A very happy New Year to you all!
With each new year comes resolutions for change. Change in attitudes, in lifestyles, in activities. And for me, a change in my blog! It has been over 4 years since I first started blogging and it has also been 4 years since I significantly revitalized this website. The new year, however, offers the perfect excuse to take on some of those much-needed changes. So, along with the rest of the world, I am happy to say that Cakes ‘n’ Bakes is participating in the age-old tradition of New Year’s with 3 exciting resolutions!
1. A New Look
I originally started Cakes ‘n’ Bakes as a personal hobby to help document my successes in gluten-free baking. Over the years, however, this blog has grown into more than just a hobby. I have realized how important bloggers are to the gluten-free community. They are a source of knowledge, inspiration, and, above all, support. I know this because I myself rely heavily on my fellow gluten-free bloggers for all of these qualities. And it is because of this realization that I have decided that I wish to transform Cakes ‘n’ Bakes into something more permanent and professional. In the future, I am looking into developing a complete website and even new name. But before that time, I thought it would be beneficial to first focus on giving Cakes ‘n’ Bakes a cleaner, more professional look. And here it is!
2. Better Communication
One of the aspects I have always been missing on my blog is the ability to communicate directly with you, the reader! I believe that the greatness of a blog is determined by the extent of its usefulness to others. And how do I know if my blog is useful? Feedback from you! Whether it is a specific baking question, a recipe suggestion, or a gluten-free recommendation, I want to know what you think! Now Cakes ‘n’ Bakes has a contact form where you can fill in your name, e-mail, and comment, and I will be able to reply to you directly. Help me tailor this site to your needs and interests! Just look for the “Contact” tab under the Cakes ‘n’ Bakes title at the top of the page.
3. New Content
Finally, as part of a personal interest, I have decided to tackle a new baking challenge this year: vegan. In recent years, more and more individuals have converted to vegan lifestyles. As a long-time vegetarian, I completely understand the ethical, environmental, and health reasons behind this change. But because of my great fondness of dairy and egg products, I have relatively little experience with vegan ingredients and baking techniques. But this is definitely an area in which I wish to become more familiar. Whether you are avoiding eggs or dairy for ethical or health reasons, I want to be able to answer your questions and offer you suggestions. Although the site will not go completely vegan, definitely look for more dairy-free and egg-free baking options in the future!
And so, to start off the year right, I have developed this vegan treasure: Salted Caramel Pear Tarts. Completely dairy-free and egg-free. Oh, and did I mention insanely tasty? The crust is based in coconut oil instead of butter and the salted caramel sauce is made from coconut milk instead of cream. Because coconut oil is more solid at room temperature, this crust is not quite as tender as one that is butter based, but it is just as delicious. As for the actual pear filling and caramel sauce? Absolutely incredible. Coconut milk is naturally sweet, so you do not have to add a significant amount of sugar into the mix. And a subtle salt presence adds a great complement to the rich caramel and fruity filling. Yum.
Here’s to a healthy, delicious new year!
2 cups coconut milk
⅔ cup sugar
4 pears, peeled and sliced ¾-inch thick
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups GF flour mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons coconut oil, solid
¼-⅓ cup ice water
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tin with coconut oil and line bottom with parchment paper.
Whisk coconut milk and sugar together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat on high and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer 30-35 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by about half. Add in pears and salt and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until pears are soft. Using a ladle, remove pear slices from liquid and place on baking sheet until cool enough to handle.
To make salted caramel sauce, return remaining liquid to medium heat and cook until thickened and turned a light amber color. Stir in vanilla and set sauce aside for decoration.
Using a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt. Add coconut oil and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add ¼ cup water, pulsing until the dough comes together in the food processor. The pastry should be able to hold together when pressed into a ball. If necessary, add a little more water, one tablespoon at a time, until the texture is right.
Flatten dough into a round disc and roll out between two pieces of wax paper. Using a round pastry cutter, cut out 8 discs from the dough.
Trim cooled pears so that they can fit in bottom of muffin tins. Place 4-5 cooled pear slices, round-side down, in each prepared tin. Top with pastry rounds and tuck crust around sides of pears. Bake 15-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let tarts cool completely in pan. Run a knife around the edge of each tart to loosen and flip out onto a cooling rack. To serve, use reserved salted caramel sauce to brush tops of tarts and decorate plate.
Enjoy any remaining sauce on french toast, waffles, or pancakes!