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  • Orange, Hazelnut & Bourbon Biscotti // Lemon, Black Pepper & Walnut Biscotti

    **Update! August 2017: Turns out, lemon zest, walnuts and freshly ground black pepper make a delcious, floral and juuuust spicy enough combination to tickle your tongue...highly recommended for a lighter flavor-perfect for all seasons. See recipe notes below!**

    Alright. I don't exactly know how it is already December, BUT I do know that the holidays=cookie season. And hot beverage season. So naturally, biscotti rank high on my cookie list. Nothing is as satisfying as dunking a crunchy, nutty cookie into a hot cup of coffee (or whatever your hot beverage of choice is!). 

    I don't know about you, but, anytime during the day I can mentally and physically slow down enough to sit, make coffee or tea, and enjoy a treat is something I cherish. And even if you cannot manage to do this exact ritual, or don't need the sugar/caffeine rush, I think it is healthy to slow down during the day, take some deep breaths, and focus on the present. For December, I am making this practice one of my values for the month. Whether I will choose to do this before going to work amidst my morning routine, mid-day during work, or when I get home, I want to get back into expressing gratitude and being present each day (even if it is just for 5 minutes!). Because really, I think being a sane, grateful and kind person is a valuable gift we can give to the people in our lives, and our world at large, especially during the often stressful, emotional and hectic holiday season. Now, back to cookies! To be perfectly honest, this was my first ever batch of non-anise seed studded biscotti. Not going to lie, it felt a liiiittle like betrayal. My go-to recipe is from my Aunt (which she got from her mother-in-law, who is from Italian stock), and I have many fond memories of coming home after school, and being elated when seeing a small container of the golden crusted, anise seed studded cookies. Not too sweet, super crunchy, speckled with little bursts of black licorice from the anise seeds that would inevitably get stuck in your teeth, where they would hide as flavor bombs well after you were done munching. A perfect after school snack, I could easily munch down 3 or 4 of these treats while procrastinating on getting started with my homework (because eating biscotti > doing homework).

    But I realize that anise can be a polarizing flavor. When anise is invited to the holiday party, you know damn well that it will be staying for a while. Get out of the way, because anise likes to party-invading the dance floor, drinking all the holiday punch, and making a scene. And who drank the last of the egg nog? You bet your ass that it was anise. The presence of anise, strong and pronounced, is known immediately, and understandably, not everyone cares for this. Enter: a plays-well-with-others, even-tempered orange and hazelnut character, mellowed with vanilla and bourbon. I was extremely happy with the results after tweaking an Alice Medrich recipe to my liking (from "Chew Gooey Crispy Crunch Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies"): the crunch factor and texture were spot-on, the flavors were well balanced, and the test of dunking a biscotto into a hot foamy latte passed with flying colors (and don't worry, I verified this seveal times for research purposes). Beyond being delicious treats to savor alone, or with a mug of hot-something, biscotti of any variety are ideal for the holidays: they keep very well, growing crunchier as they sit (put them in a pretty container on your counter next to your coffee maker); they also ship with ease, and travel like champions, so are perfect for sending to people you love around the holidays (and I don't think any sane host/hostess would turn down a tin of biscotti as a thank-you gift!). Simply put: make a big batch, store them in the freezer or on the counter in an air-tight container or jar, then share and enjoy! Notes: while the hazelnut flavor is amazing, I realize finding good quality raw hazelnuts to toast at home is a challenge at times, so substituting your favorite raw nut of choice, and freshly toasting at home, would be perfectly acceptable. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and even pecans, would work here (or heck, try a combination!). They key, as I mentionted, is to freshly toast raw nuts to ensure optiumum freshness and flavor. Using your discretion based on what type of nut you use, adapt which extracts and booze to use in the recipe, but please strive to use pure extracts, and booze that you would actually drink (i.e. no Fleishmann's here!). I favor a high quality vanilla extract, and am working through a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel. Rum, Drambuie, Frangelico, Brandy and Sambucca are all worthy contenders, based on your preferences for booze. In addition, seek out high quality extracts, reading ingredient labels to make sure no corn syrup or other nasty additives are present. And lastly, yes, the orange zest would be completely adaptable to another type of citrus zest (lemon! lime! bergamot!), but is also completely optional if you get right down to it. One could also sneak in some finely chopped dark chocolate as well to this recipe! But truly, the orange/hazelnut/bourbon combination is a winner for sure. 



    Orange & Hazelnut Biscotti // Lemon, Walnut & Black Pepper Biscotti**// makes 15-18 larger 4" to 6" long cookies, or 24 smaller 2" to 3"  long cookies //

    • 1 heaping cup whole hazelnuts, or nut of choice, freshly toasted
    • 1 cup (4.5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour*
    • 1 cup  (4.5 oz) spelt flour*
    • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
    • zest of 1 orange, or citrus of choice, organic if possible
    • 4 TB melted butter, or 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 TB bourbon, or booze of choice
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract, or extract of choice

    *feel free to use either 100% all purpose flour OR 100% spelt flour, or a combination as noted

    **to make the lemon, walnut & black pepper variation, replace orange zest with lemon zest, walnuts with hazelnuts (no need to peel the walnuts!), and add 1 heaping teaspoon of *freshly* ground black pepper, with more finely ground working the best (or else you'll sift most of it out). As for extracts and booze, you can omit them entirely and let the flavors of the lemon and black pepper shine, or do as you wish, and add the bourbon and vanilla!**

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread nuts on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Toast nuts until fragrant, about 7-10 minutes. If using hazelnuts, after toasting, transfer slightly cooled nuts to a kitchen towel, wrap, and begin to rub the skins off by massaging the hazelnuts in the towel. Shake partially skinned hazelnuts into a colander, rub together with hands to get remaining skins off. 

    2. Transfer skinned nuts into bowl of food processor, and process into a coarse meal. Alternatively, coarsely chop nuts with a sharp knife. 

    3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sea salt and nutmeg. Add chopped nuts and stir to combine. 

    4. In another large bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest. Rub together to work the oils out of the orange zest until the sugar is moist and fragrant with the orange oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the melted butter or olive oil, and then finally whisk in the booze and extracts. 

    5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture with the chopped nuts. Stir until a moist, thick and sticky batter is formed. Using lightly oiled or moistened hands, turn the batter out onto a an oiled parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Form the batter into a long rectangle of even thickness that is 12"-14" long and 4"-5" wide, using the larger measurements for smaller, shorter cookies. 

    6. Bake the rectangle for 45-50 minutes, until firm to the touch and dry in appearance. Allow the log to cool for 15-30 minutes, until cool to touch, and then slice using a serratd knife into 1/2" to 1" thick slices. If desired, cut on a bias or a diagonal. Place sliced biscotto back onto the baking sheet, and return to the oven for the second bake for 40-55 minutes, flipping the cookies halfway through baking, until golden brown. Allow to cool, and then store in airtight containers at room temperature or in the freezer.



  • The Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie

    Ok, I know I have already shared 2 pumpkin pie recipes, but guys...this one is pretty special. I mean, technically, you can't really make a vegan custard, with the eggs and milk and all...so why not just go full-force, and bust out some super rich and decadent plant-based ingredients, and make a unique pumpkin pie that is not only vegan, gluten-free and free of refined sugars, but also mega awesome? Yeah, I that is what I thought, too!

    (ps: I in no way want to put the perception our there that I am totally ready for the holidays. Let's be real here: I don't have my shit together. I am trying to write a thesis, defend, and graduate by late December. And I have a metric f*** ton of work left to do. But pumpkin pie makes these tasks a little less crappy, so if you're also stressed with school/work/life, I recommend taking a break, and making either variant of the pumpkin pies I have shared with you!)

    This pie is versatile. Don't want to make a full-on pie? Just pour the creamy filling into a parchment-lined 8"x8" pan, chill until firm, and you have yourself a) a delicious pudding-like treat, perfect topped with whipped coconut cream and some crunchy toasted nuts, or b) place in the freezer, and once frozen/firm, slice into squares for a fudge-like treat. (side note: leftover filling also makes a bomb oatmeal topping)The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance, simply cover the pie with plastic wrap so the filling stays moist (if you need to, you can smooth the top of the pie out after removing the plastic wrap). Leftover pie can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. Eating it straight from the freezer is like a pumpking ice-cream pie. Yep-even another "versatile" way to enjoy this amazing pumpkin pie! You can also let the pie come to room temperature-it really is up to your preference. I find that slicing the pie is a touch easier when a bit cold, so feel free to pre-slice and allow individual pieces come to the desired temperature if needed.

    I had the pleasure of helping a friend with a project and her awesomely talented group had the patience to film an interview of me about this blog, as well as film me making this pie! I was nervous, but managed to not be too twitchy or spill anything all over my kitchen. It was truly a holiday miracle. Their project will also feature Fromagination (a local cheese shop on our capitol square) and Mob Craft Brewing. I can't wait to see the final product (but can wait to see how nervous/rambling I was! Ha!).Speaking of rambling, I think I will just get on with sharing the recipe. I do hope you try this for your next holiday get-together or potluck. This pie was approved by my dairy-farming family last Thanksgiving, so it can certainly please the palate of anyone that has a love for traditional pumpkin pie!!

    Note: this pie cannot be made nut free-sorry! For a delicious nut-free alternative, check out the cashew-less version of my take on traditional pumpkin pie here. Have the time to make your own pumpkin puree? Good for you-come make some for me! Just kidding. See here for my puree how-to! If you don't have time to do this, using one can of organic pumpkin puree is totally acceptable. No one will be the wiser, I promise. 



    Ultimate Plant-Based Pumpkin Pie // plant-based; vegan; gluten-free; soy-free; refined sugar-free // makes one 9" or 10" pie //

    Crust: 

    • 1 cup walnuts or pecans
    • 1 cup rolled oats, GF if needed
    • 2/3 cup soft medjool dates, pitted (if yours are a bit firm, soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain throughly; they need to be soft to bind the crust)
    • 1 TB virgin coconut oil, melted + a bit more for greasing pan
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 2 strips of parchment paper for lining pie pan (optional, but recommended to help prevent sticking)

    Filling:

    • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or for 1 hour in hot water
    • 2 cups (or 1 15-oz can) pumpkin or squash puree, not pumpkin pie mix 
    • 6 TB virgin coconut oil, melted
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger, or 1/2" hunk fresh ginger
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp molasses
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1-3 TB plant-based milk, to help blend if needed

    Whipped Coconut Cream:

    • 1 can coconut cream*, refrigerated upside down, until firm
    • 1-2 TB maple syrup
    • pinch sea salt
    • optional: a glug of cognac, brandy or rum, or vanilla

    *the coconut cream CANNOT have guar gum in it; Trader Joe's has carboxy methyl cellulose, and still whips, FYI. For an entertaining, yet sad picture of the results, see last picture at bottom of this post! :D

    1. Make the crust: in a foor processor, pulse the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt until medium-fine texture. Add the coconut oil and the dates, and pulse until it all comes together into a sticky ball. To know when you've processed enough, squeese a bit of the mixture in your palm-it should stick together. 

    2. Cut two wide strips of parchment that cover the width of the pie pan. Grease the pan, and then lay the strips of parchment accross in an "X". The coconut oil that you greased the pan with will help these stay in place. Oil or lightly wet your hands, and scoop crust mixture into pan. Distribute it evenly, and pat firmly into the pie tin. Use the underside of a measuring cup or a glass to help even-out. You want the crust to be firmly pressed in, but not too firm so that it becomes too compact so it doesn't come out easily when sliced (but if that DOES happen, you'll have the parchment strips to help coax pieces out).

    3. Bake the crust for 9-12 minutes, until it is fragrant and golden. Take crust out to cool while you make the filling.

    4. Make the filling: combine all the ingredients in a blender, and puree until completely smooth. Taste and adjust spices as desired. If using a conventional blender, it may take 3-5 miutes for the mixture to blend to complete smoothness. Scrape down the sides as needed. If the mixture is too thick to blend, then add a few TB of plant-based milk or water. Once smooth, simply pour into the baked and slightly cooled crust. Smooth out, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time. Pie can be frozen whole or in slices, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and put into another container to prevent freezer burn.

    5. Slice straight from the fridge, or freezer. Pie is easiest to slice when cool, but you can let it warm up as you see fit. Top with whipped coconut cream, and enjoy!

    To make coconut whipped cream: open the coconut cream as you had it in the fridge (open the bottom of the can!). Empty the watery contents into a jar, and reserve for a smoothie. Scoop out the thick, cold coconut cream into a large bowl, or the bowl of a mixer. Mix with a whip attachment (or just with beaters), until light and fluffy. Beat in the maple syrup, sea salt and booze if using. Can be whipped a few hours ahead of time, and placed in the fridge. Re-whip a touch with a whisk right before serving if your coconut whip deflates while sitting. 



    Crust: this is the texture of the oats and nuts that you'll want to aim for. Not too coarse, or else the mixture won't stick, and not too fine or the excess oils released from the nuts will make this too...well, oily, and like nut-butter.In with the *soft* dates (if they aren't soft, soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and drain thoroughly). Pulse until you have a mixture that sticks together when squeezed in your palm.Ok, now prep your pie dish by laying 2 strips of parchment cross-wise in a coconut-oiled pie dish (this is an extra precaution for if your pie crust sticks and you cannot manage to get pieces out! Simply lifting up simultaneously on the parchment flaps will get the pie loosened for easier cutting if the crust sticks).Ok, now pat the crumbly crust mixture into the dish, getting it as even in thickness as you can muster. I like to oil or wet my hands a bit to prevent sticking. To finish the edges and make it all even-like, use the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass...lightly oil or wet that, too! Sticking=the devil.Bake at 350F for 9-12 minutes, or unti fragrant and just starting to turn dark brown around the edges.Ok, while the crust bakes, get on with the filling! I love this part. The filling stuff! Simply throw (ok, not throw, gently pour/scoop/etc) into a blender, and....blend until completely smooth! It took me about 2 minutes in my Vitamix, but when I used a conventional, it look me about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the blender container as needed. Taste, and adjust sweetness and spice. This filling. So. Beautiful! The color gets me everytime. Just makes you want to smile, and shove your face in it. Right? Ok, now this is the part where you can diverge into pudding (place into a bowl and chill), freezer "fudge" (into a lined 8x8" pan and freeze until firm enough to cut into chunks) or carry on as pie! We'll make pie. So, scoop into the baked crust, smooth, and chill for at least 4 hours, up to 2 days ahead of time (just cover it so it doesn't dry out on top!). Slice into whatever size pieces you'd like, whip some coconut cream, and serve! Highly recommend enjoying a piece for breakfast with hot coffee or tea. So rich. So decadent. So not like your traditional pumpkin pie, but so delicious and full of pumpkin and spice! I love it. I hope you do to! If you do make it, let me know how it goes! Cheers and happy (early) Thanksgiving!ps: this is how whipped coconut cream looks WITH guar gum (lesson learned for you-don't repeat my mistakes!)

  • Homemade Pumpkin Puree

    The leaves are turning colors, the air is crisp, my fruit bowl is full of Honey Crisp and Spartan apples (need to do something about that...), and there are squash/pumpkins scattered around our apartment. That meant only one thing this past week: it was time for pie. Pumpkin pie.

    At first, I was going to go present to you a post all about 1) how to make your own pumpkin puree and 2) how to make a delicious, scrumptious, perfect plant-based pumpkin pie, complete with a coconut oil crust. I have two filling options and two crust options to share with you, both yielding a perfect plant-based pumpkin pie.

    However, as I typed the post out, I realized that it was going to be a BEAST. A pumpkin beast. So, this week, I present to you two installments: 

    • First: how-to make your own pumpkin puree    

    and....

    • Second: how-to make your very own, shove-you-entire-face-in-it-because-you-made-it-yourself plant-based pumpkin pie. It tastes amazing, has a texture very similar to the traditional pumpkin custard pie, and is full of those autumn spices that we all know and love.

    **Disclaimer: both versions of the classic pumpkin pie were tested not once, not twice, but three times. Each trial was tested and approved by at least 2 pumpkin pie taste testers, professionals in the realm of traditional pumpkin pie eating. Later in the season, I will share with you another version that has been approved by my dairy-farming family members. Yeah, it is that great, and a real show-stopper.**

    I love pumpkin pie. However, did you know that there is a secret among the old-skool bakers? The sneaky grandmas? Maybe even your parents? Well, I'll save you a childhood of lies (that is a bit dramatic!), deceit and folly: your pumpkin pie, the best one you've ever tasted, is made from squash. Yep-squash. Technically, pumpkin is squash, but I am talking about what we know as squash: butternut, kabocha, butterkin...a dense, sweet, intensely orange, not-too-stringey squash variety works wonders in a pumpkin pie. Why? Well, did you ever purchase a "pie" pumpkin and have it turn out to be too stringey, fiberous or not sweet enough? There is your answer. Legit squash is a fail-safe: always dense, sweet and never stringey. 

    My grandma...she is so sneaky...she had been using her homegrown butternut squash in her pies for years. YEARS. before my mom broke the news to me and my sister. I still remember that day: I was young, we were baking pies together, and my mind was blown. Squash? Ew. At the time, I hated squash. But after I tried that squash pie the next day, I knew my grandmother's secret: Perfect pumpkin pie=butternut squash pie. Still delicious, with a scoop (ok, ok...mound) of real whipped cream on top. I was in heaven as a kid, right there. The sweet, dense spicy pie contrasting with the cool, creamy, rich whipped cream. Today, a high-quality can of coconut cream with a touch of maple syrup, whipped to perfection, makes for a perfect topping for the perfect plant-based pumpkin pie. 

    Really, I should have known: she never grew pie pumpkins...only squash....silly me. Silly pumpkins.

    Making your own pumpkin or squash puree is SO. EASY. It is a perfect task for a weeknight that is chilly, or do it over the weekend. The canned stuff is great for in a pinch-but if you have the time, roast a few sugar/pie pumpkins and butternut squash (kabocha and butterkin work too), and puree the sweet, bright-orange flesh for a real treat for your next pie, loaf of pumpkin bread, soup, or even homemade pumpkin spice latte (yes, I did say that).

    Keep your eyes on the prize: PIE!!! 

    The pumpkin puree will keep for 1 week in the fridge in a covered container, or freeze it for a few months. I like to portion mine out into 16oz (~2 cups) portions, enough for a pie, in bags, label it (I forget everything) and freeze it for future pumpkin needs. Be sure to squeeze our the air when you do freeze to prevent freezer burn. Totally worth it. So do it. Now!!



    Pumpkin Puree // yield depends on how many pumpkins or squash you roast, and how big they are // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free; gluten-free; oil-free option //

    • Pie Pumpkins or Butternut Squash (or other variety of dense, sweet squash, like Kabocha)
    • Olive or other neutral cooking oil (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking)

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large sheet tray with parchment. Cut the stem end or remove the stem from the pumpkin, cut in half the down the stem end, and scoop out the seeds and pulp (save those for making roasted pumpkin seeds if you like).

    2. Lightly oil the insides of the pumpkin (optional, but helps prevent occasional sticking), place cut side down on the parchment, and roast until tender. This depends on your pumpkin and oven. It took me about 1.25 hours. The pumpkin should be easily pierced with a fork when it is done. Take the cooked pumpkins out, and allow to cook as-is on the tray until they can be handled, about 30 minutes up to overnight.

    3. When cool, simply peel off the skin or scoop the flesh out. Puree to desired smoothness in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender. Store in the fridge or freeze in desired quantities until you want to use it. 



    First things first, find a pumpkin...or squash, or two or three. I roasted 2 larger pie pumpkins, and got about 8 cups of puree. I would suggest you roast at least 2 at a time to make this process worth your while. It is worth your while...because pie!!Next, be-head the pumpkin, and carefully chop in half down the stem end.Ta daaaa!Scoop out the goop and seeds, reserving the seeds if you wish to roast them later.Ok, now plop cut side down on a lined baking tray and if desired, *lightly* coat with a neutral cooking oil. I used olive oil. This helps prevent the pumpkin from drying out and also sticking to the sheet, but is not necessary.Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a fork is easily poked into the pumpkin or squash. Allow to cool until you can safely handle them, and either scoop the flesh out OR simply peel the skin off. Puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Now, you're ready to make a pie, or use this puree in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree: bread, muffins, soups, hummus/dips...pumpkin galore! 

    Or, simply portion it out and freeze it for a few months.