Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream

Take a close look at that picture. Is your mouth watering yet? Thought so. This cupcake idea came from a long brainstorming session for the perfect cupcakes to bring to my hairdresser, Jared at Mezzanine Salon in the Seward neighborhood. He's vegan, so that presented a bit of a challenge for me, having never made vegan cupcakes from scratch. I don't know where I got the idea for chai buttercream frosting, but there were a couple of recipes online I could choose from. I ended up just using egg replacer in a standard chocolate cake recipe, probably a bad idea. The cupcakes ended up really sunken & sticky like this:

The buttercream frosting required using extremely strong chai tea, an idea I figured would be cheaper than buying a $10 bottle of cardamom. The flavor was present but light, due to all the powdered sugar that needed to be used to make this less like a soup and more like a thick frosting. It never did get thick, but refrigerating it made the frosting usable.

I made a 13th cupcake simply for the sake of sampling, so I know it at least tasted great. I hope my hairdresser liked them just as much!

Mom's Favorite Scones

My mom has the absolute best recipe for scones, courtesy of Betty Crocker's International Cookbook. I just realized this recipe is also in my copy of that book from 9 years later; this is a very dangerous realization. They're rich, moist, and impossible to stop eating. The cranberries we added to this batch added just the right amount of bite & sweetness. We made a double batch and they were gone in less than 3 days.

Applesauce & Cinnamon Cupcakes

My best friend Megan came over during her Spring Break a couple of weeks ago and we couldn't resist the urge to bake. Thankfully, my cupcake-a-day calendar had a healthy recipe for that day! We had all the ingredients on hand to make these simple applesauce cupcakes with raisins in the batter & apple slices on top. The cake was like a nice, moist spice cake and wasn't heavy at all. We probably could have eaten these all night, but I sent the majority of the cupcakes home with Megan! I forgot to take a picture of the cupcakes after they were done, but they honestly looked pretty similar to the above picture of a cupcake before it hit the oven.

Gluten-Free/Vegan Brownie Bites

For my first day of volunteering at Renewing The Countryside, I decided to ensure my acceptance by offering sweets. The person I had interviewed with for the volunteer position had mentioned she was working on a gluten-free diet (something I struggle with myself) and I figured there was a big chance someone there would be vegan, so I used a BabycakesNYC recipe for gluten-free & vegan brownie bites! It was the perfect recipe because it used the Bob's Red Mill all-purpose flour that I already had on hand. These bites were pretty light and airy, more like chocolate cake. Next time I will use a lot less baking soda to get a denser brownie. Nonetheless, it was hard to stop sampling these. They definitely earned me some "brownie points".

Miel Y Leche Cupcake Meetup 3/14

I understand this blog isn't very timely, but these cupcakes need to be blogged about! I'm part of a Minneapolis Meetup group for the Cupcakes Take the Cake blog and we meet once a month at various places in the Twin Cities that make cupcakes. On the 14th, we hit up Mitrebox downtown at a much-too-early-for-a-Saturday-morning 10am for Miel Y Leche's undeniably fabulous cupcakes. For sale that day were vegan marble cupcakes (not pictured because not purchased), citrus bomb cupcakes with lime curd, lemon cake(?) and an orange buttercream, chocolate chip cookie with a cookie on the bottom and on the top, and the infamous Elvis cupcake with a banana cake, peanut butter marshmallow frosting, and a bit of bacon for garnish.

My favorite cupcake was definitely the citrus bomb. It was light and extra citrus-y. The lime curd filling definitely turned me onto curds... I have been itching to buy some lemon curd at the store and see what I can do with it! The chocolate chip cookie cupcake was dry and difficult to eat. I don't like chocolate chip cookies all that much, especially crispy cookies. The Elvis cupcake was good but a little disappointing due to my high expectations. The cupcake didn't have a strong-enough banana flavor and there wasn't enough bacon on top! Plus, I had made banana cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese frosting just a few days before that were bursting with flavor & easily trumped these.

If I was a lot less lazy on Saturday mornings, I would come get some cupcakes every week. Unfortunately, I am a college student. This means that I both stay up too late on Friday nights and have no money to spend on such things. Maybe I'll try for once a month.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Surprise New Cookbook

First off, my apologies for the lack of blogs lately. I was rushing through a tough week at school, then relaxing at my parents' home over Spring Break. There's nothing better for procrastinating than blogging, so I'll definitely be catching up.

As a very, very belated Christmas gift, my best friend got me this cookbook, Rebecca Reilly's Gluten-Free Baking! I was jumping for joy because I had actually been giving some serious though to buying it for myself, but I'm glad now that I took it out of my shopping cart! It is considered the bible of gluten-free baking and has gotten nothing but heaps of praise. I haven't tried any of the recipes, but I can't wait to start. Everything looks simply delectable.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Cookbook #1

I just got 1000 Vegetarian Recipes From Around The Wrold in the mail and it is a behemoth at over 1,000 pages. Heavier than my Larouuse Gastronomique, even. My friend Renee had it and I got the chance to glace through it for about 5 seconds and instantly fell in love. Each recipe gets a page and color photos of the steps and final product. Also included are nutrition breakdowns for each recipe. That will definitely guilt me out of making a lot of the desserts. Nothing seems too complicated, fortunately for me. I can't wait to start reading it and put little Post-It flags on my favorite recipes (color coded by type of recipe, of course). I read my cookbooks like novels and this one will take a while to get through. Good thing I've got Spring Break coming up next week.

I've got another cookbook arriving in the mail within the next week & I'll blog about it then. I'm also going to order Baking At Home with the Culinary Institute of America sometime soon. So much for new boots.

Tum Rup Thai Review

A & I went to Tum Rup Thai in Uptown last night (my treat) because he was willing to eat anything and I was craving Thai. We got there and few people were in sight - I will admit that it was 9:30. We were seated immediately, but it took them a while just to get us some water. There must have been a mix-up with the waiters because two different ones greeted us separately. The waitress we ended up with was very awkward and unassertive. I did have to delay her a few times until I decided upon what I was ordering, but it took her a full five minutes to come back after I had made my decision. I also disliked the extremely low lighting - I could barely see the color of my food when it came out!

I went with the Gaeng Kiow Wanh (Sweet Green Curry) with chicken, while A went safe with Pineapple Fried Rice with chicken. We had looked at the menu online before going and I had chosen the restaurant because it seemed less expensive than the surrounding Thai restaurants, but both entrees were listed on the menu at a full $2 over what was listed online. That makes a huge difference on a college student's budget.

The food didn't take too long to come out, but we were some of the only customers there anyway. My curry was really delicious - the melange of vegetables was exactly what I was in the mood for. The pineapple fried rice was pretty good - except that there were only a few chunks of pineapple on top of the dish and none mixed throughout. Amazing Thailand's version completely blows it out of the water; it is my gold standard for the dish in the Twin Cities.

Overall, the service was lousy and the food was overpriced. Granted, it wasn't all that expensive, but I could have gotten bigger portions for less at other places. And turn those lights up!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Forgotten Creation

What I made my love for Valentine's Day:

Chocolate Chip Heart-Shaped Cookie Pizza

It didn't come out so great and it was hard to make, but he thought it tasted amazing and that's all I cared about :) I ate quite a bit too, of course!

Sunday Night Supper Club 3/8

Last night was Southern night! We did vegetarian chili, cornbread, and apple pie. It was hard to track down a good veggie chili recipe that didn't use soy crumbles (I don't eat soy), but I found the one we ended up using and it was extremely good & easy to make. The cornbread recipe was's top cornbread recipe, and for good reason! I have never had moister, sweeter, more perfect cornbread than the stuff I made last night. Seriously. Sorry, Mom.

The lone image from the night:


Banana Cupcakes w/PB Cream Cheese Frosting

I had a couple of ripe bananas laying around my apartment and knew I just had to take advantage of them in a baking way. Lucky for me, my cupcake-a-day calendar had a recipe for banana & honey cupcakes over the weekend! It was even a vegan recipe, but I blew it with the frosting. I made this simple peanut butter cream cheese frosting, but the texture of it somehow got greasy and weird after I added a certain amount of powdered sugar. Still tasted just fine, thankfully. The cupcakes were more than divine. The cake was dense and chewy with a strong, delicious banana flavor. I liked that it was sweetened with honey instead of sugar (there was a hint of brown sugar in there, though). The frosting was the perfect compliment, although it did overpower the cake if there was too much. I'm glad I added the chocolate drizzle (albeit not very well) because it added an extra layer of sweetness and flavor. These suckers could fill you up in one bite, they were so dense. I'm not complaining!

I had meant to make a half batch but started using full-batch amounts of the ingredients and couldn't turn back. I was presented with many opportunities to share them. I brought them to a party the night I made them, where they were devoured (someone even gave me $1 for one!) and then to a group meeting for a project the next day, eliminating them in less than 24 hours. I didn't need them laying around anyway.

German Chocolate Cake

My mom loooooves German chocolate cake. I remember her making her own German chocolate birthday cake when I was younger. I thought I would put my passion and skills to use and give her what she really wanted and what I could really afford for her birthday - you guessed it. I did cheat by using a boxed cake mix, but I just haven't gotten to the point where I can guarantee results of homemade cake recipes. Plus, I didn't want to go out and get cake flour just for this. The cakes baked up just fine (although it was foolish to whisk the batter instead of beating it). My mom wanted a 4-layer cake instead of just 2 thick layers, so I let her cut it. Goodness knows I'm no good at cutting things straight. She did just as bad of a job as I would have done, which you can see in the picture. She didn't care about how lopsided it was, just about how good it tasted!

I did make the topping from scratch. I got the recipe from, aka the first recipe that popped up on Google that seemed legit. It started out pretty runny but I thickened it up and it set up just fine. It was a little too sugary for even me. It wasn't quite sticky enough to glue the layers together properly, or maybe we just didn't let it set for long enough. Either way, the cake fell apart when we cut it and served it. It was met with rave reviews, though, so I'm going to chalk it up to a success and have another go next year.

Pies, Pies, Pies

I have developed a passion for making pies. I think it originally stems from my passion for Pushing Daisies and Ned's passion for pie making. It takes so, so, so much work but is completely worth it. There is nothing like spending an afternoon peeling & slicing fruit and making a crust by hand. I don't like to toot my own horn, but I make the all-time best pie crust. It's out of this world. Unbelievable. Even though I should refrain from eating the stuff, I try the little nibbles of dough left behind on my rolling surface and make sure I have extra crust with no regard to the filling inside. Pies will definitely be something I offer in my future bakery. There's just so much joy in making them.

Last week I made a nice rustic pear tart, recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger on Food Network. The dough recipe was a little different and turned into difficult dough to work with, so I'll be sticking with my own recipe from now on. The pear filling wasn't outstanding, which is to be expected when you make a "healthy" pie. I topped it with shavings of Gruyere and it was perfect. I love that flavor combo.

Last night for Sunday Night Supper Club's Southern theme, I made an apple pie. I was originally going to sell it to a friend but it didn't work out, leaving me with 6 apples just begging to be sugared. Something very exciting happened for me while I was peeling these apples - I peeled one in one long strip! I have always been jealous that my mom can do that and now I am right on par with her, a true accomplishment. Despite that, I would really like an apple peeler.

Last time I made a covered pie, I didn't quite get the filling cooked enough. I was a little more patient this time, resulting in almost-completely-perfectly-done apple filling. I'll get it next time! The smell was heavenly and everyone truly enjoyed what I had made.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/Cream Cheese Filling

I have wanted to try my hand at whoopie pies for sometime. They just seemed like the perfect marriage of cake and cookie. I had been craving something very pumpkin-y and had an extra can of the stuff. I also had some extra cream cheese laying around, so this whole recipe just kind of came together out of the blue. The cake part of them was a little overmoist - too much oil or pumpkin perhaps? They stuck together and were hard to transport. Next time I'll try baking them a little longer as well, as that could have been the real culprit. The cream cheese frosting was the perfect compliment to the cake. Everyone I gave one to was raving! I will definitely be including these in my future bakery.

Sunday Night Supper club 3/1

We went back to our roots last week by doing Indian, but we kicked it up a notch by doing home-made Indian dishes. We decided to do Mixed Bean Curry and Sweet Potato Spinach Curry, both from my British vegetarian cookbook. I also made naan from scratch! It turned out fabulous. My friend David brought back a delicious chai masala recipe from Kenya and made it for us all. My friend Renee made this thoroughly delicious mango ice cream that we all enjoyed. It was only 5 of us, the smallest meeting ever. It was the perfect mesh of personalities, though. Not a ton of pictures this time, but I was too busy enjoying my company!

The spread.

My plate + chai masala

Clean plate club

Delicious ice cream