Change is Good…

It’s official…I’m a grown-up. I just signed the lease on a car, and the car is in my name. I’m officially overwhelmed.

Signing the lease...

That being said, I’m also incredibly excited. I love the West Coast so far…spending time hanging out with my little brother (and, yes, watching as much iCarly as possible) definitely balances out the fact that my cookie dough is coming out a little dry in the cold weather & high elevation.

And my dog loves California too!

It’s still very surreal–and as I move forward with my new life, I find myself still tying up loose ends. Like cookie videos from my old kitchen, which haven’t yet debuted on the site.

So, while I unpack & tweak my current cookie doughs (and before I treat you all to a new recipe), I’m going to leave you with a couple of batches of Florida-born cookies.*

Enjoy!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*PS These cookies are my mom’s favorites, so I’m featuring them today. She has graciously allowed me to come and live with her, and I cannot, cannot, cannot thank her enough. (I also made her a batch of these before I left Florida so she could enjoy them as soon as I landed in San Francisco!)

Pigging out. Sort of.

Hello, 2012. It’s so nice to see you. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to meet you…I’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship with 2011, and I’m not sorry to see it go.

Like any good relationship, 2012, this one will start with cookies. I’ve been wracking my brain thinking of the best recipe with which to welcome you into my life.

There are so many cultures that welcome New Years into their lives with food…Almost always, those foods are circular (so cookies were a go). But grapes have been done (in the form of raisins); collard greens, though okay in smoothies, might have been visually unappealing; and sauerkraut? Well, I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

And then, 2012, I remembered the New Year’s Eve I spent in Austria with one of my best friends and his family. On New Year’s day, they served us little marzipan . And that made me think of the New Year’s ham that had, in the past, graced my step family’s table (kosher we are not). And then my feeble little brain, already overtaxed with visions of sugar plums past, made the almost unimaginable leap to the cookies I made for one of my former roommates as a thank you gift  earlier in the year: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Covered Candied Bacon cookies. (Adapted from the ridiculously inspirational How Sweet It Is.)

The thought looked something like this: Bacon. Ham. Pigs……vegan? Yes.

And so, 2012, I took a risk. A leap of faith, if you will. And I ask you to take that leap of faith with me. Because, oh my god, was that little leap worth it:

I give you 100% Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter “Bacon”* Cookies!

Happy New Year!

Because it looks like bacon...

...and it smells like bacon...

...and it tastes like bacon...

...But it's 100% VEGAN!

Let’s make this relationship a good one, 2012.

Love & Cookies,

KP

*My “bacon” is a recipe adapted from Just the Foods‘s Imitation Bacon Bits and made with Textured Vegetable Protein, which is just a fancy word for defatted soy flour, or, more colloquially, soy crumbles. Sounds kind of not-yummy, I know; you’d be surprised, however, just how ridiculously tasty this fake bacon can be. I’m not a huge fan of “fake meat” when it comes to dinner; I prefer to accept that I’m not eating meat and enjoy the unique tastes of the different vegetable, nut, and legume proteins that I’m adding to my diet. But that said, this fake bacon is really, really, really good. And, somehow, it works when you throw it in a Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie.

The Great Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment of 2011!

Hello, cookie lovers! I hope you haven’t forgotten about me…I apologize for the lack of baked goods recently, but I’ve been dealing with a rather (emotionally AND physically) time-consuming leg injury…

But never fear, for I return. And, boy, do I return with a doozy:

Let me start by stating that I have nothing against non-vegan cookies. In fact, some of my best recipes are non-vegan cookies. But when I came up with a crazy ridiculously out-there idea for a new recipe*, I decided that it needed to be vegan. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I like a challenge. Maybe because it means I can bake it for my sister when she comes home for winter break. Maybe because I want to be able to sample (read: eat all of) the dough while I bake.

Whatever.

Either way, I knew that this impending cookie insanity needed to have a  chocolate chip cookie base. (Oh, and I should interject here to explain that, for the large majority of my cookie recipes, I have two bases: chocolate chip and sugar. The chocolate chip base is made with melted butter, and is dark, rich, and chewy; the sugar base is made with a mixture of creamed butter and vegetable shortening, and is lighter, puffier, and more cake-like. This doesn’t include any of my shortbread cookies, or any of the crazy ones I’ve tried, like meringues, fortune cookies, banana/pumpkin base, etc.)

Why does this cookie need a chocolate chip base? Because it needs a dark, rich, chewy cookie that can stand up to some seriously intense flavor demands. My only problem is that, while I have and amazing Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which is tried and true and exactly what I would need, I don’t have a vegan Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookie.

And so began the Great Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment of 2011:

Because I’d never made vegan chocolate chip cookies, I decided to start with a tried and true recipe. I looked to Isa Chandra Moskowitz of The Post Punk Kitchen, because she is the definition of vegan baker, at least if the food-blogosphere has anything to say about it. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is made without fake butter or eggs. In fact, the recipe is as far away from my Better Thank Chocolate Chip Cookies (henceforth BTCCCs for reasons of brevity and convenience) as it can get. Her cookies involve vegetable oil, tapioca starch and almond milk.

Post Punk Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookie batter

The resulting batter was light & yellow, and it tasted very…bright. It was also very oily (which stands to reason, since it was made with oil)…Not exactly conducive to eating raw, which takes all of the fun out of making cookie dough. I put it in the fridge while I made another batter. (Since chilling cookies supposedly helps keep them from spreading as they bake.)

Better Than (vegan) Chocolate Chip Cookie batter

The second batter I made was based on my BTCCCs. In fact, I made the recipe exactly as written, but substituted Earth Balance for the butter and one tbsp of flax for the egg. This batter was dark and rich and spicy, almost exactly like my regular non-vegan BTCCCs. I placed that in the  fridge, as well.

See how different the batters look?

I baked my BT(v)CCCs first, because they bake at a lower temperature. The result? Ridiculous, amazing taste, but they spread like crazy and stuck to the baking sheet.

I turned the oven up to 350 and put in the Post-Punk Kitchen cookies. Shaping the cookies was difficult, because the chocolate chip cookies kept falling out. They tasted pretty good though–much brighter and more vanilla-y than the others…but these, too, fell flat and stuck to the baking sheet.

Glistening in their oily goodness?

Flat PPK Cookies

I was stunned. How could both recipes, one oil-based and the other butter/margarine based, spread like that?

I had some ideas (especially about the PPK cookies). And so I forged on.

Maybe, I reasoned, the BT(v)CCCs fell flat because I melted the Earth Balance. Maybe they needed more fat, because margarines have a higher water content than butter. Maybe they would be better served by adding two tbsp more Earth Balance and creaming the EB instead of melting it.

How could these possibly fall flat?

They fell flat.

And since Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome, I decided to be sane and change the recipe completely.

I found a good basic oil cookie recipe–no non-dairy milks or starches added. And then I added more oil. Better oil. Canola oil and a little hazelnut oil for good measure. I tripled the vanilla. I added some spices.

And, holy hell, thus was born the most divine vegan chocolate chip cookies ever. In fact, that’s what I think I’ll call them.

Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Rich.

Chewy.

Bliss.

Enjoy.

Love & Cookies,

KP

*And this might just be my craziest recipe yet…so check back, because it’s next to go into my oven!

There’s nothing better than chocolate chip cookies…

I never thought I’d be a baker. In high school, I spent my time preparing to become the next Press Secretary to the President of the United States. And an English professor at an Ivy League school. And a Broadway-produced playwright/leading lady.

And then I made Matt a batch of cookies.

You see, back in high school, my best friend & I started going to Whole Foods & buying their amazing blueberry muffins to eat on the beach at sunset. And so I baked Matt a batch of blueberry muffins. And somehow that got us on the subject of chocolate chip cookies. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that he prefers his chocolate chip cookies to be of the harder, browner variety, whereas I prefer the soft or chewy kind. Either way, I decided to bake a batch.

After some trial and error,  I stumbled upon a best-of-both-worlds kind of recipe–chocolate chip cookies that have the deep, full flavor of a harder, more browned cookie, but retain the bite of a chewy, soft cookie. The depth of flavor comes from the spices I add…and the fact that in my first batch I accidentally tripled the vanilla (and then never looked back!).

These cookies really are “Better than Chocolate Chip.” If you don’t believe me, ask my friends who taste-tested the batch I brought with me to work yesterday. Or don’t–because they’ll tell you not to eat them (so they can have them all for themselves!).

Here’s how I make my Better than Chocolate Chip cookies:

Turns out, being a baker is “better than” I could have ever expected in high school.

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS If you want to know more about what Matt’s doing to help New Haven Schools, check out this link! (and also this one!)