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yup. i bake now.

I originally created this recipe as a freelance project for a yogurt company. I first tested the cookie without yogurt to make sure the rest of the ingredients were sound. The result (below) was a chewy, sweet, heavily spiced cookie that is perfect for the holidays (I know, I know–I’m way late! Make them next year…).

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar, plus more for rolling
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375* F.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; set aside.

With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in batches and mix until just combined.

Using a tablespoon, form cookies and roll each cookie in sugar. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and press each cookie with your fingers to flatten slightly.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or longer for a crispier cookie.

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Another baked good that I brought on our trip to the woods. I was in search of something that represented fall, and what better than warm spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice. For a subtle kick and mild heat, I added ground cayenne pepper, though for this round I substituted with freshly ground black pepper.

1 cup / 141 g whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup / 73 g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup / 55 g ground flax meal
1 tsp / 4 g baking soda
1 1/4 tsp / 2 g ground cardamom
1 1/4 tsp / 2 g ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp / 1 g ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper or 15 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp / 2 g kosher salt
4 / 520 g over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup / 80 g low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup / 60 g canola oil
2 large / 100 g eggs
1/2 cup / 90 g brown sugar
1 teaspoon / 5 g vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
1. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, flax meal, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, bananas, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined.
4. Pour into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, turning halfway, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Notes: This is the third time I’ve tested this recipe, and though I make minor changes each time, it winds up being a success. (The weight measurements, however, were only done once, so they should be re-tested.) I started with a base recipe and do not know where I found it, but I made so many changes that I can safely say this is an original recipe.

In addition to packing beef jerky for our backwoods vacation on the lake, I went on a mini baking spree. Oatmeal bars made an appearance, only with dried fruit in lieu of chocolate (a better choice for this recipe). Spiced banana bread also found its way with us, but that’s for a future post. I also used this recipe from Gourmet magazine to make whole wheat berry muffins, mostly as a way to use up the miscellaneous berries that were expiring in the refrigerator.

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I made minimal changes: assortment of berries instead of only blueberries, slightly less sugar than called for, and omission of sugar topping. Recipe:

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used slightly less, and I think you could even cut it in half for something even more breakfast-friendly and healthy)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk (next time I will substitute with lower-fat milk or milk substitutes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I may swap for coconut oil next time around if I use a milk substitute)
1 1/2 cups assorted berries (fresh or frozen)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter muffin pan.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in zest.
3. Whisk egg in another bowl, then whisk in milk and butter. Add to dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (batter will be dense). Fold in berries. Divide batter among muffin cups.
4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then unmold onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from a Bob’s Red Mill recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal Bars, I made it vegan by swapping coconut oil for the butter. I didn’t have oat flour on hand and instead used whole wheat pastry flour, so it is not gluten-free. The reviews stated that the recipe was on the sweet side, so I used a bit less sugar than called for in the recipe.

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
Scant 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup superfruit jam or preserves (or any flavor you prefer)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease an 8×8-inch pan with coconut oil.
2. In medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil and vanilla. Stir in flour, oats, sunflower seeds, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt until thoroughly blended.
3. Press 1 cup of oat mixture firmly into bottom of the prepared pan. Spread jam evenly on top.
4. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over jam, then gently press.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is lightly browned and firm. Cool bars in pan for 30 minutes on wire rack. Cut into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 16 bars.

Notes: for some strange reason, these bars tasted better as they sat. The coconut flavor mellowed and it somehow tasted sweeter a few days later.

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Featuring spring carrots, these muffins are a healthy alternative to sweet morning confections. I started with a Carrot Apple Muffin recipe from Whole Foods, and tweaked it a good bit to make them vegan. The whole wheat pastry flour makes the muffins tender, applesauce keeps them moist, and coconut oil gently perfumes the end result.

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup grated carrots (from about 3 medium carrots)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp flax meal, soaked in 6 Tbsp water
1/4 cup almond milk (or any other milk alternative)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. “Butter” (with coconut oil) and flour a 12-cup standard muffin tin or use muffin papers. Set aside. (I used a non-stick muffin tin and omitted this step with great results.)
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a separate bowl, combine carrots, applesauce, soaked flax meal mixture, almond milk, coconut oil and vanilla.
5. Add half the carrot mixture to the flour mixture, stir until blended then add the rest of the carrot mixture.
6. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake about 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

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Notes from attempt #1: (Baking time: 20 minutes) Delicious, tender, moist, lovely! The only problem is the muffins are tiny tiny tiny–they barely rose in the oven. Definitely worth re-doing again (and again and again) to figure out what went wrong, because they are that delicious!

Notes from attempt #2: (Baking time 16 minutes) The muffins are still very small, but a tad bit larger than the previous attempt–but I’m okay with that! It’s a great guilt-free treat that compliments breakfast or completes a mid-afternoon snack.

Estimated nutrition facts: 130 calories, 6 g fat, 16 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein, vitamin A 30%

I used this recipe from Whole Foods. Changes I made: subbing coconut oil for butter, going just shy of 1/2 cup for the sugar, omitting the walnuts, increasing chocolate chips to just under 1 cup (mixed in the batter and sprinkled on top). Overall, not bad for a brownie made with black beans. Slightly grainy in texture, and a little too cakey for my taste. Plus, they stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Next time, I will under-bake, and consider swapping mashed banana for the sugar. Perhaps will omit eggs and use a ground flaxseed slurry to make it vegan (with the coconut oil). Needs work.

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The first–and only–time I had mochi was at the original Fatty Crab restaurant in New York City’s West Village. I went to this place every chance I got, before it was nearly impossible to get in. There was a time when there were no dessert items on the menu, but you would receive a little mochi cake with the bill. I had never tasted anything so pillowy (some people call that “heavenly”), chewy, and crunchy, all in the same bite. I needed more.

Fast-forward many years later, and I finally baked a mochi cake of my own. I used , as featured in Gourmet Magazine’s May 2005 edition. Changes made: addition of 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds sprinkled on the top of the cake batter, and sugar reduced to about 1 3/4 cups (simply because I ran out).

The result? Wonderful! Crunchy exterior, custardy and chewy on the inside. Next time: add more sesame seeds, try increasing sugar to 2 cups. They froze fairly well, though we’ll see how they hold up with a near two-week transit time to get to my brother in Afghanistan! They are very dense and satisfying, and great with a cup of tea in the evening.

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