Five years ago, I moved to Toronto.
I’m sure anyone who has picked up and started over in a new city know that making new friends and finding your niche can be a big challenge.
Luckily I had a starting place. I had my coworkers to help me navigate the city but until I walked into the offices of the Toronto Vegetarian Association, I hadn’t been able to find my community. There I met likeminded friends and learned all the secrets spots for amazing vegan brunch in Toronto.
As much as I enjoyed receiving all the help and support from TVA. I wanted to find a way to give back, to contribute to the thriving vegan movement happening here.
During a long chat with my friend Nathalie I came up with an idea. A celebration of compassion. And the Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off was born.
In 2008, we gathered together in a park in October. It was a small but enthusiastic crowd of bakers and tasters. We had fun and felt like we’d created something really special.
In 2009, we planned for increased attendance by moving indoors and into a bigger space, but we never could have imagined the size of the crowd lined up at the doors. It was an overwhelming event. The prizes, the people, the treats, everything exceeded my expectations. At the end of the day I walked home in a daze…it was living up to its name. This little idea was becoming a totally fabulous event.
In 2010, we refined the event. We planned for the crowds. We number plates and created categories. The crowd was bigger but the chaos was smaller. The bake-off was becoming what I had always imagined, an event to bring people together, to celebrate the bounty of a compassionate lifestyle. People had picnics with their friends and debated which was better the decadent peanut butter fudge or the salted caramel cupcakes.
In 2011, I missed the bake-off. Because I was travelling for most of the fall the event was moved to February and successfully coordinated by a dedicated team of volunteers (Colleen and Nathalie in particular). I had to comfort myself with an afternoon in a Hawaiian lagoon (it worked).
Just last weekend, we hosted our fifth annual event!
We moved to a bigger space and sold tickets online. Each year the event has evolved with the growing interest and enthusiasm of the city.
On Saturday, more than 600 people joined us for the Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off. We handed out 5000 vegan treats in 9 dessert categories. The sponsors overwhelmed us with thousands of dollars in prizes. Yes…it was fabulous.
Luke, one of my favourite vegans in Toronto co-hosted the day with me. He is always a treat.
An event like this doesn’t happen because of one person. The success of the bake-off is due to the dedication of a team of volunteers who have been supported by the staff of TVA. the talented bakers who toil over recipes and the amazing attendees who plan their calendars around this day of sweets.
I know those who have put in the long nights and reached exhaustion with excel already understand how much they contribute but veganism is a movement that has grown in strength and sustainability solely because of the people who champion compassion. These people who share their stories, live as examples and give of their time are changing the world.
Thank you Nathalie, Lisa O, Nicole, Luke, David, Barbi and Colleen for changing mine. If you’d like to read more about the bake-off and all the winners check out Nicole’s recap.
For reading through this long and personal post…I’d like to give you something truly special. My brother, Dan, won his category this weekend with a decadent chocolate peanut butter delight you must try. From a snowed in city…I send you this recipe.
I imagine it could fuel a whole lot of world-changing chats.
Dan’s Award Winning Peanut Butter Dream
Cookie Layer – you can use your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe (only need 1/2 recipe for the bars, but it’s easier to make the full one and have cookies on the side)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup White Sugar
2/3 cup olive oil (or Canola oil)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened non-dairy milk)
1 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Peanut Butter Layer
1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter (I prefer crunchy, but smooth would work too)
2 tbsp earth balance
1 cup icing/powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened non-dairy milk)
1 tbsp coconut oil
Prepare the cookies first
1. Preheat oven to 350 F, lightly grease an 8×8 glass baking dish.
2. Combine the brown and white sugar, oil, almond milk and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Mix with a fork very well until it resembles a smooth caramel. Mix in the Vanilla.
3. Add 1 cup of flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Take half of the cookie dough, and press down into the 8×8 glass baking dish, making a thin layer, but reaching all sides.
5. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until it’s a light golden brown.
6. Once baked, cool on the oven for 5-10 minutes, and then move to the fridge to cool further (about 30-45 minutes), until firm to the touch, and cold.
7. The other half of the dough, roll into ping pong ball size balls, flatten in your hands, and place on a greased baking sheet. Baking for 8 minutes.
Then the chocolate layer
8. If you have a double boiler, use that. I don’t, so I did it the old fashioned way. In a small pot, melt the chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring constantly. Once most of the chocolate chips have melted, add the almond milk and coconut oil, and continue stirring until smooth.
9. Once the cookie layer has cooled, take 1/3 of the chocolate sauce and cover the cookie layer with chocolate. Return to the fridge to let the chocolate set. (another 30-45 minutes)
Then the peanut butter layer
10. In a medium sized pot, melt the peanut butter and earth balance on low heat (this helps make it a smoother layer, especially if the peanut butter is cold or hard). Once smoothed out, remove from heat and add the icing sugar, stirring all together until the peanut butter firms up – but still spreadable. (if it’s still runny, add a little bit extra icing sugar).
11. Once the cookie layer and 1st chocolate layer is cooled/set. Spread the Peanut Butter layer evenly overtop, and then add the rest of the chocolate sauce on the top spreading evenly.
12. Put the final product back into the fridge. It’s best to let set overnight so that it firms up completely, but if you can’t wait that long, after an hour it should be set, but will still be soft. Still delicous though!!