside is that it’s best within two days. But aren’t most pies?
CARAMEL APPLE CRUMB PIE

Dough
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tbsp whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
4-6 tbsp water, ice cold

Crumb topping
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup rolled oats

Filling
6-8 medium apples, a variety is best
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Place bowl in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Once the flour mixture is chilled, use a pastry cutter, or two knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stick the bowl in the freezer for another 15 minutes to get the ingredients nice and cold. Once chilled, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix the dough using your fingertips. Your goal is a dough that’s firm but slightly sticky – and adding too much water will result in a tough dough (I added 4 tablespoons). Knead the dough for a minute then pat it into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days.
While the dough is resting, prepare the crumb topping. Whisk together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the oats then cover mixture with a damp cloth (or paper towel) and set aside.

Once the dough has rested for an hour, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick and fit it into a floured 8-10″ pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices, then into chunks. Drizzle with lemon juice; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca starch (use an extra tablespoon if your apples are super juicy), and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine. Pour the caramel over the apples then mix to evenly coat; set aside. Remove the crust from the fridge and sprinkle the bottom with about one tablespoon of flour (to ensure it doesn’t absorb too much of the liquid from the filling). Fill with caramel apples (there are a lot, but they settle during baking) then spread the crumb topping evenly over in two layers; press the first layer firmly to pack, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs. Trim the edges and decorate crust with finish of your choice. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then remove pie from the oven and carefully cover the crust with foil. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown. If you’re not anywhere near the 20 minute mark and the crumb topping starts to brown too much, simply place a piece of foil on top of it; do not seal it, just sit it on top. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 6 hours. Refrigerate in a not-so-air-tight container for up to two days. Crumb topping may soften, but will return to its previously crunchy state after a few minutes under the broiler (make sure you cover the crust with foil).

Yield: 12 slices

Easy caramel sauce

Easy caramel sauce

I’ve been looking for a way to make caramel sauce that is less involved than my other recipe. Because I don’t have time to wait around for 25 minutes, watching as coconut milk and sugar evolve into golden, syrupy goodness. And you probably don’t either. In the amount of time it takes for a pot of caramel to come to life, you could watch a rerun of The Office. Without the commercials. Or you could clean the kitchen. And when you’re done with that, maybe organize all of your stuff in the bathroom? No? Fine. But I really don’t think it’s necessary to have two dozen replacement razor heads or a year’s supply of bio-rutin supplements or three different conditioning treatments taking up precious bathroom real estate. Speaking of conditioner, maybe you could take a shower? And wash your hair while you’re at it because not washing your hair for four days is gross. I don’t care if you’re trying to protect your cylindrical filaments from the arid Colorado climate. It’s not cool to go on a hair washing strike when you share a bed with another human being. Your hair is dirty. Wash it.

Did that get weird? That kind of got weird. Anyway, I’m not saying we should ditch the old recipe entirely (ok, maybe we should), but this recipe is nice to have on hand when you don’t have half an hour to devote to making caramel sauce. It’s also nice to have on hand when you want to make caramel apple crumb pie at the eleventh hour. Like, maybe later this week?

Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce

Notes: Feel free to use brown sugar or muscovado sugar in place of the whole cane sugar (sometimes found under the brand name sucanat). I use whole cane sugar because a) I’ve got a lot of it hanging around my kitchen and b) it’s a nice alternative to highly processed brown sugar. Which actually starts out as whole sugar, but has the molasses removed for processing and then added back at the very end. Are you making a weird face? I did too when I first found out. So just buy the natural stuff, yo. Oh, and say you forget to whisk your caramel for a few minutes and it burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan. But you don’t find out until you go to whisk it and burnt flecks of caramel ruin your perfectly golden sauce. No worries! Simply pass the caramel through a fine mesh strainer a couple of times then place it back on the stove (in a clean pot, of course) to finish cooking. Crisis averted!

EASY CARAMEL SAUCE

1 13.6 oz can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup whole cane sugar

Start by opening the can of coconut milk and separating the thick, white milk fat from the water. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut water to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, whisking only a few times, then stir in 1 cup of the coconut milk fat (you may have more or less, depending on your can of coconut milk – that’s ok). Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking every minute or so. If you added less than 1 cup of coconut milk fat, you’ll want to cook the mixture for an extra 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, then transfer the caramel to a glass jar and cool on counter, uncovered, until the caramel reaches room temperature. Refrigerate for at least four hours before using; caramel will thicken as it cools. Will keep for up to one week.

Yield: 2/3-1 cup caramel sauce