Starting From Scratch

I am a dessert person. I love dessert.  There is no doubt that I got my love of desserts entirely from my mom. My dad is not a “dessert person”, at all. Apparently, when it came to dessert at a restaurant, they did the “she gets the dessert, he tastes a couple of bites” routine. And I don’t mean “he actually eats half”, I actually mean a couple of bites. If I let my husband share my dessert, I generally cut it in half first because a) I don’t share well, and b) he also loves dessert (although slightly less than me).

Since it was my dad’s birthday a few days ago, I wanted to make him a cake that was, well, healthy. Something he would actually eat. I wanted to make a super fancy raw cake, but didn’t have the time to do all the prep (i.e. learn how to make 8 cups of almond milk from scratch). I resorted to making a “regular” cake. I figured an apple cake. Between applesauce and apple bits, if I searched for a healthy vegan apple cake, there would be something, right? Wrong. Apparently “healthy” includes at least 1/2 cup of oil, usually more like 1 full cup. After nearly an hour of searching, I gave up. I did some research. I built my own recipe from scratch. Nearly 1/3 of the recipe volume was applesauce.

And it tastes and looks delicious!

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Except for one itsy bitsy problem…it’s super dry and crumbly. Half of me wants to just try upping the applesauce, as it was a pretty thick batter. The other half of me is fairly sure I will have to increase the coconut oil from 2 tbsp to 3 or 4 tbsp. The tragedy! Unfortunately, until this fiasco is resolved, I will be keeping this recipe to myself. I don’t think there’s a huge demand for healthy, crumbly apple cakes.

I suppose the problem could be covered up solved by slathering it in icing…but where’s the fun in that?

What’s your favourite “healthy” dessert recipe?

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Black Forest Cookies

It’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for…a new cookie recipe! Took me long enough, I know, but life has been surprisingly busy lately (I wonder why). But last night the urge to bake hit me and out came something delicious. And, applesauce-ified.

 

This recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, modified to be a bit healthier and, of course, the addition of cocoa and cherries.

Black Forest Cookies

Whisk together:

  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat in a large bowl until well blended:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar

Add and beat until well combined:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended and smooth, then stir in:

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c chocolate chips

Grease a cookie sheet and drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls about 2 inches apart.

Now take out an equivalent number of maraschino cherries (my batch made 19 cookies) and squeeze them between some paper towel to get the excess liquid out. Push one cherry into the center of each cookie.

 

Bake for about 10 minutes at 375°F, until cookies spring back when poked OR a toothpick inserted comes out clean (except for chocolate chips, of course).

So, how were they? Extremely tasty! They have that same cake-y texture as most of the applesauce substitute cookies I have tried, but don’t seem to have that baking soda flavour. The dough itself is not very sweet, but the cookies (and cherries) definitely make up for it.

Enjoy!

P.S. I love feedback! If you make one of my recipes, please leave me a comment saying what you thought of it!

Carrot Cake Variation

Carrot cake. Delicious not just because of the generous portions of cream cheese icing (it really can’t be called carrot cake with any other type of icing)–but also due to the high oil content. Unlike most cakes that use butter, carrot cake just says “screw it, I’m not going to pretend” and uses oil. I read somewhere that it was because oil was much easier to come by during wartime, when the recipe was created. It also helps keep everything moist much better than butter.

However, I tend to balk at putting in 1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil. Instead, I turn to my good friend applesauce. I found this recipe over at allrecipes.com years ago, read tons of the comments, and added the best modifications to it. Then I changed it some more. What’s left is a slightly less unhealthy, but still very delicious cake.

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Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Beat together in large bowl:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 c white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in smaller bowl:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine dry and wet ingredients, then add:

  • 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 3 c grated carrots
  • 1 c unsweetened coconut (optional)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely (unless you’re using a glass baking dish, in which case you can leave it in there).

Icing

Beat until creamy in a medium bowl:

  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 c icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c unsweetened coconut (optional)

Wait to ice the cake until it has cooled completely!

Even halving the oil, the cake was still very moist, thanks to the pineapple and applesauce. In order to compensate for all that extra acid introduced by these oil alternatives, I cut down the baking powder–the previous time I made it, there was a slightly odd taste to it, like it hadn’t all reacted. This seemed to do it because there was no funny taste this time.

Only using 1 1/2 cups of sugar did make a noticeable difference in sweetness. This was definitely compensated for by the icing, but if one was using a less sweet icing (or heaven forbid, none!), it might be worth adding a bit more.

The end result was sampled by at least a dozen different people and everyone loved it. Hope other people love it too 🙂

Sarah

More Applesauce Adventures

Well, having had several batches of Snickerdoodles, specifically applesauce flavoured ones, I find myself temporarily bored with them. So when we (Tristan and I) went to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies last night, I was initially willing to just make regular cookies. But then I saw the 1 cup of butter, and 1 3/4 cups of sugar….and I just couldn’t do it. Out came the applesauce! We debated for awhile over how to change the ingredients. In the end we replaced 1/2 c butter, 1/4 c white sugar, and 3/4 c brown sugar, with just one cup of applesauce. (We did increase the chocolate chips by 1/2 c as well…but chocolate is way better than extra butter or sugar.)

Here’s the final recipe:

Whisk together:

  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Beat in a large bowl until well blended:

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce

Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in:

  • 1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 1/2 c rolled oats

Heat oven to 350. Grease the pan(s). Make into 1″ round balls, about 1.5″ apart. Bake until cookies are lightly browned all over, 12 to 14 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

The cookies are surprisingly non-apple-y, so that was a nice change from the snickerdoodles. They are pretty tasty, though it may be partially due to the high chocolate density. Also, we didn’t have rolled oats, so we used large flake quick oats instead. Unfortunately, the cookies turned out a little bit on the dry side; and, once again, they were very cake-y in texture.

I was very perplexed with all the cake-i-ness from the previous snickerdoodle experiments, so I did a bit of research(Thanks, Cooking for Geeks!) Anyway, what it came down to was things that produce air (acid base reactions) and things that trap the air in. Baking soda is a base, so it reacts with any acids in the dough to produce air. Flour (gluten) traps it in. What adding applesauce does, is not only does it distribute the reactants (baking soda and acids) better–it also adds more acid itself. (Baking powder is a self-contained reaction, it contains balanced amounts of acid and base.) The baking powder in this recipe was already reduced from 3/4 tsp to 1/4 tsp.

The next try will likely be to cut out all the baking powder, and reduce the baking soda as well. As for the dryness, it looks like cutting out a bit of flour may also be in order.

Enjoy!

Sarah

Applesauce Snickerdoodles – Take 2

So, I tried it all again, this time adding more applesauce. I made a double batch, and cooked some up right away. As per last time, batter was quite sticky, and the cookies had a very cake-y consistency. Very strong apple flavour, as well. The second batch, however, got refridgerated for a few days, and ended up quite different. These cookies were denser and had a much less overwhelming taste of applesauce.

Overall, I’d say they were much more Snickerdoodle-y. So, yay! For fun, I had a bunch of dough left over in the second batch, and I smushed it altogether in a 8″ square pan, ending up with this:

Interestingly, it had a more cake-y texture again, so perhaps it is also related to the size of the cookie (i.e. smaller cookie = denser).

I’m going to call this experiment successful! So the final recipe is:

Applesauce Snickerdoodles

Mix together thoroughly …

  • 1/4 + 1/8 cup butter
  • 1/2 + 1/8 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg

Sift together and stir in …

  • 2 cup sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Sugar Mixture

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Chill dough (only optional if you want more cake-y texture). Roll into balls the size of walnuts. Then roll each ball in the sugar mixture before placing about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400ºF until lightly browned but still soft, approximately 10 minutes.

I’ve been having the urge to make both banana bread and red velvet cake lately, so perhaps the next adventure will be to mix the two.

Sarah

Applesauce Snickerdoodles – Take 1

My first attempt at making snickerdoodles healthier by using applesauce was a great success as a cookie, but not so much as a snickerdoodle. I took the basic recipe and instead of 3/4 cup butter and 1 cup sugar, I added:

  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 + 1/8 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup sugar

The batter was really sticky! Until I added the last bit of applesauce, it was a lot like scone batter (very dry and layered). In order to fit all the cookies onto one pan, there were some very large cookies–which was a less than awesome idea. They took a lot longer to cook (about 10 min longer for some of the bigger ones). However! The outcome, while a bit dry and a tad dense, was a tasty-apple cinnamon flavoured cookie (that was a big hit among my friends).

Yes! Just look at all that tasty cookie goodness! The other difference between these cookies is that since they were so much drier, they didn’t melt as much (the mojito attempts were much flatter).

So, what would I change? More applesauce! I think I would go up to 3/4 cup applesauce, with the same reduced levels of butter and sugar. That will be my next try! And after that I’m thinking maybe whole wheat flour. Of course, at that point they may not be snickerdoodles anymore.

Enjoy!