Back in the old days (she begins semi-ironically, referring to a point about seven years ago), when the blogging world was infinitely smaller than it is now and almost everyone in it knew each other, I wrote a food blog called Happy Love Strawberry; and although this no longer exists, I still have a lot of fondness for the sites I followed back then. For the record, I'm not even a fraction against the mass of blogs out on the internet now - that's kind of what the internet's for, giving everyone a chance to say what they want to say and hoping people'll listen; that is basically Everything I Stand For - but I do kind of miss that old circle. Papillon semi-deliberately doesn't fit into these boxes, partially because I wanted to cook and bake vegan food without being a health blog (oh hi, this is more rare than you would think), and also - more so - because my life and priorities had changed a lot, and I neither had nor wanted to invest the time and professionalism into being a regular, pattern-fitting, banter-then-recipe blog. I suspect more people would read it if I were, but I don't think my heart would be in that any more.
Anyway, one of the websites that I still love, and that is - miraculously, because I suspect internet time is very like dog years - still a big deal, is Smitten Kitchen, the cookbook for which came out a couple of months ago. Naturally, it showed up on my doorstep a little while later.
(I'm actually a little confused about how this happened. At first I thought it was a Christmas present, but apparently it wasn't? Did I order it for myself??? Did I pre-order it and forget I'd done so?? I am genuinely bewildered.)
Gorgeous and inviting as this book is, the first recipe I made from it was the gooey cinnamon squares - and okay, I'm totally going to hold up my hands here and admit that it might have been my veganising that was the problem, but I didn't quite love them the way I wanted to. The gooey layer - fabulous, soft and sweet with a crackled layer of cinnamon sugar on top. The bottom layer - I think my expectations were to fault; I was expecting a sort of soft cookie, and instead got mediocre cake. I still ate three. For science.
Whatever, man, I had a day off work today and another pound of sugar waiting for me, I was totally going to change these up. I kept the basic structure the same, but replaced the cakey half with a simple vegan shortbread - slightly firmer, with more contrast and no need for dubious egg replacing. I messed around with proportions a little, kept my veganised version of the topping, slightly underbaked it by accident (but I'll give you the recommended timings) and ended up with something I was much happier with. I mean... totally not the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, sorry. But a really awesome recipe inspired by it.
Because that, my dear, is how we roll on the internet.
Gooey Cinnamon Squares
for the base:
160g (1 1/2 stick) vegan butter
140g (1 c.) plain flour
40g (1/4c.) white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
for the gooey layer:
30ml (1/8c.) golden/maple syrup
60ml (1/4c.) soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g (3/4 stick) vegan butter
110g (1/2 c.) white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
75g (2/3c.) plain flour
for the topping:
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. Heat oven to 180C. Line an 8x8 square cake tin.
2. For the base: Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, then stir in the flour and salt. To make a smooth dough, you'll probably need to use your fingers, unless you're in a better equipped kitchen than I and have a good stand mixer. Once it's a soft dough without stray bits of flour, press into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer, and smooth with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. Set aside.
3. For the gooey layer: Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt til light and fluffy. Add half the milk, then mix again, then half the flour and mix; the rest of the milk; the rest of the flour; and finally the syrup. What a hassle, I apologise. When all of the flour has been mixed in, spoon it over the cookie base and spread with the back of a spoon or offset spatula.
4. For the topping: mix the sugar and cinnamon in a tiny dish and sprinkle over the top of the gooey layer as evenly as you can.
5. Bake for around 25 minutes at 180C - 20 minutes was not quite enough for mine, but I was too lazy to put them back before eating them - until bronzed on top. Let cool completely before cutting into 16 squares.