I am excited to share with you a recipe and a guest post from Nicole of A Dash of Compassion, an extremely talented vegan baker in Toronto. I have known Nicole for six years and have had the opportunity to taste her vegan treats on numerous occasions, my favourites are the cookies she makes and packages in cute tins at Christmas. Her baking is full of flavour, texture and and stacks up to any non-vegan baked good any day.
I have personally never ventured into the vegan baking realm but have certainly been curious (and impressed) by the possibility of creating flavourful, vegan treats. I look forward to giving Nicole’s recipe a try because it doesn’t look too hard or scary for a regular home baker. For more ideas, of course venture on over to Nicole’s site. Lots to learn over there!
I thought the best way to introduce you to Nicole was via a mini interview which you can read below. Plus she was kind enough to include a recipe for all you vegan or vegan-curious bakers out there: Balsamic Fudge Cookies.
Lamb411: How did your career start and what led you to pastry arts/specifically vegan baking?
Nicole: My passion for baking began in my childhood when I would help my grandmother bake banana bread and ginger cookies. I became even more interested in the creative process and incorporating healthier ingredients after I became vegan in 2001. By my mid-20s, I was developing my own recipes, and people loved them. So it just sort of stuck. I’ve realized that the more I bake and experiment with new techniques and ingredients, the more I love it.
Lamb411: What are you passionate about?
Nicole: For me, baking is about inspiring others to think differently about what they eat. So this sort of creative activism is my passion. Once you are faced with the disturbing reality of how our society exploits animals, it is hard to ignore. I can’t support that kind of food system. What I can do is show people how easy it is to create delicious pies, tarts, cookies and cakes without the use of animal products like eggs, butter or cow’s milk. There is a whole world of plant-based ingredients that can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth without harming your health, the environment or the animals.
Lamb411: Where do you get your inspiration from?
For me, inspiration is everywhere. It often starts with a new ingredient I want to play with, such as coconut nectar, cacao paste or vanilla beans. From there, I look at other food blogs, Pinterest or magazines, and it is often a beautiful photo of a cupcake or other dessert that inspires me to get in the kitchen. You’d be amazed by how excited I get when I have a new idea for a recipe!
Lamb411: What has been the most rewarding part of opening A Dash of Compassion?
Nicole: Just like I wrote on my “about” page, there is nothing more rewarding than sharing my recipes with the world, knowing I have the potential to change lives or habits just by encouraging others to celebrate the deliciousness of a plant-based diet. My blog has made me fall in love with photography all over again, too, which is also very rewarding. The food styling, lighting setup and photo snapping is another excellent creative outlet.
Lamb411: What do you hope A Dash of Compassion will be known for in Toronto?
Nicole: A resource for delicious, cruelty-free dessert recipes!
Lamb411: What are your favourite desserts right now?
Nicole: Banana soft serve is a long-time favourite treat, and it’s so easy to make! Just blend one or two peeled, frozen bananas in a blender or food processor until creamy. Spoon it into a bowl and serve! There’s no need for sweetener because ripe bananas are already naturally sweet. I often top mine with chopped nuts or nut butter and dairy-free chocolate chips.
Lamb411: What are your favourite bakeries outside of Toronto (could be global…)
Lamb411: Who are your pastry/baking superstars?
Nicole: Pastry chef Fran Costigan became my superstar after I graduated from her Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive training program in NYC. We both share the same values when it comes to using cruelty-free, fair trade and organic ingredients. Cookbook authors Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are also very inspiring activists in the vegan community.
Lamb411: If you could invite one special person to taste something from A Dash of Compassion, who would it be?
Nicole: Tough question! I’d love to invite one of the above-mentioned superstars.
Lamb411: What is behind the name A Dash of Compassion? How did you come by it?
Nicole: Compassion is a powerful word for me. I knew I wanted to incorporate it in my blog name, and “a dash of” is very much synonymous with baking. So I thought they worked well together.
A Dash of Compassion’s Recipe for Balsamic Fudge Cookies
1 cup light spelt flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp arrowroot
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, cocoa, sugar, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, balsamic vinegar and vanilla extract. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Line a cookie pan with parchment paper and drop the dough by tablespoons onto the pan. Flatten the dough balls with your hand or the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are cracked. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in a tightly covered tin container at room temperature.