Baking wunderkind Clara Polito, the 19-year-old vegan baker and owner of L.A.-based baking company, Clara Cakes, sells her baked goods around town. Polito runs her business right out of her kitchen (in the Atwater Village apartment she shares with her mom,) and her first book, Clara Cakes: Delicious & Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone, which is filled with vegan recipes, is out March 7th.
Polito shares her favorite recipes with Domino.
Strawberry Blood Orange Bars
“I love every darn thing about the Strawberry Blood Orange Bars. To start, the blood orange and strawberry sauce is baked into a perfectly sweet, slightly tangy sauce. When you bite into the bar, you get a juicy-sauce-y bite atop a brown sugary cookie crust. I love how the white cornmeal, oats, and coconut oil work so perfectly in the crust without being too bold but complementing the fruit filling just perfectly. I’m a big fan of white cornmeal and use it whenever I think it’ll balance another flavor nicely. When I made this crust, I was bouncing off the zest and sweetness of the strawberries and blood oranges. The coconut oil adds a nutty undertone to the crust, the cornmeal creates a nice crunch, and the oatmeal gives it a classic fruit bar texture. I make sure to balance the ingredients with flour and butter, so that the bar can hold it’s own. I made these bars on a whim for an art show, La Rosa Social Club, that was curated by Aaron Rose. These bars are a huge example of what happens when I let myself brainstorm a recipe, and flow with it through adding ingredients that feel right to me. They were a huge hit, too!”
1 cup all-purpose flour + 3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup white cornmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan butter, chopped into small cubes
1/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
3 blood oranges, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13×9 baking pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup flour with the oatmeal, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the coconut oil and butter, pressing the mixture together with your fingers. Mix until it resembles crumbly cookie dough. If mixture is too dry to be pinched together, add a tad more butter or coconut oil. Press half of the oat mixture into pan. Set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, oranges, and 3 tablespoons flour until evenly incorporated. Spread the preserves mixture over the oat crust. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture on top. Bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Place on cooling rack and serve warm or fully cooled.
Tip: Be ready to eat this on a plate with a fork. While they’re bars, the nature of the delicious cornmeal crust makes them a bit more messy and crumbly than most. Bonus points if you serve these with vanilla ice cream!
Brown Butter Cookies
(Makes 12 large cookies or 24 smallish cookies)
“If you haven’t experienced the nutty, warm goodness of brown butter, now is the time,” says Polito. “Brown butter adds a rich, caramely flavor to a cookie. Though an extra step, the process of browning butter is totally worth it because of the warmth it provides in a cookie. I use only brown sugar in this recipe to further enhance the caramel flavor. As simple as they might seem, brown butter cookies are a staple of mine.”
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan butter, browned
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.In a medium saucepan, brown the butter by cooking for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the butter produces a nutty aroma and turns to a deep golden color. This typically happens after the butter’s foam bubbles dissolve. Remove from heat and transfer to another bowl immediately, otherwise it’ll burn. Stick in fridge. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In large mixing bowl, beat together the brown butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and applesauce until completely combined. About 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix together until dough forms. Scoop spoonfuls of cookie dough on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 6 to 7 minutes, or until edges are nice and brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.