Tag Archives: the joy of vegan baking

Good Morning, Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes!


Strawberry season is in full swing. When I was a kid, strawberry season meant heading over to Trax Farms where for around two bucks a pound, you could pick your own berries and take them home, where many of them would not get eaten in time and would be thrown out in less than a week.

Strawberries are evocative of many of life’s pleasures: Sweet, crisp, a little tart, a wonderful thing to behold in so many ways, but all to quickly, they turn, they brown and get soft. White little spots of mold cover the stems. Overripe, they have limited uses, but they’re no longer the hand-held confection perfect for snacking. A little farther down the line, the strawberry isn’t good for anything, except maybe compost. So something that starts out so wonderful and appealing is, within a few days time, a rotting, disposable mess.

Luke, of the Food Bloggers Meetup, had a solution to how to use his large yield of strawberries from the East Liberty Farmer’s Market. Much like every neighborhood church, he decided to hold his own little strawberry festival and invite the bloggers into his home to consume his fruit before its time was past.

Because I also had strawberries to unload (and because I hate going to things like this empty handed), I decided to crack open the lovely and reliable The Joy of Vegan Baking and see what uses Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has for strawberries. After paging through pies and tarts and crisps and cobblers, I settled on an unlikely candidate: Strawberry cupcakes.

Most people give me funny looks when I tell them that I hate cupcakes. They don’t really believe me, and that’s fair enough, because I don’t hate cupcakes. But I do think they’re greatly overrated, and not just because of the cupcake craze that still hasn’t left this city, but because even as a child, I disliked the notion of cupcakes, a cake that was supposedly meant for hand to mouth consumption but never quite got there in a fashion that didn’t leave frosting on your mouth, on your face, on your hands.

And the cake was always so disappointing. Dry and crumbly. The frosting, even when good, was always too too much. As a child at birthday parties, I awaited the inevitable dessert with trepidation. While other kids went face first into their cakes and emerged somehow spotless and satisfied, I picked at mine with the slow patience and tact of an archaeologist and still somehow got icing on my clothes.

Anyway, so I don’t hate cupcakes as much as I think they’re a lot of fuss for little payoff. But many of my strawberries were going soft, and I was worried that they weren’t appropriate for most non-baked goods. I’ve made strawberry-banana muffins before, but they didn’t seem to be an appropriate fit for a dinner party. So strawberry cupcakes won out. And I’m glad that they did.

I topped my cupcakes with a variation on Patrick-Goudreau’s chocolate frosting, adding almond extract to give it a bit of Nutella-like flavor. Because the actual cake isn’t super sweet and the flavor of the strawberry is fairly mild, it takes well to almost any frosting. Don’t overdo it on the amount, however, cause too much frosting will overwhelm the rest of the cake. [If you are a frosting junkie, the actual yield of the frosting recipe surpasses the regular dozen cupcakes, so save the leftovers and consume in whatever way will please you.]

Strawberry Cupcakes

Ingredients
– 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar
– 8 ounces strawberries, pureed
– 5 to 6 large strawberries, sliced (optional for garnish)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.

– In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil and vinegar. Add the pureed strawberries and mix until combined.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just mixed. Pour batter into prepared muffin tray, about halfway in each cup.

– Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and tin, cooling the cakes on a wire rack. Frost and garnish once cool.

Chocolate-Almond Frosting

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup non-dairy butter
– 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
– 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp almond extract
– 2 tbsp soy milk

– Cream butter until smooth, then add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream for about two minutes, then add cocoa, almond, and milk. Beat until fluffy, then cover and chill.

(Recipes adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

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)