Present & Company

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I recently went down a Jane Austen rabbit hole, all in thanks to peanut butter frosting. Yes, peanut butter frosting. Stay with me, I’ll explain.

Whilst making peanut butter frosting for some cupcakes for a friend of a friend, my spice grinder overheated and broke. (I make my own powdered sugar which is very easy to make at home, if you have the proper equipment, that is.) I did not have enough powdered sugar to create the consistency I needed for the frosting and made several attempts to “fix” the frosting I had, to no avail. In COVID-19 times, a “quick trip” to the market for new equipment or a box of powdered sugar was out of the question for me.

When I finally threw in the towel, my kitchen resembled that of one Bridget Jones during the famous birthday dinner scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where her kitchen is turned completely upside-down thanks to blue soup, omelet with caper berry gravy and a dessert that tastes like orange marmalade. I couldn’t help but feel like poor Bridge—so helpless and so quick to reach for the bottle of booze. Her surprising visit from Mark Darcy (ding dong!) to help save the day (and win her heart!) was a dreamy rom-com narrative, but this story doesn’t quite end like that, sadly. Though I’ve spent many a times thinking about it. As well as that scene where Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy emerges from a pastoral lake after a swim in Pride & Prejudice. (Ding fucking dong!)

I hate throwing away food. Instead, I saved the remnants of the unstructured (yet quite delicious) frosting and put it in the fridge for a later time. Then I continued thinking about Jane Austen, as one does when you’ve been dissecting her work since you were a teenager. I had long wished to watch the TV series adaptation of her final and unfinished work in Sanditon (Available for streaming on PBS with a subscription or via Amazon.) but never had the time to. And oh, well that is no longer an excuse, is it?

I signed up for the week-long free trial subscription with the goal of watching as much content as I can within that time. I binge-watched Sanditon, finishing in a day and a half, and then that turned into watching Northanger Abbey followed by Love & Friendship. In the middle of this Austen-adaptation marathon, I decided to use the leftover frosting and make something to snack on while I binged on the couch. (The bottle of wine needs pairing company, you know.) And then the idea came upon me—the answer is Mr. Darcy. What goes better with peanut butter aside from jelly? Chocolate! And what pairs well with chocolate? Wine! It’s a win-win.

(Side note: This isn’t my first foray in deconstructing Austen’s adaptations work in this blog. Check out this post for more Bridget Jones’s Diary fun.)

I altered the chocolate cupcake recipe I had originally used to make a Ding Dong. The peanut butter frosting doesn’t have the same marshmallow-like consistency of the original Hostess treat, but what this cake snack lacks in that filling texture well makes up for in flavor. Trust me when I tell you these “Ding Dong”-like treats are the belle to any Regency ball.

As with all of my more recent recipes, this is vegan and gluten-free. You most certainly can make this with gluten by subbing the GF flour with pastry flour.

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Peanut Butter Ding Dong Cakes
Yields about 6 cakes (with leftover scrap pieces for even more snacking!)
Complete Recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Cake recipe slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker

FOR THE CAKES

INGREDIENTS
2 flaxseed eggs (2T flaxseed + 5T hot water combined)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy in this with wonderful results)
3/4t apple cider vinegar
1.5t baking soda
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup applesauce
1/2t pure vanilla extract
1/4t Kosher salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup GF oat flour
1 cup GF blend flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch non-stick square pan like this and a 9″x5″ loaf pan like this one with oil and dust with some GF flour. (If you have a pan large enough that fits 6 cakes, go for it!)

Combine the flaxseed egg ingredients  in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the milk and vinegar in a separate large bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients. (This will give your milk time to curdle.) Then add the baking soda to the milk-vinegar mixture.

Add the flax eggs, sugar and molasses to the milk-vinegar mixture. Mix to combine. Add the applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla and salt to the mix, stir. Sift in the cocoa powder. And then mix in the flours. You should get a nice thick batter.

Distribute the batter to both pans evenly. Bake for about 30-35 mins or until the cake is done. Once done baking, set aside to cool.

FOR THE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup vegan butter (I like Miyoko’s or Earth Balance)
1/2t pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup soy milk

METHOD
In a hand-held or stand mixer, cream the peanut butter and vegan butter together till light and fluffy. Slowly add in the vanilla extract and mix till combined. In 1/4 cup increments, add in the powdered sugar, alternating with a bit of the soy milk every time. Set aside.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE COATING

INGREDIENTS
1 cup vegan dark chocolate
1T coconut oil

METHOD
In a double-boiler (a heatproof glass bowl over a pot of boiling water) melt the chocolate. Turn off the heat and then add in the coconut oil.  Stir to combine.

ASSEMBLY
Once the cakes are cooled down, use a circular cookie cutter to punch out six cakes. I have (and love!) this one. Carefully remove the scraps and set aside for a later project or in-between snacking.

With a piping bag and 1M star tip,  flip the cake over and pipe a bit of the frosting. Repeat with the rest of the cakes.

Set up a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath and take your melted chocolate bowl and place a cake (one at a time) in the melty chocolate. Flip it over to fully coat each side. Carefully remove the cake and set on the cooling rack top side up. Repeat till all cakes are nicely coated. Take the cooling rack/sheet tray to the refrigerator to set the chocolate, about 30 mins to an hour.

The cakes are ready to eat once the chocolate has completely dried and no longer leaves a thumbprint when you touch the chocolate.

Enjoy with a bottle of wine and your favorite Jane Austen book or film!

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Fifty Shades of Glaze

vegan doughnuts, A Streetcar Named Devour

Yes, they’re real and they’re spectacular.

Let’s talk about Book Club. Not generally speaking; the 2018 rom-com, Book Club. Starring Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen, the film follows these life-long best friends, (now in their 70s ) navigating their post-menopausal, post-divorced, post-widowed, and post-sexless marriage lives. (Side note: Did you know that Jane Fonda was 81 when this film released?! Yes, 81! She looks amazing.)

The friends are in a book club, and their next book is Fifty Shades of Grey. The story continues with them reading the book while finding love, rekindling love, reigniting love and rediscovering their self love. Some may say it’s cheesy, but I’m a sucker for any rom-com, and I found it lighthearted and endearing. The scenes between Fonda’s character, Vivian and former flame, Arthur (played by Don Johnson), clearly have incredible on-screen chemistry. Or the adorableness that’s Steenburgen’s, Carol, performing a tap-dancing number as her husband (a very hilarious Craig T. Nelson) rides in a motorcycle singing Meatloaf’s, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

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Original image by Apartment Story + June Pictures

I went to see this movie in theaters with my fellow rom-com loving friend, Lindsay when it first came out. I cried. I’m unsure if she did. But I definitely cry watching movies. I’m an empath. It happens.

I watched it again recently (it’s currently steaming on Amazon Prime.) I still enjoy it. With all of this extra time on my hands, I wanted to make time-consuming yeast-raised doughnuts. Fridge foraging is a trending hashtag on social media right now, as many of us are in self-quarantine and socially distancing. I discovered that I had almost three bottles of black sesame seeds in my pantry, so I wanted to make doughnuts with them. I found a recipe on Belly Rumbles, and made a couple of edits and vegan-ized it. I replaced the miso glaze in her recipe with matcha glaze (another ingredient I have plenty of in my pantry). And black sesame + matcha go together like peanut butter + jelly. Wouldn’t you agree?

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“To even be holding this book is embarrassing.” -Sharon (Candice Bergen)

Black Sesame Doughnuts with Matcha Glaze

Yields about 1 dozen
Recipe slightly adapted from Belly Rumbles


FOR THE BLACK SESAME PASTE

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
4T date syrup (or honey if not vegan)

METHOD
Toast the black sesame seeds in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan, making sure all sides are toasted evenly. Toast till fragrant. Turn off burner and set pan aside to cool. Place seeds in a mini processor or coffee grinder and blitz till completely ground. In a bowl, mix with your liquid sweetener. Set aside.

FOR THE DOUGHNUTS


INGREDIENTS
¾ cup milk, warmed to 100-110 degrees
3T active dry yeast

¼ cup sugar
2 cups AP flour, plus more for dusting
2T flaxseeds + 2 1/2T water mixed together
¼ cup black sesame paste
Fryer oil

FOR THE GLAZE
3T soy milk (or other dairy-free option)
Pinch of salt
2T vegan butter, melted
2T food-grade matcha powder
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

METHOD
In a small bowl heat your milk to 100-110 degrees. Add in the yeast and 1T of sugar. Whisk to combine and allow to rest in a warm spot for about 10 minutes. There should be a layer of bubbles upon resting.

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“I would like to introduce you to Christian Grey” -Vivian

In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the sugar, flour, flaxseed, water, black sesame paste and bubbled yeast mix. Beat on low speed for about 5-7 minutes. It’s done once the dough is smooth.

In a large lightly greased bowl, add the dough ball and secure with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside where it’s warm. Dough should rest for about an hour (depending on your home temperature). You’ll know it’s ready when the dough has doubled.

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“I do like the idea of romance.” -Carol

Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another 5 minutes. Then roll the dough to about 1-1.5cm thick. Use a doughnut punch cutter. Continue to roll out the dough scraps and punch out the doughnut rings till you have no more dough. You should get about 9-12 doughnuts in total.

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“We are too old.” -Sharon

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“But it does say right here, ‘for mature audiences'” -Carol

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Yeah, that certainly sounds like us.” -Diane

On a parchment-lined sheet tray place the cut out doughnut rings and holes, and top with plastic wrap on loosely. Put the tray somewhere warm to rest for 30 minutes to an hour. Dough should be doubled in size when it’s ready.

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Stimulate your mind.

Fill your deep-fryer or a large sauce pan half way with oil over medium heat till it reaches 350°F. Fry the doughnuts but don’t overfill the pan. Flip after 30-50 seconds on one side and finish with 30 seconds on the other. I like using wooden chopsticks to do the flipping, but you can use a stainless steel spatula if you don’t chopsticks on hand. Doughnuts should be golden brown when they’re done.

Allow doughnuts to drain excess oil on a cooling rack lined with a larger sheet tray underneath. While doughnuts are cooling make the glaze.

Add all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together till smooth and a think but pourable consistency. 

Dip the top of doughnuts in glaze and return to the cooling rack to drain and dry. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts.

Enjoy. These are perfect with a cup of hot coffee, or my new favorite Dalgona coffee.

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“Drink up. Hoist that glass. Happy reading, ladies.” -Vivian