Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Pie

This really is the perfect pumpkin pie. It comes together quickly, it has perfect pumpkin pie flavour, the texture is firm and silky, and there’s no soy aftertaste. I couldn’t ask for a better pie. You might want a more spicy pie, so add a bit more of the spices- it tastes pretty much the same raw or cooked, so make sure it tastes good to you before filling your crust.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1/2 cup Silk coffee creamer, other brands might work too.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups canned pumpkin- I used an organic brand that was very dry and firm- it needed to be spooned out of the can, it wouldn’t come out on its own. You want your pumpkin to be this dry, so consider straining it in cheesecloth.
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt
1/4 tsp cloves

You will need a 9″ pastry crust that has not been blind baked- stick it in the freezer for at least 30 mins before your bake time. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your rack in the middle. In a food processor blend first the tofu and creamer until smooth, then blend in the sugar and corn starch until smooth, then all the remaining ingredients. Fill frozen pastry crust and wrap the crust edges with strips of tinfoil to prevent burning. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for another hour, checking every so often to ensure the crusts aren’t burning and the filling is setting. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to the fridge over night to set completely. If you can wait that long. I decorated mine with pretty pastry stars, but you probably aren’t as nerdy as me, so a dollop of cashew cream will do fine for garnish. Or a cup of coffee, if you are like me and think pie=breakfast food.

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Magic Cookie Bars

My Oma was a prolific baker. She baked in competitions for flour to feed her five children, and when she baked, she baked in quantity. 400 hot cross buns for Easter, 200 tourtiers for Christmas, mountains of cookies and bars and giant pots of soup- she only knew how to cook for an army. Not that she was wasteful- everything would be frozen and distributed among children, grandchildren, neighbors, the church. Going to her house was just like Christmas. She would always have cookies and something warm on the stove to eat, tea and small presents and the warmest smiles. She would like to get Happy Meals at the mall, to collect the toys for her grandchildren.magic cookie bars

As you can imagine, when it was actually Christmas, it was even better- decorations around her tiny apartments, all kinds of cookies in festive tins, and entire garbage bags stuffed with toys, socks, and mittens. She had something magical about her. Her food was always unbelievably delicious, she always had a surprise waiting and a twinkle in her eyes. Her long, blonde hair would be done up in the most beautiful twists and knots, secured by pale bobby pins and plastic combs, though she hated having her picture taken. Her camera was reserved for portraits of her children and grandchildren, she would carry the prints around in her wallet, ready to share them with whomever would listen.

It all sounds so ordinary when I say it now, but she had that special quality that grandparents sometimes have. Everything just seemed a little shinier when I was with her.

Magic cookie bars were my favorite invention of hers. At least I thought they were her invention, turns out they were off of the back of a can of sweetened condensed milk. Chocolate and caramel and pecans and coconut- they were like candy bars, dense little bites of heaven. I had never tried making them before- I didn’t believe anyone could make them quite as delicious as she could. After all, as she would tell me, they were magic!

When she died last year, I thought that would be the end of Magic Cookie Bars for me. I mean, I was vegan, so I wouldn’t have eaten them anyway. But it was like a little bit of magic had been shut out from the world all the same. In time, though, I started to try and recreate her baking vegan versions- maybe she was gone, but I could still hold on to the spark of her life through our shared love of food and feeding those we love.

Then, one day I came across a recipe for them in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I needed to make them immediately. There were some problems- there are no vegan graham crackers in Edmonton, not graham cracker crumbs. So, I improvised. The first time I made an oreo crumb crust. Delicious, but not the same. Then, I found pre-made graham crumb pie crusts that happened to be vegan. I took them out of their shells, crumbled them, tossed them with a little melted margarine and put them in the usual 9×11 inch pan. Perfect.

Baker #1 These are just like Oma used to make. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would turn out so perfectly. The sweetened condensed coconut milk is heavenly on its own, try not to eat too much, as you will need it all for the recipe. It reminds me of vegan dolce de leche. You can see the whole recipe here.

Grandmothers are irreplaceable, but that’s why they leave us recipes, so we can keep reliving our moments with them even after they are gone.

Malcolm approves of them too.

Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream

Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge

NB: I recently found out that Coconut Bliss was bought out by a dairy farm. I believe the owner’s intentions were good, and that this was what they saw as the best way out of a crappy situation, but you can look at their explanation and decide for yourself!

I know I just admitted that ice cream was the thing I miss least about being vegan. However, there are certain situations where ice cream is called for, and it’s important to have a reasonable substitute to the dairy version. In this case, it was the boy’s birthday. After watching him devour a slab of tiramisu three inches thick, following a dinner of spaghetti doused in cooking oil and poorly prepared vegetables (diced, over-cooked asparagus, anyone? Undercooked white mushrooms?) I needed a treat. A treat that did not involve cooking. That’s where ice cream comes in. It’s such a decadent, once-in-a-while dessert, and done properly, it can make or break an evening.

I had tried other soy and coconut milk ice creams before, and found them lacking- either the texture (too processed or with artificial thickeners), or the flavour (just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I only eat fruit!) was just off. But Luna and Larry have done some kind of wonderful with Coconut Bliss. This stuff reminds me of Baskin Robinns– good, rich, dense, smooth- proper ice cream.

After first seeing it at Planet Organic I was intrigued…. after reading this review, I was compelled… and after PO decided to have a customer appreciation day with a discount on the stuff, I was sold. And I am so glad I was. I would not normally spend money/calories on a dessert- I’d rather spend it on good olives or wine. But this is excellent. Here’s what I recommend:

Coconut Bliss and Brandy (a suggestion, more than a recipe)

1 scoop Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Ice Cream
1 ounce good French brandy

Place ice cream in a tea cup or glass of your choosing. Pour brandy over. Swoon.