Don’t Tell Jim*…

…But these cookies are made with coconut.

*Jim is my mother’s fiancé. And Jim hates coconut. However, Jim loves these cookies. Like, really loves these cookies. As in he won’t share them with anyone else. So I don’t want to ruin them for him by telling him that he actually likes coconut.**

**And I realize, that by posting on a completely public blog in an open forum, there’s pretty much no chance that he won’t see this. But I figured I needed to share this information with all of you, in order to put into perspective how absolutely, completely freaking awesome these cookies are. But seriously, if you see him, don’t tell him why they taste so good…

Moving on:

Yesterday was my day off, and it was one of those absolutely perfect yoga-and-farmers-market-and-long-walks-up-the-side-of-a-small-mountain-with-my-dog kind of days. Which made it the perfect kind of day for finally trying out the recipe I’ve been writing and rewriting and fretting over for the last week.

Long walks up the side of a small mountain with my dog...

My last recipe, the More Than a Spoonful of Sugar Caramel Meltaways, was good, but the caramels were missing…something. Jim, who has this thing for pointing out minute details in taste, texture, and mouthfeel, let me know: the cookies were good but the caramel was…just alright. I really do appreciate that kind of feedback–because in order to get better, I have to know what works for my potential customers and what doesn’t.

So I looked at the caramel recipe. Now, caramel is a really difficult beast to tackle. It’s not a beginner’s food–it involves split second timing and a low margin of error…a single sugar crystal on the side of the saucepan can ruin a whole batch of caramel, and a few seconds of extra heat can leave you with a pan full of burned sugar that needs hours of soaking and scraping.

The secret to caramel involves watching that thermometer very carefully...

For the last cookie, I spent hours searching the web for comparing regular and vegan caramels. All of them used sugar, some form of cream (be it soy or true dairy), some form of fat (butter or its vegan equivalent), some form of sugary “interfering agent” per David Leibovitz (i.e. corn syrup), and then salt or vanilla to taste. However, I didn’t want to use vegan butter or Soy creamer to make caramels. I don’t know why, but the concept of using processed “foods” to make the caramels didn’t appeal to me–and I was right in assuming that the end result wouldn’t be the knock-your-socks-off stellar kind of caramel that I needed in order to make my cookies shine.

So I decided that I was going to write my own recipe.

I first searched the web for alternatives to the Earth Balance/Silk dominated vegan caramels, but I found literally nothing. This meant that I would have no foundation on which to build, at least not in a concrete sense. I wracked my brain for alternatives…and settled on coconut.

Full fat coconut milk (which, if you’re concerned contains a healthy medium chain fatty acid, which has been making waves among the health food community of late) could take the place of processed creamers or heavy dairy creams, and coconut oil could, after factoring in its lack of water content, take the place of butters and margarines. I also got rid of the corn syrup by substituting brown rice syrup and a small amount of molasses. I kept the sugar, salt, and vanilla, since they needed no substitution.

After a week of doing math (which, for this former English major, was no small feat!), I figured out what seemed like the best ratios for caramel success, and I set to work at the stove.

To die for? I think so.

The result was a resounding absolute success. Yummy, delicious, sticky caramel, which would wow even a coconut-hater.

This meant I needed a cookie to stick it in.

Sticking with the coconut theme, I made a coconut oil based chocolate chip cookie (and they don’t even taste like coconut!), and then put a small piece of caramel in the center of each cookie before baking.

Chocococonut Caramel Cookies!

Jim loved them. So much so that he had to talk everyone in the house out of trying one, just so he could have them all for himself.

I’m okay with that–so long as no one tells him what’s in ’em.

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS I’m still raising money to pay for my commercial kitchen and insurance costs so that I can start my business. If you (or anyone you know) can donate, please do so here: Help Bring KP’s Cookies to the World!

More Than a Spoonful of Sugar Caramel Meltaways

I’d like to dedicate the following recipe to my friend Jen, who I’ve known about 8 million playground minutes (roughly translated, to those who speak grown-up, into 17 years). Why Jen? Because she’s my hero, plain and simple (PS, this post is going to get real wordy real quickly. There’s a picture of cookies at the bottom to reward the intrepid readers amongst you):

Two nights ago (for those of you on East Coast time…otherwise, it’s still two hours until yesterday…um, right. Moving on:), Jen proved (as she has, time and time again over the last several years), that it is fully possible to live your dream. Hokey? Absolutely. Doesn’t make it any less true.

Jen is the girl sitting right in the center & I'm on her right. Things haven't changed all that much since 1997!

I met Jen in a drama camp at the local JCC, where we became “orphan sisters” in the summer production of Annie. I was eight at the time, and she was nine–and already Jen was the ring leader of what would become an incredibly strong group of friends, (the inexplicably named) Tuna Fish Club.

Members of the Tuna Fish Club...I honestly don't know how that name happened.

Even at the ripe old age of nine, Jen loved theatre. And as the years passed, Jen made it pretty clear that it was her mission in life to work on Broadway, and to be the person whose words would transcend history with the story of drama in our time.

That’s a pretty heavy mission to carry around on nine year old shoulders, but Jen carried it–all the way to New York City, where she studied theatre and later fell in with a crowd of up-and-coming theatre hopefuls. With them, she made it to Broadway…and that was only the start.

Remember that time we "went to the Tony Awards" by standing awkwardly outside of Radio City for an hour?

About a year and a half ago (give or take), Jen and one of her friends started a small cabaret style theatre show called If It Only Even Runs A Minute, which revived forgotten musicals, and put them, and their stories back on stage. It was part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and it apparently turned a couple of heads. I say that, because two nights ago, Jen brought If It Only Even Runs A Minute 8 to Joe’s Pub–and for those of you in the know, that’s a really, freaking huge deal.

Why tell this story? And what does it have to do with cookies? Well, in my life, I’ve realized that there are three kinds of people: The people who have dreams that fall into their laps by way of luck, money, or magic; the people who sit around hoping their dreams will come true; and the people who actually just go out and make things happen.

Jen has always, always been one of the latter kinds of people. She’s been fearless in her pursuit of her goals, and now I’m firmly convinced that Jen is poised to become a theatre historian for our time, one of the definitive voices of our generation. I am so incredibly proud of her–and at the same time, I’m in awe of her courage. She is and always has been one of my heroes…and I’ve finally come to the point in my own career that I am ready to stop being a hoper and become a do-er like her.

I’ve realized that I cannot live fearlessly–but I can live courageously. I can do things, like pack up my life and move across the country. Or lease a car in my own name and start a new job. Or hop into a car I’ve never driven onto a highway that’s completely foreign and get to my destination without getting lost. Or walk into the Office of the Clerk-Reporter and fill out the form to declare my business official in Santa Clara Valley.

So, as of two days ago, KP’s Cookies is a real thing. I may not have any money, but I have a plan. And I’m looking forward to making my dreams come true–and I know they’ll run more than a minute.

I said all of that to set you up for the cookie to follow. I’ve called them “More Than a Spoonful of Sugar”* Caramel Meltaways. Jen, these are for you!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*This title only makes sense if you know musicals.** Or Julie Andrews. Or if you can’t stand musicals or Julie Andrews (which is none of you, because that’s obviously blasphemy) but just want to get literal (since there’s sugar in and around the cookie), then that works too…

**And, yes, I realize that Mary Poppins was a movie first. It still counts. Mainly because I thought about making a She Loves Me Vanilla Ice Cream Cookie, and the logistics of making a vegan, potentially shippable cookie made my head spin.

EDIT: If you would like to help me get KP’s Cookies off of the ground, please visit my GOFUNDME Page!

Bad Breath Cookies (and other “weird” foods)


I want to start by stating that my food habits have never been what one might classify as “normal.”*

When I was a toddler, I refused to eat anything but hot dogs and broccoli. And then there were the unfortunate years that can only be referred to as the Era of Steak-Umms and Tortellini (but we try not to reference those years much)…

There were also the (too many) years of disordered eating, in which I ate almost nothing but rice cakes, all natural peanut butter and apples, and, most recently, the super-high-protein-and-supplement diet I undertook in order to become an NPC Bikini competitor.

But right now, I’m finally eating “normally,” and people still give me funny looks.

So let me start this post by stating: being a vegan is both normal and healthy. It’s also possible to be abnormal and unhealthy–but being a vegan, if you’re doing it right, means that you’re not just eating steamed broccoli and maybe some pasta for dinner. In the past few months, I’ve learned so much about balanced vegan eating from a ton of amazing, informative bloggers, that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could see veganism as unhealthy or weird. It’s not. I promise. And being a vegan is helping me to get past my disordered eating and into health. So there.

If you want weird, however, I can give you weird.

Weird like garlic and chocolate. Together. In a cookie. A vegan cookie.

No, seriously.

Have you ever eaten a clove of roasted garlic? It’s one of my desert island foods (seriously…this is where my eating habits get weird.). And so the other day, while eating a salad (with tempeh and black beans, mind you) liberally sprinkled with cloves of sweet, addicting roasted garlic, I had an idea: why not put that amazing sweetness into a cookie?

Why not indeed:

Imagine, if you will, garlic roasted in hazelnut oil and agave nectar and coated in semi-sweet chocolate.

Now, take that garlic and pair it with some hazelnuts, and then add them into the most Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie you can sink your teeth into…and:

Voilá!

I give you Bad Breath Cookies.

My house smelled like an Italian restaurant while these baked. And they were totally worth the garlic breath.

Not weird at all.

Love and Cookies,

KP

PS I am amazed by the response I’ve gotten to the concept (and the taste!) of these cookies. Evidence of their epic awesomeness:

 

*If there even is such a thing as “normal,” that is…

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!

Courage in the kitchen

There’s an old saying that “cooking is an art, but baking is a science.” And if I had to choose, I’d say that I am more artist than scientist. Which is why it is utterly baffling that I am a baker.

The saying comes from the idea that, when cooking a dish, a pinch of this here and a dash of that there is really all about creating a tapestry of flavors that suit your tastebuds as you cook; when baking a dish, if you add a pinch of baking soda but were supposed to add a pinch of baking powder, you’re looking at a potential disaster.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that once you understand the fundamental mathematical & scientific process that govern the successful creation of a baked good, then you can start to look at the dish from an artist’ s perspective.

Which is how my Vegan Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookies went from “really good” to “freaking amazing.” All it took was a little bit of experimentation and scientific guidance from a guy named Mattie. Mattie doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but I discovered his website, veganbaking.net, the other day, and it’s changed my life. He has an incredibly scientific approach to the conversion of conventional baked goods (the butter-and-eggs kind I’m used to baking) into vegan ones. It was on that site that I discovered his recipe for vegan banana butter–which sounded like it might be the perfect ingredient to kick my cookies into the “freaking amazing” category.

Vegan Banana Butter!

I’m really proud of these cookies–and I’m starting to feel more confident in experimenting with flavors and even fundamental ingredient combinations, which can only make my cookies better. And I’m grateful for people like Mattie–as well as Alton Brown (but who isn’t grateful for Alton Brown), and Jeff Potter (who wrote Cooking for Geeks)–because they do the dirty work of figuring out the exact ratios of xanthan-gum-to-lecithin to create perfect vegan butter, or explain the hows and whys behind mixing one ingredient before another to create the perfect cookie consistency.

The yummy result

And now that I’m gaining that confidence, my cookies are only going to get better. I’m hoping that with every batch, I am one bite closer to becoming a professional baker, and not just an amateur with a little luck.

And thank you all for reading as I start to grow into myself and into my kitchen. Your support is what keeps me baking.

I love you all & have a happy Thanksgiving!

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS I’ve made a commitment to myself today that in one year–on my 26th birthday–I will have a fully functional, successful cookie business. And by making this public declaration, well, I have no choice but to live up to my words and make it a reality. Get ready, world. KP’s cookies are on their way.

Cookies in the bread box?

Friends, followers, fellow cookie-lovers, lend me your ears…or, um, your eyes. Or even, you know, potentially your tastebuds:

I had overripe bananas.

I over-ripened them on purpose.

My purpose could be considered nefarious, if by nefarious you mean THE BEST IDEA EVER.

It wasn’t even my idea. You can blame my friend Sidney.*

As of today, there exists in the world Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookies.

You heard right: Banana Bread Cookies.

You might ask, how can they be cookies and bread? And I appreciate that question. They’re not banana bread. But they taste like banana bread, and that’s the important part. I substituted stone ground whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, and added in oats for texture, so these cookies took on a hearty taste. The addition of the banana kept them moist and soft, and the addition of cranberry and walnut? Well, see the reference to “nefarious” above.

Of course, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. I made two batches of the cookies, one regular (your plain ol’ butter-‘n-eggs scenario) and one vegan.

Here are the substitutions I made:

Starting with the butter, I used equal amounts of regular unsalted sweet cream butter and vegan Earth Balance. For some reason, even though the Earth Balance is not actually butter, the vegan cookies tasted much more buttery than the butter-based cookies. I suspect this has something to do with the salt content of the Earth Balance, but methinks I need to do a little more research.

I also played around with flax eggs for the very first time. Eggs are the glue that hold the recipe together, and there exist a bunch of different vegan options…I felt bad enough about using fake butter, so I decided to shy away from using something like “Ener-G egg replacer.” (I’m going to make my own vegan butter as soon as I can figure out where I can get my hands on some liquid soy lecithin…). I used a flax seed “egg”, which means I whisked 1 tbsp of golden flax meal in 3 tbsp of water. The consistency was similar to the thick gooey mess you get when you use  regular ol’ egg whites, so I figured that it would be a good sub. Moreover, you can’t go wrong with flax when you’re going for a more hearty healthy taste. (Not that these cookies taste “healthy” per se. Who wants that?)

I conducted a blind taste test with my trusted taste testers, and here is what they had to say:

On the day the cookies were baked, the vegan cookies had a fuller, more buttery flavor, and slightly more depth. Fresh out of the oven, there vegan cookies were the winner by a nose.

On the day after, however, the regular butter cookies set up beautifully. Somehow, the flavor just…blossomed. The vegan cookies, which felt fuller yesterday, tasted lighter & less hearty in comparison.

That said, there’s no clear winner. Neither cookie is exactly what I want it to be. I’m considering these a nice test, but I have some ideas for making an even better cookie. I also want to focus on making the vegan cookie work as well as the other, because I think it’s important to expand my vegan repertoire. Keep an eye on my blog in the upcoming weeks…as soon as I can get my hands on that soy lecithin, and as soon as I can ripen some more bananas, then we’ll see the Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookie 2.0!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*You can blame Sidney for my biscotti, too.