Life is a lot like baking; it's all what you make of it.
Last week, I got invited to partake in a Pie Party, happening all across the interwebs, with a guest list of professional chefs, food bloggers, hobby bakers and people who just love pie. Of course this had me excited.
I may have been dubbed Kelly Cakes years ago, but my true love is pie. Give me flaky, buttery crust made with layers of lard, honey-flavored graham or a chocolately base of oreo cookie crumbles and fill it with creamy lemon mascarpone, the tart and sweet early-spring flavors of strawberry rhubarb or the soul-warming trinity of cinnamon-ginger-clove in my fall favorite, pumpkin, and top it with ethereal meringue, golden ribbons of interwoven lattice, clouds of hand-whisked whipped cream or a classic scoop of vanilla ala mode. My stomach smiles just thinking of the possibilities.
It goes without saying that I wanted to participate. I RSVPed yes and I RSVPed early. I wanted a slice of the pie party. Moreover, I wanted to include myself in the bevy of talented bakers, bloggers and chefs who had joined my name on the "Attending" list. I still struggle with calling myself a food blogger because a) I foolishly compare myself with the big-name bloggers b) I don't have a camera c) I don't post often because of lack of quality photos d) I know what I'm capable of and have issues with perfectionism.
So when today [Pie Day] came around, I made excuses. The lack of camera. Poor lighting in my kitchen. Not wanting to turn my oven on in the oppressive 100+ degree heat smothering the city in a sweaty, stifling hug. It would have been pretty easy to say no, but knowing myself, I would have beat myself up for not participating and taking the easy way out.
So, I dragged out my trusty iPhone, waited for poor Lola to load my photos [yes, I name my electronics], and stumbled upon vegan chocolate banana tartlets I had made for a friend back in March. They were not the most beautiful creation I've ever made, but Russell was so appreciative of them, he acted as if Martha herself had made them in her kitchen. He didn't care if they weren't photo-perfect; he was simply happy that I had taken the time to accommodate his dietary choices and bake him vegan treats.
Not to feel like I was completely cheating [and not to make Mars and I feel like we were existing in a sweatlodge], I decided to make the pudding recipe tonight and make it better. I've been jonesing all day for a vanilla sundae with peanut butter and hot fudge, but have been trying to not give in to the siren call of the Mister Softee truck that endlessly loops around my block. So, I dug out my whisk from my oh-so-overcrowded utensil drawer, grabbed the container of coconut milk and set out to make something delicious taste better.
I tend to like intensely chocolately pudding, so the addition of peanut butter mellows out the flavor while adding a touch of sweetness. I also used vanilla flavored, sweetened coconut milk, which adds a touch of sweetness too.
I could have easily let intimidation stop me from attempting vegan treats for Russell and just gone to Whole Foods to buy a much prettier pie made by more vegan-experienced [veganperienced?] hands. I could have also let myself succumb to the ocean of excuses I made this morning and been a Pie Party pooper. My pie may not have been made today, but, like this post, it was made in the same spirit of not letting self-doubt ruin the potential to create something wonderful.
Vegan chocolate peanut butter banana tarts [makes approximately 4 tartlets, depending on how frequently you choose to perform "quality control" tests and/or lick the bowl]
1 C sweetened vanilla coconut milk 3 oz dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 72% chocolate bars) or 1.5 oz dark chocolate + 2T unsweetened cocoa powder if you're like me and eat all the chocolate in your house leaving little for baking 1/4 C organic white sugar 1 T corn starch (tapioca starch may also be substituted) 2 T natural peanut butter 1 ripe banana prepared vegan pie dough (recipe here)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. 2. Roll out pie dough to 1/8" thickness. Using tartlet pans as a template, cut 1" circles around the pans with a knife. 3. Place dough circles in pans. Prick dough all over with a fork to blind bake or use pie beans/beads. 4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Set aside. Let cool. 5. In a bowl, mix sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder (if using). 6. In small saucepan over medium to low flame, heat coconut milk and dark chocolate until chocolate has melted. Add peanut butter, whisking until melted and incorporated. Carefully whisk in sugar/corn starch mixture, making sure to beat out any lumps that may have formed. 7. Continue whisking until mixture thickens to pudding consistency and begins to bubble. Immediately turn off heat. 8. Quickly spoon mixture into container and cover with plastic wrap, laying plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. [Note, if you don't mind a skin, you can simply spoon pudding into the cooled pie shells] 9. Once pudding has cooled, spoon into pie shells, top with sliced bananas. Sprinkle bananas with organic sugar. Torch until lightly caramelized. 10. Pat yourself on the back for not getting overzealous with torching and setting yourself on fire/burning the house down. 11. Enjoy!