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Archive for April, 2011

Assuming that the DQ doesn’t only exist in the south (I think I’ve seen it in Ptown) most of us should remember the notorious dipped ice cream cone. You know, where they take a sugary cone, top it with sugary ice cream and then magically dip the whole thing in melty chocolate and somehow the impossible occurs and the ice cream actually stays on the cone and manages to remain “frozen” long enough for you to eat it. Well there’s been some dabbling lately in the whole dipping thing, but using cupcakes instead of ice cream cones. It’s been a long time coming – I first saw these things last November – but I finally, finally, attempted to make them.

And I succeeded!!!

I think these might possibly be the most fattening cupcakes I’ve ever created, due to the insane amount of frosting piled on top of the cupcake and the chocolately goodness that’s coating the whole damn thing, but sometimes you gotta say to hell with it! And then get up the next morning and run 8 miles. It’s a dessert – fitness balance, and I’d say these are worth every calorie.

The chocolate cupcake part comes straight from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, except I added some brandy soaked strawberries and, of course, brandy to the batter, but any cupcake recipe will do. I took the chocolate coating from Bakerella’s Hi Hat recipe.

Strawberry & Chocolate Hi Hat Cupcakes

  • 1 cup roughly chopped strawberries (organic preferably)
  • 3 T brandy or cognac

I believe I used about 2 oz hulled strawberries, but just fill up a cup and don’t worry about the oz. Pour about 3 T brandy over the strawberries, cover with lid or plastic wrap and let them sit there for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain as much of the brandy off as possible into a separate bowl.

  • Basic Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  • 2 T brandy (from the strawberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 and make the chocolate cupcake batter as directed on the website above, but transfer 2 tablespoons of strawberry brandy to a 1/3 measuring cup and then fill the rest of it with oil instead of using an entire 1/3 cup of oil.

Once you fill the liners with batter, divide the macerated strawberries up between the 12 cupcakes, and stir them up a bit to cover with batter. You could also just mix the strawberries in with the batter and then fill the cupcake liners (that would probably be easier, though some of the strawberries would stick to the liner). Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack after they rest for about 5 minutes. Don’t worry if they sink a little bit in the middle, it’s the strawberries’ fault but nobody will notice (or care).

  • 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese (about 4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine (stick form)
  • 2 tsp brandy (from the strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree
  • About 7 cups powdered sugar

Let the cream cheese and butter set out a bit to soften, then toss them into the stand mixer and cream them together. While creaming, use a small food processor or blender and puree some strawberries. I used 2 – 3 oz of strawberries and ended up with over 1/2 cup of puree (so less will do). Add the puree and brandy to the creamed butter and cream cheese. You can add all the sugar at once if you like, though you might find yourself in a cloud of powdered sugar if you do. I added it a cup or two at a time. 7 cups seems a bit much but I wanted to make sure the icing was thick enough to withstand the dipping. I also have a small bit left over so you could cut it back some but then you’d have all these weird measurements and who wants that?

Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Some people use a fat, round tip. I’m cheap so I just use the hole at the end of the pastry bag (seems to make sense to me). Place the cupcakes in the freezer to harden the icing.

  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 T canola oil

Bakerella used the microwave but I try to use methods other than the microwave if at all possible. If you don’t have a double boiler (like me) fill a small pan halfway full of water and heat it almost to boiling on the stove. Put the chocolate chips and oil in a bowl and set it on top of the pan of water. Stir continuously until the chocolate is all melted.

Now this is where I almost had a problem. I don’t have a lot of fairly narrow but deep containers. You need to put the melted chocolate into something that’s wide enough to fit the cupcake in but has enough depth so that the cupcake doesn’t smash into the bottom. I used a tall take out container (the kind commonly found at Thai restaurants). This was about perfect size but even then the chocolate became too low after about six dips to submerge the cupcake all the way, but a little bit of tilting (of the container) and twirling (of the cupcake) worked just fine.

So, transfer the chocolate to an appropriately sized container; you can let it cool for a minute to make sure it’s not too awfully hot. Remove the cupcakes from the freezer. Pick one up. Hold your breath. Submerge it into the chocolate. Pull it out. Breath. Let the excess chocolate dribble off. Set it down and move onto the next one.

Isn’t that fun?!?! I had extra chocolate left over so I was trying to find anything I could to dip in it. Strawberries. Pretzels. Chocolate biscotti. =) I told my husband if I had known it was this easy I would have started dipping things a long time ago. But maybe it’s best that I didn’t (you can only run so many miles in the morning).

These cupcakes were for a friend’s birthday outing so I didn’t think I was going to be able to get a picture of the cross-section. But as fate would have it I was left with one little orphan cupcake, so I split him in half this morning and grabbed my camera! I wonder if our neighbors think I’m crazy when they see me out on the roof in 40 degree weather taking pictures of cupcakes?

These cupcakes were really good. I mean really good. Everybody at the table thought they were awesome. The gooey strawberry middle reminded me of those chocolate covered cherries you see at Christmas time (which gave me an idea for another cupcake).

If you dare to dip your cupcake, let me know how it goes!!

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Is it weird to have affection for bakeware? You know, like your favorite flip flops or that old ratty t-shirt that’s just now getting to the right stage of worn out. I’m not hugging my pans or telling them stories or anything like that, just really quite fond of a couple of them.

In the past I’ve been the type to just go to the evil superstore and grab whatever was the cheapest and would suffice for whatever I was needing it for. But now I’m getting to the point where I’m becoming more selective. Sometimes this occurs out of necessity, like when you finally buy a Silpat mat but then can’t find a pan ANYWHERE the right size for the damn thing. But really it’s because I’ve come to the realization that there’s a reason, at least in part, for certain pans costing more than others. No I don’t know the actual scientific reasons behind certain pans baking bread better than others, but who needs science when you have fresh, crusty French bread that’s still warm and soft in the middle?

Thanks to a gift card from one of my sisters-in-law, I recently became the proud owner of this pretty little French bread pan from Williams-Sonoma:

I’ve made bread before of course, but never French bread so I was pretty excited to get into the kitchen and go to work, even though I spent the entire day before attempting to make a puff pastry. Just FYI, bread is MUCH easier to make than puff pastry.

French Bread

So this recipe is a cross between the recipe on the back of the rather sticky label that was affixed to my pan and the French-Style Bread recipe in the Beard on Bread cook book. Both recipes seemed to have called for way too much flour though, but perhaps this was due to the type of flour I used. If you use regular AP flour you might need to add a cup more than what it says below.

  • 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3 & 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 T sugar (raw, organic)
  • 4 & 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • a bit of soy or almond milk (for the “egg” wash)

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water with a small whisk or a fork and let stand until foamy, 10 – 15 minutes.

Put the salt and 4 cups of the flour in your KitchenAid Stand Mixer bowl, or a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Once the yeast has proofed, add it slowly to the flour, with the dough hook attached and the mixer on Stir. Increase speed to 2 and add flour by the 1/4 cup until the dough comes off the sides. I barely got another 1/2 cup of flour in before the dough looked like it had plenty of flour; the recipes called for up to 6 cups of flour. Let the mixer continue for about 7 minutes or so, then remove and finish kneading the dough by hand for a few more minutes – I think it’s better to finish the kneading manually so you can get a feel for the dough’s texture and elasticity. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let it sit for about an hour.

After an hour, or when it has doubled in size, punch the dough down, knead it a bit and then return it to the bowl and cover again it with the plastic wrap and towel. Let it rest for another 30 minutes or so.

Now take the dough, divide it in half and roll each half out into a log about the length of the pan. Place a clean kitchen towel in the pan and sprinkle it with flour. Set the logs of dough in the pan and cover with another towel for about 20 minutes.*

After 20 minutes, turn the oven to 425. Either flip the loaves off of the towel into the pan or carefully lift them with your hands onto the pan (you obviously can’t put a kitchen towel in the oven). Make about 5 slashes in each loaf with a sharp knife and then brush it with the soy milk. Wait 20 minutes then put the bread in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it.

Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting into it, or just go ahead and burn your fingers if you can’t wait.

I always find it funny how bread can taste so different from one loaf to the next when so many of them are made from the same basic ingredients. This stuff was so good we even got the butter out (I never put butter on anything). We ate it with some soup but I think there are French bread pizzas and some bruschetta in our future.

Do you have a favorite bread recipe or an item in the kitchen that you are most attached to?

 

* This step was per the people at Williams-Sonoma. I kind of think the towel is unnecessary. Perhaps try spraying the pan with non-stick cooking spray or sprinkling cornmeal on it to prevent the dough from sticking and just go ahead and put it straight on the pan. My assumption with the towel is that it’s to prevent the dough from sinking through the holes and/ or keep it from drying out on the bottom. Next time I’ll try it without the towel and let you know how it worked out.

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I can be a little naive at times. Or maybe I’m just overly ambitious. Or plain dumb. Whichever it is it typically results in me spending far more time in the kitchen than I had planned, a lot of sighing and a beer at some point to quell my anxiety. A word of caution: puff pastry making is not for the faint hearted.

A long time ago I saw this asparagus tart thing on Vegan Yum Yum. Lately I’ve been seeing all this pretty green asparagus at the store – something I don’t buy often as it’s always too expensive. But my girlfriends and I were getting together to make chocolate and drink wine and I thought this would be the perfect excuse to make the asparagus tart. So I go pick up some asparagus and head on over to the frozen section to grab a box of puff pastry. “Hmm, they only have Pepperidge Farm…” I’m not a big fan of high fructose corn syrup or evil corporations that put it in everything they make, so I decided to walk all the way back over to the natural foods section to see if they had puff pastries over there. Nope. Damn. “I’ll just make it myself.”

This is where you laugh. This is where I should have realized that there’s a reason that every tart recipe I’ve seen online uses the store-bought puff pastries. But I don’t come to this realization – due to one of the aforementioned characteristics.

Being that I’m in culinary school I have this great big text-book on baking. I flip to the puff pastry section and it all seems pretty simple and straightforward. There’s even a step-by-step diagram illustrating the folding techniques; you need at least 1,000 layers in a puff pastry, that’s what makes it puff.

I encountered my first disaster before I even got to the folding. The book says to mix the flour and salt, place it on your work surface, make a well in the middle and pour the melted butter and water in the well. Then you mix it with your hands to form a ball of dough. Piece of cake. Well, I live in this ancient house where nothing is level. If you put a ball on the floor it will pick up speed as it rolls. I have to battle gravity every time I use my rolling-pin as it starts rolling off my work table immediately after I set it down. I didn’t think about this. I start mixing my melted butter and flour and it immediately begins spilling out all over the place and races right for the edge of the table. I lost a bit of the liquid to the floor, grocery bags and my shoes. If you know me at all you can adequately imagine me scrambling, sighing and cursing while trying to salvage as much of the liquid and flour that I can.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. After the dough sits in the fridge for 30 minutes or so you roll it out into a rectangle.

You also take the butter (stick form), and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and smash it with the rolling-pin then form it into a rectangle as well.

You place the butter rectangle on top of the dough rectangle and start folding the dough over to enclose the butter. Enclose is the key word here. I don’t think the butter’s supposed to immediately squish out of every side it possibly can. Did you know it’s basically impossible to use a rolling-pin on something that buttery? There’s a blurb somewhere in my baking book, that I evidently didn’t read, that says to place the dough in the fridge between folds; I’d suggest that if you ever try this at home.

My book was also very specific about how you fold the dough and how many times you do this. These specifics, as well as my photo tutorial, got canned the second my hands, rolling-pin and table where all slathered in my overly expensive Earth Balance butter. Eventually (like half an hour later) I got it folded about 6 times, threw it in the fridge, ignored the mountain and butter and flour covered dishes in the sink and went for a run.

I think the pastry dough is supposed to be a bit thinner when you go to actually make your tart or whatever it is that you’re making. Since mine had the resemblance of a brick rather than a sheet I had more rolling to do. This is where the pint of beer got poured. I did, however, finally get it thin(ish) and in a decent sized rectangle – though I didn’t think about it shrinking slightly in the oven so my perfectly trimmed asparagus got trimmed again.

You can see my beer in the upper left corner.

So what I had thought would be an hour or two long process basically took up my entire day and drove me to drinking. I guess there’s a reason most people buy the pre-made puff pastries. I’m thinking there might also be some differences in the melting properties of real butter versus vegan butter, which could be part of the reason I appeared to have way too much butter “enclosed” in my pastry. It tasted good though, but it’s kind of impossible for something with that much fat in it to not taste good. I didn’t bother taking a very good (artistic) picture of the finished product because I was frazzled, pressed for time and thought it looked like poop.

Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe calls for baking the tart with the white bean dip and asparagus already on it. I didn’t want to cook the beans so I baked the tart by itself, roasted the asparagus and then put it all together afterward. I used the Provence White Bean Puree recipe from Foodie Family instead of Yum Yum’s pesto. And the asparagus was just roasted for about 12 minutes with garlic, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. Pretty simple combination but it all worked well together.

So, the moral of the story is: make sure your table is level and do scratch baking the day before you need it.

 

 

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A long long time ago, in a far away place called Starbucks, I ordered a snickerdoodle cookie. You can imagine my surprise when I bit into the over-sized morsel and didn’t find any Snickers. “What the hell is a snickerdoodle then?”

I now know that snickerdoodle means cinnamon, not Snickers. As to what the word snickerdoodle has to do with cinnamon I still have no idea, and apparently nobody else can decide either. But things with random, seemingly obscure names are typically fun, and in this case tasty.

My first exploration into this simple sugar and cinnamon combination was prompted by the James Beard awards. The James Beard Foundation recently held the award nominations in the dining room of the Oregon Culinary Institute (where I go to school). For the students this meant a cooking contest. No, I didn’t enter it, but I thought about it. I probably should have but I was a little intimidated being that I still haven’t set foot in an actual culinary classroom. Plus we could only make so many changes and I wanted to make it vegan, which would have required too many changes in total. Anyway, I came across a James Beard recipe for snickerdoodle cake. One word: scrumptious. It wasn’t necessarily photo-worthy however, so you’ll just have to make it yourself to see how it looks.

The snickerdoodle quickly found its way back into my oven just a couple weeks later. As some of you know, we have a cookie jar that has a perpetual problem of running out of cookies [insert husband]. Whenever the cookie situation gets dire I run to my cookie cook book and pick out something that looks good but, most importantly, doesn’t require any trips to the store (I hate last minute dashes to the grocery store). The Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodle was the chosen one. Some might think cayenne and cinnamon shouldn’t necessarily go  together but they honestly worked extremely well together. These cookies had just the right amount of kick, and the texture was awesome too (and I even left most of the oil out).

I made cupcakes for the Bakesale for Japan fundraiser that was happening across the nation last Saturday, April 2nd. I had a bunch of ideas bouncing around in my head but I had been wanting to turn the snickerdoodle into a cupcake for quite some time. With French vanilla buttercream. And caramel in the middle. The French vanilla made it (which smelled just like birthday cake – I had no idea). The caramel, sadly, did not [insert laziness]. In my defense I made 4 batches of cupcakes that day, one twice because I screwed it up, so maybe I wasn’t necessarily lazy, just overly cupcaked.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes (vegan)

Preheat the ole oven to 350. Line muffin pan with liners.

  • 1 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Whisk the vinegar and milk together and set it aside to curdle.

  • 1 & 1/4 cup organic unbleached flour (or a combo of wheat & unbleached)
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 T cinnamon*

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.

  • 1/3 cup canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar (or a combo of sugar and agave)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Combine the wet ingredients, including the now curdled milk, in a large mixing bowl a and mix until well emulsified. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, but don’t over-mix. Fill liners about 2/3’s full.

  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle over each soon-to-be cupcake. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cupcakes rest for about 5 minutes after they’re done and then transfer to a cooling rack, or put them in the fridge if you feel the need to frost them ASAP.

French Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan stick margarine (room temperature)
  • 1/2 non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp French Vanilla extract

Cream the margarine and shortening together. It’s important to do this well or you’ll have chunks of pure fat sitting idly in your frosting. Add the milk, extract and 3 cups of the sugar and mix well. Add more sugar if needed to reach the desired consistency – if you’re piping the frosting on you want it to be a bit thick or it won’t hold its form.

Place the frosting in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before piping it onto the cupcakes to ensure it’s set enough to not get all sloppy after all your hard work. Make sure the cupcakes are totally cool before frosting them. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and place part of a cinnamon stick in the middle if you like.

* These were really good but I thought there might be just a tad too much cinnamon in them. Try reducing the cinnamon from 1/2 T to 1 tsp the first go round and see what you think.

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It’s nice to see the next generation realizing what’s going on and speaking out about it. I think if I had been more aware of farm and animal conditions growing up that I would have made changes in my eating habits a long time ago. But I don’t recall anybody ever talking about it. It seems like there was, and still is, a huge disconnect in our food, where it comes from and what’s in it.

You can find a bit of information about Birke Baehr here. We need more kids, and adults, like this.

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Don’t forget to go get your sweet tooth fix today! Bakesale for Japan is happening at Barista on NW 13th and Ristretto Roasters on N Williams. Bakers from all over Portland have donated their time, sugar and flour to help raise money, so get over there between 10am and 2pm today!

My cupcakes will be at Barista. The snickerdoodles are quite pretty but the others aren’t nearly as cute as I had hoped, but they still taste fantastic! And they’re VEGAN! (of course, I wouldn’t know what to do with an egg if I had one).

 

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