Archive for June, 2009



Cuptarts from Tara

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I am visiting my brother Jesse and his partner Tara, who live in The Hague, in the Netherlands. I arrived here on Sunday, and Jesse picked me up from the airport in Amsterdam. When we arrived back at their apartment, I was greeted by amazing Tara and beautiful pastries that she had made! They are small pies, or tarts, which are more cupcake sized than pie sized, so we decided they should be called “Cuptarts”. They were absolutely gorgeous, and incredibly tasty too!

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They had a thick (but light and flaky) gluten-free pistachio crust and were filled with Chocolate Avocado Mousse, and then topped with a variety of fresh fruits. Some even had sugared lavender arranged on the top! They were delightful in presentation and flavor, and they were even portable, so we took them on a little boating trip/picnic the next day.

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Pistachio, Cherry, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Plus M&M Cookies!)

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I made these lovely pistachio, cherry, and chocolate chunk cookies with the same cookie dough recipe that I have used many times before, and before…I love the combination of chewy and crispy textures that this dough gets when baked. I like throwing in different nuts or dried fruits and chocolates and it seems like all mixes work and are delicious. The pistachios and cherries made a great color palate, and a nice sweet, tart, and salty flavor combination.

It was the last day of the school year today, and one of the 7 year old boys that I work with melted me to pieces with his big puppy eyes and suckered me into making M&M Cookies (which aren’t vegan because M&Ms aren’t vegan…The first non-vegan dessert I’ve made in a long time!) so I just threw some of the M&Ms into the vegan dough I was making and they worked great, and were a big hit with the kids at school. They were very colorful and fun. The teachers liked them too, although they certainly enjoyed their “adult” cookies with the chocolate, nuts, and cherries as well!

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Black Sesame Seed Peanut Butter Cookies, round 2

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This was the second time I’ve made these cookies, and again, they were cute and delicious. This time I made them a little larger, but kept the recipe the same. Even with the increase in size, they still had those lovely crinkles on top after baking, which is maybe my favorite part (but really, there’s so much to love in this one little round cookie!). As a super-peanut butter-fan, I couldn’t stop eating the dough, and then the baked cookies. I also heard that some non-peanut butter-fans couldn’t stop eating them either. So that just proves that they are GOOD, and besides that they are easy and gluten-free and pretty looking, and all of that makes them extremely hard to resist. Yum.

Cake Balls

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I had left-over marbled cake pieces and white cream cheese frosting from constructing my Camera Cake, and at that time I didn’t know what to do with them…I ended up freezing the cake and refrigerating the frosting, and a week or so later, I figured out the perfect solution for too much cake: Make Cake Balls! I had heard of them before, and thought they were a little silly, but when I read about them on The Pioneer Woman blog, I became enthralled; I decided they would actually be good…So I whipped up a batch using my left-over cake and frosting.

Basically you just put pieces of cake in your food processor and mix until it’s uniformly crumby, and then mix in frosting till it’s smooth and roll-able. You roll it into balls with your hands, and place the balls on parchment or wax paper. Freeze these balls for at least 2 hours till they’re good and hardened. Then you want to dip them in melted dark chocolate and drizzled some more chocolate on top for aesthetic purposes, and refrigerated the balls overnight to make sure they had a thick crisp outer shell. They were not just “good” but amazing! They looked like truffles, but had a great surprise…With a hard and crunchy exterior, and moist sweet cakey inside that nearly melted in your mouth, these balls were out of this world! I loved them. It was really hard to stop myself from eating hundreds of them, but I exercised as much restraint and willpower as I could muster.

The directions are very easy to follow and totally up for interpretation (I made mine vegan so I couldn’t use the chocolate bark, but used semi-sweet dark chocolate instead). This was a fabulous way to use up extra cake, but could also be made from scratch with a regular cake recipe by baking a whole cake first before crumbling it up. Any flavor cake and frosting will work, and you could coat the outsides of the balls with different kinds of chocolate (dark, white, colored-white chocolate, etc.), for whatever effect you are going for.

And, I cannot emphasize enough how much I think you should make them! Now!

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Mocha Raspberry Muffins

I was trying to produce some power-through-the-end-of-the-school-year treats (for me, but especially for the tutors at Julie’s work), and in this case, that definitely meant adding a large dose of caffeine to my baking! I put black tea in cupcakes, and the next night upped the anty and threw some coffee into my chocolate muffins to make a mocha muffin! Mmm…

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The recipe is adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking but I took out the spices and added some mix-ins of my own. These muffins were absolutely delicious; the cake was fluffy and had a very tender and moist crumb, and they were chock full of tasty additions like instant espresso powder, raspberries, and mini-chocolate chips for a bit of crunchy texture. In the picture above, you can see the little chocolate chips and the pink from the raspberries!

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
6 Tblsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (check the label to make sure it is non-dairy)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer + 4 Tblsp. warm water
2 tsp. instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tsp. hot water, till it dissolves
1 cup almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup non-dairy butter, melted (I always like original Earth Balance)
1/2 cup non-dairy semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin with non-dairy butter or canola oil spray.
Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Blend the Egg Replacer with the warm water till light and creamy.
In a medium bowl, mix together the Egg Replacer and water mixture, almond milk, melted butter, dissolved espresso powder, and sugar. Add this combination to the dry mixture and stir until they are just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan cups (I like to use a large ice cream scoop to do this). The cups should be about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Earl Grey Lemon Chrysanthemum Cupcakes

IMG_8901This was another recipe I made for my new paid gig! It was really fun to come up with this recipe, I had a lot of inspiration from my friend Tara who made very involved Cup O’ Tea Cupcakes (Earl Grey cupcake with Lavender Buttercream (it also had homemade fresh coconut, lemon-rind, and blueberry ice cream, and white chocolate topping, as well as crystallized lavender blossoms. She’s amazing!)), and so I wanted to make my own Earl Grey cupcakes. Here’s my take on the Cup O’ Tea Cupcake!

I made an Earl Grey cupcake, adapting my favorite basic cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World…Simply, I steeped Earl Grey tea bags in my almond milk before using in the recipe, and threw in some ground tea leaves as well as lemon and orange rind into the batter (then you get pretty dark dots of black tea and yellow and orange zest sparkles in the cupcake!). Since lemon and tea go together so well, I decided on a Lemon Buttercream frosting, and piped that on the top in a pretty design. From above, the frosting resembled chrysanthemum flowers, so that’s how the cupcakes got their name…I also added a chocolate topper, which was melted chocolate that I drizzled onto parchment paper and refridgerated until it was hardened, then I broke up the drizzles into pretty shapes and placed them on top of the frosting for an elegant (but easy!) look.

Here’s my recipe:

Cupcake Batter Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk
5 Earl Grey tea bags
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Pour almond milk into a small saucepan. Heat on the stove until nearly boiling, then place 4 of the tea bags in the milk, and remove pot from heat. Cover and let tea steep for 10 minutes. When fully steeped, whisk in the vinegar, and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.
Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Open the remaining tea bag, and in a spice grinder, grind the tea leaves till they resemble a fine powder. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of this Earl Grey powder to your dry mix. In two batches, add the dry mix to the wet, and mix until no large lumps remain. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, till a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes sit in the pan for 5 minutes to settle before transferring to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Ingredients:
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/8-1/4 cup almond milk

For the frosting, cream together the shortening and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the lemon juice, and zest, and continue creaming. Slowly add the almond milk until the frosting reaches your desired consistency, and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy. Spread or pipe onto the tops of your cupcakes in whatever design you choose.

Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Bars

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I got Hannah Kaminsky’s book My Sweet Vegan for my birthday a few weeks ago, and I’ve been drooling over the delicious-looking treats pictured inside it ever since. I finally got a chance to make something, and the Butterscotch Blondies really tugged at my heart-strings so I made them first. I decided to add chocolate chips, because, honestly, it’s hard for me to bake without chocolate! Also, this was for my first “real” paid baking job! My dear friend Julie’s boss hired me to bake a set of desserts for his staff, so in the next couple of days I’ll be baking up a storm and posting pictures for you to see all the goodies!

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These bars were very good, and the butterscotch taste was right on. However, the texture was nowhere near what Hannah’s photograph looked like; while the tops were nice and moist, the inside crumb of mine came out fluffy and more cake-like, while her’s looked fudgey and had much more of a brownie consistency (but made out of blondie-material). I was a little disappointed, but I’m hoping that next time I can just leave out a bit of the baking powder and get the same results she did. In any case, they tasted great, so I’m sure I’ll be making them again!


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