Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

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It’s thawing time. Are you ready to thaw? I’m totally ready to thaw.

Everyone’s emerging from their wintry cocoons. Runners are wearing neon. People are yelling hellos across the street. Smiles just happen. Ducks and swans are chilling on the pond that’s lost its icy sheet.

You know winter is over when windows open. When we start to let the cross breezes clear layers of dust. Turning down the thermostat and wearing ankle-high pants never felt so good.

What’s up, March. I’m springing forward. I’m doing a long jump into this month. I’m mid-air and far from ready to land.

There are a couple of things I want to hold on to, though. Like the flavors of January and February. And, fine, I’ll admit that my love of apple cider should be contained to November. Eggnog should probably be drunk only once.

But hot chocolate? That’s good throughout the year. You won’t want it when it’s 90 degrees out, but when it’s a cookie?

Oh man.

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And when there’s cayenne pepper? Holy zing. Just punch me in the face.

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You guys are so adorable.

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Seriously, quit your cuteness. Those crackly imperfections are too much.

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Oh. These are so vegan. Vegan to the max. And that’s almond milk.

And I might not be doing the vegan thing anymore (Listen. I work at a donut shop. When someone asks me how the hibiscus cherry donut tastes, I’d better have a real answer.), but I’m still cutting out as much dairy and eggs as possible. Plus, when a vegan cookie tastes this unreal, I’ll gladly cut out the butter.

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Peas in a pod.

Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I used grade B)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons almond or soy milk

For the sugar dusting:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, cayenne, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk canola oil, maple syrup, vanilla, milk, and sugar until fully incorporated.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wets, mixing continuously. The batter will be stiff.

Using the palm of your hands, roll about 3 tablespoons worth of batter into a small ball. Shape into pancake-like disks and cover one side with the sugar-cinnamon dusting.

On a sheet of parchment paper, place each disk about 1 inch apart, sugar side up.

Bake for about 12 minutes.

Makes 15-20 cookies, depending how big you want them.

Make them smaller if you want to share with your coworkers in the morning.

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Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes

Let’s try an experiment.

How about we all try to talk to strangers?

I was recently directed toward this Onion article and was aghast that I might very well be one of the most annoying people in Boston. I like talking to people. I like it when someone’s wearing sassy shoes on the train – so much so that I tell them how sassy their shoes are. The 40-something-year-old listening to funk was just begging for someone to groove with him, right?

“Hi, your tattoo of a shark jaw is pretty fantastic.”

“Are you seriously listening to ‘Call Me Maybe?’ Is this really happening right now?”

“Would you rather have your hands smell like garlic or your feet like asparagus?”

A girl sitting next to me on a park bench and I both were reading a book during the sunset, and amidst the silence and distant sound of dogs barking and children playing, she let out a very audible toot. I burst out laughing and she did the same. We didn’t even say anything to each other, just laughed for a few seconds then went on reading until it was time to go.

Talk to people. Just give it a whirl. And maybe, someday, you’ll make them a stack of buttermilk pancakes in the morning and realize that if not for your mild nuisance of a personality, you wouldn’t have met half of the people who make your life special every day.

Ingredients everywhere. Recipe on the laptop for inspiration. This is what the kitchen looks like when it’s time to cook.

I find it difficult to have a plain pancake. Even if it’s fluffy and filled with buttermilk. It needs some oomph. It needs ginger and cinnamon.

Egg whites into stiff peaks. It might be the one baking process that is both my least favorite and most satisfying thing to do. If you don’t have an electric mixer, I suggest avoiding it. Unless you work out your forearms on the regular. Who works out their forearms on the regular?

I like eating in my office in the morning. I also like waking people up with the smell of sizzling butter.

Spiced buttermilk pancakes.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, separated

Optional: blueberries

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking power, spices and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, vanilla and egg yolks until just combined. Add to the dry ingredients until and mix until just incorporated.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they become stiff peaks. Fold gently into the rest of the batter, being careful not to over mix.

Heat a skillet to medium temperature and add a dollop of butter. Scoop pancake batter in 1/4-cup sizes, being sure to leave about 1-2 inches between each round.

Makes about 12-18 pancakes, depending on how large you make them.

Bread Pudding

When I dream, I dream big.

I’m not talking about the fall-down-the-stairs-and-run-into-your-elementary-school-crush-while-your-teeth-fall-out dream, because those are for rookies.  Sissies.  Baby dreamers.

I’m talking about dreams like the one I had last night.  You know, the complicated, heavily symbolic, outlandish, silly and pretty creepy dream.

I was backpacking in a landscape that resembled Hawaii, New Zealand, and France.  On the hike were peninsulas that each had one of my childhood homes: the apartment, the townhouse, the cookie-cutter.

Once I climbed my way through these empty structures, I was smack in the middle of a parade.  With gigantic corrugated metal elephants and sharks as floats.

Ashton Kutcher was there.  Taking pictures of girls with his Nikon camera.  I was shooting with my Canon and all of my photos were underexposed.

I told him I had to finish my hike, but he said that the last peninsula was snowed out.

Then I awoke.

And made this simple, frou-frou-less bread pudding.  I thought about adding bananas or apples, but didn’t want to risk dreaming about apple ice capades and Leonardo DiCaprio singing in a banana suit.

Remember that Banana French Toast?  This is the same challah bread.  It’s been in the freezer, waiting for its inevitable demise in my tummy.

Elephant-shaped sugar?  Come on, subconscious.  Give me a break.

You can make it with the frou frou.  I’m down with the frou frou.  Just not today.  Some raisins and walnuts would be awesome.

Bread Pudding.

5 cups stale bread, cubed
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the eggs until bubbly and frothy – about three minutes on high speed with a hand mixer.  Add the butter, sugar, spices, and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated.  Lightly whisk in the milk.

Butter a deep 9-inch, round baking dish (or, if you want small portions, butter a muffin pan) and throw in the bread.  Add the liquid mixture and press down on the bread until all of the pieces are soaked.

Let sit for 30 minutes, pressing the bread every 10 minutes.

Place the pudding into the oven and immediately lower temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake for 40 minutes.

Turn up the heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 20 minutes.  The top should be brown and slightly crispy.  Let cool for about half an hour.

Eat.  Live simply.  Dream big.

Zesty Apple Cinnamon Scones

For some reason I thought plaid shorts, a checkered cardigan, and a floral shirt would be publicly acceptable.  Aside from the mirror in my bathroom, the only way to inspect my fashion choices is to glance, mildly shocked, at my reflection in the window of the pizza shop down the street.

I think I made it work.

While getting situated in a new apartment, I’ve been slowly accumulating what used to be so readily available either with my parents or former roommates.  Like a mirror.  And a steam basket.  Mattress.  Honestly, shouldn’t apartments come with can openers?

Luckily, my landlord left a grater so I could zest an orange and peel an apple.  And put them in a scone.  If apples, cinnamon, and oranges can work in mulled wine and sangria, then they can certainly work in a scone.

My clothes matched today.  And these scones turned out nice, too.

Hello, mister piggy jar.  He and his piggy friends are the masters and commanders of my kitchen.  And yes, that’s orange zest mulled with sugar.  Orange sugar.

Zesty Apple Cinnamon Scones.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 granny smith apples, skinned, cored, and chopped
1 orange, zested
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

With the back end of a spoon, crush the sugar with the orange zest until fully combined.  Separate two tablespoons of the orange sugar for the scone dough, while saving the rest for the topping.  Add the cinnamon to the leftover orange sugar and mull a little more.  Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the cubed butter, using a bench knife to cut into smaller pieces.  If you have a food processor, just give the flour and butter a couple bursts or until the butter is peppercorn-sized.  DO NOT over mix.  You want it to be dry and coarse.

Add the two tablespoons of orange sugar, honey, yogurt, and buttermilk to the dry ingredients, and mix until it forms a nice ball.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat down to form a rounded disk about 2″ thick.  Sprinkle around the remaining orange/sugar/cinnamon topping.  Cut out scone triangles and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Makes 6 scones.