Monday, July 26, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of...

I've noticed something about this great state of Georgia.

This state, like none other that I've lived in, deals in clouds. We can go from sunny to stormy in about fifteen minutes.

From billowy and puffy...

to menacing and grey...

to downright apocalyptic.

But all I really want is something like this...

so I can spend my little bit of time off doing more of this.

Dear Clouds,

I've asked nicely. Do your best to comply.

Love and blue skies,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

Good morning, lovely.

Hmph. Yeah, I can hear you. I know what you're thinking.

"So what? It's a cupcake. It looks chocolate, but whatev. Why do we care?"

Well... maybe you don't care. And I won't try to make you... but if you were to give a flip, I'd encourage you to find the animal products in this pile of ingredients.

Can't? Good. These chocolate & coconut cupcakes are vegan, babies.

Which explains why yesterday I found myself standing beside a friend, staring into a bowl of chocolate soy milk and vinegar and wondering if it would ever - in fact - curdle. (It didn't.)

We soldiered on though... and forked the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

And combined them (in two parts) with the soy & vinegar solution.

I then poured 1/4 of a cup of batter into each cupcake liner. Apparently while I did that, the vegan said or did something funny.

Exactly 15 minutes after the cupcakes went into the 350 degree oven, they were perfectly cooked and domed. And just... perfect. Chocolatey and moist but very light with a velvety crumb. It might be a new go to chocolate cake recipe for me.

The icing was not so perfect, but it was my first time trying to make a buttercream with... "buttery spread." Here you can see the shortening and buttery spread whipped together.

After adding the extracts, coconut milk, and powdered sugar, it pulled together like a weak icing. Not bad... but odd. As in, really light in texture but wicked sweet. So I'm going to do some finagling with the icing recipe. I'm going to consult Wilton next time.

The verdict: vegan shmegan. Maybe it's because I didn't have to do anything with silken tofu, but I didn't really find vegan baking too taxing. What does that mean? Well... I think it means I need a gluten free friend to come along and really rock my baking boat.

Should you or a vegan treat of yours want to follow in my ever-cautious, fumbling footsteps, here are the recipes I used.

Basic (Vegan) Chocolate Cake from Chow

1 cup soy milk (We used Light Chocolate Silk because I already had it.)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract (We used coconut because we thought, why not?)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).

3. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Coconut Icing (a revision of the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from Chow)

1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (We used BestLife Buttery Spread because anyone who doesn't listen to Oprah should be questioned.)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy (You already know I did not sift.)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (We used 1 t coconut extract and 1/2 t vanilla extract.)
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer (We used coconut milk.)

1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.

2. Add the vanilla and soy milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

Now that I'm writing out this recipe, I'm thinking that the coconut milk was the problem. I think it's a bit too thin to really bring together a nice icing. So perhaps before I go to all the way to Wilton, I'll just try making it with soy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th Festivus (fit for pajamas)

In my last blogpost (yes... it has been a while) I explained that me and holidays are casual acquaintances at best. I explained it in the context of birthdays and the lesser holidays, but my issue extends all the way to the big holidays. Since I no longer live near my family or other folks who would similarly insist I celebrate holidays in flashy ways... I just... don't.

Like today, for instance. I slept in (score!) and my plan for the day is to grade a set of student papers. And I'm fine with that.

But... there is one thing that can get to me to let loose and go all out on a holiday. That thing?


That's right... It's you, you crazy kids. I do silly, goofy, holiday-themed things because I think that you'll like them. So this morning when I finally did think about getting out of bed around 11am, it hit me. I could make a super tasty breakfast for myself and with a little adjustment... I could appear to give a hoot about the 4th of July.

Voila. Two birds. One stone. Six little red, white, and blue pancakes.

Now... if you're a better person than I am, you could probably color and flavor these pancakes with fruit purees and skip the Wilton colorings I used. If you do that... let me know how it goes. It was a touch odd eating technicolor pancakes that tasted like... normal buttermilk pancakes.

And though I'm not doing it big today, I am interested to know what the simple folk do. How are you celebrating your 4ths, kittens?

(To my kittens in Australia, Canada, England and elsewhere, you're not off the hook. I want to know what you're doing today too... just because I'm creepy like that.)

Happy 4th of July!
(for whatever that's worth to you and yours)