Category Archives: Confections

Love At First Bite – Sweetness Sundays

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Pinaloves Organic Bakery, Cookie Varieties

As a newly born vegan for 2013, I can tell you that the transition to vegan cooking has been a purely pleasurable experience for me. I love getting in the kitchen and being creative. Making hot cereal masterpieces with whole grains and fruits, delicious cold grain salads for lunch with decadent avocados and black beans, discovering a million ways to use my newly stocked spice rack while making slow cooker creations for dinner. It takes me back to all the things that landed me in Culinary School at college, that one year of knowledge has never left me, although I did move on to Nursing, my true passion.

Almond Crescents, Gluten Free, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

The only thing I have yet to attempt is vegan baking. Not because I don’t like baking, or because I lack the equipment. Although I must admit that the top of my wish list is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer and a new Cuisinart, as I have neither. What has stopped me is all the ingredients you need to stock up on, many not found in any regular grocery store, in order to make something that is comparable to other home baked fare. I have stocked up on things like Molasses, Organic Cane Sugar, Flax Seeds, Dates, Dried Fruits and Nuts, and Organic All Purpose Flour. I have hunted down Almond Flour, Brown Rice Flour, and Agave Syrup. I have the Maple Syrup and Vegan Margarine in my fridge. I even got the Egg Replacement Mix and a spice grinder in order to make some of the more tricky ingredients. But for the life of me, I have yet to find a recipe to which I can say, “yes, I have all the ingredients I need, let’s bake this baby up!”

Gluten Free – Chocolate and Floral Cookie Collection, $32.00 USD on Etsy.

My brother, being super thoughtful, came for dinner a few weeks back and came in with a few groceries I had needed, surprised me with a box of vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were in a shelf stable box, looked pretty decent on the package, I read the label just to be sure they were vegan, and dove in to try one. Well, they were pretty good, not great, not like my mother’s baking, which is legend – wait for it – dary. But they were certainly the most treat-like thing I had had since going vegan. The problem, the box contained exactly 12 cookies, no bigger than a dollar Loonie coin, and it cost more than six dollars, with tax included. Twelve tiny cookies, average at best, at that price? It seemed insane to me, I knew that I either needed to find a new source of baked goods, or I had better make them myself.

A Platter of Delicious Cookies from Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

So as I have been collecting up vegan cookbooks, and looking at the list of ingredients I need to have on hand, I have also been spending a lot of time searching the web for a recipe to start out with.  I have been grabbing up the ingredients I find when I shop, and have got a good number of things in the pantry now, but not everything, not yet.

Boxed Love from Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

Now, many of you know I spend way more time on Etsy than is healthy for my pocketbook. I am always on the lookout fabulous items that I then must have in my life. After all, what would Foraging For Fab be without Etsy and all the other handmade sellers of wonderful. So every now and again I have a look for vegan goods, particularly from close locations, and when it comes to edibles, Canadian sellers are a must.  So there I was, searching out vegan sources of yummy, and up popped a new seller. The pictures looked A-M-A-Z-I-N-G to me, and gosh, they were from Montreal, Quebec; right here in Canada. And so I discovered Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

Sunflower Oats British Biscuits – Organic, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

These cookies, or little bites of heaven, as I now refer to them come in a variety of amazing flavors and types, and are made to suit many dietary restrictions or needs, not just vegan.  Pina also bakes up batches of Sugar Free, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free treats, in addition to her Vegan offerings.  The cookies are just like the classic home-made versions you love at Holiday Parties or Special Events, but they are something you can enjoy any day of the week with a cup of coffee or a herbal tea.

Vegan – Fruit & Spice Cookie Collection, $42.00 USD on Etsy.

I ordered up a mixed box of cookies, Vegan Fruit and Spice Mix, which held at least 75 biscuits, and a smaller package of 12 Chocolate Pistachio Squares. I quickly got a message back from Pina saying they would be baked up first thing the next morning and then sent out as soon as possible that day.  I have never ordered bakery products through the mail before, so I promptly forgot when to expect them, and went on with my day.

Irish Coffee Whiskey Sandwich Cookie – Vegan, $11.00 USD on Etsy.

When the package arrived before lunch time, just 3 days after my order was placed, I was doing a little happy dance in my apartment. They looked absolutely lovely, just as they were pictured in the Etsy Listings. There was even a little surprise inside the box, a new sandwich cookie recipe a Vegan Irish Coffee Whiskey delight, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It was all so perfectly packaged, I even took some pictures with my phone to show my friends and family, or make them drool, either way I was too happy to notice.

Vegan – Chocolate Pistachio Squares, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

I decided to try one of the Chocolate Pistachio Squares right away. I am not very good at delaying gratification when it comes to cookies, or most other things to be honest. I was hooked from the very first bite. These cookies are special, they have that perfectly home made love baked in feel to them. They taste delicious, they look so pretty yet in-perfect, the way homemade cookies do, and they just hit the right spot with all that I was looking for in a vegan treat. I had to read the label again to be sure it was in fact a vegan product, it was just too much like a crumbly buttery chocolate refrigerator cookie from my pre-vegan days.

Love Lemon – Gluten Free Sandwich Cookies, $11.00 USD on Etsy.

I quickly headed to my office so that I could leave feedback for Pinaloves Organic Bakery on Etsy, just too happy to wait a minute longer to tell everyone how very special these cookies are. I also checked out the Pinaloves Organic Bakery Website and Shop, where I got even more thrilled to learn about all the other wonderful things going on at Pinaloves, and got a lot of great information from the shop’s FAQ page. There is very specific information about the ingredients and the different dietary specialty cookies that they bake, among other yummy looking cakes and pastries. There are different package sizes, box combinations, and varieties available to suit any need.

Gluten Free – Chocolate and Floral Cookie Collection, $32.00 USD on Etsy.

I then caught a ride over to the shop’s Etsy Page, and left a little thank-you note with Pina and company, just so appreciative of the speed and professionalism ascribed to my order, and the joy these cookies brought me.

Cholesterol Free, Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Loaves with Chocolate Ganache

I think the best thing about these cookies and treats is that they cater to some very specific dietary needs, but they are so delicious that everyone will love them, and no one has to feel left out. The Diabetic can have their Biscotti with morning coffee. The individuals with  wheat allergies or Celiac Disease, can have their pick of amazing cookies and treats. Those who are Lactose Intolerant or have milk allergies can indulge without fear. The Vegan can have her cookies and love every single cruelty-free and nutritious bite!

Spelt Hazelnut Almond Cookies – Gluten Free, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

Now, before you get all suspicious about the excessive compliments I am sending the Pinaloves people, I will balance things out a little by saying that these cookies are not free, they are priced in my mind accordingly for the quality of the ingredients, and the time and love put into every one.  They are likely not the thing you will be able to have on hand just for nibbling on any old day of the week. They would make perfect hostess gifts, and would be an impressive thing to put out at parties. The smaller packages of a dozen or so cookies are more likely to an indulgent weekday treat for you and a friend or two, the boxes are a brilliant luxury for special occasions. If you happen to live in Montreal and can get access to these cookies without having them delivered, I think you will find yourself making frequent trips to get your cookie fix.

Sugar Free Biscotti by Pinaloves, $14.00 USD on Etsy.

The only other issue is that these cookies are just to good to last for long in your home. While my large order of goodies lasted about a week, shared with company and my sweet-tooth aside,  they are hard to resist or put away, they are just too delicious, and my sweet starved inner vegan-child pretty much dictated how many of these delicious bites I dove into at a sitting. It is best I not mention that, it’s embarrassing how little self-control I have most days.

Gluten Free – Pistachio Cookies, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

Don’t let that stop you from ordering them though, and don’t delay in checking out Pinaloves Organic Bakery’s Website, Etsy Shop, or Facebook page to catch even more pictures of the delicious offerings available freshly baked and directly to your home. I can assure you they will be baked and shipped with all the love and care you could hope for, and they will become fast favorites of anyone who is lucky enough to sample them.

Vegan Rosemary Raisin Sables, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

You can either buy through Etsy, or shop the online store, whichever mode you happen to prefer.  I have every reason to believe that the service and kind customer care that you will receive, even if it is just asking a question, will surpass your expectations. If you have a local vegan or specialty bakery, by all means give them a visit, the point is to support the small bakeries that are working very hard to establish themselves and serve quality goods made with care, conscious, and attention to detail, and stop buying shelf stable and overpriced goods where possible. Going local isn’t just about produce at the farmer’s market, it means buying things that are made close to home to avoid all the damage that can be done to the environment by shipping boxes of boxes from country to country over land and sea.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Cookies, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

I am now going to resist temptation and skip ordering another batch of Pinaloves goodies, at least for today, no promises about tomorrow though. Maybe one day, when I have been making my own vegan baked-goods, I can hope to be as good as the crew at Pinaloves Organic Bakery. If not, well, I am going to get very friendly with the mail-person bringing me boxes full of love on a regular basis. Hope you enjoyed your own Sweet Sunday!

Pinaloves Organic Bakery, Logo & Website Address.
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French Kiss Kiss – Sweetness Sundays

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French Macarons Are A Sweet Trend, 4/6/2010. Photo Credit: Tony Bock/Toronto Star

In recent years, there is one sweet patisserie treat that is not only as beautiful to look at as it is to savor, and is also endlessly suitable to personalization. It synonymous with the luxurious life and real culinary credentials, simultaneously attaining an almost iconic image as well as a modern gustatory revolution. The French Macaron is just such a creation, with a deep rooted history, and a modern enthusiastic following at the same time. As early as 2010, they started popping up in my Toronto area bakeshops as something you could pick up on any given shop day. 

LOVE Ceramic Macaron Sachet – Fragrance Object by Hideminy, Etsy.

Valentine Jewelry Macaron Necklace by Miniature Patisserie, Etsy.

This is no easy feat, particularly for what is, when you come right down to it, a sandwich biscuit.  I somehow can’t imagine an Oreo cookie starting such a revolution on the European Continent as the Macaron has in the United States and Canada both, as of late.

Dreamy Macarons Facial Scrubs [2 Pack] by Mrs. Browns Bath Bakery, Etsy.

French Macaron Hand Soap [2 Pack] by JAKEALA, Etsy.

There is just something so fragile and special about a Macaron that cannot be mass produced. It is this fragility, the candy like colours, and the endless combinations that make up the lure of the Macaron. Movies like Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst have given a new spotlight to the over-the-top decadence and girly prettiness of this petite confection.

Blueberry Macarons [Box of 12, Custom Orders Welcome] by Madeline Bake Shop, Etsy.

Parisian Macaron Stand for French Macarons/Cupcakes/Wedding Cake – Peach Cake Stand 16″ by The Roche Studio, Etsy

 
If you look at a well made French Macaron, not to be confused with what North Americans call a Macaroon [a moist coconut based drop cookie], you will see the subtle beauty of the treat.  Put together from two smoothly topped baked round wafers, with a crumbled edge called the foot, these pieces share many of the characteristics of a meringue.  Powdered sugar, egg whites, and ground almonds make up the basic recipe, but endless flavor concentrates and colorings make them absolutely breathtaking to see.

French Macarons – Set Of Three [Felted Merino Wool] by woollyduck, Etsy.

DIY Felt French Macarons [Felt & Instructions For 18 Felt Cookies] by sweet emma jean, Etsy.

 
The exterior wafers of the Macaron have a natural opalescent shimmer over the surface, almost evoking images of fairy wings, and they are soft and moist and melt in the mouth in the most delicate of ways.  I rather predict that the cup-cake craze, while not over, will give way to the pleasures of the Macaron very soon. Similar to cupcakes, the filling, or ‘icing’ between the two wafers can take many forms.  It can be a delicious butter-cream, jam or preserves, or ganache filling.

French Macarons – Pastel Pink 10×10 Size [Home Decor] by Filamento TGS, Etsy.

French Macarons/Macaroons Fine Art Photograph 8×10 Size [Home Decor] by Keri Bevan Photography, Etsy.

While traditional flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and raspberry combinations, cutting edge pastry chefs are busy inventing brilliant alternative flavors from the familiarity of lemons to the sublime Matcha green tea flavorings. Whether flavoring the wafers or the filling, they are served in a sandwich mode, with two rounded smooth ‘caps’ with the foot facing the filling, and a thin but ample layer of filling piped or spread in between. 

Macaroon Cakes Upcycled Tea Towel Cushion/Pillow Cover by Emma Mount, Etsy.

French Macarons – Hemp And Organic Cotton Cushion 12×12 by Sarah Smile Design, Etsy.

The popularity of the French Macaron in North America is blossoming, and confectionery shops have windows full of towers of these jewel like biscuits and special long narrow boxes with ribbons, ready for Valentine’s day sales.  French Macaron are a much sexier and cleaner on the fingers ‘eat’ than an icing covered giant cupcake, with just 88 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrate for each delicate and sweet sandwich.  The average small specialty cupcake has 178 calories, 5.3 grams of fat, and a whopping 32.5 grams of carbohydrate in all that over-sweet sticky goodness.

Raspberry And Pistachio Ganache Macaron – Silver Plated Ring [Polymer Clay] by Pink Island, Etsy.

French Macaron Necklace With Eiffel Tower Charm by Plushable, Etsy.

 Macarons have reached epic popularity in France, being offered on the menu at McDonald’s restaurants in that country.  This new status of the french treat is making waves in the fashion world, as well as art, sculpture, and crafting.  Pastel colours are all over the runways, and the garments seem to look as delicious and light as the cookie itself.  There are heaps of photographs of French Macarons, in wild and enticing colours, as well as ‘fake’ props for your home, soaps, toys, and accessories.

Set of 2 Funny Macarons In A Pretty Box – Tea Party OOAK Art Doll Sculpt by Sandra ArteagaA, Etsy.

Sweet Treats Dessert Hand Embroidery Pattern [PDF] by Wild Olive, Etsy.

So much of what we eat, and crave, has to do with what it looks like.  Seeing the sheer volume of jewelry, trinkets, dollhouse sized treats, and non-edibles inspired by the lovely French Macaron, you can see that people have fallen in love with this iconic ‘cookie’, and though they may be a bit complicated for the baking novice to master, they are actually not impossible to make right at home. It takes a bit of practice with the piping bag to get the exterior meringues to shape up perfectly and match in size, but then you have the fun of eating all your ‘mistakes’, which may be the best part.

French Macaron Trinket Box – Mint Green/Pistachio Polymer Clay [Limoges Style] by The Mermaid Articles, Etsy.

Macaron Mercerie Sewing Accessories PDF Pattern [Pin Cushion, Needle Case, Scissors Fob] by Quilting Gems, Etsy.

So grab a great recipe for a French Macaron from a cookbook or the internet, flavor it any way you like, be it pomegranate and orange, or espresso and match tea, and whip up a batch of sweet French Kisses for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day. Now if I can just sort out a vegan version of this amazing treat. That would be truly fabulous my darlings!

Vanilla Macaron Perfume AMUSE Perfume Oil [Spray or Roll On] by Theme Fragrance, Etsy.

French Macaron Water Transfer Nail Sticker Set by Js Utopia, Etsy.

Sweets For My Sweet – Sweetness Sundays

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A short but very sweet post today, all about the heavenly confections that make life, well, sweet. Most people feel comfortable attempting to bake or cook in their kitchens, but making candy and sweets is still a little daunting to even the most seasoned chefs. Candy isn’t like most kitchen arts, it requires a lot of practice, careful control of temperature and timing, and often special equipment for molding or shaping your creations.  It is for that reason most of us find it easier to buy candy at the corner store or market.

Rolled Sultan Turkish Delight, Rose Flavor by ggbytech on Etsy.

If you are lucky and have a local Chocolatier, Confectioner, or Sweet Shop that churns out fresh hand-made goods, you know where this is heading. Nothing beats the real thing. Handmade candy and confections are not only free of all those preservatives and stabilizers that keep those other manufactured ‘treats’ shelf sitting for months or years on end, but they taste so much better. Often you can get unique flavor combinations that are more gourmet and appeal to a smaller group of consumers, you can also interact directly with the sweet-makers. You can ask questions about ingredients and the things that matter to you about your food, such as local suppliers, green practices, and vegan or health specific issues. Today I present to you a virtual sampler of some beautiful hand-made confections that you can order on-line and enjoy with your valentine(s). At the very least, it may send you looking for you own local sweet shops. Have a “Sweet” Sunday.

Sweet Honeydew, Vegan Handmade Hard Candy by Von Dulce on Etsy.

Organic Freckled Strawberry Marshmallows,  All Natural, Gluten and Egg Free, Kosher by The Realist Mermaid on Etsy.

Simple Chocolate Dipped Pear, Handmade Fresh To Order by Sugar Queen Sweets on Etsy.

Pretty In Pink, Pearl Embellished Hard Candy Lollipops – Made To Order by  Vintage Confections on Etsy.

Rocky Road Fudge, Made Fresh to Order by Fudge Face on Etsy.

Cupcake Crystal Hard Candy Lollipops, Pink Bubblegum by Sweet Lollipop Shop on Etsy.

Valentine’s Day Gift Box of Assorted French Nougat Candies in 5 Flavors, All Natural No Preservatives by Kettle Confections on Etsy.

Lemon Mocha Truffles Worth Puckering Up For, Made in Canada – Semi Sweet Chocolate, Nut Free by My Hands Are Busy on Etsy.

Soft Caramels, 1/2 Pound, Sweet Soft and Buttery by Bubble Gum Art Company on Etsy.

 Vegan Chocolate Fruit Cremes, 7 Flavors, Covered in German Chocolate – Made To Order by Hippie Cakes on Etsy.

Cookie Lovers Delight, Hand Dipped and Drizzled Double Stuff Oreos by Sweet Sophia’s Creations on Etsy.