Monday, March 26, 2012

Lemon Curd Tartlets

Even though I am surrounded by sugar all day, I still crave desserts at home. This is one of those super quick recipes that I can throw together in a matter of minutes to quench that craving. My local super market had a sale on pre folded phyllo cups, and I couldn't resist. Phyllo can be such a pain to work with, so I will willingly fork over an extra dollar to have it ready to fill.
I used a lemon curd recipe from C'est La Vegan that has never failed me. I spooned it into the shells, let it cool, and topped with fresh raspberries.

leaves and flours vegan lemon curd tartlets tarts

They are not only quick, but super adorable, and have a great texture. The crunch of the phyllo really makes these bite sized tarts shine. If you don't want lemon curd, try lime or orange! These shells would also be great willed with chocolate pudding and maybe topped with a slice of strawberry or dollop of coconut cream.
I don't know what it is about lemon lately, but I can't get enough of it. I even had a dream about drinking a pitcher of fresh lemonade. Maybe I am craving summer? Do you have dreams about food too?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Snack Attack Cupcakes

leaves and flours vegan caramel corn snack attack cupcakes

I am one of those people who gets sucked into series of TV shows. One of my major obsessions are shows about baking competitions. Sweet Genius, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Cupcake Wars, count me in. So last season on Cupcake Wars, there was an episode where they were required to create cupcakes inspired by movie snacks. The popcorn & peanut cupcake made by Arleen Scavone looked so amazing. They were so many intricate layers. I knew that it would be my task to veganize it eventually. With the midnight premier of The Hunger Games, the most anticipated film release I could imagine, I knew this was the time.

the hunger games inspired cupcake

This cupcake is a game changer. It takes quite a bit of effort, especially if you make all of the components yourself, but is worth the time. Several friends whose opinions on sweets I hold in high regard told me this was the best thing I have ever made. That being said, there are definitely a few things I would change if I were to make this again in the future.

I. The Cupcake
I haven't ever made a vegan pound cake, and I didn't feel like toying with the Cupcake Wars recipe. I used the vanilla cupcake from VCTOTW, with the addition of vanilla bean. I folded in the suggested amount of peanut brittle chopped into smallish pieces & baked them. When I took them out of the oven, I was pretty disappointed. The peanut brittle in the cake had fallen to the bottom a bit more than I anticipated and completely melted into the cake to form a gooey mess. I threw away 3 of the 15 cupcakes that it made because they were too gooey. The rest did firm up a bit as the peanut brittle resolidified during cooling, however I would add much less brittle next time if at all. I think it might me better to make a brown sugar cake and just throw in a few handfuls of crushed peanuts.

II. Caramel Icing
The inspiring cupcakes were filled with butterscotch. While you could easily make a vegan butterscotch pudding to fill the cakes with, I didn't go this route. I knew my cupcakes were going to be a bit too moist already, so I didn't want a filling to make them even wetter. I instead spread a thin layer of caramel on the tops. I think the caramel was nice as it didn't add another flavor to the already wild cupcakes. I used this caramel recipe, and only heated it to 230 degrees F. I made the whole batch a few weeks ago and store it for when caramel is needed. You can just warm it up to spoon onto cupcakes or ice cream or what not.

III. Fudge Icing
I used the recipe suggested from the Cupcake Wars site. DON'T USE IT. While I subbed agave for the corn syrup, I followed the rest of the instructions. The frosting was far too thick to pipe, and had a really terrible clumpy, gross texture even though it tasted fine. I would just stick to your favorite chocolate frosting.

IV. Caramel Corn
I didn't make my own caramel corn. I know it isn't difficult, but mine always comes out a bit too sweet. Which is fine when I am eating it alone, but not when you are layering it into an already sweet cupcake. I used a bag of Angie's Caramel Kettle Corn. This stuff is amazing. It's salty and just a hint of caramel sweetness. It's perfect for this cupcake.
I'm going to go ahead and warn you that caramel corn absorbs moisture rapidly. You could make the cupcake up to this point, and then wait to layer the caramel corn until shortly before you are serving them. By the next day the cupcakes had lost all of the spectacular crunch the caramel corn originally offered.

V. Vanilla Buttercream
I used a standard vanilla buttercream, similar to the one in VCTOTW. However, I use a bit more shortening and less butter than they suggest to make the frosting a bit firmer and more stable at warmer temperatures. I think it also makes it pipe a little nicer.

leaves and flours vegan caramel corn snack attack cupcakes

So there you have it. I followed all of these steps and then topped each cupcake with another piece of caramel corn. I wish I had vegan M&M's to throw into the mixture, but Whizzers have stopped being manufactured so there are no options any longer. If you don't have a problem with eating beeswax, then you could use Kopper's dark chocolate lentils.
Now you have a cupcake intricate & tasty enough to compete with The Hunger Games. I feel like these cupcakes are fit to be a gluttonous dessert in the capital. If you haven't read the book series, I highly recommend it. If you have, are you going to see the movie? I am always so torn over movies being turned into films, but I hope it can live up to my expectations. I am so excited to go to my first midnight movie screening ever! Have you gotten sucked into the wave of Hunger Games mania yet? Are you going to attempt making this cupcake? May the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

leaves and flours vegan root beer float cupcakes

When I first looked through Hannah Kaminsky's My Sweet Vegan, the first recipe I was drawn to was the root beer float cupcakes. Maybe it's partially because they were great enough that she chose them for the cover photo or maybe by minor obsession with root beer. Either way, it sent me scouring the internet for a bottle of root beer extract. I have tried three kinds of root beer extract, and my favorite was a random Amazon find from a store called Faerie's Finest. The other two were from small stores and both tasted incredibly artificial and their flavor baked out quite a bit. This root beer extract hasn't done me wrong. I have gone through several 2oz bottles, so last time I needed it I just made the plunge and bought an extraneous amount of extract.
The first time I made these cupcakes was over a year ago, and I was a little disappointed when they looked like a vanilla cupcake after baking. Since then I have added around 1/4- 1/3 cup of cocoa powder to the batter, which gives them that quintessential root beer color. I also normally don't drizzle ganache on top of the cupcakes, so the cocoa powder adds that hint of chocolate flavor that would be lacking. I also topped these cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting, because it reminds me the most of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

leaves and flours vegan root beer float cupcakes

I have had all sorts of other root beer flavored baked goods on my to make list lately. I saw a few really beautiful chocolate root beer bundt cakes & an adorable batch of root beer float cookies! Hopefully I have time to get that far down my never ending list soon.
Lately my list of things to do has been a lot less fun than turning on my stand mixer & oven. It's been a lot of laundry, errands, and avoiding doing my taxes. What's on your to bake list?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chick-O-Stick Cookies

I have mentioned a few times before how terrific Chick-O-Sticks are. They are like an amazing vegan, gluten free Butterfinger without the chocolate coating. When you crumble the candy and add them to your chocolate chip cookies, it's also pretty wonderful. The smaller chunks melt, but the larger pieces stay crisp. I added 1 cup of crushed Chick-O-Sticks to a regular sized batch of cookie dough that makes around two dozen 2oz cookies. The results were satisfying.

leaves and flours vegan chick-o-stick faux butterfinger cookies

I still have a bag of mini Chick-O-Sticks left, and just saw that my local corner store has re-stocked their supply too. I have a few ideas for what I am going to do with them next. One involves ice cream!
I hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather we had this week. I drank my first iced coffee of the year and even managed to squeeze in a few bike rides. I've definitely got spring fever!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Strawberry Corn Muffins

leaves and flours vegan strawberry corn muffins

Even though it has been such a warm winter, I'm still really excited that it's starting to feel like spring. I love that it's light out until seven at night already. The daffodils are blooming everywhere, and I'm ready to spend my first official cherry blossom season in DC. I sort of jumped the gun on berry season and bought a quart of strawberries grown in a hot house. I was worried that they would be flavorless reminders of strawberries, but these berries were so juicy and wonderful. I savored them for a few too many days, and the last berries were getting overly ripe. I had bookmarked a recipe for strawberry corn muffins a few months ago and knew it was time to put it to use.
These muffins were light and subtly sweet. They were great for breakfast or lunch. I will definitely be throwing fruit in my cornbread from now on. While I love the portion control that muffins offer, these would definitely work in a pan if you want to make a sheet of cornbread.

Strawberry Corn Muffins

adapted from Eating Out Loud

3/4 cup cornmeal
1 & 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup oil
1 cup almond milk
1 & 1/2 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into a well in the center of the dry. Gently fold the batter until just mixed. Add the chopped berries, and fill liners 3/4 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes.

leaves and flours vegan strawberry corn muffins

Do you like sweet cornbreads? I have always been a fan of them. I know a lot of people prefer savory mixes with jalapenos or spices, but I have always preferred sugary things.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

leaves and flours vegan cookie dough truffles

Lately things have been so hectic. I have working quite a bit of overtime between baking at the restaurant and planning for the bakery. It would be easy to imagine that with all that time spent in the kitchen or thinking about the kitchen that I would no longer have the desire to bake when I got home. But that really isn't the case. Even with so much freedom baking, I feel limited by price or available ingredients or flavor popularity. When I bake at home I'm not worried about suiting everyone's desires or and am able to run to the grocery store for poppy seeds or some other whim.
While I have the desire and the ideas, I haven't had much time to crank out the food I am dreaming of. These cookie dough truffles were a really great option for me. I knew that they would take less than an hour to make and photograph, but were still going to satisfy my sweet tooth and the urge to use my stand mixer.

leaves and flours vegan cookie dough truffles

I could write out a recipe, but these are really too simple for that. Basically make a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. Mine is the Ghirardelli recipe using almond milk & an Ener-G or flax egg. Using a melon baller or small scoop, portion the dough. You want small spheres of dough, approximately the diameter of a quarter. Place these in the freezer for a bit to firm up. Dip these in a few ounces of melted chocolate and refrigerate until the chocolate has set. That's it. If you want to get wild you could roll the truffles in cocoa powder after you dip them in chocolate. You could also make a few batches using different flavors of cookie dough. I imagine that a spicy molasses dough would make a really nice truffle when dipped in white chocolate!

leaves and flours vegan cookie dough truffles

Do you have a favorite rapid snack option? I also love making batches of popcorn and tossing them in a light drizzle of Earth Balance and a lot of nutritional yeast. Here's to quick kitchen ventures! Have a lovely Monday.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chocolate Berry Tarts

leaves and flours vegan chocolate berry tarts

I made these in a last minute decision on Valentine's Day. It's hard to believe that that was almost a month ago already. Time flies sometimes, even when each day feels so long. I'm starting to slip into a comfortable groove in the restaurant kitchen. I'm less panicked by the fast pace, yelling, and hot pans.
These tarts tasted pretty great. The recipe is an Isa Chandra creation, which you can find on the PPK. The berry flavor was really subtle but not overpowered by the cashews. I used a bag of frozen mixed berries that contained strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. When I blend that mixture for a smoothie it comes out to be a bright pink, but when cooked on the stove for the tarts it became a very deep purple. The color ended up being one that I didn't find super appealing for the tarts. If I were to repeat, I would probably stick to raspberries or strawberries.
The crust was a deep chocolate flavor, but I would maybe add a little more oil next time. They were a bit too crumbly for me. I also didn't use olive oil as she suggested. I know from experience that I am not a fan of the flavor of olive oil in tart crusts, but you should give it a chance if you haven't before. Also, excuse my messy tart shells. I didn't take my time filling the tart pans, so you can see some rough and uneven edges.

leaves and flours vegan chocolate berry tarts

This is another recipe that's really easy to modify depending on your needs. If you have a gluten allergy, you could use an almond meal crust or pour the creme and berries in layers to make a parfait. If you have a nut allergy, you could skip the cashews and make a coconut milk pudding using agar or arrowroot.
I don't recommend making these tarts too far in advance. The morning after I made them the berry reduction seemed to start separating from the cashew cream, which led to some discoloration in the tarts.
I've got a few more tarts I've been thinking about making for a while. It could get wild. Do you have a favorite tart or pie?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Double Decker Boston Cream Cupcakes

leaves and flours vegan double decker boston cream cupcakes

This was another cleaning out the shelves dessert. I had a two pound bag of vegan pastry cream that I was given over the holidays. I used it to make a few dozen boston cream donuts for a bakesale; I put the rest in a tupperware and forgot about it until I cleaned out my fridge a while later. Instead of torting the cupcakes, I thought it would be fun to stack the cupcakes on top of each other for a more standard cake to cream ratio. I basically made a dozen vanilla cupcakes using the VCTOTW recipe. After they cooled, I peeled off all the liners. I piped a dollop of cream on an upside down cupcake, stacked the other cupcake on top, and ganached them thoroughly.
If you weren't lucky enough to recently receive a bag of pastry cream as a gift, there are plenty of pastry cream recipes around. People use all sorts of things from instant potatoes to tofu. Also if you don't like the hourglass shape that my double decker cakes have, you could bake a sheet cake and cut out circles of cake using a cookie cutter. It would be like the beginning stages of making a giant petit four.