Tag : alternative-diet
Tag : alternative-diet
previous monthly muffins
Herbert’s first birthday was already three weeks ago, but the celebration never stops with him. He’s a little party starter.
My farmor (paternal grandma) used to send us massive boxes full of english muffins, in about a dozen different flavors. There were so many of them, we have to keep the muffins in the freezer. Regardless, they never lasted long (they were damn good, and also my dad eats a lot of english muffins.)
We would have the traditional unflavored variety, whole wheat muffins, and the popular cinnamon raisin, but there were also jalapeño muffins, herb muffins, and other fruit flavors. When I started making my own english muffins a year ago, I wanted to be able to compete with the ones we used to have (I’m still lagging in second place, I think), and work through all the flavors I could remember.
To be honest, though, I can only remember four, so after I’ve mastered jalapeño english muffins, I’ll just have to start making up my own flavor combinations (anchovy asparagus muffins, perhaps?)
The recipe here is adapted from my other two recipes and it turns out best with plenty of milk and butter in the dough. More fat means a softer muffin, but like any bread, they’re still amazing without the fat and without the dairy. I always err on the side of not enough flour, because too much flour makes the muffins dense like bricks.
cinnamon raisin english muffins
adapted from my whole wheat english muffins
makes 12 medium-sized muffins
*vegan substitutions included
200 g sourdough starter**
150 g buttermilk, yogurt, or water
110 g water
90 g whole wheat flour
350 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping the dough
dash of salt
40 g dark brown sugar
56 g oil or melted butter (2 oz/4 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c raisins
vegetable oil or butter for frying
cornmeal for dusting
**If you’d rather use active baker’s yeast, then substitute 7 g of yeast, 100 g all-purpose flour, and 100 g water.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine starter, buttermilk, water, flours, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and oil/melted butter.
Using a dough hook, wooden spoon, or your hands, beat/knead the dough until it forms a slightly sticky, cohesive mass, about 5 minutes.
Lightly grease another large bowl, and transfer the dough, flipping it over once to oil the entire surface.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof/rise until doubled, at least 6 hours (2 if using baker’s yeast.) You can let the dough rise in a warm oven (100 F/ C), on the counter at room temperature, or in the refrigerator. If using sourdough starter, the proofing will take a lot longer than if you’re using baker’s yeast.
When in doubt, let it double. The size is really the indication that it’s ready.
When the dough is done proofing, turn it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface (the countertop, a pastry board, or a bread cloth, for example.) Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, using a scale for consistency, if desired, and roll each portion into a ball.
Dust a baking sheet liberally with cornmeal and arrange the dough on top, leaving an inch or so between each piece. Gently press down on each muffin with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let proof/rise another half an hour, until puffy.
While the muffins are proofing again, preheat the oven to 350 F/ C.
When the muffins are ready, heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, and add about 1-2 Tbsp of oil/butter. Once the pan and oil are hot, sear/brown the muffins on each side, working in batches and leaving space between the muffins on the stove. Let the muffins brown for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side, and rearrange on the cookie sheet.
Dust the muffins one more time with cornmeal, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until puffed up and plump.
Let the muffins cool on a wire rack, then store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic. Muffins last about a week stored correctly.
Chop, chop, y’all!
previous cold-weather monthly muffins:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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,
previous monthly muffins:
It’s been gray the whole past week, and rainy most nights…and I’ve been loving it all so much. Over the summer, I never wanted to stay inside, or it was too muggy for me to just sit around, even with the air conditioning running full blast. Now, though, I wake up at 7:00, brew myself a gargantuan pot of coffee (yes a whole pot just for me), and lounge around enjoying the nascent coziness of early autumn. The gray mornings are best for productivity, and I tell you I need a lot that (#gradschoollyfe.)
I’m drowning in developmental psychology and immigration policy…but it’s kind of nice. I like the quiet mornings, which turn into low-key days, when I can both relax and get things done.
Plus, I’m a nerd for learning. I love it, and like high-key love it. My book case is practically falling apart because I can’t help myself with getting new books, even if I barely have time or energy to read them. My professors probably don’t expect me to read everything they assign, much less twice with highlights and margin notes, but I do. I’m already vaguely familiar with most of the concepts we’re learning, whether I realize it or not, but something about seeing it all in print is empowering.
I say this as midterm season approaches and I watch my last breath pop like a bubble in a bathtub.
With work and school, I have less time for cooking than I had expected, and slightly less time for baking (plus money. why does making food cost money.) so I try to enjoy the few moments I do get in the kitchen.
Following the success of my English muffins (my stomach gave them two Oscars, and my mouth nominated them for six Emmys. they can’t believe it. they’re so grateful), I decided to start building up a repertoire of English muffin recipes.
I started with whole wheat: gray like an early autumn morning, hearty like October produce, and flavorful in all the best ways. At first, I just made a substitution: half whole wheat flour for half all-purpose. The dough is surprisingly easy to work with. Unfortunately, I realized that not only were the muffins dense, but the dough was a little firm (easy to work with as in not sticky, but stiff as in stubborn.) Trial after trial, each involving either a different ratio of whole wheat flour to all-purpose (it’s recommended that you always cut whole wheat with refined), or a smaller amount of flour, and I finally arrived here: fluffy, some might even say “plush,” whole-wheat English muffins with nooks and crannies big enough for you to fall into. If you’re butter, that is.
Every time I think of nooks and crannies, I want to say “crooks and nannies.” Words are funny, y’all.
The dough will be just a little bit sticky, but not so much that you can’t pick it up as one mass and handle it directly with your hands. I let the dough proof in a greased bowl the first time, then transfer it to a floured pastry board, and the flour helps the individual dough rounds come together without sticking everywhere, without adding so much extra flour that they dry out. With less flour, the dough rises a lot more during proofing and baking, the holes are larger, and the flavor shines through more.
whole-wheat english muffins (with vegan options)
makes one dozen (56 g/2 oz each, unbaked)
200 g/7 oz sourdough starter
150 g/5.3 oz milk, buttermilk, or water
28 g/1 oz softened butter or oil (canola, etc.)
20 g/0.7 oz molasses or brown sugar
180 g/6.3 oz whole wheat flour
100 g/3.5 oz all-purpose flour
hefty pinch of salt
with baker’s yeast instead of starter
7 g/0.25 oz (1 packet) active dry yeast
250 g/8.8 oz milk, buttermilk, or water
28 g/1 oz softened butter or oil (canola, etc.)
20 g/0.7 oz molasses or brown sugar
180 g/6.3 oz whole wheat flour
200 g/7 oz all-purpose flour
hefty pinch of salt
for prepping, frying, and baking
vegetable oil, ~1 Tbsp
cornstarch, ~1/4 c
butter (substitute canola oil for vegan), ~1 Tbsp
make the dough
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
Using a spoon or rubber spatula, quickly mix together ingredients just until the dough starts to form and there isn’t a lot of loose flour or water/liquid.
Using the dough hook of an electric or stand mixer, beat the dough for ~5 minutes, until smooth, cohesive, and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It should stick a little bit when you touch it, but not come apart too much. Add more flour if it’s too loose, wet, or sticky.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, turn over once, cover, and let proof at least 1 hour, or until doubled. If you want to divide the dough more precisely when shaping the muffins, put the empty, greased bowl onto a scale, zero/tare it out, and add the dough so you know exactly how much you have. I end up with ~670 g/24 oz.
Note: Sourdough starter ferments more slowly and rises less than active dry baker’s yeast (but is more beneficial and nutritious), so I make the dough a day in advance and refrigerate overnight. When making yeasted dough, proofing times vary a lot, so rely on the size of the dough to know when it’s ready. You can even use a large measuring cup, so you can see how the capacity changes as the dough rises.
shape, fry, and bake
Flour a clean surface or marble pastry board and turn proofed dough out of its container.
Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (use a scale for more accuracy: 56 g/2 oz per muffin.) You can make any number of muffins and divide the dough however you want: 6 giant muffins, 18 small muffins, 10 medium-large, etc.
Flatten each piece lightly, fold the edges and corners into the center, form a ball, and roll into a sphere.
Dust a baking sheet with cornstarch and line muffins up, leaving 3-4 inches between each. Lightly flatten again with the palm of your hand.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise another 30 minutes in a warm spot.
While dough is rising again, preheat oven to 350 F/175 C.
When ready to fry and bake, heat a skillet. Butter/oil lightly once the skillet is hot, and let the butter/oil heat. You want to sear the muffins, not deep-fry (though if you want deep-fried English muffins, knock yourself out!)
In batches, fry the muffins until bronzed, 3 – 5 minutes, on each side. Once all muffins are fried, finish them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until puffy.
Let cool, split with a fork, toast in halves, and enjoy!
I think I’m falling in love with English muffins,
previous monthly muffins
Many people claim that North Carolina summers last until October, but the mornings and evenings are already feeling less like that place where my upper arm meets my ribcage and more like autumn. And the sun is sleeping much longer. Gone are the days of bright, sunny six o’clock in the morning, and here has come the season of seven o’clock sunsets.
Soon I’ll be able to step outside without my glasses fogging up. Huzzay.
We don’t normally think of blueberries as autumn fruits, but it is yet early autumn/late summer, and as long as the farmers are selling them, I’m sure as hell buying them. I’ve had blueberries in my freezer all season and am only just beginning to finish them up (I just really like blueberries muffins and pancakes, okay?)
Blueberry muffins, with lemon zest and/or buttermilk, are a classic, but I was curious to see if I could make them gluten-free. It took a lot of flour combinations and binder substitutions (I don’t buy xanthan gum; I’ve heard some people say they don’t like it when doing gluten-free baking), but now at the end of the hot and stormy season, I have found a few combinations that work for me, and I’m hoping they’ll work for you, too.
There’s no xanthan gum or anything super crazy in these muffins (though the agar-agar batch did turn out pretty well), and the flours are pretty common: white rice is always my base for gluten-free pastries, plus brown rice, chickpea, or soy flour (choose one or any combination thereof), or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, buckwheat, and bound together with any starch (corn, tapioca, potato), baking soda, and baking powder. The first few batches tasted metallic, and most of the middle batches were gummy or crumbly, but the last few held together like their glutinous brethren and actually tasted like they were meant to taste.
These muffins will be more tender than glutinous muffins, naturally, and they pack an intense lemon flavor. I use about 2 cups or 200 grams of blueberries for a dozen muffins, but by all means, add more.
Muffins aren’t meant to last more than a day, and certainly no more than 48 hours. If you want to keep them overnight, wait until they’ve cooled off and wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap. They can be left out at room temperature once they’re wrapped up. I usually microwave the muffins the next day, to bring back a little vitality and make them soft again.
gluten-free blueberry buttermilk muffins
adapted from blueberry buttermilk muffins, from Mom’s Big Book of Baking
makes 1 dozen
100 g white rice flour
100 g other gluten-free flour (bean flours recommended, but you can also use brown rice or buckwheat)
100 g starch (corn, tapioca, potato, etc.)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 large eggs (2-ounce/52-gram eggs), at room temperature
150 g granulated sugar
200 g buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries (~200 g)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a larger bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and lemon zest. Whisk in melted and cooled butter until combined.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, then stir in the blueberries. It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed, as ingredients will continue to combine when they bake, and you want to work as quickly as possible.
Divide the batter out among the muffin cups (I use a large cookie scoop), and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until muffins are springy to the touch. If they seem to be browning quickly, turn the oven down to 325 F/160 C.
Leggo my PSL, yo,
previous monthly muffins:
Mine’s Herbert. He smells funny, but he’s so damn cute.
He’s fluffy, bubbly, and off-white. Not white…off-white. I play with him a lot, but I only have to feed him once or twice a week!
Oh, you thought I was talking about my cat. No, my cats eat ten times a day and there are three of them and none of them are off-white…not even in the slightest.
No, I was talking about my starter.
I made my first (and I hope only) sourdough starter on March 13 of this year, four months ago, and named him Herbert. I keep him in a plastic quart container in a fridge and try to feed him twice a week (but really if I only feed him once a week, it’s no big deal.)
I created my starter after watching Michael Pollan’s Netflix series, “Cooked,” based on his book, “Cooked” (I did not see that naming coming, how clever.)
Since birthing Herbert, I’ve been working on sourdough English muffins, pretzels, croissants, and even brioche. I used to be in love with active dry baker’s yeast (Red Star was the love of my life), but now I have a young child who takes up all my time, energy, and love (not really; sourdough doesn’t take any time or energy, but requires all of the love. every bit of it.)
This isn’t about the paste, though. This is about what I made with it: English muffins.
Fluffy, rich, buttery, and crusty. Not like the flat, flaccid pucks you buy at the grocery store.
The ones I make aren’t vegan, but the vegan substitutions are easy. Fortunately, most bread by default is vegan, so it’s not like trying to make vegan chocolate mousse (which only works if you have a Vitamix, by the way.) In fact, the first few times I attempted English muffins, they were vegan…until I fried them in butter like the shameless Southerner that I am.
As with most breads or doughs, you can make the dough for these muffins in advance and either freeze or refrigerate them, provided you allow them to proof at some point.
(sourdough) english muffins
makes 12 muffins
Note: if you don’t have a starter but want to make these, it’s an easy substitution. The standard amount of dry yeast is 7 grams or 1 packet, and the amount of added liquid and flour will be half of the weight of the starter. For example, for a recipe with 200 grams of starter, add an extra 100 g each of the liquid and flour. A starter is 1 part water and 1 part flour, so if you wanted to substitute in reverse (using a starter INSTEAD of dry yeast), cut out the yeast, take an equal amount away from the flour and liquid in the recipe, and add twice that amount of the starter (100 grams x 2 = 200 grams starter.)
200 g sourdough starter
350 g all-purpose flour
150 g warm milk or water
1 oz softened butter or vegetable oil
dash of salt
10 g sugar
cornmeal and butter for frying (you don’t need the butter if you’re doing vegan muffins, and if you’re using a non-stick/anodized aluminum pan, you don’t even need oil. you can also use bare cast iron, seasoned with vegan oils.)
In a large bowl using an electric mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour, milk/water, butter, salt, and sugar.
Add the starter and mix with the dough hook for ~5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and it cleans up the bowl as it moves around.
Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let proof for a few hours (either at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.) You can freeze the dough at this point, as well, as long as you thaw it overnight in the fridge and let it proof at least once before moving on.
When the dough is doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. The best way to do this is measure the weight of the dough. I end up with approximately 775 grams, so 64 grams per piece for one dozen. You can do any size and any number you want (like ten muffins at 77.5 grams each, or twenty muffins at 40 grams each.)
Roll the dough into balls. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and arrange the balls on top of the cornmeal. Flatten the dough into discs with the palm of your hand, cover the pan loosely, and let proof one more time for at least half an hour at room temperature.
While the muffins are proofing, preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
Heat a large skillet or griddle (aluminum or cast iron are great, but any material works) on high/medium-high, and add about a tablespoon of unsalted butter. When butter is melted and hot, panfry the muffins, 3 – 4 at a time, until bronze on each side (it’ll be 2 – 5 minutes per side, depending on how hot the pan is.)
Once the muffins are browned on each side, return them to the baking sheet and continue with the rest. After all of the muffins are fried, put them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until plump and firm, taking them out before they brown any more.
Let cool in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack and continue to cool. Muffins last about a week in a sealed container at room temperature, and are best eaten toasted. When splitting muffins, use a fork so you get all the nooks and crannies.
Cheerio and all that,
previous monthly muffins:
It’s the month of loooooove, and I am in looooooooooooove with ginger. Last year I made a ginger sugar cookie, a ginger-flavored and turmeric-colored cookie completely different from the typical molasses cookie. While working on the first few monthly muffins last season, I tested out molasses as a vegan sweetener, and ended up with molasses muffins. They weren’t what I was aiming for, so I put the idea of a molasses muffin on the shelf for another cold season.
These are not the molasses muffins you are probably not looking for anyway.
Because of health reasons, I decided in November to do more vegan pastries, in addition to savory cooking, and the first and most important thing on my Xmas wishlist was a vegan baking book. I got exactly what I wanted: The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I didn’t recognize the book when I opened it (though I was plenty appreciative as it’s supposedly the number one vegan pastry book), and a few days later I discovered it hidden in the bowels of my Amazon wishlist. This is what happens when you add 100 books a day to your Amazon wishlist and then never look at it again.
My new year’s resolution a few years ago was to reduce the number of processed foods I buy at the grocery store. I even started a list of foods I would allow (breads and some Morningstar products), and foods I would stop buying (shredded cheese with preservatives, dyed cheddar cheese, etc.) Back then, EarthBalance wasn’t on my list of banned foods, but now for the sake of simplicity and budget, it is.
Before baking anything from the book, I went through and examined every single recipe to see what fats and liquids are used. I marked all the recipes that use non-dairy milk (cheap and whole, totally acceptable), and vegetable oil, rather than margarine or vegan butters and vegan cheeses. Eventually, I’ll go back to the recipes that call for the processed ingredients and work on making my own substitutions, but for now I’m focusing on the ones with simpler ingredients, like these muffins.
Fortunately, muffins are easy and forgiving. It doesn’t matter what fats or oils you use, as long as they’re in liquid form when you use them, and you leaven with baking soda/baking powder. That’s why we have the Monthly Muffin and not the Monthly Montblanc.
These muffins are similar to the ginger cookies from last spring, but without the turmeric…and also, they’re not cookies. I hope that’s obvious. The ginger flavor is light and sweet, but noticeable, like in ginger ale, rather than ginger bread.
The apple sauce helps create volume and makes the batter thicker, while the canola oil makes them rich and flavorful. I tried a version with mostly apple sauce, and then one with none, and I preferred the latter. The mostly apple sauce batch was a little dry and not very flavorful, but I ended up using a combination of the two ingredients, so I could get volume, great texture, and plenty of flavor. Over the past few months of trying vegan and gluten-free things, I’ve learned that a combination of canola oil and apple sauce is one of the best ways to replace eggs and butter*.
I used coconut milk because it has the best texture for baking and cooking, and in many recipes, you won’t even taste the coconut.
These muffins are best topped with toasted almonds, or for those of you who can’t have nuts, a vanilla glaze made from coconut milk and powdered sugar.
And finally, as much as I try to get by without it, I always find myself adding some amount of whole wheat flour to my muffins. For the first few muffins at the end of last year, using mostly whole wheat was the way to go, but for something that’s meant to be a whiter muffin (meaning all all-purpose flour), if you substitute about 1/3 of the all-purpose flour for the same amount of whole wheat, I think it makes the muffin that much better.
*There are a few recommended ways to replace eggs and butter in vegan baking, and I tried most of them in this recipe. Beware of using too much baking powder or soda (in fact, avoid the baking soda altogether), or else the muffins will taste like blood…I mean…something metallic…maybe.
vegan ginger muffins (glaze recipe included)
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, makes 12 muffins
200 g all-purpose flour
40 g whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
a dash of salt
30 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
180 g granulated sugar
40 g unsweetened apple sauce
80 g vegetable oil (or nut or coconut)
240 g non-dairy milk (coconut is my preference)
~6 g lemon zest or a splash of lemon extract
for topping: toasted sliced almonds, lemon glaze, vanilla glaze (recipe below), crystallized ginger (recipe here)
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, ground ginger, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate larger bowl, grate the peeled ginger using a microplane grater/zester. Add the sugar and whisk until all the sugar is soaked into the ginger.
Whisk in the apple sauce, oil, milk, and zest/extract until smooth and consistent.
Whisk or fold the dry ingredients into the wet just until combined, then divide evenly among the cups in the muffin pan.
If topping with almonds, you can either toast them a little bit before you make the batter, or sprinkle them onto the unbaked muffins without toasting (they’ll toast a little in the oven.) Otherwise, skip this part.
Bake the muffins for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch.
Remove and cool in the pan for a few minutes, then take the muffins out and cool on a wire rack. If glazing, let them cool completely before glazing.
vegan muffin glaze, makes ~1/2 c, enough for 1 dozen muffins
20 g coconut milk
100 g powdered sugar, sifted
lemon zest, vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Whisk ingredients together, alternating between the milk and sugar, until it’s your desired consistency. It should be thick but runny, like syrup.
Drizzle on top of the muffins while they’re on the wire rack. Let it solidify, then enjoy!
Salut, mes amis!
past holiday cookies:
ginger turmeric sugar cookies | | basic sugar cookies | | cardamom shortbread | | salted, spiced double chocolate cookies | | chocolate chip cookies | | cardamom molasses cookies | | black tea butter cookies
Christmas is just around the corner, which means cookies galore. I like to do a cookie round-up every December, featuring some new holiday cookie recipes and bringing back some old ones. Perhaps someday I’ll have enough to write a book dedicated to holiday cookies (and by “perhaps,” I mean “certainly.”) It’s the time of year for spicy chocolate, rich ginger and molasses, decorate-able sugar cookies, and exploring all manner of exotic recipes, ancient recipes, and European recipes.
Last year, I went on a spicy cookie binge, introducing salted and spiced double chocolate cookies and cardamom molasses cookies. Over the past year, though, I’ve been trying my hand at some vegan and gluten-free pastries (vegan banana nut muffins, gluten-free brownies, gluten-free muffins), so our special 2015 guests are of the vegan variety.
I spent a month trying to come up with a “healthy” vegan cookie, with whole wheat, oatmeal, apples, and more, so that I could have my cake and gain a six-pack, too. I don’t normally diet, and in fact I hate the word, but I’m thinking it’s time to become more aware of my health and what I’m eating (my tummy will go away but chocolate chip cookies are forever.) Long story short, those cookies were disastrous and disgusting, consistently. They were mushy and soggy, even when I dried out the apple bits in the oven before adding them to the batter, and they tasted less than pleasant. My grandiose idea of The Healthy Vegan Apple Oatmeal Cookie would have to say hello to the trashcan for good. I figured I could try scones instead, but I still wanted some cookies for Saint Nick (I am Saint Nick. I wanted the cookies for my own mouth.) The scones will have to wait until 2016 (but expect a load of vegan and GF scone recipes next year.)
A friend of mine suggested that I do peanut butter cookies. They’re essentially only three ingredients: peanut butter, flour, and sugar. However, as I discovered through a lot of trial and error, three ingredients just doesn’t cut it. Adding some oil and liquid helps.
When thinking of what types of cookies I could make vegan, and what types of cookies I didn’t already have on the blog, the obvious top choice was snickerdoodles, named after me (actually, as you can read in the about me, my parents called me snickerdoodle when I was younger…meaning until last week.)
So here we have it: our 2015 holiday cookies are vegan snickerdoodles and vegan peanut butter!
With the snickerdoodles, I found it’s really important to have a combination of apple sauce, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. No maple syrup and the cookies won’t be very sweet. Too much apple sauce and they taste metallic (apple sauce has ascorbic acid, and the most important ingredient in snickerdoodles is tartaric acid, so in all it’s just too much acid.) The apple sauce helps the texture: it makes the cookies puff up more and end up softer when they cool. Otherwise, you end up with snickerdoodle chips. The maple syrup helps sweeten the cookies and thin out the dough a little bit. If the dough is too dry, the coating doesn’t stick and it’s harder to work with.
makes 2 dozen small (2 teaspoons) or 1 dozen medium (4 tsp)
10 g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
60 g canola oil*
25 g unsweetened apple sauce
60 g maple syrup*
110 g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
185 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small shallow bowl, or on a plate, mix the coating ingredients. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
In a larger mixing bowl, beat the wet ingredients (oil, apple sauce, syrup, sugar, and vanilla), then beat in dry mixture until fully combined. The dough might be dry and crumbly, but it should clump together when you squeeze it.
Form small balls about 2 centimeters across, use a small (2-teaspoon) cookie scoop, or a regular spoon. Lightly press dough spheres into the bowl/plate of cinnamon sugar, to coat one side and form a small disc, then arrange the cookies (sugared side up) on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the tops are crispy and crackle-y. Remove, cool, and enjoy.
I made the peanut butter cookies a few different ways: as simple as possible (no added liquids), with a little bit of added liquid (soy milk), with a ton of apple sauce for volume, and then with a mix of oil and milk. The last way ended up being the best all around: they thinned out and puffed up, retained the peanut butter taste but weren’t too dense, and were easy to work with. Too much soy milk and the flavor gets diluted. Too little and the cookies are dense. I ended up not even needing apple sauce. You’re welcome to add some, but I found it didn’t make a difference, and because I like to simplify my recipes as much as possible, if I don’t need it, I don’t use it. I also took out the vanilla extract because the flavor comes from the peanut butter and the sweetness from the sugars.
I tried these with factory peanut butter (Skippy) and organic (Justin’s), and they turned out the same either way. The non-factory peanut butter is thicker and less sweet, though there’s plenty of oil in it, but the cookies are still amazing. If you think the dough is too thick or dry, mix in some oil or milk.
NOTE: Because these cookies use canola oil as the fat (as opposed to something that would be solid at room temperature, like butter or coconut oil), they won’t melt down or spread at all. The snickerdoodles do spread because of the apple sauce (and perhaps the syrup), but for the peanut butter cookies, you’ll need to flatten them yourself. You can make them really really flat and thin, or a little bit flat like a hockey puck, or you could even just make vegan peanut butter cookie balls. Every option is equally scrumptious.
vegan peanut butter cookies
160 g peanut butter
80 g granulated sugar
80 g brown sugar
32 g canola oil
32 g soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
95 g all-purpose flour
dash of salt
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the wet ingredients (peanut butter, sugars, milk, and oil) and in a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Beat ingredients together until the dough is fully mixed.
Using a small ice cream scoop (~2 teaspoons or one spoonful), scoop dough onto the baking sheet and press down with a fork.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the cookies start to darken slightly around the edges. Remove and cool.
Happy holidays, y’all
What is my favorite thing about baking, you ask?
Well, I have to test the recipes a lot before I feel confident calling them “my own,” let alone “successful,” and as a result…I get to eat a lot.
And if I’m making something buttery or high-carb-y, and my parents are on a diet, I have to eat a lot, a lot. I mean…I get to eat a lot, a lot.
When I was in Japan, I discovered the versatility of rice flour as a gluten-free ingredient, and ever since it’s become my goal to really get to know gluten-free ingredients, and to find recipes using the more common, easier-to-find, and cheaper ingredients.
Also, I started budgeting again and, y’all, it ain’t lookin’ good.
I spent the entire month of November on a muffin journey: testing out the previous monthly muffin, then attempting to make a gluten-free version, testing every flour combination imaginable (white rice + brown rice, white rice + buckwheat, white rice + half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, white rice + soy flour, and white rice + chickpea flour.) I discovered that they all work well as long as you have a base of white rice flour, plus a high-fiber flour. You can also do 100% white rice flour for a lighter muffin, but for those of you who, like me, need to hibernate immediately, hearty is good.
I also tested out dairy and non-dairy versions: buttermilk, greek yogurt, and soy milk.
In all, I made enough muffins to feed the city, and when I was just about to start the dairy testing, but realized I had no more puree left, I picked out a recipe for the January monthly muffin (shhhh, it’s a secret. duh.) The texture of these muffins is so unbelievable, you’d never guess they’re gluten-free. None of the weird gummy-crumbly-heavy-like-a-boulder stuff, and you don’t have to break the bank searching for flours you’ve never heard of (but if you would like to do so, by all means, go ahead.) When it came to non-dairy milk, I decided just to try a totally vegan version, and those turned out as well as the rest, albeit a little smaller and drier.
All substitutions included in the recipe below.
gluten-free sweet potato muffins (with vegan substitutions below)
adapted from whole wheat pumpkin streusel muffins
makes 1 dozen
80 g white rice flour
80 g high-fiber gluten-free flour (brown rice, soy, chickpea, buckwheat) or 80 g white rice flour (160 g total)
80 g starch (tapioca and cornstarch combined, or one of the two)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
80 g buttermilk*
150 g maple syrup or agave nectar
45 g canola oil
200 g sweet potato puree
extra: pecans, raisins, brown sugar, streusel topping, crystallized ginger
*You can substitute greek yogurt, milk (dairy or non-dairy), or dried buttermilk. For greek yogurt, the batter will be thicker, so add a few extra grams of yogurt (90-100 g), and for milk, substitute 1:1 (80 g.) If you use dried buttermilk: 80 g water into the wet mixture and 4 teaspoons of buttermilk powder into the dry.
**You can make these vegan by using 80 g non-dairy milk and 20 g vinegar in the wet mixture, and 3 tsp baking soda (10 g vinegar + 1 tsp baking soda = 1 egg), instead of 1 tsp in the dry mixture. These will be a little drier than the recipe, so I would do 160 – 170 g syrup instead of 150.
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cups.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, starch, salt, baking soda and powder, and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together syrup, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and puree.
Dump dry mix into wet and mix quickly. If desired, mix in extras (nuts, raisins, etc.) and divide evenly among muffin cups, ~3 Tbsp per cup, then top with streusel, nuts, cinnamon brown sugar, or whatever else you like.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
I like them best when they’re topped with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Brownies are by far my favorite thing to eat and bake. I probably say this about a few different things (chocolate chip cookies, creme brulee, snickerdoodles) but let’s be real: brownies win by a long shot. I prefer them more fudge-y than cake-y, firmer and denser rather than gooey, and more bitter than sweet, usually. I could easily have made dense, fudge-y gluten-free brownies, but I’d like to learn more about how different ingredients affect the end product, and how to achieve different desired results.
The process of making the brownies gluten-free was unbelievably easy: I just substituted rice flour for all-purpose flour. At first, I made a batch using agar-agar to substitute gluten/gelatin, but when I made the second and third batches, I realized I didn’t need any gelatin. I doubled the eggs for richer, fluffier brownies, but then they were too cake-y. I ended up cutting back on the flour in the end and they were perfect. I was afraid they’d taste rice-y or weird, but I was the only person who could taste it…and maybe for the second time this year the people I gave pastries to raved about them. Like more than usual. So I guess I did something right.
I am also happy to announce that, though I’m leaving my job this year, I’ll still be somewhat involved in a very minor, and newly-formed role: the Social Media Dude for Gluten-Free JET, a special interest group within the program’s structure that was granted full membership a month ago. I’ve done social media things before, aside from blogging about my kitchen blunders, so even though I won’t be in the country, I was happy to get my hands dirty with the project. It’ll give me a chance to learn about celiac and gluten allergies, and a way to stay connected even after I’m gone (*cue helicopter sounds*.)
I started trying to learn about gluten a few years ago because my uncle has celiac disease. Unfortunately, none of the information seems to stick very well so I end up reinventing the wheel constantly. I hope that I can spend more time and effort this year on learning about the allergies, and that the information I pick up sticks with me.
makes ~2 dozen brownies (depending on how big you want to cut them)
*I used a tiny toaster oven so my own recipe is half of this. If you use this recipe, it can fit into a 9×9-inch square brownie pan. If you, like I do, live in Japan and can’t use a 9×9-inch brownie pan, use a “vat” (the half-sized pans for making roll cakes or for baking other things) and cut the recipe in half exactly.
120 g unsalted butter, melted
360 g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or just dump it in as you like)
120 g white rice flour
60 g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c chocolate chips
If using a conventional oven, preheat to 350 F/175 C. Line the brownie pan with parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a large bowl over a double boiler. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Using a spatula, beat in the eggs one at a time, until each is fully mixed in.
In a separate smaller bowl, combine the cocoa powder, baking powder, and flour. Beat into the batter a little at a time (about 8 additions), but you don’t need to mix fully yet.
Mix in the chocolate chips and salt until there are no pockets of flour left.
Pour batter into the pan and bake/toast for 25 minutes (740 W if using a toaster oven). You can do the toothpick test but brownies are better without it. Slightly underbaked and they’ll be rich and fudge-y.
Transfer the pan to the refrigerator immediately and cool before cutting.
I just really want to learn everything. Especially all of the food things. I generally have trouble taking it slow and letting myself go step by step, but I also generally have trouble actually succeeding at learning the things I attempt. I’ve come up with a sizable list of things I would like to work on once I move home, and I won’t promise anyone that I’ll finish a certain number of them by a certain date. If you’ve read my About Me or the book Julie and Julia (or the movie made from the book, trailer here), then you should know how that would turn out. I’ll take my time going through as many as I can, and practicing each recipe many, many times, even posting some stories and recipes on the blog! I’ll keep the list somewhere handy to remind myself and even add onto it as I cross items off of it.
Here we go!
1. how to use a rice cooker (I’ve lived in Japan for 2.5 years and have never learned how)
2. how to use a grill (gotta get back in touch with my ‘Merican heritage)
3. how to make jam
4. Early Grey tea bread
5. French sables
6. madeleines (bought a mini-madeleine pan and still haven’t tried these)
7. mayonnaise (probably going to be the first thing I attempt. American mayonnaise is…blegh. But Japanese mayo, lord help me.)
8. rendang (Indonesian coconut milk marinade for meats)
9. peanut butter (planning on attempting first thing in August), and other nut butters, depending on the price of the nuts
10. sambal (Indonesian chili sauce/relish)
11. white wine and red wine reductions
12. gado-gado (Indonesian peanut sauce)
13. American gravy, sausage gravy
14. fried chicken
15. pulled pork
16. rice bread
17. whole wheat bread
19. jambalaya (my aunt’s from new orleans so I’ll have to pester her, hint hint if you’re reading this)
20. pickles (American and Japanese)
21. how to can/jar foods
22. almond paste, marzipan
23. soy clam chowder (because I’m lactose intolerant)
24. fudge, from scratch
25. roux sauces (Hollandaise, bechamel, etc.)
26. curry from scratch
27. coconut whipped cream
28. coconut milk ice cream
29. how to use a slow cooker
30. slow cooker meat recipes
31. French baguettes
34. gluten-free pizza
36. how to use quinoa
37. how to use chia seeds
If I can learn/practice 2 things a month (adjusting for price of ingredients), then I think I can get most of these in the next year. I’d also like to start keeping track of the prices of things I buy at the grocery store so I can become better at comparing prices and budgeting.
Wish me all of your luck. Every last drop of it.