Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

Since making the decision to go vegan 7 1/2 years ago, I’ve been in search of a challah recipe that can compete with my favorite eggy versions from my childhood. The kind I liked best was extra eggy, soft and cake-like challah with an extremely rich flavor and delicate crumb.  I could eat slice after slice, coated with the unsalted, pareve margarine my mom kept on hand for meat meals.  Although water challah exists in the US, it’s not nearly as popular, and can be quite difficult to find.  In fact despite reassurances from several friends, there was only one store in all of Manhattan that I knew would reliably have an accidentally vegan challah.  Given the scarcity of options, I spent many a Friday night dinner unable to participate in the cornerstone ritual of blessing and breaking bread at the start of a meal. This is less of an issue in Israel, as it is much easier to find egg-free challah here, and at most meals there’s also a pile of soft pitas sitting next to the braided loaves.

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My quest for the perfect challah recipe has been ongoing since a very young age.  Even when I knew where to buy my favorite brand, I still always had an itch to make my own, and no matter how masterful I became in pastry creation, my challah was a perpetual disappointment, eggy or vegan.  The first egg free recipe I tried called for the unholiest of sins in my book, most especially as an egg replacer: banana. There is nothing you can say or do to make me believe that “you can’t even taste the banana!” because yes, I can, even in those super chocolatey brownies.  Even the slightest hint that banana is lurking beneath the surface, and the brownie/cake/smoothie/muffin/challah is ruined.  I still wanted to try that first, sinful recipe, however, so I subbed the banana for another sweet and starchy plant, namely pumpkin.  I continued to use that recipe for several years, but nothing about it was even close to the challah I was trying to approximate.  Several years later, I adapted a recipe from a friends mother, by merely leaving the egg out.  The ratios of sweetness to breadiness was perfect, but it came out as slightly too oily.  Still, it was the best challah I’d ever made.  Because I didn’t own a blender or food processor when I lived in Manhattan, blended tofu was out as an option, but my other go to egg-replacer–non-dairy yogurt–was still on the table.  Before I happened to bring that experiment to fruition, I happened upon the brioche recipe from Bittersweet Blog, which used a chickpea flour based custard as the egg replacer. The sticky sweet brioche dough made a decent braid (and tasted delicious to boot), but it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a challah.

FullSizeRender (1)For Rosh Hashanah last year, I decided to embark on yet another challah experiment, drawing inspiration from both the brioche recipe as well as from some of the other recipes I’d liked the best.  The chickpea custard gave the dough just the right amount of enrichment, so the crumb was soft and tender, with a sweet almost cake-y, but not overpowering flavor.  For the glaze, I mixed together a bit of soymilk with a touch of silan (date syrup), which helped give the loaves a bit of sheen and that same rich color that traditional loaves have.  The recipe will either make one large round loaf, or one large braid (which I prefer to bake in a loaf pan in order to retain more height).  You can sprinkle the top with traditional toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, or you can have a bit of fun and try za’atar or paprika!

May all our meals be a little sweeter this year! שנה טובה ומתוקה! Have a happy and sweet new year!

IMG_0011Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

  • 1/4 c chickpea flour
  • 1 c non dairy milk
  •  1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/3 c maple syrup or silan
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp black salt
  • 5-6 c all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 3 tbsp nondairy milk mixed with 1-2 tbsps of silan
  • sesame seeds, poppy seeds, zaatar

In a small saucepan, mix chickpea flour with some of the milk to form paste. Whisk in the rest of the milk, and cook on medium heat until significantly thickened and pudding-like, stirring constantly.  Let cool until just warm to touch.  In a large bowel, stir together the chickpea custard with the yeast and maple syrup or silan.  Allow the yeast mixture to rest for a bit.  The yeast may start to bubble slightly (which is a good thing).  Add in the salt and the oil, and then begin to add flour.  I usually start with about 4 cups, then knead it in to see how sticky the dough still is.  Add more flour if necessary, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.  Knead about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and bounces back when lightly pressed.  Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with a bit of plastic and a towel and place in the fridge to ride overnight.  In the morning, punch down the dough, then preheat the oven to 350F (about 175C).  Shape the dough according to your preference.  For a round loaf, roll the dough into one long rope.  Tie the rope into a regular knot, tucking one end underneath the loaf, while letting the other stick out just a bit. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size.  Brush with milk and silan mixture, then sprinkle the topping over evenly.  Bake on a large cookie sheet (for the round loaf) for about 30 minutes.  If after that time the top is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil and bake for about another 30 minutes.  When done, a knife inserted into the center (do it between coils, not in the exact center of the rope) should come back clean, and will slide in easily.  You can alternatively check that it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  If braiding the loaf, it will probably only need to back for about 30 minutes.

 

Pumpkin Baked Ziti, Your New Noodle Kugel

My family has never been one to make kugels, noodle, potato or otherwise.  In  fact there’s really only been one noodle kugel I ever liked, which a friend of my parents used to bring to our break fast parties after Yom Kippur.  It was sweet and creamy, absent of devil’s spawn (raisins) and topped with ethereally crunchy shredded coconut.  This was the dish that first turned me on to coconut, though people who know me now will be hard pressed to imagine a time I didn’t like the rich, nutty tropical fruit.  Baked ziti–essentially an Italian version of noodle kugel without all the eggs–was another dish I wasn’t particularly fond of, due to the presence of grainy ricotta cheese.  Going vegan freed me from those terrifying shackles, by presenting me with alternatives to both, namely a sweet and savory, but creamy baked pasta dish.

Pumpkin baked ziti with pecans in the bread crumbs. Cape Cod, November 2009

This recipe comes straight from the ranks of Veganomicon.  I’m including it on my Thanksgivukkuh table this year because it’s an appropriate combination of Thanksgiving flavors, with loose ties to the more traditionally Jewish (ok Ashkenazi) kugel.  It’s also a total crowd pleaser, and can be easily multiplied for a larger number of guests.  Pasta is coated in a creamy mixture of pureed pumpkin and sweet cashew tofu ricotta, delicately spiced with nutmeg and white pepper.  What really makes the dish though, are the caramelized onions that are added to the mix.  Pumpkin and caramelized onions is almost as classic as pumpkin and sage after all, but not to be outdone, sage is featured in the homemade bread crumbs.  The topping also includes crushed walnuts for a nutty finish on top.  I usually use pecans or hazelnuts, since I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.

Ziti next to pumpkin based challah for post-Thanksgiving Shabbat. Cape Cod, November 2009

Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon

  • 3/4 lb uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 2 onions, sliced very thinly
  • 1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • white pepper and cayenne, to taste
  • 2 c pureed pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 c vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in lasagna pan with olive oil (you can also use two smaller pans).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, start the onions.  Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pans (cast-iron is great for this) over medium heat.  Add the oil, then the onions, and saute until the onions are very brown and caramelized.  I like to add some salt, to help release the liquid, and then cover.  Slow caramelized onions do take about 45 minutes to be properly done, but you can speed up the process some by increasing the heat.  Just take care not to burn the onions. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow) in a bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and stir to combine.  Add the onions and pasta, mixing until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Pour into prepared pan, and press lightly with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with the sage breadcrumbs (recipe also to follow) and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.  This can also be made in advance and reheated.

Cashew Ricotta

  • 1/2 c raw cashew pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms.  Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended.  Blend in basil and salt.

Sage Breadcrumbs

  • 2 1/2 c plain bread crumbs (homemade are great here)
  • 1/3 c pecans or hazelnuts, chopped until resembling coarse crumbs
  • 1/4 c vegan margarine
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the margarine in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, nuts, herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir constantly 3-4 minutes until evenly coated.  Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

I feel like I’ve somehow managed to go overboard on the pumpkin this year, at least recipe-wise, which is funny since the pumpkin craze doesn’t really exist in Israel. All the sensory phenomena associated with pumpkin season in the US are absent here so far. It’s been almost continuously warm and sunny since my arrival in early October (much to my delight), so food cravings tend to be more for things that are light and fresh, rather than warm and comforting, rich with cinnamon, pumpkin, and other warming spices. Nevertheless, I had an idea for a second pumpkin themed cupcake that I was dying to try out. A cupcake spiked with a little bit of the ever popular pumpkin ale. I’m honestly not sure if pumpkin ales can be found here, but I had someone bring me back a bottle from the states for the sole purpose of making these cupcakes.

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Pumpkin ale cupcake, maple frosting and toasted pecans

While these would definitely make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table, I made these for a going away party for a friend who was moving back to Boston. They were a hit among all in attendance, which was more of a pleasant surprise not because I was worried about the combination of flavors, but because in making them in a borrowed kitchen, I lacked even such basic equipment as measuring cups. In the end, I guesstimated using a small disposable plastic cup (on which was writtenThis is 1 Cup), by assuming it was actually equivalent to about 6 oz, and measuring the ingredients from there. Luckily, ratios are really the most important part of baking, so despite my make-shift equipment, everything was in proportion.

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Pumpkin ale batter

Of course, I didn’t see any pumpkin puree in the grocery stores here, so for efficiency, I chose to use mashed sweet potato in the batter, which was equally nice. I also threw in some vegan white chocolate chips, mostly because we had them (and they’re so easy to find here!). The cupcake is topped with a salted maple buttercream and toasted pecans. I used pure maple syrup in the frosting since it was easier to request bottle of maple syrup from the US, rather than maple extract. The salt was added to counterbalance the sweetness of the maple and sugar combination. The pecans provide a buttery crunch that tops the cupcakes off perfectly. I would actually recommend choosing either the frosting or the white chocolate chips, since the chips made the batter a little bit more sweet than I would have liked.

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake:

  • 1/2 c canned pumpkin puree (or mashed sweet potato)
  • 3/4 c pumpkin ale
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 c vegan white chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners

In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin, ale, sugar, oil, and and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir with a fork until just combined.  Fold in the white chocolate chips if using.

Fill liners 2/3 full and baking for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Maple frosting:

  • 1 c vegan margarine ( or 1/2 margarine and 1/2 shortening)
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar

Put the maple syrup in a small saucepan of medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Simmer 5-10 minutes until the syrup has reduced a bunch.  You want it to be 1/4 c or less.  Add a tablespoon or two of the margarine and let cool.  Beat the margarine until fluffy, and add the sugar and salt.  Beat until combined.  Add the vanilla and the maple syrup.  Beat til fluffy, then put in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes.  Beat again before using.

Top cupcakes with maple frosting and toasted pecans.

Rumpkin Pie Chai Cupcakes

Given that I was leaving the US two days after my birthday to the land of (soy) milk and (date) honey, where it has been fairly consistently sunny and warm (aka Paradise. I’ve gone to the beach more times since I’ve been here than I have in the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my Ulpan (Hebrew language school) is about a block away from the water) I thought it was necessary to try and make as many autumny recipes as possible before I left, so for my second birthday cupcake (the first being the Apple Orchard cupcake) I of course had to do something with pumpkin.

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte (not chai) at Peacefood Cafe Downtown in New York City

While I briefly discussed that the cupcakes I have been making are all part of a theme, what I didn’t reveal was that I actually have a whole list of cupcakes to make sitting on my phone, combining seasonal ingredients, with tea and/or booze into awesome cupcakes. Well some of them are seasonal, some are based off of favorite cocktails, while others are inspired by well known tea based drinks. Mental cupcake creation is one of my favorite things to do when I have a long trip to take, and as I dream up cupcake combinations, I have finally taken care to write all of them down. The task now, is to slowly test out these cupcake combinations to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s popular, what I can effectively make gluten free etc.

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Rumpkin Pie Chai cupcakes with the pumpkin peeking through a patch of frosting. Garnished with a sprig of thyme.

There were several factors that went into the creation of this cupcake. First, how to best incorporate some booze into the already popular Chai Latte cupcake from VCTOW (that’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World…I’m not going to pull a Rachael Ray and always say the abbreviation and what it stands for, I promise). This is one of my dad’s favorite cupcakes, and the best part is, they’re super simple to make on their own. I thought a good spiced rum would fit nicely with the flavor profile, so that was settled quite easily. Then came choosing an appropriate filling. On my list I actually have written both pumpkin pie and cashew cardamom mousse. I wanted something that would meld nicely with the spices already present in the cake, but when it came down to it, the pumpkin craze had already begun, and nothing could beat a chai spiced cake with a deliciously creamy pumpkin pie filling. I generally consider spiking my frostings, just for the extra dose of booze, but because I was making these in tandem with the apple cupcakes (rather than packing….sorry Dad. And Jordan. I bake when I’m stressed, ok?) I needed to make my life a little easier and use only one frosting for both cupcakes. So on went the cinnamon buttercream. The last element to these cupcakes were attempting to make them gluten free. I have tried several different flour mixes for cupcakes with varying successes. This time, I used some leftover from the mix suggested in The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I’ve found that this mix creates a cupcake that is a little more dense than I would like, but the secret to the chai cupcake recipe is the addition of some non dairy yogurt, which creates a moist, light cake. I wanted to see if the combination of the yogurt with the flour blend would create a more satisfactory texture. Good news: it did!

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Autumn in Israel

Frequently, when I write down my cupcake ideas, I like to dream them up as the perfect package, complete with elegant if not time consuming garnishes. After all, I would eventually like to sell these (in which case maybe I should stop giving away all my secrets!), but usually, I just don’t have the time to make some of these complicated little additions, nor can I necessarily finance all the resources. For example on the apple cupcakes, I really wanted to throw on a little piece of pie crust, because yum. Crust is totally the best part of the pie. Also, they go crazy for garnishes like that on cupcake wars, but when it came down to it, not only was in nice to have a slice of fresh, crisp apple on top, it also added a nicer color, and, took significantly less work. When it came to garnishing the Rumpkin cupcakes, I found they needed a pop of color to brighten them up. Luckily, I had some sprigs of thyme that had dried up in my fridge, and added the perfect touch of color/actual pumpkin patch vibe I was going for. While I didn’t intend them to add anything flavor-wise, thyme and pumpkin make a pretty nice pair, though you could also probably use a sprig of rosemary or even a sage leaf (talk about an autumn classic, pumpkin and sage).

And now for the recipe:

Chai Cupcake (adapted from VCTOW)

  • 1 scant cup non dairy milk
  • 4 black tea bags or 2 tbsp loose black tea
  • 1/4 c dark or spiced rum
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c gluten free flour blend*
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch to 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper

*I used the the flour mix from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook, but you could try whatever you have on hand (or regular flour, and leave out the xanthan gum).  I just can’t vouch for the final product using a different gluten free flour combo.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Add tea bags, remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then squeeze all the excess milk from the tea bag/leaves and discard.  Measure the tea mixture, and rather than top off with milk, top off with rum, so the mixture equals 1 cup of liquid.  (This is why you can even start off with a little bit less milk even).  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and the tea mixture until all lumps disappear.  Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices into the wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are ok.  Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, you want plain old pumpkin)
  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would probably work too)
  • 1/4 c sugar or maple syrup or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp spiced rum

Combine everything but the vanilla and the rum in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until well combined and smooth, then cook until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently.  The mixture should smooth out even more and then thicken to a thick, custard-like consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.

Cinnamon Buttercream*

  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the apple cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

To assemble:

Put the pumpkin pie filling in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Using your pinky finger, poke a hole in each cupcake.  Fill with as much pumpkin pie filling as you can, leaving a nice round dollop of filling on top of the cupcake.  Fit a separate piping bag with a star tip and fill with the cinnamon buttercream.  Pipe little star flowers all around the pumpkin.  Garnish with a sprig of something green.

Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post!  I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t think to take more.  Mostly, I’m happy I took five minutes to write down these recipes.  Also, I probably should have gotten this out sooner, but good thing pumpkin is still entirely appropriate to eat throughout November!

Vegan Apple Orchard Cupcakes

It’s been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to go apple picking, but nonetheless, apples are still one of my favorite fruits. As much as I don’t look forward to fall (I know blasphemous, but I really dislike cold weather, even autumn cold) I still look forward to apple season, when I can get fresh crisp apples in all kinds of sweet and tart varieties. My favorite apples are usually a pleasant blend of sweet and tart, with just a hint of berry in the finish, like the pink lady apple. And while I definitely prefer all of my fruit fresh, apples are probably my favorite to eat cooked into a pastry, be it pie, cake or muffins. It came as no surprise then, when I discovered Woodchuck hard cider about two years ago, and instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect drink to casually sip, and never gets old given the preponderance of seasonal flavors and special batches. I particularly like the Summer blend, with it’s hint of blueberry, as well as the 802, which is slightly richer and has some deep caramel notes. Of course it was completely necessary to turn my favorite drink into a cupcake, one which is perfect for a northeastern autumn—or my birthday, which falls at the end of September. I hadn’t planned on making my own birthday cupcakes this year, but I accidentally joked about doing so when I invited my friend out for my birthday party, and everyone kinda took that seriously. So I heeded their advice and made not one but two kinds of cupcakes (the second of which I’ll post about at a later date).

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

I blended the cider into a cake with just a hint of warming cinnamon, and then filled it with a scrumptious spiked apple filing, and topped it off with a cinnamon buttercream. It’s garnished with a slice of fresh apple, and drizzled with a little dulce de leche. The first time I made these, I actually used several different spices in the cake, but I found that they overpowered the cider, whereas I think cinnamon will be complementary, and add that hint of warmth we expect with apple cakes, without overpowering the cider flavor.

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Apple Orchard cupcakes in all their glory

Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 c hard apple cider, such as Woodchuck 802
  • 1/4 c non dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners Combine the non dairy milk and the vinegar, and set aside while you mix the cider, sugar, oil and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, and beat (a fork does the trick) until the mixture looks fairly homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches, mixing well before adding the second batch. The batter should be fairly smooth, with only some small lumps remaining. Add the batter to the liners, filling until each is about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

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Apple filling in progress, complete with bourbon

Apple filling:

  • 1 medium sized apple, diced small. Skins on or off. (I used a pink lady apple and left the skins on for color)
  • 1-2 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non hydrogenated vegan margarine)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp liquor of choice*

*I used bourbon here because that’s what I had and I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of something since I was moving out of my place the next day, but I think an apple brandy would also be excellent in this filling. Melt the margarine in a skillet over medium heat, add the diced apples and sauté for about five minutes until they just start to caramelize, add the cinnamon, water, and maple syrup and cook until soft, then let the water reduce until there’s only about a tablespoon of liquid left. Now add the liquor, and (VERY CAREFULLY, this step is not entirely necessary, mostly it’s fun) light it aflame! Let the flames burn out, then cook down until there’s only a tablespoon or so of liquid left. We don’t want soggy cupcakes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):

  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the chai cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

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Cupcake assembly process

To assemble:

  • 1 apple (I used another pink lady)
  • Dulce de Leche*
  • Piping bag fitted with a large star tip
  • Paring knife
  • a few tbsp of lemon juice

*I used this recipe to a T because I already had it on hand, but if I were to make it specifically for this recipe, I would probably substitute the Jameson for apple brandy.  Just make sure you match the liquor to what you use in the filling. Using the paring knife, cut a circle out of the top of the cupcake, so you end up removing a small cone of cake (you can almost see it in the picture). Do not discard the excess cake!  Add about a teaspoon of the apple filling to the center, so the hole is just full.  Fill the piping bag with buttercream and pipe a beautiful swirl over the top of the cake to cover the filling.  Take the apple, and cut off one side, close to the core (but don’t cut into the core).  Slice that side into very thin slices (so they look similar to the photo all the way above), discarding (ie eating…ok or maybe sharing with the dog if you’re nice) the weird triangular ends. Dip the slices in lemon juice and pat dry. Place the cake piece you cut out just off center of the cupcake, with the smooth part perpendicular to the cupcake surface.  Now lay the apple slice over the cupcake, so it is leaning on the little cake cone.  Drizzle the with dulce de leche, and serve! While these look fairly delicate, I managed to transport them from my apartment to a dinner and then a bar with my friends, and then even managed to take the (one) leftover cupcake to my mom’s in NJ.