July 9, 2008

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over My Birthday

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, VCTOTW at 9:34 pm by veganalects

My girlfriend and I both celebrated our 21st birthdays this summer, two days apart. (I’m older. Ha!) Two birthdays means two parties in our book, and that, in turn, means cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes. Say, five batches of cupcakes.

All of these came from trusty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which is now so well-loved that the pages are falling out. (Advice, anyone?) I’ve made many a cupcake from this book before, but these ones revealed new favorites. Actually, one them is a new/old favorite—the Green Tea Cupcakes, pictured above. I’d made and liked them before, but lacked pure green tea powder (matcha); mine was mixed with dextrin. I finally found the good stuff at a small Asian grocery in Ohio. And look at the difference!

Here are the ones I made last winter with the compromised matcha. Pretty, yes, but…

…these ones are, you know, green. Rich, dark green. And they actually taste like green tea, instead of generic yumminess. Now that look at these together I realize the pale ones are prettier, but that can be attributed to my laziness in making the second batch. (Marzipan and I don’t get along.)

While I made the Green Tea Cupcakes my girlfriend made these Margarita Cupcakes. I mean, I’d take tea over tequila any day, but we were turning 21, after all. And these dolls were good. I think the fresh lime juice really makes them, and if you’ve read this blog with any frequency you know there are few things I love more than beverage-themed cupcakes (two so far this post, one to go).

For a pre-birthday celebration we made the Hazelnut Cupcakes with Hazelnut Mocha Creme. I haven’t been able to hunt down hazelnut extract, so we made these with almond extract instead; it also calls of hazelnut liqueur, which we omitted. They were good but not my favorite, though I bet the hazelnut extract and liqueur would make a difference.

I’d been eyeing the Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes for months, but the rosewater I had is kind of tasteless. As birthdays provide a great excuse for extravagance, we got superior rosewater and beautiful pistachios and set to baking. These are my new favorite cupcakes. The rosewater is delicate and fragrant and complements the pistachios superbly. The only other spice is a bit of cardamom—no vanilla or other flavorings. The texture is perfect, light and moist. These feel far fancier than I thought a cupcake could and they aren’t even hard to make. I made these again yesterday and I’m resisting sneaking into the kitchen right now. (A few tips for those planning to make these: buying shelled pistachios and putting them in a spice grinder or food processor, rather than shelling and chopping them by hand, will cut out the only labor-intensive parts of this recipe. Also, the recipe doesn’t actually say when to add the pistachios to the batter, but putting them in with the rest of the dry ingredients works fine.)

And last, the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes. I can’t take credit for these, either, as I was busy making the ones above, but I will make them in the future. (With even more cayenne. I like a kick.) The spices in these cupcakes make them more complicated than the basic chocolate ones. Next time I’m in the mood for chocolate, I’d make the Mexican variety first.

March 8, 2008

Cappuccino Cupcakes

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, VCTOTW at 5:28 pm by veganalects

Yes, these would be BeverageThemed Cupcakes #4. And there are still more I want to make (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, Margarita Cupcakes). Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World has not yet failed me. I made these for last weekend’s dinner party and they went fast. Even the leftover Cappuccino Creme filling went fast. For the record: my agar-agar flakes mysteriously disappeared, but the filling worked just fine without them (I increased the arrowroot powder to make sure it got firm enough). Here’s the cupcake-filling saga; it begins with the unadorned cupcakes above.


First you stick your (clean) finger in the cupcakes, hollowing out a little reservoir by pushing around the sides of the hole. In my first attempts, the holes weren’t big enough—that means less Cappuccino Creme. No. You want lots of Cappuccino Creme. Make a big hole.


Then you use a pastry bag (or, in my case, a Ziploc-knockoff resealable bag, the poor man’s pastry bag) and fill those cupcakes. This part is a lot of fun. You’d be surprised how much creme can fit in those nice holes you’ve made.


Et voila! Your filled cupcakes, dinner party-ready. If you like you can spread more of the creme on top—I had plenty left over. Or you can let your cupcake eaters spread their own. Either way, you are sure to win friends and influence people with these cute caffeinated cupcakes.

February 17, 2008

Luscious Lemon Bars

Posted in baking, dessert, Veganomicon at 2:11 am by veganalects

I was hoping to make these lemon bars from Veganomicon before I came back to school, but life (and packing) took over and I never got the chance. When I got here one of my (omnivorous) friends raved about them to me. That was all the motivation I needed to make them.

I had never made anything with either agar flakes or arrowroot before. Thickeners are crazy! The bars weren’t hard to make, but I wasn’t sure whether I was handling the thickeners properly. A word of advice: don’t get boiling agar on your hands. Not only will it burn, it will stick to you most persistently. Eventually everything mixed smoothly and I filled the crust and set the bars out to cool.

Having had a half dozen tasters for these, I can say confidently that they’re a hit. Whatever reservations my friends had about the lemon bars’ radioactive hue (hard to detect in this picture) disappeared after the first bite. Want testimonials? “Oh my god, I’m majoring in lemon bar eating.” Fact: making these lemon bars has been proven to increase your popularity by at least 46%.

That said, I should point out that their texture is different from that of the lemon bars I used to eat. The agar makes it quite gelatinous, smooth, and firm (“like a petri dish,” said the lemon bar majorer, and with good reason: most petri dishes are made of agar). The lemon bars I remember from my pre-vegan days were basically thick lemon custard over shortbread. I might try to recreate them someday. Please don’t let that turn you off, though—the only reason we have one lemon bar left is that I’m saving it for the friend who recommended them.

February 2, 2008

Chai Latte Cupcakes

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, VCTOTW at 5:54 am by veganalects

Aren’t beverage-themed cupcakes inexplicably delightful? I can’t seem to stop making them. I love chai lattes, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Oh my god, let’s just start with the batter. I could have called it a chai latte and drunk it from a cup. The spices were exactly right and it was so creamy and delicious. (Yeah, I lick the bowl. No salmonella risk, right?) Since I was aiming for a solid version of the drink, though, I restrained myself and put them in the oven.

Actually, I think I might have kept them in the oven a tiny bit too long. They were a little spongier than the other cupcakes I’ve made from VCTOTW, but it was certainly nothing grave. They were still good. The only thing I would change in the future is the frosting, actually; I thought they could have used something moist and creamy on top instead of the sugar and spices they recommend. If you wanted to make it really authentic, you could even top it with vegan whipped cream. Ooh, I should do that next time.

January 25, 2008

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, the Challenge, VCTOTW at 8:29 pm by veganalects

Ever since I got Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World back all I want to do is bake hand-held desserts by the dozen. After the green tea cupcakes, the apple mango crisp, and the almond scones, the time was ripe for something chocolatey.

I’ve made the Basic Chocolate Cupcake from VCTOTW a handful of times, so I was looking for something new. Why not continue the Cupcakes Baked With Beverages theme and make something with chocolate and beer? Now there’s a winning combination. No Guinness in these stout cupcakes, though—Guinness is refined with isinglass, from fish swimbladders. I used Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, but there are a number of other vegan stouts[Edit: I should clarify that these do come from a recipe in VCTOTW.]

Despite my absentminded errors—I accidentally added the beer to the dry ingredients instead of the wet, I forgot to top the cupcakes with the chocolate crumble till they’d been in the oven eight minutes—these came out quite well. I like them better than the Basic Chocolate Cupcake; the stout makes them richer and even more chocolatey-tasting somehow. They’re a little on the muffiny side (although that might be due to my bungling the directions), but that doesn’t diminish them for me at all. How can twelve cupcakes seem like so few?

January 24, 2008

Almond Scones

Posted in baking, brunch, the Challenge, VwaV at 7:05 pm by veganalects

I’d been planning to make the Hazelnut Scones from Vegan with a Vengeance for a while. I finally got it together and settled down to make them when I discovered, mid-recipe, that I didn’t have enough hazelnuts. Horror of horrors! I had my heart set on these particular scones and I’d already started brewing the coffee for them, so I raced to the closest grocery store for more. No dice. Are hazelnuts some kind of specialty item? Why could I find eleven glazes of roasted peanut but not one measly hazelnut?

In any case, I was determined to make scones, and I noticed we had slivered almonds on hand. I decided to adapt the standard scone recipe in VwaV slightly. I made a half recipe and added one tablespoon of sugar, 3/4 cup of almonds, and 1/2 teaspoon each of vanilla and almond extract.  I also sprinkled them with a few almonds and turbinado sugar before putting them in the oven.

They were quite tasty. I could have added a little more almond extract, but other than that I wouldn’t change anything. I had reduced the recipe because I thought sixteen scones for three people seemed a little excessive. But the nine scones I made disappeared in a day and a half. So I’ve learned three valuable lessons:

1. Make sure you have enough of everything before you start cooking.
2. If you run out of something, improvise something else yummy.
3. You can never have too many scones. In fact, you should make some more this weekend. With hazelnuts this time.

January 22, 2008

Chickpea Noodle Soup and Apple Mango Crisp

Posted in baking, dessert, dinner, soup, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 1:13 am by veganalects

Our house is freezing. We’re always complaining about it and sitting about shivering, but we don’t want to turn up the heat and we can’t keep piling on the sweaters. The only solution seems to be consuming hot liquids in large quantities.

Thus we’ve been having soup and tea by the gallons. And what better winter comfort food than chicken noodle soup? I can think of one: chickpea noodle soup, from (surprise surprise) Veganomicon. It’s got the usual suspects, like carrot and onion, but also includes soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles and miso paste. (Plus I added some kale—it’s hard for me to resist putting leafy greens in everything.) It’s exactly what we wanted it to be, though, and tastes down-home and simple. One of the things I really like about the recipe is that it has the flavor of celery from celery seed, but doesn’t have actual celery, whose texture I’m not crazy about. My mom especially loved this one.

Speaking of my mom, look at the apple mango crisp she made! She made a vegan adaptation of the Apple Crisp from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, our tried-and-true vegetarian starter book. We didn’t have enough apples so she added mango. Doesn’t it look crispy and delicious?


January 9, 2008

Biscotti Bonanza

Posted in baking, dessert, tea, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 2:23 am by veganalects

Okay, it wasn’t really a bonanza. It was just, well, a batch. But “biscotti batch” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

And it was exciting. I had never made biscotti before, but (as I’ve mentioned) I love tea, so I decided to make this my first baking adventure of the month. These are the Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti from Veganomicon. I’d say they’re perfect—they cracked when I was cutting them, but that’s probably my fault, and who really cares anyway? They’re delicious. Furthermore, they were a hit with the parents, and I consider baking the final frontier for convincing vegan skeptics, my mom most of all. I still have some work to do, but I think the biscotti are on my side.