This amazing young woman is an accomplished vegan baker, blogger and published cookbook author and she’s just 20 years old! She blogs at The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and Seitan Beats Your Meat. Welcome, Kelly!
Allison Rivers Samson: Tell us about how your book came about – any plans for a sequel?
Kelly Peloza: I started working on The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur the summer of 2007 right after I finished my sophomore year of high school. Everything about it was new to me–writing recipes, photography, and the process of publishing a book. I was baking several times a week, doing photo shoots, re-doing photo shoots, writing and testing recipes, and trying to find a publisher. Needless to say, it was a huge learning experience! This time around will go more smoothly, which means yes, there is a sequel coming up! I’ve been working on recipes for the past few months and I plan to have most of the book finished by the end of summer. The details are still under wraps, but it’s going to have a specific theme, include all kinds of baked goods in addition to cookies, and it is not this book: Vegan Bacon-ry.
ARS: You’ve done such creative takes on many classic cookie, any summer-themed recipes we can look forward to this season?
KP: I recently made margarita biscotti, infused with lots of fresh lime and a lightly salted glaze. (Find the recipe at the bottom of this post.) Lately I’m really into working with spicy, salty, floral, and citrus flavors. I do love a good fudgy chocolate cookie, but there’s so many other flavor possibilities out there. I think cookies made with fresh mint, and lemon, rosemary, and lavender are on the agenda for this week.
ARS: The meals you document on “Seitan Beats Your Meat” look amazing. If you were designing a road trip based around favorite restaurants, which would make the cut and what would you suggest ordering?
KP: I’d start out in New York and go straight to Lula’s Sweet Apothecary and get a brownie sundae or banana split with three scoops of ice cream, and one would be caramel ginger cookie. I wasn’t able to go to Candle 79 on my trip to NYC, but based on recommendations, I’d go there and dine on the Seitan Piccata. I’d go over to Brooklyn and get drumsticks and chipotle cheese fries from Foodswings and a pumpkin cream cheese danish from Champ’s Bakery for the road, on my way to Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA. After I woke up from my peanut butter bomb sugar coma, I’d get some donuts for the trip to Chicago.
Living just outside Chicago my whole life, this city is where I made my earliest vegan memories. The Chicago Diner’s Radical Reuben with a side of sweet potato fries and a cookie dough milkshake is hands down my favorite meal ever, so that’s the first stop I’d make. Afterward, I’d dine on a plate of chili cheese fries at Pick Me Up Cafe, a chili cheese dog at Veggie Bite, and some deep fried pickles at Handlebar. Then track down some Temptation vegan ice cream for good measure. Chicago truly is the land of deep fried vegan indulgence!
The next city would be Milwaukee, where I live now. A slice of cake from Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston is a necessary stop on the way up. My favorite meals here are the Seitan Philly from the Riverwest Co-op, the daily vegetarian Middle Eastern buffet at Casablanca, and the deep fried vegan ribs from Comet Cafe. In the summer, I love getting the Fresh Orb, a garbanzo bean crepe with basil, tomato, Daiya mozzarella, lemon, garlic and truffle oil from the Satellite Crepes food cart. And on this magical road trip, I am over 21 so a night of vegan bar food at Palomino would be in order!
After eating my way through the midwest, I’d head to the Bay Area and get a Toasty Crispy sandwich from Souley Vegan in Oakland. While in the East Bay, I’d get some cinnamon rolls topped with brownies and marshmallows from Cinnaholic. For dinner, I’d definitely go to Gracias Madre and get the quesadillas de calabaza, refried beans, and flan. I haven’t yet been to Millennium, but would love to include it in the trip. There are so many other cities I’ve yet to dine in, but I’ll definitely have some input on Seattle and Portland after Vida Vegan Con this August!
ARS: How does your art school background influence you in the kitchen?
KP: Whether I’m thinking about it or not, studying art influences my projects in the kitchen every step of the way. As a photography major, I’m constantly thinking about how color, pattern, shape, and composition work together when presenting and photographing food. While baking and fine arts have their differences, I approach them in the same way. Flavor combinations, presentation choices, aesthetics, and taste, as well as being able to articulate these ideas, have definite parallels to studying art. Balancing school with baking, blogging, bake sales, writing, and attending events is really difficult most of the time, but luckily I love being busy to a reasonable extent. I run on lots of coffee and a few hours of sleep per night during the semester. Summer is getting very close, though, so I’m jumping for joy and looking forward to focusing on lots of projects in the next few months without having to think about school!
ARS: What’s your favorite Allison’s Gourmet product or which would you most like to try? And if you were playing in the kitchen with Allison, what would you want to create with her?
KP: Cherry Chocolate Brownies, yum! The Chipotle Cinnamon Fudge is calling my name!
Ingredients for Biscotti:
½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon tequila
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for Glaze:
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons tequila
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons non-hydrogenated margarine
¼ teaspoon lime zest
Sea salt for garnish
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Cream together the margarine, sugar, soy milk, lime juice, zest, tequila, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined.
- Form dough into a 3-inch wide and 1-inch thick loaf and bake on a parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheet for about 30 minutes.
- Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice into 1/2-inch slices and bake for 5 more minutes on each side. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Combine all the glaze ingredients, except the salt, in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Drizzle glaze on cooled biscotti and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle salt atop each biscotti, then let the glaze set completely. Enjoy!
Coconut Rum and Coke Cupcakes (makes 1 dozen) –
These drink-inspired cupcakes are great for lounging whilst welcoming in the summer months. Coconut cream and milk are utilized in this recipe, adding a tropical spin on rum and coke. To further the tropical theme, rum caramelized bananas are added as a variation!
One 15oz can of full fat coconut milk (see directions).
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
1/3 cup coconut cream (see directions)
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut cream (see directions)
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
¼ cup non-hydrgenated margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon lemon zest
½-¾ teaspoon cola extract
1 teaspoon dark rum or ¼ teaspoon rum extract
- To start, make sure your can of coconut milk has been sitting unshaken and undisturbed for at least a day, then chill the can in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, or overnight. If you need to speed up this process a little, stick the can in the freezer for part of the time. Once the can is completely chilled, the coconut cream will have risen to the top. Scoop out 2/3 cup of the cream for the recipe, then stir the rest of the cream back into the milk (it’s okay if it’s still chunky).
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.
- Cream the margarine, 1/3 cup of the coconut cream, and both sugars together with a stand mixer or handheld beaters. Add 1/3 cup of the coconut milk left in the can, then continue mixing. Stir in the vanilla and rum.
- Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined. The batter should be dark in color and somewhat thick.
- Using a cupcake scoop or large spoon, fill each cupcake liner halfway. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the tops are firm. Let cool in the tray for 5-10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Cream together the other 1/3 cup of coconut cream, shortening, and margarine in a stand mixer or with electric beaters. Gradually add the powdered sugar until completely incorporated. Add the lemon zest, cola extract, and rum or rum extract and continue beating until extremely smooth and fluffy, 6-8 minutes. Add more cola extract to taste, if necessary. The flavor hides a little until the frosting sits for a while, then becomes much stronger, so use with caution so the cola flavor isn’t overwhelming. Since the coconut cream contains more water than margarine or shortening, adding extra liquid to this frosting is not advisable.
- Fill pastry bag with the frosting and swirl atop the cupcakes. Since both the frosting and cupcake are similar shades of brown, sticking a cocktail umbrella and sprinkling the tops with flaked coconut can really liven up the presentation. While the shortening helps stabilize the frosting, it won’t hold up super well in heat due to the coconut cream, so refrigerating these cupcakes and bringing them out 15-20 minutes before serving is best.
- Optional: Take these cupcakes to the next level of tropical by garnishing with rum caramelized banana slices à la bananas foster! Melt 1 tablespoon margarine in a pan and start sautéing slices of 2 under-ripe bananas. Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar and continue to caramelize for 2-3 minutes. Pour of glug of rum into the pan and cook off the alcohol, making sure not to burn the bananas. If you’d really like to impress your guests, set the rum on fire with a candle lighter while shaking the pan. In the end, you’ll have saucy caramelized bananas, which are great to eat alongside the cupcakes, or on top.
Thanks Kelly. We love your enthusiasm, style and creatively delicious recipes!