But you know what? I actually can't complain, because there is so much awesomeness going on lately. Such as my favourite event of the year, which was last weekend: The 6th Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off.
This is my third year in the Bake-Off. I know I've chatted a bit about it in past posts here. Basically anyone can enter - you just create your own special vegan recipes and bake your little butt off! Everyone can attend. It's expanding each and every year, and this year was the biggest yet - a totally packed venue!! It's 10 bucks for a ticket, which gets you two plates of your categories of choice. Each category has six entries, I believe. You then vote for which was your favourite in that category, and whoever gets the most votes WINS!
Check out that crowd!
I could not decide on one dessert, so I did two. I always try to push the envelope and try something different.
I was so torn between doing a gluten free cupcake or entering some sort of brownie. I really wanted to try something gluten free because I'd never done that category, and I know a lot of vegans are embracing the GF life. Also, it does pose a fun challenge. I soon realized, though, that some GF desserts are much more challenging than others.
Gluten free desserts can be delicious, don't get me wrong. But make one false move and you end up with a dry, cardboard-like brick on your plate. Not a good way to rep GF. I did my research and did some trails. This is what I found:
-Pick flours wisely, and always use a starch (corn starch, potato starch, etc). Some flours taste stronger than others, and some suck up moisture more than others, among many other factors. You need all the precious moisture you can get in GF baking!
-Use plentiful moistening ingredients - apple sauce, mashed banana, almond pulp, shredded zucchini, you name it. Just don't be shy. Again, avoid the dryness.
-Most other desserts and baked goods are okay to let cool in the pan for a while before removing. This will increase the likelihood of cardboard in GF stuff. As soon as you can, take that baby to a cooling rack.
-Often freezing baked goods then thawing will improve their texture.
I still have a lot of experimenting to do, and I'm far from an expert, but these tips are something I can take home with me for next time I go on GF ventures. When in doubt, buy a good GF AP flour and follow a recipe to a tee!
Anyway, I decided GF cupcakes are just too damn hard, and although I did have some success, it's just so dense... and it wasn't Bake-Off worthy. I decided I'd do spelt and kamut carrot cupcakes, and also a GF brownie (much easier to make gluten-free and keep that delicious moistness!).
The brownie was my fave of the two, although I was proud of both. The cupcakes were definitely more tedious. Spelt does not rise as much as wheat flour, because it is significantly lower in gluten content. Kamut helped the rise, so I eventually added it to the recipe. After many trails, I put out an amazing dessert I was proud of. The cream cheese icing was especially delish - my boyfriend ate it up by itself!
Creamy Carrot Cupcakes
The Bake-Off was by far the most packed one yet. I love how it gets bigger and better each year. With over 60 bakers, and hundreds of desserts, it was an awesome day to be a vegan with a sweet tooth. How it works is you buy a ticket in advance (they sell out quick!), which is $10 and gets you two plates of choice of dessert samples.
I'm just sharing the brownie recipe because they are much less tedious, make less dishes, and can be made without too many ingredients. You will not be dissapointed! Also, no refined sugars or oils added. Just Mama Nature.
PS, the mocha drizzle is optional......but highly encouraged for an over-the-top experience!
Nutty Mocha Brownies (GF and Vegan)
-1 package Enjoy Life chocolate chunks, divided in half
-1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
-1/2 cup date paste*, or other liquid sweetener should work
-1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
-3/4 cup strong brewed coffee** (use double the amount of coffee you'd regularly use per amount of water)
-1 cup (preferably homemade) nut milk + 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
-2 tbsp flax seed + 6 tbsp water
-1 tsp vanilla extract
*To make date paste, blend 10-12 pitted Medjool dates with 1 cup of water until completely smooth. Pre-soak dates if you're not using a high powered blender. Make about one cup of date paste.
**Brew extra coffee if you're doing the mocha drizzle. See below.
-1 1/3 cups almond flour/meal
-1 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 cup cacao powder
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp sea salt
-2/3 cup crushed walnuts
For the mocha drizzle (optional):
-1 cup soaked cashews (soak overnight or at least two hours)
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 cup leftover brewed coffee
-15 Medjool dates, pitted
-1/4 cup carob powder
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Over very low heat, melt half the bag of chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Set the other half aside for later. Meanwhile, mix your flax and water in your blender/food processor and let it set. In your measuring cup, combine the milk and vinegar and let it curdle.
3. Once the chocolate is melted, put it in your blender or processor with the flax, milk mixture, and remaining wet ingredients, and blend away until smooth.
4. Transfer everything to a large bowl and add the dry stuff slowly, except the walnuts. Mix well. GF desserts need not be feared to over-mix. Fold in your walnuts.
5. Lightly grease a brownie pan and pour your batter in evenly. Bake for 35 minutes.
6. Let your brownies cool for about five minutes, then immediately remove them delicately. I used a large baking sheet to put over the brownie pan, and used my oven mitts to quickly flip it over. I lifted the pan, and voila! Once they're totally cool, cut them into your desired size. Note: The middle will be considerably softer, but once they're cooled they won't be all fudgey and loose. I love when they're all soft, though... mmm. It's hard to make GF stuff cool totally evenly, I find.
Once they're totally cooled, you can make the mocha drizzle...
1. Blend your soaked cashews along with the water and coffee in a blender at high speed until smooth.
2. Add the dates and carob and blend until completely smooth. If your dates are on the harder side, let them sit in the liquid for a bit before blending, unless you have a high powered blender which can just rough it out.
3. Using an icing piper, or a Ziploc bag with a little corner cut off, pour your drizzle in and put it over your brownies in a zig-zag motion. Or you can just use a flat rubber spatula and do it freestyle. Have some licks off the spoon along the way.
I topped mine with more crushed walnuts!
Hope you guys enjoy these as much as I did!! I got lots of great feedback on these babies. They made me proud, even though I didn't win.
Here are some more pics of the event:
Here are some more pics of the event:
My daddy and I
I finally met a fellow vegan blogger! Lisa at Je Suis Alimenteuse
Myself and beautiful Aleks over at Dessert Art
Myself and my best friend
And some breathtaking presentations and plates... food porn, hello!!