Tag Archives: baked goods

Good Morning, Muffin Mania!

All this muffin talking the past few days has got me curious about the latest and greatest in food-blogger muffin recipes. If I’m going to go through a crisis of muffin preference, I might as well travel the road to an answer that is paved in possibilities. Maybe I’ll start with these recipes:

– I don’t know if English muffins count in this discussion, but how can I deny this tasty-looking offering from This Wisconsin Life? A little time-intensive, maybe, what with yeast being involved and all, but the sound of a homemade English muffin toasted with a poached egg… I mean, just LOOK at those… Maybe this muffin road is the way to go.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins from We Be Running

– Ah, the zucchini muffin. Poor neglected thing. Usually smaller than other muffins (and mostly devoid of the famed “muffin top”) and not as showy, it gets passed up for its flashier, sweeter brethren in the bakery case. I love making and eating zucchini bread, but have never made zucchini muffins. I think I’ll start with these recipes, the sturdy and slightly intimidating Green and Mean Zucchini Muffins from Baking’n’Books and the dainty, ugly-cute Zucchini and Carrot Muffins from We Be Running. On behalf of the zucchini muffins, I say sincere thanks to these blogs. To the zucchini muffins, I say, “Suffer in silence no more, my slightly sweet, slightly veggie friends!”

– If I could swing it, I’d put coffee in ALL of my food. Whitney in Chicago has taken an ordinary banana nut muffin and made it all the better with a tablespoon of fine-ground espresso. So you get the protein, the potassium, and the full POWER OF CAFFEINE! And do you know what she drank to wash down these powerhouses? A big ol’ mug of Intelligentsia coffee. Damn, straight, Whitney. You are my kind of person.

– I completely forgot how awesome Isa Chandra Moskowitz is at muffin recipes. Thankfully, E.T.F.C has reminded me of the fantastic Cherry Almond muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. So what if she had a little problem removing the muffins from the tin? Her almond-placement on top of the muffins is nothing short of perfection. (By the by, love E.T.F.C’s elegant minimalist presentation. There’s something so appealing about a vegan-focused blog that doesn’t overly cutefy. Nothing against the sweethearts and kitsch-queens of the vegan blogging scene, but it’s refreshing to have something simple and quick and appealing to look at.)

– Lemon poppy seed muffins. Been there done that. But The Working Wok has baked up a special twist: Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Muffins. Desiree even includes a helpful reminder: “Be sure not to let these muffins make you fail your drug test.” Honestly, Desiree, drug test shmug test, I’m going to eat as many of these as I please. Consequences be dammed, I’m in a Muffin Renaissance!

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Good Morning, Mini Almond Tarts!

My boss loves burnt almond tortes, so for her birthday, I thought I would whip up something similar, but a little different. I was hoping to get the essence of the almond torte without the overwhelming amounts of sugar and cream. Also, because the treat was going to serve as a sort of birthday gift, I was hoping that the recipe would be fairy simple to make. After a busy Tuesday, the last thing I wanted to be doing at ten pm was attempting a second batch of tarts.

I used a regular metal cupcake dish for my tarts, which resulted in some rather substantial “mini” treats. For true bite-sized confections, definitely pick up a dedicated mini tart or mini muffin pan. I know I will be doing so as soon as possible, because I have a weird fondness for small, dainty sweets.

Mini Almond Tarts

Ingredients
For the crust
– 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– 1 tbsp sugar
– Pinch of salt
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Filling
– 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
– 1 cup sliced almonds
– 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 large egg
– 1 tsp almond extract
– 1 tsp Grand Marnier (You can do it without the liquor, but I’d recommend using it)
– Pinch of salt

To assemble the crust: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cupcake tin (or if you have a mini tart pan). You should fill about seven cups in a regular sized cupcake tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate glass bowl, stir together the melted butter, vanilla, and a 1/2 tbsp of water. Pour the wet into the dry and combine until dough is formed. Knead for about 30 seconds.

Section off the dough into seven even-sized balls. Press each ball into the prepared tin, pressing it into the bottom and sides of the tin. You’ll want a little bit of the crust to come up from the top, but make sure the bottom is thick enough to hold. Put the tray of crusts into the oven for 7 minutes.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Make the filling: Whip together all filling ingredients until well combined. Pour filling into each of the tart cups, just beneath the top of the crust.

Bake for 22 – 25 minutes. Let stand and cool before removing from cups.

(Recipe adapted MarthaStewart.com)

Chocolate Chip Cha-Cha-Cha


While seemingly every sell out in Hollywood is busy adapting some 70’s television show or 80’s Atari game for some hack film project, they’re missing a prime opportunity to tell a (possibly) riveting story: The invention of the chocolate chip cookie.

The story is that one night, Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn, desired to make chocolate-butter drop cookies for her visiting guests. Upon finding that she was short of baker’s chocolate, Wakefield substituted fragments of semi-sweet chocolate, believing they would melt in the oven. They didn’t. What was should have been almost a dense chocolate shortbread was instead the rough draft of what would become the signature chocolate chip cookie recipe: The Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Who else would be the leading provider of semi-sweet chocolate but Nestle, of course. After Wakefield’s accidental recipe caught on, the two entities, baker and chocolate entrepreneur, came to a bargain. Nestle would print the Toll House recipe on the back of every package of semi-sweet chocolate. In exchange, Mrs. Wakefield would receive free chocolate for the cookies made at the Inn. Thus, a cookie empire was born.

Woudn’t that make a decent movie? Okay, you’d probably have to add some kind of corporate intrigue. A sinister executive at Nestle trying to screw the Wakefields out of their invention, or something. But you could call this “Chocolate Chip Cookie: The Movie” and people would most likely come to see it. They’re just that popular. (For instance, while the actual number is disputable, it’s estimated that nearly seven billion chocolate chip cookies are eaten annually.)

I try to do my part to contribute to the world popularity of the chocolate chip cookie. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular. It’s a malleable creation that can be manipulated in any number of ways. It can be flavored with extracts, made softer or crunchier or chewier, made giant-sized or bite-sized, super dense or wafer thin. It can be very sweet or a little salty or even a little spicy. It can be crumbly or melty. You can eat it with ice cream. You can eat it with peanut butter. The variations are endless, and short of flat out improper baking, it’s hard to ruin a chocolate chip cookie.

They’re also incredibly easy to veganize. Something that many people worry about when considering veganism is a loss of the familiar foods they’ve eaten all their lives. That’s why you see so many veggie burgers, so many different kinds of vegan macaroni and cheese, and why some of the best-selling vegan cookbook titles are focused on baked goods. People want to know that even if they make a choice to actively and avidly rid their diets of animal products, they will not have to go without their comfort foods.

My favorite vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe to adapt is the one found in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking (which I’ve mentioned before, but is worth mentioning again, because it’s such a fantastic book). I like Colleen’s recipe for several reasons, but mostly because there’s very little fuss to it. Like many of her recipes, she doesn’t play around too much with various ingredients, throwing in random fanciness because she can. Her recipes are designed to produce the best-tasting traditional baked goods a vegan chef can hope for.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
– 1 cup vegan margarine
– 3/4 cup white sugar
– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
– 1/4 cup sugar-in-the-raw (turbinado)
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 to 2 cups of vegan chocolate chips
– 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I like using finely chopped because it gives it an almost toffee like crunch, but it’s a matter of preference.)

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

– Cream together the margarine, sugars, vanilla. Add the applesauce and mix until thoroughly combined.

– Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then gradually beat the dry mixture into the wet. When almost completely mixed, add chocolate chips and nuts.

– Drop by tablespoon onto the sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Move to a cookie rack for cooling.

(Adapted from recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

Good Morning, Cranberries!

The time is now to embrace the cranberry! Thanks to its harvest in late September, early October, the cranberry is in abundance this time of year in this region. Stock up, cause in addition to being a terrific addition to baked goods and an important traditional element to any Thanksgiving meal (vegan or otherwise), cranberries are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and boast moderate levels of Vitamin C and fiber. Especially helpful in this cold and flu season.

I’ve gotten tired of the same old nut roll my family always brings to holiday gatherings. This year, I’m offering up a vegan baked concoction of my own (shhh, don’t tell the family!):

Halfway to Fruitcake
Cranberry Nut Bread

Ingredients:
– 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 cup orange juice
– 1/4 cup apple juice
– 1 tbsp orange zest
– 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
– Half a banana, mashed
– 1 1/2 fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
– 1/2 cup chopped nuts (more if desired for topping)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
– Mix together dry ingredients. Stir in orange juice, apple juice, zest, shortening and banana. Mix until blended well. Stir in cranberries and nuts.
– Pour mixture into a well-greased loaf pan. Top with extra nuts if so desired. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. – Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

5 Halloween Recipes That Seem Delicious Despite Their Holiday Affiliation

I’m not crazy about spending a ton of kitchen time whipping up a recipe that is overtly holiday themed. While each season brings its particular focus into the items I make, I tend to shy away from recipes that are clearly meant for themed parties.

Part of this is due to the fact that many of these recipes are decorating-heavy: a sugar cookie shaped and colored to look like a pumpkin is still a sugar cookie. A cupcake designed to look like a ghost is just a cupcake with a shit ton of frosting on it. And so on. Although I love sweets, I prefer my baked goods simple. Elaborate confections of icing, sprinkles, and carefully placed accessory morsels usually add little to the taste or experience of the baked good, aside from the mess that they inevitably cause.

From babble.com

And… yes, I’m admittedly terrible at decorating baked goods, at least to the extent that they look like little black cats or witches on broomsticks. I can frost a cupcake, sprinkle powdered sugar daintily on a bundt cake, and uniformly sprinkle thumbprint cookies, but when it comes to matching a baked good with a well-crafted, well-staged picture (see accompanying photograph for an example) I suck.

But, with the sheer abundance of Halloween recipes, there were bound to be at least a few that were good enough to try despite their garish decoration. Here are five recipes that I’ve spotted that seem like they might be worth the trial for the decorating-challenged such as myself: Continue reading

Good Morning, Cruller and Cruller Imposters

To your right, you will observe a traditional cruller, topped with chocolate icing. From the Wikipedia entry on the Cruller:

A traditional cruller (or twister) is a twisted, usually ring-shaped, fried pastry made of dough somewhat like that of a cake doughnut, often topped with plain powdered sugar; powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon; or icing.

The name can also refer to the French cruller, a fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry with a light airy texture.

This, my friends, is a cruller. That delectable, light-as-a-cloud donut that delivers the sweetness satisfaction of an ordinary donut, without the dense “remember how bad I am for you” doughiness of an ordinary donut. It requires only a dollop of icing on top and is a pleasantly mild way to ruin your diet before 9 am.

I am very fond of the cruller, despite its manipulations (oh, fluffy sweet pastry, how can you taste so right and be so wrong?) and fortitude-destroying deliciousness. So how surprised was I when I pointed to my beloved pastry this morning at Graham’s Bakery, asking for the vanilla-topped cruller, only to be told that I was not looking at a cruller at all?

The lovely woman helping me at the counter insisted that their crullers were the long donuts on the bottom row, most assuredly filled with some kind of fluffy icing or custard. I wanted to scoff at her, “Madam, I know crullers, and THOSE are not crullers.”

But I was momentarily thrown. I shrugged, pointed to the vanilla-topped non-“cruller” cruller, and went on my way. After all, a cruller by any other name is still as sweet… but what gives?