July 29, 2008
There are Philadelphia vegans, New York vegans, Portland vegans (of course), Texas vegans, and even Canada vegans. But where in the blogosphere are the DC vegans? I don’t want to say there aren’t any, but I haven’t seen the US capital make more than a cameo appearance on any of the vegan blogs I read. Further, vegan publications consistently overlook DC. Herbivore travel issue, anyone? Milwaukee made the destination list, but we got skipped! (And it’s not like Herbivore was trying to win points for obscure locations—Portland, San Francisco, and NYC all made the list. Who needs a vegan guide to Portland, for god’s sake?)
Anyway, to bring this rant to a point, I live in DC (well, the suburbs thereof) and I think it’s a great place to be vegan. There are plenty of restaurants and markets in the area with wide vegan selections, but what I find really exciting is to look at a menu and realize I can order anything on it. It doesn’t happen often. And what I find really really exciting is when that menu primarily comprises sweets. Enter Sticky Fingers.
Sticky Fingers Bakery has been a DC vegan staple for a few years now, but the old location near Dupont Circle was…well, kind of dingy. It occupied a small, rather dark basement store. One went for the apple tart, not for the atmosphere. But it recently moved to as-hip-as-Dupont-once-was Columbia Heights, and the new place is beautiful. It’s a real café, it’s light and cheery, and I think it may have an expanded menu, too. I don’t normally go for pink, but it works.
I went to Sticky Fingers twice over the course of a week, purely to fulfill my duty to you and DC’s reputation among spoiled Portlanders, and here is what I ate.
Actually, I didn’t eat this chocolate peanut butter cupcake. My friend did. She was craving peanut butter and to the best of my knowledge enjoyed it.
This I did eat. It’s an almond crème cupcake and it was very satisfying. It made me want to go home and bake some immediately, but instead I just went back to Sticky Fingers two days later. Whoo!
After I ate the cupcake it occurred to me to eat breakfast. My friend pointed out the breakfast sandwich. This ain’t your mama’s Egg McMuffin. It’s your vegan aunt’s Egg McMuffin: vegan egg, vegan sausage, vegan vaguely cheesy sauce. That explanation makes it sound kind of shady, but it was actually quite good. (Never having consumed an Egg McMuffin, however, I cannot compare the two.)
Finally, I had to have Sticky Fingers’s signature item, the sticky bun. It’s their trademark for a reason; I can make good cupcakes myself, but this was truly a treat. I recommend putting it in the microwave for ten seconds—it almost feels oven-fresh.
There was a surprise treat in here, too. Can you find it? (Ooh, it’s just like I SPY.) If you said the latte, you win nothing. The latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Vegan lattes are harder to get right than dairy lattes because both the beans and the soymilk must be good; I’ve found that even good cafés often have inferior soymilk. Yet another advantage of the all-vegan institution—it does not just humor vegans but caters to us. Here’s hoping that this post single-handedly attracts a mass migration of vegans to the DC area, creating a vegan community to rival Frisco’s. Our motto: “Better than Portland.”
July 9, 2008
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
Yes, these would be Beverage–Themed 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 2, 2008
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
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 21, 2008
Is there anything more exciting than Asian groceries? In pursuit of unadulterated green tea powder, I went to the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It was just like a standard commercial grocery store but a billion times more fun. There was an entire twenty foot-long case of different kinds of tofu: tofu noodles, puffed tofu, tofu skin, smoked tofu, dry bean curd, and on and on. More important, where else can you find acorn starch? No where else, that’s where.
Yet despite the fact that this Asian market was the third I’d visited, and the fact that it stocked fourteen kinds of starch, the only green tea powder I could find was mixed with dextrin. I was so desperate to make the Green Tea Cupcakes from my recently-returned copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World that I bought it anyway. At least it wasn’t mixed with sugar, right?
As I feared, the impure powder didn’t produce the rich green cupcakes pictured in the book, even though I added a good deal more than the recipe called for. They came out tan, with a greenish hue, sort of the shade I turn when I have the flu. I decided to dust them with the powder to give them a little more color. I was more concerned that they would end up tasteless, though. This fear turned out to be unfounded—they were delicious.
In fact, these might be my favorite cupcakes from VCTOTW yet. The texture was perfect—moist, light, yet substantial. The almond extract and the rice milk come through nicely, and the tea powder gives it a lovely flavor I wouldn’t have recognized as tea if I hadn’t made them. I baked twenty-seven of these babies on Friday and they were gone by Sunday. Not just from the three of us—though if I had a little less restraint, I could have finished them by now myself.