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Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Portland is an awesome place to live. It’s like the land of beer and vino, with a lot of funky, slow driving, alternative lifestyle loving, vulgar doughnut eating, striped sock wearing people thrown in the mix. There are more food and bar establishments here (not to mention strip clubs) than you can ever possibly visit. Most of the big names in music make a pit stop here, and of course if you want to be disappointed you can always catch a Blazers game. I mean, where else can you drink a pint and play Dr. Mario Brothers or BurgerTime?

But all this awesomeness doesn’t come for free. Portland seems to have a knack for attracting tons of mid-20’s/ 30-something’s that all arrive without jobs. This means that those of us already here have an ever growing amount of competition. And while it used to be the cheapest city of the west coast to live, and perhaps still is, it’s quickly growing up. Though it’s not on par with San Francisco yet, it’s trying its damnedest to get there. So while it’s truly a fantastic city with a wonderful climate and superb amenities, the hubs and I have decided to move it on down the line.

So where are we bound? To a city both of use said we’d never move to. Dallas. Texas. The Big D. Did you know it’s been over a 100 degrees there lately? Did you know my husband practically melts in the heat? Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting! My sister pretty much sealed our fate when she moved there in February. Plus the job market is supposedly not quite the ferocious beast it is here, but we’ll be the judge of that I guess.

So having said all that, the posting here will be a bit sparse over the next few weeks as we pack and clean and load and drive and drive and drive and unload and unpack and etc, etc. But I’ll leave you now with a tasty little summer treat, and hopefully there will be some cookies up here before we begin our trek across country.

Almond Amaretto Ice Cream

  • 6oz extra-firm silken tofu
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is better than light)
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 5 T Amaretto liqueur
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C sugared or candied almonds, roughly chopped

Puree the tofu in a blender with just enough milk to help it along. Once it’s completely smooth, add the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts, and puree again. Place it in the fridge for a bit to cool back down.

Now regarding those nuts, they’ll get all soggy and mushy if you just place them straight into the ice cream without doing anything to them, and nobody wants soggy nuts do they? The best way to avoid this is to candy them, but that typically involves egg whites and we obviously don’t do that here. You can sugar them however, and that’s super easy to do.

Generally you do not chop nuts before sugaring and toasting but if you chop them after you’ll break the barrier you just created and all will be for not. So, roughly chop the almonds. Bring a solution of equal parts sugar and water to boil (also known as simple syrup). Toss the nuts in the boiling simple syrup and stir them around for about 15 seconds. Now drain them, reserving the simple syrup if you like for another use, and spread them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a Silpat. Toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven until they’re no longer sticky. And since you can’t tell if they’re sticky while they’re still hot, pull an almond out of the oven and set it on the counter for a minute and then test. If it’s not sticky and has a good crunch, you’re done!

So when you’re ready, spin your ice cream in your ice cream maker. Add the cooled almonds towards the end of the spinning process, or fold them in after it’s spun. Cover tightly and freeze for several hours to allow it to setup completely.

Well I guess I’ll see you on the other side, but hopefully before. If you live or have lived in Dallas and have some vegan tips for me (i.e. restaurants) please share!

Cheers!

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So all vegetables and fruits belong to different pigment families. In general there are three groups: chlorophyll (green plants like broccoli), carotenoids (orange and yellow plants like carrots) and flavonoids (red, purple and white plants like beets). When cooking veggies or fruit the acidity or alkalinity of whatever you’re cooking them in affects their ultimate appearance and texture. Acid will make spinach an ugly dull green but leave it firm while an alkaline will keep is bright but make it mushy. Flavonoids are affected differently. Acid leaves reds red but alkalinity turns them blue.

This means that if you put cherries in a cupcake batter and add baking soda (an alkaline) they’re going to turn blue. Furthermore, if you soak the cherries in whiskey and then add some of the soaking liquid to the batter, that blue hue is going to come with it. And since there is only bit of blue and a lot of tan/ brownish color from all the flour and sugar, the cupcake will take on some Dr. Seuss green eggs and ham like quality during baking. Thankfully the majority of the green pigment baked out of the cupcakes but part way through baking it looked like I was making spinach cupcakes.

This might not be true of all cherries. I’m guessing maraschino cherries would behave differently as they’re so freaking processed but I was using pure and unadulterated Bing cherries.

But regardless of rogue cupcakes pigments, I’m a huge fan of whiskey. I used to hate whiskey but during culinary school a certain instructor was very fond of the stuff and had us taste different whiskeys almost every day of the week. After a few months of tasting whiskey at 8am you start to develop a taste for it, to say the least.

Due to my new found love of whiskey, the Manhattan has quickly become my favorite cocktail. And when you order it at a bar (at a good bar, don’t order one at a dive bar) they tend to come with a whiskey soaked cherry sitting in the bottom of your glass. So of course I thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a cupcake.

Whiskey Soaked Cherry Cupcakes

First you have to soak your cherries. A few hours might be sufficient. A day would definitely do. But I soaked them for two days, just to be safe.

Pit your cherries and then quarter them. I believe it took 24 cherries to get 1 cup pitted and quartered. Place the chopped cherries in a small bowl or jar and cover with whiskey. Cover and let them soak.

For the Cupcakes

  • 3/4 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C AP flour
  • 3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, about 10 swipes across a microplane
  • 1/2 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/4 C cherry soaking liquid (whiskey)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1 C quartered and soaked cherries

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Mix the soy milk and vinegar together to curdle and set aside.

Sift all your dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whisk together the sugars and canola oil. Add the soaking liquid and extracts. Fold in about 1/3 of the flour followed by 1/2 of the milk and repeat, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour.* Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid, and fold them into the batter.

Portion the batter into the cupcake pan – a 1/4 cup spoon yielded 12 cupcakes for me. Bake until they are springy and a toothpick comes out clean. These took longer than usual in my oven, I’m wanting to say over 25 minutes.

For the Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, room temp
  • 4 oz pressed extra firm silken tofu (1/2 of a Mori-Nu block)
  • Powdered Sugar, roughly 3 – 4 cups
  • Cherry soaking liquid
  • Pinch of salt

First press the tofu. Grab a few paper towels or a kitchen towel and wrap it around the tofu. Place it on the counter and put something heavy on top of it to help squeeze out the excess water. You can skip this step but then you won’t be able to add much flavoring liquid and/ or you’ll need more powdered sugar to absorb the excess water in the tofu.

After the tofu has been pressed for a bit, place it and the soft butter in a blender or small food processor bowl and blend them until well combined and “fluffy”. Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid bowl (or any large bowl). With the paddle attachment (or a spatula), add a tablespoon or two of the cherry soaking liquid and the salt. Mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. I used less powdered sugar here than I typically do because I wanted a less sweet/ not so stiff frosting, but the quantities are ultimately up to your fancy.

For Homemade Cupcake Liners

So if you find yourself riffling through your cabinet and you discover that you have about 20 different cute, fun, polka-dotted cupcake liners but not any serious, whiskey worthy, adult-like ones, have no fear. Grab a piece of parchment paper and cut it into squares, I’d say about 4 x 4 inches. Take each piece and press it into a cupcake cavity, use the bottom of a glass to help make the creases stay. Voila! Now you have plain yet sophisticated cupcake liners. Problem solved.

If you’ve ever baked with alcohol, you know that most of it bakes out of the cupcake, so typically you can’t taste much of it when all is said and done. These cherries, however, are lushes and held onto the whiskey quite well. Therefore if you aren’t a whiskey fan, skip right over this puppy and maybe try the mango cupcakes. If you are a whiskey fan, you’ll love these!

* Regarding the mixing method with the cake batter, I generally don’t worry about the flour-milk-flour-milk-flour method with vegan cakes. Usually I’m lazy and throw all my liquid in the bowl, sift in my dry, mix, portion and bake. I thought I’d try to go about the right way and see if any differences were noticed. These cupcakes did turn out to be quite moist and not in the slightest bit tough. However, that could be due to the mixing method or the fact that I used less starches than I typically do. So the moral of the story is, if you’re feeling lazy, just through it all in the bowl and forget about it. 🙂

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I’m gonna go out on a limb here but maybe, just maybe, we should do the Ice Cream Cupcake Contest in like December. I get the whole “it’s summertime and it’s hot and we all want ice cream” thing but seriously, photographing these puppies in 85 degree weather is a wee bit difficult. Not to mention messy. And sticky. There’s still icing and ice cream all over my camera. I’m just saying… 🙂

As you know (or maybe you don’t) every year Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious host an ice cream cupcake competition. You make a cupcake, throw some ice cream on it and hope nobody else was as creative as you were (which, obviously, never happens because there are a lot of super creative people out there). Last year was my first year competing, and I made it to the finals with my Take 6 cupcake but a certain S’mores cupcake and ultimately a very yummy looking honey hazelnut and chocolate ganache cupcake took the cake (no pun intended). Stephanie, the maker of the S’mores cake, is judging this year so at least I don’t have to worry about her this time around. 😉

Lately I’ve been on this white chocolate kick. I made a white chocolate dobos opera fusion cake at work a week or so ago and the idea carried over into my home life. I thought about making the cupcake 7 layers (like the dobos) but my better judgement took hold and smacked some sense into me. I wasn’t sure exactly how my cupcake was going to come together but then one night around 2am I randomly woke up and thought “cheesecake cupcake.” But not in actual cheesecake form. And I wanted the cupcake to be the graham cracker crust. So without further ado, my cupcake:

There’s cupcake underneath all that frosting, you just can’t see it here. My aim with the frosting was a whip cream consistency, so I decided to once again try to whip coconut cream. People tell me this works; I think they’re all lying. Maybe I’m just expecting it to do what actual cream does, or honestly just anything at all, but the only thing I ever see is the pretty design my whisk makes as the stand mixer spins its little heart out to no avail. So I morphed it into a coconut cream buttercream. The texture is much softer than typical buttercream, so that’s good. It’s still super sweet though as I had to use lots of powdered sugar to give it some volume, but that’s ok – it is a cupcake after all and cupcakes are supposed to be sweet.

Being that the frosting is super soft, it doesn’t hold up to the heat well. Especially if you just mixed it and are impatient and your kitchen looks like a war zone and all you really want to do is take the damn photo so you can finally eat dinner. I initially just put a dollop of frosting on top of the cupcakes and added my caramel sugar garnish, but two the of three dollops slid off before I could even turn my camera on. I got some photos of one of them at least.

The caramel sugar garnish here and in the first photo are the same thing. You just put some sugar in a pan and add enough water to make it look like wet sand. Then you crank the heat up full blast and wait. Absolutely no stirring. Stirring the sugar will likely cause it to crystalize, which will make it look like rock candy. Sure it’s pretty but once I crystalized a pot of like 16 cups of sugar at work… Luckily nobody was around to yell/ laugh/ bill me for it.

At some point the sugar will start to caramelize. You can swirl the pan a bit to even out the caramelizing. Depending on what you want to do with it, you take it off the heat when it reaches the caramel color you want, briefly place the pan in an ice bath to stop the cooking. You can “pipe” it out with a paper cornet, or use a ball whisk to make a nest of strands, or use cutters to make shapes (molds), etc, etc. But a word of caution: caramel is HOT! So have some gloves on if you can, and a towel and an ice bath in case you get some on your finger as shaking it off just won’t happen.

White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream (vegan)

  • 9 oz vegan white chocolate
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese, softened
  • 6 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 t vanilla extract

A word on the vegan white chocolate, it’s weird. It tastes fine but it has a different texture than normal white chocolate. It doesn’t melt like normal chocolate either. It melts down to a batter-like consistency but it doesn’t get liquidy (so just keep that in mind).

Place the chocolate in a double boiler (or bowl on top of a pan with water) and heat it gently until it’s uniformly melted. Place the cream cheese, tofu and melted chocolate in a blender and puree until smooth. Add enough coconut milk to help it along but let it get completely smooth before adding the rest. Once smooth, add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth again.

You can let the mixture cool down in the fridge for awhile at this point. When you’re ready to freeze, depending on what kind of ice cream maker you have, you may have to freeze it in two batches. My maker is just small enough where all of this wouldn’t fit in at once. After the ice cream is spun it honestly needs about a day to setup properly, so make the ice cream well ahead of when you need it.

In my opinion, this is the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had. I always use low fat coconut milk because I’m health conscious but I threw calories to the wind for this project. Cheesecake isn’t supposed to be healthy anyway. This ice cream is rich and creamy and full of flavor. Definitely a keeper! I think omnivores would even be impressed.

Graham “Cracker” Cupcakes (mostly vegan)

These are mostly vegan because I put honey in them. I know honey isn’t technically vegan but I don’t have a problem with using it. Bees are going to make the stuff whether we’re eating it or not so… If you don’t want to use honey feel free to sub in agave or some more sugar.

  • 3/4 C graham flour (or whole wheat if you can’t find it)
  • 3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C soy mik
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 C non-gmo canola oil
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 2 T blackstrap molasses
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 T applesauce, optional (for moisture)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan if you wish or just spray it with PAM. I did both because I wanted to be able to see the cake and didn’t want cupcake liner indentions on it, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get them out of the pan so I lined a few – they came out just fine.

Pour the milk and vinegar in your mixing bowl and set it aside to curdle.

In another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.

Once your milk is curdled add the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 increments, partially incorporating between additions. I did this because graham flour is high in protein and I didn’t want to risk working the gluten too much and end up with tough cupcakes.

Portion the batter into the cupcake pan. I used a 1/4 cup scoop and got 12 cupcakes out of it. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick comes out clean, mine only took 18 minutes which is pretty quick. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 Coconut Cream Buttercream (vegan)

  • Cream from 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 C vegan stick butter, softened
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

To get the coconut cream out of the can without getting all the water you have to cool the can in the fridge overnight; the cream will rise to the top as the water sinks to the bottom. Don’t shake the can before opening it. Scoop the cream off the top and stop when you hit water.

Cream the butter with the paddle attachment in your stand mixer. Once it’s super creamy (wet) add the coconut cream, vanilla extract and salt. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. I ended up using between 4 and 5 cups of powdered sugar. It’s fairly goopy right after you mix it but if you let it sit in the fridge for awhile it will firm up to a pipeable consistency.

Assembly

I made my ice cream a few days before I made the cupcakes (yes, my husband waited DAYS before he could have one of these cupcakes, he’s so patient). Once I spun the ice cream I lined my cupcake pan with plastic wrap and portioned out 1/4 cup scoops of ice cream into each cavity. After those were frozen solid I removed them from the pan so I could use it to make the cupcakes.

After the cupcakes were baked I sawed off the tops of them to make them flat and plopped a molded ice cream on each one. You can smooth the ice cream out with an offset spatula or your hands if you have to.

Let these setup again before frosting them. You can use an 802 or 804 tip to pipe the dots/ petals. I tried using a leaf tip but the icing is too soft to hold (it looked like a wilted flower). You can pipe the icing straight out of the fridge; it doesn’t need to be tempered like normal buttercream.

Since the ice cream is pretty much incased by the frosting you have a few minutes before any major melting will occur. But it definitely will melt, and when it does the frosting will slide off in sheets like ice slipping down the side of a glacier.

These are some yummy cupcakes though. It’s the first time I’ve had the graham cracker flavor in something other than a cracker, but it’s a nice change from the typical cupcake flavors. The cake isn’t overly sweet either, so it creates a nice balance with the decadent ice cream and sugary frosting. If I were to serve these at a party I think I’d leave them unassembled and then scoop the ice cream right before serving and do a simple piping job.

Well, keep your fingers crossed for me. There are a lot of creative entries so it’s going to be tough to judge! If you make these cupcakes let me know what you think of the graham flavor without the cracker crunch.

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It’s summer time, or at least it’s close to summer time. Portland summers are usually confined to about 2.5 weeks in August so you gotta do what you can to, um, help summer along.

For me summer means flip flops, sunshine and porches, fresh fruit, moscato wine and tropical drinks. It also means birthdays as it seems most of my friends here were born during the months of summer or just on its outskirts. A few days ago was one of these said birthdays, so I took the opportunity to break out my long abandoned cupcake pan and go to work.

I’m always thinking of different ways I can throw a cupcake together. Actually I have this long, two sided, water stained list of cupcakes I’ve thought of but have yet to put into reality. One of these ideas included mangoes and lime zest and sounded like a perfect cupcake for a summer(ish) birthday.

Mango Margarita Cupcakes

  • 1 very ripe mango
  • 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 C AP flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C tequila
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 3/4 C organic sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t coconut extract

As usual, oven to 350, line your cupcake pan with liners.

Then prepare the mango. Peel the skin off the mango and then cut the flesh away from its large and obtuse seed. My mango was so ripe it was almost falling off the seed so I just chopped it up on a cutting board. If your mango isn’t so ripe you might have to puree it.

In your mixing bowl, stir together the soy milk and vinegar and set it aside to curdle.

While the milk is doing its thing, scale out all your dry ingredients in another small bowl.

Now add the mango, tequila, orange juice, oil, sugar, zest and extracts to the curdled milk and whisk it well. You can use the KitchenAid for this but I just did by hand. Sift in the dry ingredients in two stages so you don’t overwork the gluten; you don’t need to fully incorporate the flour before adding the second half. I folded in the flour and then used a whisk at the end to break up some of the lumps.

Scoop the batter into your prepared cupcake pan. I used a 1/4 cup scoop, which resulted in 12 normal sized cupcakes and 5 mini cupcakes. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they’re springy and the toothpick comes out clean. Let stand for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Lime Buttercream

  • 4 oz vegan stick butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 4 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Zest from 2 limes
  • Small splash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

The main reason why I don’t experiment with cupcakes more often, aside from their caloric content, is the price of the buttercream. Vegan stick butter is almost $6 a pound. Seriously. And then to get a decent texture/ flavor you really need vegan cream cheese, which can be close to $8 a pound. Since my pockets aren’t very deep these days, I’ve been playing around with alternatives, and this tofu buttercream is definitely a keeper. It still uses the expensive butter but I ixnayed the cream cheese. And nobody will ever know you fed them straight up tofu. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

Since it’s tofu you can’t just throw it in the KitchenAid, you have to puree it first. So, press some of the liquid out of the tofu with a kitchen or paper towel. Then toss it in a blender with the lime juice and the butter. You can add the zest here too if you like. Blend it on a lower speed until it’s well combined and uniform. It’ll look like it’s broken (aka wet and weepy). Transfer the mixture to your KitchenAid or large mixing bowl and add the salt, vanilla and lime zest if you didn’t already. Beat in the powdered sugar until you reach a thick and fluffy consistency, I probably used around 4 cups.

Keep the buttercream well covered either with plastic wrap or in a piping bag until you’re ready to use. Unlike meringue based buttercreams, vegan buttercreams dry out super fast.

Candied Orange Peel

  • 1 large orange
  • Simple syrup
  • Organic sugar

If you have a citrus zester, use it to zest long strips of peel off the orange. If you don’t have a zester, peel the orange with a vegetable peeler (these work great) and then cut strips out of the peels with a knife. Place the zest in a small pan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil and then drain the water. Repeat this two more times and then poach the zest in some simple syrup for 5 – 10 minutes, or until it’s pleasantly chewable.

Simple syrup, in case you don’t know, is just equal parts sugar and water. Place it in a pan and heat it up until the sugar dissolves. You’re done.

After you poach the zest, drain it and then toss it with some sugar and spread it out on a plate to dry. Toss is around every few minutes to make sure it’s all drying and evenly coated in sugar.

Candied orange, or lemon, zest will keep for a very long time in an air tight container, so you could do a big batch of it and keep it on hand if you wanted. You can candy lime zest too but it looses its pretty green color and turns into something that looks like a soggy old canned green bean.

I used an 808 tip to get the big mounds of frosting. A bigger tip would have been even better but I wasn’t about to make myself have to wash another pastry bag (I use the reusable bags).

These cupcakes were delicious! You get just a hint of the tequila towards the end of your bite, and the tropical citrusy flavors are bright and refreshing. And I really like the icing. The tofu does a superb job at balancing out all that fat and sugar. These would be excellent for a margarita night!

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I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Always. And I can’t think of any better excuse than my husband.

Just a couple weeks ago he graduated from law school (yay!!!). For awhile I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make his cake. He had already told me that he wanted a German chocolate cake, but it’s shape and everything else was up to me. I thought about making it look like school books, or perhaps something with a cap, tassel and one of those mallet things judges use. But since I hate using food coloring, none of these were overly appealing. And then it struck me!

For his present I got some family members together and we all chipped in to buy him a MacBook Air. He’d been talking about one for f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I figured since he’d worked and studied his butt off for the last three years, he deserved one. And thus the shape of his cake was born.

German Chocolate Cake

  • 2 C soy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C agave
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/3 C apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 C AP flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 C cocoa powder (this stuff is awesome)
  • 1/4 C instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a square 8 x 8 in cake pan with parchment in the bottom (don’t worry about the sides). You could use a round pan but I was afraid I’d lose too much mass getting it to look like an apple instead of a ball, so I went with the square.

Pour the soy milk and vinegar into your mixing bowl so it can curdle. While this is happening, sift all your dry ingredients into another bowl so they’re ready to dump right in when you want them.

Once the soy milk is curdled, add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar) and whisk thoroughly. You can do this by hand or with the stand mixer of course.

Add the dry ingredients in three portions. You don’t have to fully incorporate each portion before adding the next. You’re just adding the flour a little at a time to help avoid over mixing which will toughen the cake in the end.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out a bit if it’s all in the center. Bake until it springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took around an hour. When it’s done, let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes and then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Now put a cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. You should be able to remove the pan at this point, and letting the cake cool upside down will help flatten some of that rounded top.

Be sure to make the cake well in advance as it needs plenty of time to cool before you split it in half or thirds. I actually made mine several days before hand, wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out in just a couple of hours.

Chocolate Buttercream 

So I typically do half Earth Balance stick butter and half cream cheese with my frostings. Ever since I started paying attention to the way foods feel in your mouth (thank you culinary school) I can’t stand the Spectrum shortening; it coats your mouth as that stuff is solid at room temperature and therefore doesn’t really melt when it hits your tongue. You can use all butter of course but I think the cream cheese creates a lighter texture and better flavor.

In general, you use about 4 cups of powdered sugar to every cup of fat, and then augment the consistency with extracts, soy milk, etc. If you’re making chocolate buttercream, you’re obviously going to have cocoa powder in there so you will need more liquid to offset the extra amount of dry ingredients.

The frosting I made for this cake, I didn’t really like it. The flavor was fine but it dried super freaking fast and I had issues/ got tired of working with it when I was finishing the cake, as you can see from the unclean sides in the pictures. The main culprit? I think it was the chocolate. I decided to put melted chocolate in the frosting along with the cocoa powder. I don’t think it was the best idea I’ve ever had. So if you’re making chocolate buttercream, do something like the following recipe.
  • 4 oz Earth Balance Stick butter
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 4 C powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy milk as needed

Have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature and cream them together until it starts to look wet (vegan butter doesn’t get fluffy). Add the vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa powder in increments so it doesn’t snow in your kitchen. Add the soy milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a thick yet fluffy texture. You can make this ahead of time and just melt it a bit in the microwave and re-whip it with a spatula before using it.

Coconut Pecan Filling

I used this recipe from Mom in the City. I added an extra half cup of organic sugar though as I only had unsweetened coconut on hand and definitely was not going back to the store. Make sure you do this in advance as it needs to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate (or mix of semi-sweet and dark)
  • 2 oz vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
  • 2 T soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Melt everything in a doubler boiler – aka metal bowl on top of pot with hot water in it – and gently whisk it together. Store it in the fridge until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, melt it down in the microwave in short bursts of time, like 10 – 20 seconds. You need it completely liquidy but it doesn’t need to be super hot. I believe I melted mine down and then let it sit at room temp for awhile. If you’re uber talented you can just pour the ganache along the edge of the cake. If you aren’t so sure, use a piping bag like I did with a small whole or tip at the end and do it the careful way

Assembly

First, you need something to put the cake on. I didn’t have a cake board that was big enough so I cut a side out of a cardboard box and covered it with foil.

Second, you need to shape the cake into the apple. Use a small serrated knife (like a steak knife) and start by rounding the corners. Next make the indentions at the top and bottom of the apple. Get it looking like an apple before taking the “bite” out of the side.

When you do take the bite out of the side, be careful as this is your stem. You can always  reshape the stem a bit but you only have so much cake.

Now split it into layers. I did three layers but two would be just fine. Take a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and start sawing horizontally. You can score the cake all around the sides first to help ensure you’re cutting evenly. A revolving cake stand is your friend here. Place the extra layer(s) on the counter, preferably on plastic wrap or parchment so they’re easier to pick back up.

At this point you should brush away as many crumbs as you can so they don’t get in your frosting.

I also brushed my cake layers with a coconut simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves and then coconut extract added at the end. I did this to ensure the cake was moist. It definitely was moist but I don’t think the syrup was necessary, so it’s your call.

After you decrumb and syrup (or not), grab the coconut pecan filling and plop a big glob of it on the base layer. Use a large offset spatula to smooth it out. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick but I like a lot of filling, so less would be ok. Place the middle layer (if you have one) on the cake and do the same thing. Now place the last layer on the cake and crumb coat the entire thing with the buttercream and stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes. Crumb coating is just smearing a thin layer of frosting on the cake so that you will be less likely to have crumbs in the finished cake.

Once the crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with more buttercream and then stick is back in the fridge. Once it’s completely set, grab your ganache and the cake and go to town. You can ganache the whole thing or just the edges or whatever you want. Then when you’re done, (can you guess) stick it back in the fridge.

What happens now is up to you. Add more coconut goo to the top. Or just add some buttercream rosettes or pipe a pretty border. Or you could just cover the whole damn thing with ganache and make it look like the actual Apple logo. Maybe white chocolate!

Regarding the stem, I filled it with coconut goo just like the cake and then frosted it with the buttercream. When that had set I poured the ganche all over it.

And here is the happy graduate with his yummy cake! 🙂

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Some days you just need to bake something. Anything. It really doesn’t matter what. It’s like retail therapy, only cheaper and it doesn’t piss off your husband.

This past week hasn’t been the best week. I had a job. Now I don’t have a job. It’s a long story and I’ll spare you the details, but any of you who have ever looked for work in Portland know that the job market here isn’t exactly the most friendly of beasts. Hopefully the employment fairy will come visit me soon.

But enough of my pillow crying. Crappy things happen to all of us. It’s what you do after the crappy things happen that defines who you are. And I, of course, decided to make cookies.

I often try to bake something “new” and creative. Something different that isn’t boring or been done a million times. But sometimes – sometimes – you just need a chocolate chip cookie. It’s like good ole macaroni and cheese, only it’s not obviously. You know what I mean. Something familiar and comforting. Something you’ve done before and know will probably turn out alright so you don’t have to worry about being even more ticked off after your time in kitchen therapy. 🙂

This is one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” recipes. I typically keep my kitchen pretty well stocked with the basics – flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, etc, etc. – but I was a bit low on things yesterday. So I hodgepodged a recipe together and, thankfully, it turned out pretty well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 6 1/2 oz vegan stick butter (Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 oz brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 oz raw sugar
  • 3 oz pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz AP flour
  • 5 oz whole wheat pastry flour (or more AP)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or more chocolate chips)

In typing these ingredients out I just realized I forgot to put the vanilla extract in my cookies. So your cookies will taste even better than my cookies if you don’t screw that part up. 🙂

You can also add a fake egg if you like, either a flax egg or Ener-g egg. I wasn’t feeling it yesterday so I ixnayed the egg (and I don’t think it really made much of a difference).

About the butter, Earth Balance is expensive. And this sucks obviously but that’s just the price you pay for choosing the cow-free lifestyle. You can use the Smart Balance spread (it’s vegan) but there’s a huge difference in moisture content so be aware that the end product may be a bit different than mine.

Cream the butter, sugars and maple syrup together until “creamy” (which actually means “wet” in the vegan world). Add the vanilla extract. Sift in the flours, salt, baking powder and soda and start mixing. If you’re using a stand mixture, go ahead and start adding in the chocolate chips. If you’re mixing by hand, partially mix in the dry ingredients and then add the chocolate chips and finish mixing. Since there isn’t any liquid in here to speak of, you really don’t have to worry about over mixing and causing the glutens to toughen, but it’s just best to mix as little as possible.

Scoop the dough, roll it into a ball in your hands, partially flatten it – trying to keep it as round as possible – and place it onto a half sheet. I used a 1 & 1/2 tablespoon scoop (# 50) and 12 of these fit comfortably on the pan.

These will spread, almost like normal cookies, so the ball rolling and flattening is pretty much up to you. I was aiming for a more uniform cookie, hence the extra steps I took.

Bake at 350 for 7 minutes, rotate the pan and then bake for another 6 minutes. They’ll be soft when they come out, with the bottoms lightly brown, but they’ll firm up quite a bit during cooling. You could probably cook them even a minute or so less if you wanted a softer cookie.

These cookies are really nice (even without the vanilla extract). They’re crunchy but still chewy, and are definitely quite superb when they’re warm.

Well I have bread rising in the kitchen that probably needs my attention so I away I must go. Happy Thursday and have a great weekend!

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It’s official. The fact that the first “hot” day in Portland renders me wishing it was cooler is surely a tell-tale sign that I’m a… wait for it… Portlander.

Of course I’ve gone through several of the iconic Portlander initiations already. Converting to a hop head and shunning all other beer that once I knew and loved. Wearing socks with my flip flops. Thinking McMenamins is cool. Figuring out that McMenamins actually kind of sucks. Except for the spicy tots of course. And yelling at a car from my bicycle, while forgetting that I don’t have any car windows to shield the public from my traffic tourettes.

Not that I hate the sun or warm weather or anything, I’m all about it being warm enough to wear flip flops (without the socks of course), but the hotness made my afternoon run total crap. You get so used to running in mild temperatures that 73 is just unbearable.

But, there is something that goes quite nicely with this summer weather; ice cream! I’m always fiddling around with my ice cream machine. I love having random ideas and being able to actually turn them into reality, even if reality turns out a tad different than what had originally transpired inside my head. #alwayshappens

I had some black mission figs slowly dying in my pantry. Initially I thought fig and honey ice cream, but honey’s technically not vegan and you just can’t get the same flavor from agave. Then I thought figs and madeira, but I, of course, didn’t have any madeira lying around. But I did have about half a bottle of marsala being neglected so I figure it was time to put it to use.

Fig & Marsala Ice Cream

  • 9 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1 & 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 6 T marsala (or to taste)
  • 1 T olive oil (optional)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C figs (fresh or dried)

So this is where I tell you how I did it, and then advise you to do it a different way (I’m a work in progress).

This ice cream turned out pretty soft; not yogurty-soft-serve-soft but definitely not ice creamy-heat-the-scoop-up-first-hard. The culprit? All that damn marsala. I may be a lush but I like to taste my booze, so I kept adding more marsala to the ice cream base. What I should have done is reduced a cup or so of marsala on the stove by more than half. This way you get a lot of flavor but not so much liquid (and alcohol which also affects the freezing properties). It’s up to you, but I advise going the route of the reduction.

Once you’ve decided how to handle your marsala, toss everything in a blender, except the figs, and puree until smooth. You can chill it down more before freezing, or just pour it straight into your ice cream maker.

If you’re using dried figs you’ll need to bring them back to life. I roughly chopped mine into small pieces, covered them with hot marsala and let them rehydrate for a bit. Drain off the marsala before adding the figs to your ice cream (add either during the last few minutes of freezing or mix them in by hand afterward).

I didn’t stop here of course. I still thought the ice cream wasn’t marsala-y enough, so I dumped the rest of the bottle into a sauce pan – probably about 1 cup – and reduced it until it was a thick syrup. You won’t be able to tell the consistency of the syrup until you cool it, so reduce it for a bit and then cool it in a stainless steel (or something conductive) bowl that’s sitting in an ice bath so you can find out quickly if it’s reduced enough. I drizzled the syrup over the ice cream in layers when transferring from maker to tupperware. In my opinion, the syrup did the trick in making the ice cream flavorful, but you might be able to skip this step if you reduce the marsala before adding it to the ice cream base.

Well today’s supposed to be another scorcher (high of 80… eek!). I think I’ll play it smarter though and not go for a run right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the day (I may be slow sometimes but I’m not completely daft). Hope you’re enjoying some nice spring weather, wherever you are. Cheers!

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