Archive for August, 2009



White Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes

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I made these cupcakes for my visit to the VegNews headquarters, and wanted to bring them something that I knew would work – that meant that I wanted it to be something I had made before, and something that was exciting and fun. I had a couple bars of vegan white chocolate that I brought back from my recent trip to Holland, and thought that I could introduce that into this recipe that I made before to make it a little more unusual. The white chocolate and champagne flavors worked very well together and this was definitely a winning combination that I’m going to have to replicate in the future.

This is a very celebratory cupcake flavor, and is delightfully light and fluffy, as well as being rich and intoxicating at the same time! The champagne gives the frosting a nice airy texture, which plays well with the idea of “bubbles” in the drink. I do believe that if you ate enough of the frosting, you could get a nice buzz going, but with the amount that you consume in a cupcake or two, I think it’s a non-issue. It would be easy to play around with this recipe and make a pink champagne cupcake (add some strawberries to the ganache filling? Use pink champagne in the frosting and get a nice pink tint?) and I made them once before with a dark chocolate ganache in the center of the cakes, which made them very elegant looking. I recommend this recipe for any type of celebratory event, or even if you just want to play around with new flavors. It’s very yummy, and I believe you’ll make lots of new friends if you give them these sweet cakes!

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Ingredients:
1 Tblsp. almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or any lightly flavored vegetable oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tblps. champagne (you can use any type of champagne, even pink champagne! I find that a heavier, drier champagne like Brute will convey it’s flavor better through baking, so that is what I used)

White Chocolate Ganache:
3 oz. bar of vegan white chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 cup almond milk

Champagne Frosting Ingredients:
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 Tblsp. champagne, any type
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside a few minutes to get good and curdled.
Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add the champagne and lightly to try to retain some of the fizzy bubbles. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix only until no large lumps remain.
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full, and bake for 20-24 minutes till done (you can stick a toothpick in the center and it should come out clean). Leave in muffin tins for 3-5 minutes after taking out of the oven, so the cakes can set, and then take out of the tins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. While you are waiting for them to cool, you can prepare your Ganache and Frosting (recipes below). When cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone out of the center of each cake, and remove tops. This is where you will spoon in your White Chocolate Ganache, or if you choose not to make the ganache then you can also use this method and pipe extra Champagne Frosting into the center of the cupcake, replace the cake top, and pipe more frosting on top. Both methods are beautiful and extremely tasty.

To make the White Chocolate Ganache, simply put your chopped white chocolate and almond milk into the top section of a double boiler and heat over the stove. When the water in the bottom is boiling, turn the temperature down and stir chocolate rapidly until it is completely melted and the ganache has a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and let cool (but not harden) before spooning into cupcakes. Put about 1 tsp. of ganache into each cupcake, and replace cupcake tops – some ganache may squeeze out, and this adds a pretty effect (if too much comes out, you can wipe it off with a clean finger or paper towel; it’s white so any smudges won’t show up!).

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For the Champagne Frosting, cream together the shortening and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add in the sugar, alternating with champagne, and beat for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cornstarch, and beat for another 30 seconds, or until fluffy. Pipe onto the tops of your already-filled cupcakes.

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Lunch with VegNews!

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Yesterday I got to do something out of the ordinary and very fun! A friend has a connection at VegNews, and he arranged for me to have lunch with them at their headquarters. In preparation for this adventure, I thought and thought about what kinds of cupcakes to bring them. To be honored with a lunch at VegNews called for something really special, and something I knew would come out well. After much deliberation, I decided to make both White Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes and Rich Chocolate Almond Cupcakes. It felt very celebratory. I will post the recipes and some more pictures of these sinfully delicious cupcakes soon.VegNews staff even wrote about my cupcakes on one of their blogs!

*Edit: I have now posted the recipe for the Champagne Cupcakes here, and the Rich Chocolate Almond Cupcake recipe here. Enjoy!*

On our way to San Francisco, Julie did a miraculous job keeping the cupcakes safe while I drove over the Bay Bridge. Those little cakes braved lots of roadbumps and traffic, but safe on Julie’s lap in the car they were fine by the time we got to our destination. Julie’s thighs were frozen from our need to blast the air conditioning during the whole ride to keep the chocolate on top of the cupcakes from melting, but I suppose there’s always some collateral damage, right?

Everyone we met at VegNews was very sweet and incredibly inviting into their workspace. It was very interesting to see where all the magic happens; although honestly I have to say the best part of seeing their headquarters was seeing that they have a fully-stocked kitchen in the back where they cook lunch for each other every day! They had spices galore and a full fridge and to see that much care taken of their staff was great. I think it’s so important that for a group of people whose jobs center around food and food-oriented living all the time, that cooking also plays a big role for them daily. The yellow curry that Charlotte cooked for us was really delicious and fresh-tasting, and the conversation around the table was lively and fun. It seems like it would be a really nice place to work, and it is definitely a welcoming and fun place to visit! I hope I can join them for lunch again, and judging from the reception of my cupcakes, I think I’d be welcomed back!

We were also joined for lunch there by Laura Beck, who had made an amazing Caramalized Banana Ice Cream, which was so creamy and rich that I was soon over my head in a sugar-induced coma. She is very experienced in making ice cream, and we bonded over this. In this case, she used MimicCreme as her ice cream base, which I’ve been very excited about because it is made from almonds and cashews and is totally soy-free! I need to go buy myself some to make ice cream with! Thanks for the tip, Laura!

Power Pancakes

I went with 8 fabulous women friends of mine on an adventure in Big Basin Park on Sunday. Some of us were staying over, camping there for the night, while the rest of us were heading home in the evening to be back for work Monday morning. We were planning to leave early in the morning, packing our gear into the cars and turning up the music to get us pumped up for the drive down. We started the morning with a sandwich bar, where we could each make our own customized sandwich filled with lots of veggies, hummus, tofu, and cheese (for some). There was even a triple-decker sandwich created! If that won’t get you through an 11-mile hike, I don’t know what will! Except, of course, what I whipped up for breakfast to power us through this long day…

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I woke up earlier than planned and thought to myself that I just had the loveliest of friends, and I was so happy to be adventuring with them, and that we should have something to start our active day with style; something that will keep our bodies and minds happy for the rest of the day. Oatmeal would work, but that’s a little boring for a Sunday. Pancakes would certainly cover the “style” and “mind” categories well, but pancakes are not typically first on the list of healthy breakfast options. So I thought I could adapt a basic pancake recipe into something a little more fun and a little more wholesome. I just threw ingredients into the mixing bowl and hoped I wasn’t adding too many mix-ins to make these babies palatable. After heating up our skillets and pouring the first dollops of batter onto the sizzling pans, the cinnamony smells were intoxicating. They came out perfect, with a moist and fluffy interior and a crispy browned outside, and were packed with great ingredients to give us an invigorating start to our day. The dried coconut and bananas gave them a hint of tropical flavor, and the oats and pecans were a nice added texture. The whole wheat flour didn’t make the pancakes too heavy as I had worried it might, but instead just made them taste a wee bit healthy – but not too much that anyone really noticed. Because of all the sweet fruity flavors, these pancakes were delicious with raspberry preserves spread on liberally! This was definitely the winning topping, although there was maple syrup and agave present to be poured over too. And these pancakes definitely gave us a great start to our long day of hiking. We even made it to the end of a longer hike than we originally planned to take, and got to see 3 breathtaking waterfalls!

Without further ado, here is the recipe. It produces a large batch, and I got about 20 4-inch pancakes with it. You could always halve the recipe if you want less (or make a full batch and freeze your leftover pancakes – then whenever you want one, you can just pop it in the toaster oven and have a tasty snack or hearty breakfast in mere minutes!).

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour if you want a lighter pancake; I didn’t have any of this on hand at the time)
1 cup oats
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tblsp. canola oil, plus a little oil for the pan
1 cup water
2 cups plain soy milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tblsp. maple syrup
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 banana, sliced thinly
raspberry jam, maple syrup, or agave, for topping

Sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in the dried coconut and oats. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, water, soy milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mix in. Mix until just combined (make sure not to over-mix. Some lumps are okay!). Gently fold in your chopped pecans and banana slices. Let batter sit for a few minutes while you heat up your pan/s.
Lightly oil a large skillet and preheat over medium-high heat. You’ll know when the pan is hot enough if you flick some drops of water over the pan and they bounce off and sizzle.
Use a ladle to spoon your batter onto your pan, and make even-sized circles of batter. I typically get perfect pancakes by letting them sit on the pan longer than my patience will allow; I wait for them to start bubbling on top and have a bit of wispy steam/smoke coming out the edges from the bottom. This is when I flip them. Let the second side cook until they are browned and the whole pancake is barely firm to touch. Transfer to individual plates, or one large serving plate that you can keep warm in the oven.
Top with your favorite topping! Eat! Go for an invigorating hike or other active-day adventure!

PB&J Ice Cream!

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All of you who know me well, know that I love peanut butter. I enjoy all nut butters, but things can get quite dangerous when I’m left alone with peanut butter in particular. I have been known to eat it on/in nearly everything – making peanut sauces for vegetable stir-fries or pasta, mixing into my morning oatmeal, spreading it on rice cakes, baking it into cookies, mixing it with chocolate (or vegan nutella!) and eating it as a dessert, baking it into chocolate peanut butter cakes and cupcakes, mixing it into chocolate ganaches and even adding it to cream cheese frostings, and I’m guilty of even eating it with a spoon straight out of the jar! And of course, I do love my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I grew up eating them as a child, and when I was in college eating in the dining hall and complaining about the food, my father would tell me “If there’s nothing you like, make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”…While they may not be the healthiest option, I found myself making these a lot. And loving every bite of them. In addition to these PB&J experiences, I babysit for a fabulous family, and their kids eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters!)…Therefore, I have definitely eaten my share of peanut butter and jelly with them. You could say PB&J is my all-time favorite fall-back food, when I have to make a quick lunch or snack, or even just satisfy a nutty craving. Mmm.

I have to give props to my friend Talia for giving me a spontaneous gift of The Vegan Scoop cookbook, and after skimming through every single delicious and creative looking recipe, the first one I had to try was their Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream! Although I’m extremely excited to try most of the flavors in the book, this one was beckoning to me with full force. I made mine with strawberry preserves, which just felt perfect swirled into this childhood favorite food. It was the first soy-based ice cream I’ve tried making – previously I had only made sorbets, and ice creams that were based with coconut milk. While this soy ice cream came out divinely, I am hesitant about eating too much soy, and I’m thinking of ways to adapt the other recipes in this book so I can use almond milk and other heavier non-dairy milks in place of the soy milk and soy creamer. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I also had a silly thought while eating this ice cream; How would it taste on top of bread? My parents once had a Japanese exchange student named Koz staying with them, and he liked to eat ice cream on top of bread (any kind of ice cream, on top of any kind of toasted or untoasted sliced sandwich bread, and I have a vivid memory of him eating vanilla ice cream on top of an onion bagel). He said this was a popular treat in Japan. I always thought it was a little strange, but who am I to make judgements about other peoples’ eating preferences (let’s remember that I’m the one who likes to eat peanut butter plain…). And, since this was peanut butter and jelly ice cream, I thought it might work…So, I tried it! And it was yummy. So Koz definitely gets some major points for this idea! I understand that this is a little silly, but I thought I’d post a picture of it anyway. It is on a plate that my brother designed when he was a wee child!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Photos, Original Recipes & Text ©cookiesandcandids 2008-2010 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. If you repost any material from this blog, please give credit by including a link back to me. Thank you!
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