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muffin of the month, november 2016: vegan double chocolate muffins

previous cold-weather monthly muffins: 

9/16, whole wheat english muffins || 2/16, vegan ginger muffins || 12/15, gluten-free sweet potato muffins || 11/15, pumpkin streusel muffins

 

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I’ve never considered myself finnicky or picky as an eater, but every once in a while I come across something I don’t particularly want to eat again. Not because it’s bad (my standards are reprehensibly low), but because I just don’t vibe with it, you know?

For example, chocolate cake. I don’t like chocolate cake. It’s just too…mouth-y. It’s a lot of dark chocolate flavor and a lot of cake-y-ness in my mouth and for some reason, it doesn’t work. Brownies, on the other hand, are my forte. Rich, chewy, fudgy, and dark. They get me.

 

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I love chocolate ice cream, but not so much the chocolate cakes and breads. I love chocolate, but not so much the chocolate frostings. I’m all for dark chocolate, but could go the rest of my life without eating another piece of milk chocolate.

As a result, it comes as some surprise to me that something inspired me to make a chocolate muffin. My favorite local coffeeshop used to sell chocolate muffins with chocolate chips, and despite my convoluted relationship with the various forms of chocolate, I loved them. I’ve never enjoyed another chocolate quickbread anything aside from those muffins, and yet somehow, I felt inspired to make this month’s muffins purely chocolate. I guess it was an attempt to give chocolate bread another chance, to see if we could reconcile our awkwardness.

 

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The first time I made them, I was, ironically (but also not so ironically in light of my tastes), reluctant to try them. I wanted to fill the muffins with chocolate chips but all I had were milk chocolate bits.

*Shudder*

They were great (aside from the milk chocolate bits.) They were surprisingly good.

They’re also vegan.

By now I’ve made my fair share of vegan pastries, but I remember a time before I discovered the apple sauce + canola oil + non-dairy milk combination when I would make my vegan things with water. Pro-tip: don’t make vegan sweets with water. They will taste like water.

These muffins feel just like non-vegan muffins (we’re talking the buttermilk beauties), taste plenty chocolate-y without being too mouth-y, and are accented by little bits of rich, dark deliciousness.

The best part? You can lick the bowl (I lick all my bowls but for those of you who’d rather not eat raw eggs, this recipe is dedicated to you.)

 

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vegan double chocolate muffins

based on my vegan ginger muffins

makes 1 dozen

 

240 g all-purpose flour

40 g cocoa powder

3 tsp baking powder

dash of salt

180 g granulated sugar

80 g canola oil

40 g unsweetened apple sauce

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200 g unsweetened/unflavored non-dairy milk (I use coconut)

1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C, and line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, apple sauce, canola oil, milk, and vanilla.

Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and quickly combine, then whisk in chocolate chips.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way full and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until muffins spring back when lightly pressed.

Remove muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

 

Here’s to the people who like to lick the bowl but don’t want to get sick,

Nick P.

Categories: alternative diet, Breads, muffins, Vegan

turkey day 2016: sweet potato molasses pie

last thanksgiving: spiced black tea apple pie, boozy pecan pie

Last year, I made a decision to master pie once and for all. I went about it as scientifically as possible: I compiled half a dozen pie crust recipes, tested each one (with labels, taste-testing, notes, sample batches, and all), and developed my own recipe.

 

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October (2015), when I took a pie class at a local bakery, all of that went out the window, as I had learned a new recipe and some new techniques (which I never mastered.) At that point, I thought I had everything down to a science and it was time to start playing with fillings. I even attempted to make my own pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins.

I have since learned, from first hand experience, reading things online, and asking professional chefs, that this is a waste of time. I haven’t pureed a pumpkin in approximately 382 days.

 

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All of this adventuring led to my first two pies: spiced black tea apple pie, and dark rum pecan pie.

Half a year later, I took another pie class, and everything I thought I knew about pie went out the window…again. The technique I had learned last autumn was just a little too much work to justify something that should be as easy as pie. The pastry instructor from the cooking school gave us a useful ingredient ratio for pie pastry, so now I don’t even bother looking at my pie crust recipe (which I updated a few months ago after taking that class.) 

For what I call “American pie crust,” the crust that most of us Americans know via apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie, the best ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part ice water. How you go about chilling and combining the three is up to you, but it really isn’t difficult. The first few times, it can be daunting because we seem to mythologize pie crust, but once you’ve gotten the process into your muscles and bones, it’s a 5-minute recipe that you can do with your eyes closed, and the result is always phenomenal.

 

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Even filling, which until this past summer frightened me, can be simple. I never managed a fruit pie recipe over the summer, but come April this blog will be replete with blackberry cobblers, mixed berry pies, lemon meringues, and Little Jack Horner will be weeping with joy. A berry pie filling is five basic ingredients: sugar, starch (corn, tapioca, flour), berries, flavor (lemon zest, extracts, spices), and liquid (optional, because the sugar will melt and the berries will excrete juices in the oven.)

For the sweet potato pie, I went through a few iterations of recipes, each time experiencing the same problem: my filling was runny and the sweetener was leaking out as the pie cooled down. After much pestering of chefs and coworkers, I decided to reduce the liquid in the filling drastically and simplify everything, and here we are:

The molasses is the main sweetener, and sweet potato is already relatively sweet, while the egg helps the filling set up (sweet potato puree is very loose, unlike pumpkin), and the rum is added for an additional splash of flavor. Altogether, the filling is slightly tart, deeply yam-y, and pleasantly molasses-y, so if you don’t like Meyers Jamaican rum, this might not be the pie for you!

ideas for next thanksgiving: cranberry ginger pie, classic apple pie, lemon meringue pie, fig and feta pie

 

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sweet potato molasses pie

one 7″ pie (~6 servings)

 

one 7″ pie pastry round

15 ounces (1 can) sweet potato purée

2 ounces molasses

1 egg

0.5 ounces dark rum

dash of salt

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 Tbsp packed brown sugar

pecans, walnuts, or marshmallows for topping

 

 

Do ahead:

Roll out pie pastry, ~9″ in diameter, fit into a 7″ pie plate and crimp or fold the edges as you like. Freeze or refrigerate the shell unbaked.

When ready: 

Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C, and set oven racks at top and bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Combine the sweet potato purée, molasses, egg, rum, salt, cornstarch, and brown sugar*, and whisk until smooth. Fill the shell and spread the filling out with a spatula, smoothing along the surface.

*The sugar and starch will mix in more easily if you first combine those two with each other in a smaller bowl, then whisk them into the filling.

Decorate with pecans, and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the crust is bronze and the center of the pie is set.

Optional: Let the pie cool, then turn on the broiler. Garnish the pie with marshmallows and toast/broil them for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown.

Pie can be served warm or chilled.

 

Happy Foodsgiving,

Nick P.

Categories: booze, pies and tarts, potatoes, seasonal produce